According to the Oxford Dictionary the meaning of the word Satire is, “The use of humor, irony, exaggeration or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
We know very well that Benjamin Franklin was the first to bring out cartoons to criticize the social happenings constructively. But in literature very few such poems or verses are available in most of the languages.
But in Sanskrit literature we find hundreds of satiric verses in the great works of poets for the past many centuries.
Take the case of son-in-law. Here is a verse!
More oft than not he’s crooked-true And ever and anon adverse too; In Virgin’s house he always stands And austere worship ever demands, Friends! What should be this object Pshaw! A planet tenth, the son-in-law (Sanskrit verse translated by Dr Velluri Subba Rao).
In the above verse the virgin’s house has two meanings. One is the house of the Virgin whom the son-in-law marries. The second meaning is the Virgin’s house indicates the Virgo of the Zodiac. And rightly the son-in-law is called as the tenth planet. Everybody normally fearfully worship the nine planets namely Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Kethu. Now we have to fearfully respect the tenth planet also, the son-in-law.
The poet drives his point in a satire manner here.
We have one whole work of the great poet Nilakantha Dikshita titled KaliVidambana containing 100 satiric verses in Sanskrit.
Nilakantha Dikshita lived in the seventeenth century. He was the son of Narayana Dikshitha and grandson of Accan Dikshita II, brother of the well-known poet Appaya Dikshita. He moved to the temple city Madurai and the great king Thirumalai Nayaka was attracted to him. He was the Prime Minister to this great king. He was a prolific writer. As many as eighteen works are known to have been composed by him.
In Kalividambana we may enjoy the satiric verses on various social characters in the family and outside, as well as quacks, doctors, poetasters, astrologers etc.
Adverting to the astrologers Nilakantha says that they are very clever in interpreting or forecasting things. If a man asks about the sex of the future child, the astrologer should reply that a son would be born: for a lady, the reply should be in favor of a daughter. This is the clue for the astrologer’s success.
If one asks about one’s span of life, the reply should be that one would live for long. By such a reply, those who are alive will naturally be pleased. Even if the person concerned dies, there is no harm because those who are dead will never ask the astrologer as to why prediction went wrong.
Regarding the creditors, he says that even the God of death waits for the time of death to demand the life of persons; but there is no time-limit whatever for the creditor to demand back the debt owed to him.
Coming to poets, with a slight dig at the indiscriminate descriptions of poets, he says that in their descriptions even blind men become lotus-eyed, misers become Kalpa trees (wish full-filling trees) and even cowards become Vikramadidtyas (the king Vikramaditya is considered to be the greatest Heroic King in Indian history).
It is indeed a great pleasure to read all the hundred verses of Nilakantha. Once we come through such verses we will know that the satire is not new to Indian literature. It is as old as that of Sanskrit language.