Ignorant Brahmins and Lusty Monks: The Satirical Depiction of Religious Figures in Classical Sanskrit Literature

Start - End 
2023 - 2027 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research group(s) 
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 



My project focuses on the satire of Brahmins as well as religious mendicants in other religious traditions (e.g. Buddhist and Jain), and their use as stock characters in the classical Indian literary tradition (kāvya, both Sanskrit and Prakrit).

My chief interest lies in theatrical texts (nāṭaka), especially the lesser-regarded genres of prahāsana and bhāṇa, which are traditionally, i.e. according to the nāṭyśāstric tradition, regarded as compositions pervaded by the comic sentiment (hāsya-rasa). In fact, the very term 'comic (hāsya)' is but an derivation from 'laughter (hāsa)'. It is no surprise that Brahmins and religious mendicants feature prominently in these comic manoeuvres, and are vigorously lampooned.  We could never know whether the venerable royal chaplains sitting at the front row would ever give them a good laugh, or even a dreadful one, but we do know that these plays are meant to provoke boisterous laughter among the learned audience (sahṛdaya).

Apart from the aforementioned pair of comic dramas, I also wish to examine the persona of the vidūṣaka, commonly rendered as the 'jester' or the 'buffon', in the more mainstream Sanskrit theatre, such as nāṭaka (heroic) and prakāraṇa (creative/-ed) plays. The fact that the vidūṣaka is a Prakrit-speaking Brahmin, and a trouble-making sidekick of the male protagonogist (nāyaka) intrigues me.

In other literary genres save for drama, the theme of the foolish Brahmin and false ascetic are also depicted extensively, in various forms as well as serving varying purposes. It is a thema perennis.

More broadly, I am interested in humour across various literary cultures, notably Greek and Roman comedy and joke-telling.



Phd Student(s)


Csaba Dezső

Department of Indian Studies - Eötvös Loránd University