Satirical works of Kshemendra (study)

by Arpana Devi | 2017 | 60,954 words

This page relates ‘The Corrupt Bureaucrats’ part of the study on the Satirical works of Kshemendra: an 11th century poet from Kashmir, who composed three satirical works. Kshemendra himself says that in composing the satirical works his only motive is to reform the mindset of the people.—He exposes all the vices and follies prevailing in the society with the intention to reform it.

Kṣemendra has satirized all the wickedness prevailing in the society to make the masses conscious. To moralize and upgrade all classes of people from the top position to the lowest common man, he criticizes and mocks people belonging to different fields. He also takes some socially important persons for criticism. A few lines are devoted to show his concern for the evil practices of the people

Administration cannot be run without bureaucrats. If the bureaucrats do not maintain sense of responsibility and duty, personal morals and principles and good relation with the people, it is not possible to have good administrative machinery. If administration system itself is unjust and full of corruption, then automatically it influences the society, because weak and immoral administration causes some negative impact upon the people. If the ruler is fallen, then automatically subjects will be immoral as they are never guided by high ideals before them. Corrupt administrators often lead to anarchism.

In different places of his works, Kṣemendra has exposed the corrupt and immoral practices of the bureaucrats known as kāyastha[1]. Kṣemendra is bitter against these officials. The kāyastha appears to be his principal target. He satirizes the kāyastha officials who are engrossed in exploiting people and also polluted the whole atmosphere by their evil intent.

Kṣemendra realizes that a corrupt government containing corrupt officials is sure to create a corrupt society. Kṣemendra satirizes the villainous activities of kāyasthas from the higher officials to lower officials who are engrossed in evil practices.

Kṣemendra ridicules the kāyastha calling him death’s agent. Kṣemendra says that delusion is deep-rooted in the words and writings of a bureaucrat. He gives an example—as the Rāhu grasp the full moon, so does the Kāyastha in seizing crops in a moment.[2] He firmly announces that it is not possible for anyone to understand the trickeries of an official.[3] The bureaucrat keeps everything under his control.[4] Kṣemendra mentions him as the first specimen of Kali age, whose only motive is to destroy.[5] He bitterly says that it is not death but the bureaucrat who devastate the mankind.[6] According to Kṣemendra, the bureaucrat is so notorious that when he performs his duties, he becomes dual faced, many voiced and many armed.[7]

Kṣemendra mocks and makes divulges all the trickeries applied by the corrupt bureaucrat. He compares the bureaucrat with Citragupta, the scribe of the god of death, who cheats people by their artful calculations. Kṣemendra satirizes that coiled like a snake on the bureaucrat’s birch bark, his writing is similar to the snare of death.[8] It is he, the bureaucrat, who secretly works and changes the word ‘sahitaṃ’ to ‘rahitaṃ’ for deluding money.[9] He records only loses and hides profits. He makes the royal treasury empty. The bureaucrat is rude, harsh and malicious in deluding all the properties and in seizing the livelihoods.[10] Still, the bureaucrat never gets satisfied, he organizes sacrificial ceremony to get promotion.[11] Kṣemendra expresses his anguish by comparing the bureaucrat with a demon, who arrives on this earth to loot all the wealth.[12] Kṣemendra satirizes the power of Kāyastha’s pen used as a weapon. He says that Kali is melted and becomes the ink of Kāyastha’s pen which takes one to the hell as the river Gaṅgā takes one to the abode of God.[13] The role of the Gaṅgā has been exquisitely contrasted with that of the Kāyastha; one leading to absolute peace in heaven and the other reminding of all pains in hell.

The hypocrite bureaucrat fortunately gets the position of Gṛhakṛtyādhipati[14] by impressing the Gaṇanāpati (an accountant) of the city.[15] Now, he is skilled in the art of documentation and falsification.[16] According to Kṣemendra, he is a big hypocrite who shows off to be true devotee. First, he goes to the Śiva temple, then he enters his workplace. But, Kṣemendra points out that his demonic nature never hides even during the time of worshipping.

Besides worshipping his evil mind goes on some other thinkings—

‘…hyaḥ kiyanto mayā dattāḥ prāyasthā vijayeśvare,[17]

sarvasvaharaṇaṃ kṛtvā vadhyā daṇḍaniṣedhinaḥ,[18]

pīḍitāḥ prasravantyeva prajā guggulubījavat[19] etc.

The bureaucrat belongs to the degenerated section of the society, that is why holy places are also not spared by him. With the help of the Puṃścalaka, an informer, the Gṛhakṛtyādhipati finds the way to the wealth of the temples.[20] The Paripālaka (the maintainer) is another official who is a master in the art of abusing the people. Kṣemendra satirizes the qualification of a man who would be fit for the post of Paripālaka. According to him, he should be sharp, fearless in murdering and with no hesitation while committing a sinful activity. He should earn fame (notoriety) by robbing wealth, depriving people and should not hesitate if a Brāhmaṇa or cattle is required to be killed. Besides these qualifications, the person would be more qualified who is even ready to take his wealthy father into captivity and death.[21] The notorious Paripālaka deludes all the wealth of the temples and nothing is left for the people except a piece of string to end their life.[22] Kṣemendra ridicules such official by comparing with the demon Hiraṇyākṣa.[23] He exposes that a poor man becomes instantly rich after becoming a corrupt bureaucrat. A lekhakopādhyāya (copyist) prepares the documents immediately after taking bribe. His hands always remain full with bribes as he is skilled in changing the meanings of documents.[24] Soon, he becomes craze in pride, because the poor man now has become a rich and famous officer.[25] Kṣemendra also condemns the greedy Mārgapati (a road inspector) who is accomplished in plundering the wealth of the wise people.[26] Before becoming the Mārgapati he leads a moral life. He passed his days reciting mantras in the temple and saluting the Brāhmaṇas.[27] As soon as he becomes an officer, his life begins to change. His empty house is now full of valuable objects.[28] If the Mārgapati enters the village, soon it transforms to a hell. Thousands of them are compelled to take shelter in trees and hundreds becomes distressed.[29] To give punishment to the villagers the bureaucrat even kills the cattle.[30] He would say: seize everything! arrest! confine! destroy the house-these awful words are never changing in the mouth of a bureaucrat.[31] The attendants of Mārgapati carry out all the wealth of the villagers including ghee, honey, pepper etc. to his home. In one word, the bureaucrat excels in looting and plundering the common people of the villages. On the other hand, the hypocrite bureaucrat pretends to live a simple life in the presence of a royal officer, he takes simple dish with salt in spite of meat and ghee.[32] There is also the Grāmadivira[33], who is also expert in vague writing and deception. He deletes the previous words and includes the new one. Kṣemendra says that he can spoil the life of any man.[34]

The author also condemns the Asthānadivira (an assembly clerk), in whose hands rests the whole world.[35] Kṣemendra bitterly says that he utters sweet words but like the crooked horns of an old goat is never able to leave crooked ways.[36] He points out that with the help of a pen keeping by the side of his ear and a birch-bark document the bureaucrat devour the whole world.[37] The bureaucrat only wants money. If the wicked bureaucrat meets a sweeper woman, he thinks that, that day will be lucky one for him and whenever sees a Brāhmaṇa he takes it as a bad sign for the whole day. The greedy mind of the bureaucrat is exposed when Kṣemendra says that the bureaucrat desirous of wealth licks the dog shit on the street mistaking it for cowdung.[38] Drinking wine and passing nights with prostitutes are his favourite pastime. Kṣemendra compares him with a shark in the sea who with the fangs like pen kills the wise people.[39]

Kṣemendra observes that the court is also not safe from the kāyastha. He satirizes the Adhikaraṇabhaṭṭā (an officer in the court) calling him a nyāyacaura or the robber of the court, who robs both money and peace of mind of the people.[40] According to him, Adhikaraṇabhaṭṭā spares none, those who comes in to the court. Kṣemendra bitterly says that the bhaṭṭa swallows even a good man who comes to the court just like a fish in the water swallows the offerings of the sacrifice.[41] He also compares the bhaṭṭa with a dog who with his colleagues never leave even the bones of a man caught by them in the court.[42] Kṣemendra exposes his anguish by saying that the Brahmarākṣasas who were not killed by Rāma are none but the bhaṭṭas.[43] Kṣemendra satirizes the mean bhaṭṭa who remains blind, deaf and dumb until he is not bribed.[44] He also exposes how the head of the home department goes to the jail after looting money from the royal treasury.[45]

Footnotes and references:


A Kāyastha may have served as a scribe or an accountant or a collector of revenue, Sircar, D.C., Studies in the Society and Administration of Ancient and Medieval India,Vol.I, p.160. The Rājataraṅgiṇī abounds in instance of oppression of the Kāyastha and points to the importance of their position in the king’s service. Rājataraṅgiṇī ,IV.621,629;VII.1226


moho nāmo janānāṃ sarvaharo buddhimevādau/
gūḍhataraḥ sa ca nivasati kāyasthānāṃ mukhe ca lekhe ca//
candrakalā iva pūrṇā niṣpannā sasyasampattiḥ/
grastā kṣaṇeva dṛṣṭā niḥśeṣā divirarāhukalayaiva// Kalāvilāsa ,V.1-2


na jyātā divirakalā kenāpi bahuprayatnena/


sarvādhikāriṇe sarvakālakūṭāśanāya te/
Narmamālā ,I.8


tuṣṭasta varadaḥ kaliḥ sākṣādabhāṣata / sarvadevavināśāya gaccha vatsa mahītalaṃ // ibid.,I.11


diviraireva samastā grastā janatā na kālena/ Kalāvilāsa ,V.4


sevākāle bahumukhairlubdhakairbahubāhubhiḥ/
vañcane bahumāyaiśca bahurūpaiḥ surāribhiḥ// Narmamālā ,I.23


kuṭilā lipivinyāsā dṛśyante kālapāśasaṃkāśāḥ/
kāyasthabhūrjaśikhare maṇḍalalīnā iva vyālāḥ// Kalāvilāsa ,V.10


ete hi citraguptāścitradhiyo guptakāriṇo divirāḥ/
rekhāmātravināśāt sahitaṃ kurvanti ye rahitaṃ// ibid.,V.11


tīkṣṇaistadanvaye jātaiḥ sarvavṛttivilopibhiḥ/
rūkṣairna kasyacinmitraiḥ pāpaiḥ sarvāpahāribhiḥ// Narmamālā ,I.20


Deśopadeśa ,VIII.5-6


tvadvaṃśe’tra bhaviṣyanti daityā divirarūpiṇaḥ/
yairiyaṃ labdhavibhavaiḥ pṛthvī na bhaviṣyati// ibid.,I.17


kaliḥ prayāto dravatāṃ maṣīrūpeṇa tiṣṭhati/
yathā svargapradā gaṅgā tathaiṣā narakapradā// ibid.,I.29


Gṛhakṛtyādhipati: a chief person looking after the house hold affairs, Kṣemendralaghukāvyasaṃgraha, p.566


kramād grāmaniyogena nagare gaṇanāpateḥ/
dambhasambhāvitaḥ prāpa gṛhakṛtyaṃ vidhervaśāt// Narmamālā ,I.32










so’bravīt tvāmahaṃ śrutvā sthitaṃ śaktimatāṃ dhuri /
prāpto devagṛhādeṣa rāśimārgapradarśakaḥ// ibid.,I.52




rajjuśeṣīkṛtāśeṣanirjaraḥ paripālakaḥ// ibid.,I.85


kācaro’yaṃ hiraṇyākṣaḥ pūrvavairamanusmaran/
devānavāptaḥ saṃhartumiti taṃ bubudhe janaḥ// ibid.,I.67


so’pyanekārthasandeśānākarṇyāvahitaḥ prabhoḥ/
dāpyaprasāritakaro lekhānaskhalito’likhat// ibid.,I.78


ityādilekhadānena prasiddhiṃ paramāṃ gataḥ/
so’cireṇābhavat puṣṭaḥ pūrṇapāṇirmadoddhtaḥ// ibid.,I.81


athānyarāśipravaṇah pravīṇaḥ sādhuluṇṭhane/
āpatpraśamanaṃ prāpa grāmaḥ tasmāt niyogavit// ibid.,I.97




tasyaiva daivādāyātakāryasyāśu niyoginaḥ/
upaskaraṇabhāṇḍādiparipūrṇamabhūd gṛhaṃ// ibid.,I.104


vṛkṣārohasahasreṣu prāyaḥ klāntaśateṣu ca/
grāme tasya vipattreṣu narakapratimābhavat// ibid.,I.120


gavāṃ daṇḍāya yaścakre nidhanāvadhi bandhanaṃ/
nāma gaṇanā tasya nṛṣu sarvāparādhiṣu// ibid.,I.121


sarvasvaharaṇaṃ bandho nigraho gṛhabhañjanaṃ/
iti tasya mukhād ghoraṃ na cacāla vacaḥ sadā// ibid.,I.122


nityaṃ māṅsaghṛtāhāraḥ sa rājapuruṣe sthite/
bhuṅkte vilavaṇaṃ dambhādeko mudgapaladvayaṃ// ibid.,I.127


diviras were officials who had to do with writing and accounts. There were various classes of diviras as gañjadiviras, grāmadiviras etc. Rājataraṅgiṇī ,V.fn.177,p.210


dhūsaro maladigdhāṅgaḥ sa piśāca ibotthitaḥ/
janajībāpahāreṇa nananda madanirbharaḥ// Narmamālā ,I.139


tasmai namo’stu nagarācāryavaryāya bhogine/
yasya haste sthitā bhūmiḥ saśailavanakānanā// ibid.,II.118


karoti praśrayaṃ vakti madhuraṃ diviraḥ puraḥ/
jaracchāgalaśṛṅgābhāṃ na ca tyajati vakratāṃ// ibid.,I.119


kalamāṅkitakarṇena bhūrjapatrakapāṇinā/
āsthānadibireṇeyaṃ grastā bhagavatī mahī// ibid.,II.120


śrīkāmo gomayabhrāntyā vandate śvaśakṛt pathi/
puraścāptāṃ siddhikāmaścaṇḍālīṃ sakaraṇḍakāṃ// ibid.,1I.126


maṣīviṣārdrayā nighnan sādhūn kalamadaṃṣṭrayā/
āsthānajaladherantardiviro makarāyate// ibid.,II.129


adhikaraṇāmbudhimadhye jvalanti vaḍvāgnayaḥ satatabhakṣāḥ/
janadhanaghanamanaso ye bhaṭṭākhyā nyāyacorāste// Kalāvilāsa , IX.30


śaṭīpāśasamākṛṣṭaḥ prāpto’dhikaraṇaṃ bhayāt/
sādhurnigīryate bhaṭṭairmatsyairiva jale baliḥ// Narmamālā ,II.135


bhaṭṭairbhaṭṭaiḥ sadiviraiḥ śaṭīnipatito janaḥ/
mucyate nāsthiśeṣo’pi raktakṣīvairiva śvabhiḥ// ibid.,II.136


brāhmaṇyād ye hatā naiva rāmeṇa brahmarākṣasāḥ/
āsthānabhaṭṭāste manye sadā khādanti mānuṣān// ibid.,II.137


paśyannandho vadan mūkaḥ śṛṇvaṃśca badhiro’dhamaḥ/
utkocena vinā bhaṭṭaściraṃ nidrāyate śathaḥ// ibid.,II.140


so’bravīdadya rātryardhe gṛhakṛtyamahattamaḥ/
rājarāśidhanaṃ bhūri hṛtvā yātaḥ sahānugaḥ// ibid.,III.88

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