The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 9, No 4 (2021)

Before the political cartoonist, there was the Vidusaka: a case for an indigenous comic tradition

Snehal P. Sanathanan,Vinod Balakrishnan


Political cartooning was one among the many cultural products that colonial rule introduced in India. This British legacy has been used to produce narratives about the nature and history of Indian cartooning. However, these narratives have, invariably, overlooked the distinctly Indian cultural ethos as well as the Indian satirical tradition. The paper proposes an alternative model by positing that in the Indian satirical tradition, the Vidusaka – the comic figure in Sanskrit drama – has been an antecedent to the political cartoonist in terms of the social and political role as well as the nature and purpose of the humour.      The paper also locates the principles of caricaturing in precolonial Indian visual arts, and presents the early vernacular cartoons as the point of convergence between the local satirical tradition and the western format of the political cartoon which laid the foundation for a modern yet specifically Indian sensibility


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