Darpa Dalana: Poets as Pimps

Chapter three of the Darpa Dalana – on learning and knowledge – is quite close to home for Kemendra, a poet, writer and scholar par excellence himself. Nevertheless, he dives straight in:

कविभिर्नृपसेवासु चित्रालङ्कारहारिणी

वाणी वेश्येव लोभेन परोपकरणीकृता १०

वादिभिः कलहोदर्कतर्कसम्पर्ककर्कशा

वाणी क्रकचधारेव धर्ममूले निपातिता ११

साधुतेजोवधायैव तार्किकैः कर्कशीकृता

वाणी विवादिभिः क्रूरैः सौनिकैरिव कर्तरी १२

Poets are like greedy pimps that prostitute the muse of language – decking her up with flourishes and tropes and reducing her to a means for their patrons’gratification. In the hands of debators, the muse of oratory turns into a sawblade, whetted on the grindstone of polemic, that strikes at the very root of dharma. Arguing logicians sharpen their words like the cruel butcher’s cleaver to intimidate the innocent.

In the course of this chapter, Kemendra has Indra railing against various perversions of learning almost all of which we immediately recognise. Here is one on plagiarism:

परसूक्तापहारेण स्वसुभाषितवादिना

उत्कर्षः ख्याप्यते यस्याः किं तया चौरविद्यया ३९

‘That which asserts its excellence

by stealing others’ compositions,

and proclaiming them as one’s own;

what is such learning, but plain theft?’

The long story that is narrated exposes the folly of not one but five learned scholars in a kind of internecine domino effect, warning the reader that learning without the attendant maturity of thought and feeling is worthless.


This is the third post in the series on the Darpa Dalana. To learn more about the Rasāla edition, and/or to purchase a copy of the print or eBook please click here. To read the previous posts, please click here.

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