The Śatakatraya (Sanskrit: शतकत्रय, "the three śatakas", also known in Southern India sometimes as सुभाषित त्रिशति Telugu: సుభాషిత త్రిశతి IAST: subhāṣita triśati ,"the three hundred poems of moral values") refers to three Indian collections of Sanskrit poetry, containing a hundred verses each. The three śatakas, or "centuries", are known as the Nītiśataka, Śṛṅgāraśataka, and Vairāgyaśataka, and are attributed to Bhartṛhari.[1]

The three ŚatakasEdit

K. M. Joglekar in his book[citation needed] on Nītiśataka says that it is not easy to say in which order the Śatakas were written.

The Nītiśataka deals with nīti, roughly meaning ethics and morality. Śṛṅgāraśataka deals with love and women. Vairāgyaśataka contains verses on renunciation. The Sanskrit scholar Barbara Stoler Miller translated these sections as Among Fools and Kings, Passionate Encounters and Refuge in the Forest respectively.

Especially in the Vairāgyaśataka, but also in the other two, his poetry displays the depth and intensity of his renunciation as he vacillates between the pursuits of fleshly desires and those of the spirit. Thus it reveals the conflict experienced "between a profound attraction to sensual beauty and the yearning for liberation from it", showing how "most great Indian art could be at once so sensuous and so spiritual".[2]

There is great variation between versions of his Śatakas, and together the available manuscripts have over 700 verses instead of 300. D. D. Kosambi identified about 200 verses that appear in all manuscripts.[3] Despite the variation in content, there is remarkable similarity in theme; Kosambi believes that each śataka came to attract a certain type of stanza similar to the ones present in the original collection. Moreover, at least among the 200 "common" stanzas, there is a distinctive voice of irony, scepticism and discontent, making the attribution to a single author plausible.[2]

According to one legend associated with him (possibly in confusion with the legend of king Bharthari), he was a king, who once gave a magic fruit to his wife, who gave it to another man, who in turn gave it to another woman, and finally it reached the king again. Reflecting on these events, he realised the futility of love and worldly pleasures, renounced his kingdom, retired to the forest, and wrote poetry. This is connected with a famous verse that appears in the collections:

However, the verse is probably a later addition, and many of the other verses suggest that the poet was not a king but a courtier serving a king — thus there are many verses rebuking the foolish pride of kings, and bemoaning the indignity of servitude.[2]


The Sanskrit scholar and commentator Budhendra has classified the Nītiśhataka into the following sections, each called a paddhati:

  • mūrkha-paddhati – On Fools and Folly
  • vidvat-paddhati – On Wisdom
  • māna-śaurya-paddhati – On Pride and Heroism
  • artha-paddhati – On Wealth
  • durjana-paddhati – On Wicked People
  • sujana-paddhati – On Wise Men
  • paropakāra-paddhati – On Virtue
  • dhairya-paddhati - On Firmness, Valor
  • daiva-paddhati – On Fate
  • karma-paddhati – On Work
Some verses from Nītiśataka

This verse means that a human devoid of poetry, music and arts is equivalent to an animal which does not have horns and tails.It is the great good luck of other beasts that they don't graze grass, and still survive.

Editions of the ŚatakatrayaEdit

Without translationEdit

  • Kashinath Trimbak Telang (1874), The Nîtiśataka and Vairâgyaśataka of Bhartṛhari: with extracts from two Sanskṛit commentaries, Bombay Sanskrit series, No. 11. Includes detailed notes in English.
  • Kr̥ṣṇa Śāstrī Mahabala (1888), Satakatrayam, Nirnaya Sagara Press. With Sanskrit commentary by the author.
  • Bhartr̥hari; Kavalesara Sinha (1888), Çataka-traya, Victoria Press. With Sanskrit commentary by the author.
  • D. D. Kosambi, 1945 The Satakatrayam of Bhartrhari with the Comm. of Ramarsi, edited in collaboration with Pt. K. V. Krishnamoorthi Sharma (Anandasrama Sanskrit Series, No.127, Poona)
  • D. D. Kosambi, 1946 The Southern Archetype of Epigrams Ascribed to Bhartrhari (Bharatiya Vidya Series 9, Bombay) (First critical edition of a Bhartrhari recension.)
  • D. D. Kosambi, 1948 The Epigrams Attributed to Bhartrhari (Singhi Jain Series 23, Bombay) (Comprehensive edition of the poet's work remarkable for rigorous standards of text criticism.) Review by Emeneau. Digitized by the Digital Library of India
  • D. D. Kosambi, 1959 Bhartrihari's Satakatrayam With the Oldest Commentary of Jain Scholar Dhanasāragaṇi With Principal Variants from Many Manuscripts etc. (Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan). Digitized by the Digital Library of India

Sanskrit with translationEdit


(without Sanskrit text)


  1. ^ Bhartrihari's Satakatrayam by D D Kosambi, ISBN 81-215-1034-1, in 2001
  2. ^ a b c Miller, Foreword and Introduction
  3. ^ Vidyākara (1968), Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls (ed.), Sanskrit poetry, from Vidyākara's Treasury, Harvard University Press, p. 39, ISBN 978-0-674-78865-7

External linksEdit

About Bhartṛhari
The poems