Kantakanjali or ?a handful of thorns? is composed in Sanskrit verse in satire form. This literary form is mostly unknown to the Sanskrit literature probably because of its writers? segregation from the practical everyday life, says the author. Poets like Kalidasa or Bhavabhuti must have suffered a full measure of disappointments, frustrations, insults and indignities in normal life but they did not allow their creativity to be affected by bitter experiences. Instead they faced all adversities with a philosophic equanimity in accordance with the dictates of the Bhagavad Gita. For this reason their literary compositions suffered from a complete lack of the realistic touch.
Another reason cited by the author is that since the court-poets were sponsored by royal patronage, their writings were motivated by the desire to please their patrons? literary tastes on which alone depended their position and respect in the king'scourt. Due to this, they could not think of writing about their personal life. Contrary to this Kantakarjuna says that only one poem called Mahisasataka is a sharp satire as its poet was denied royal patronage and so he had to retire in a huff to subsist upon agriculture.
The author says that today religion has been relegated to a corner and social life has lost its deep moorings that it had in the ancient, traditional culture mainly because of the influence of western civilisation. We are now at the crossroads, confused and undecided, in the matter of preferences. Political independence has brought more evils and more sufferings in our social, political and economic life despite efforts to improve the lot of the people through plans and programmes. The author feels that the individual'smoral fibre has snapped to such an extent that ?vices? have now become ?virtues?, while age-old virtues are objects of ridicule, derision and contempt. In fact the whole society is worm-riddled with evils of dishonesty, disloyalty, ungratefulness, rank selfishness, hypocrisy, fraud, bribery nepotism and what not.
The poems are gathered from various walks of life, from different fields of activity in various spheres such as political, social, religious, economic, academic and domestic. He traverses over the thorns and convey them to us in a telling language, full of eloquence and suggestions. In the field of politics he talks of the onslaught of Chinese aggression and Pakistan'soverbearing attitude to India which he feels are due to the weak foreign policy of the government. He derides the government for following the policy of Panchsheel, the course of appeasement, negotiations and protests against serious violations committed by the enemy.
Through poems, Kantakarjun blasts the government for its policies of prohibition, gold control, land ceiling and tenancy Acts, nationalisation, loans from the West, shortage of food and other commodities, price rise, etc. all of which have been described in a humorous tone tinged with biting sarcasm.
He does not spare the ugly elements in the society who ?under the protection of the police and the patronage of ministers? indulges in black marketing, bribery, which he likens to an imperishable Asvattha tree which not even Nand could uproot. He bitterly deplores the devaluation of life'svalues and man'sneed to bid farewell to good things of life. His satire comes to the fore when talking of dowry system, doctors charging large fees and other social issues.
This is a book which would be enjoyed by Sanskrit-knowing readers.
(K.S. Arjunwadkar, 1192 Shukrawar Peth, Pune-411 002.)