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Those familiar with Sanskrit–even an introductory course is sufficient–are sure to know Bhartruhari mainly via reading several Subashitaas (noble sayings in verse form). Indeed, almost every other verse by Bhartruhari is a Subashitaa.

A King of Ujjain, Bhartruhari was the elder step brother of his more renowned sibling, Vikramaditya. His life presents to us a living account of a person’s transformation from a pleasure-loving emperor who had everything at his disposal to a sage who gave us the immortal Shataka trilogy.

Bhartruhari was fiercely enamoured of his newly-wedded wife Pingala, a fact which caused Vikramaditya considerable anguish for the elder brother neglected his kingly duties preferring to spend his life in her arms. Pingala on her part conspired and had Vikramaditya thrown out of Ujjain.

A Brahmin once gave Bhartruhari a fruit that when eaten would increase the king’s lifespan. An infatuated Bhartruhari handed the fruit to his wife. Pingala in turn, preferred the intimate company of the chief horse-keeper to whom she gave the fruit. The horse-keeper was in love with a prostitute. In the end, the fruit found itself in the prostitute’s hands. To me, the prostitute emerges as a stellar character in this whole episode. She sensed the importance of the fruit, and found it fit to give it to the king whom she believed was a wise and just ruler barring his wifely obsession of course.

Bharturhari was counselling with his nobles when the prostitute praised the greatness of the fruit, told him she was unfit of such a lofty gift and gifted it to him. He ate the fruit and in a flash realized that it was the very fruit that he had lovingly gifted to Pingala. This singular incident made him realize the worthlessness of it all. He turned his back on worldly life and took to renunciation. The Niti Shataka has an extremely poignant verse that describes this state of Bhartruhari:
Yaam chintayaami satatam mayi saa viraktaa
Saapyanyamicchati janam sa janonyasaktah
Asmatkrute ca parishushyati kaachidanyaa
Dhik taam ca tam ca madanam ca imaam ca maam ca
(A very crude translation follows)
The One upon whom I meditate perpetually is detached from me but
(She) desires another and the Other (desires) yet another
Thus it goes always, this desire to always desire another
Fie on her, on him, on Madana (God of Love), on all this and fie on me too!

From King Bhartruhari, he became an ascetic, a tapasvi (the literal meaning of tapas is “to burn”) and from the ashes he burnt his passions into arose the immortal Shatakatraya: the Neeti, Shringara, and Vairagya Shatakas.

The Shringara Shataka deals mainly with various facets of erotic love; it goes to great lengths to describe nuances of feminine allurement, their behaviour in various stages of sensual arousal, and suchlike. Here’s a sample:
Prangma meti manaaganaagatrasam jaatabhilaasham tatah
Sabriyam tadanu shlathodyatamanupradhvastadhairyam punah
Premardra saprihniyanirbharah kridapragalbham tato
Ni shankaangvikarshnaadiksukham ramyam kulstree ratam
(My somewhat-liberal translation)
Noble women repulse sexual advances when dormant lies Desire
As Desire grows they loosen their limbs, shyness comes to the fore, they yawn repeatedly
Patience receding, they submit to the will of the partner, the noble women
At this critical pass,
Enjoy stroking, caressing, fondling, kissing and all other foreplay.

The reason Bhartruhari took time and effort to pen some absolutely erotic verses has its roots in the Indian conception of asethetics. A king himself who had enjoyed every kind of sensual pleasure, Bhartruhari took care not to trivialize any aspect of life and experience including the sensual. Indian art experience viewed as a whole is all-inclusive: nothing is shun-worthy. The end of sense-pleasure as various schools of philosophy state is self-realization, which is the end Shringara Shataka has in mind. As this verse testifies:
Dhaanyaasta aiv tarlaayatlochanaanaam
Taarunyarupdhana peenpayodharaanaam
Kshaamodaroparilasattrivali leeltaanaam
Drishtaakritim vikritimeti mano na yeshaam
(Crude translation follows)
Those alone are fortunate whose mind
Is not consumed by weakness to cast their eyes
On a pretty young damsel whose eyes twitter incessantly
(Who) is endowed with well-developed breasts and an alluring figure

And in the Vairagya Shataka he says there are only two ways one can live: indulge or take to asceticism. While this might seem extreme, Bhartruhari underscores the essential futility of trying simultaneously to indulge in relentless pleasure and desire eternal peace.
agre gitam sarasakavayaH paarshvayordakshiiNaatyaaH
pashchaalliilaavalayaraNita.n chaamaragraahiNiinaam.h .
yadyastveva.n kuru bhavarasaasvaadane lampaTatva.n
no chechchetaH pravisha sahasaa nirvikalpe samaadhau
If there be music playing in front of you, by your side expert poets from the South,
and behind you the courtesans waving fans and shaking their bracelets with a clinking
sound, then indulge unstintingly in these worldly pleasures. If not, O Mind! enter
the realm of beatitude devoid of all thoughts.

Bhartruhari’s trilogy encompasses almost every experience known to man and pours them forth in beautiful poetry. It provides philosophy to those interested in it, metrical delight to those who revel in it, morality to those who seek it… everybody unfailingly gains from it depending on what they look for. Ultimately, Bhartruhari’s name stands firm to this hour owing to this. His own verse, which soulfully describes the eternity of a true artist equally apply to him:
Jayanti te sukrrutino rasasidhdha kavishvaraha
Naasti yesham yasha kaye jaramaranajam bhayam
An artist who is accomplished in Rasa (crudely translated, it means aesthetics) stands forever victorious
His body verily the embodiment of success needs no fear
Of old age and death.

Bhartruhari Neethi Satakam

Sl.NoPoem Name
1Bodhdharo Mathsaragrasthaah | బోద్ధరో మత్సరగ్రస్తాః
2Ajnyah Sukhamaaraadhyassu | అజ్ఞః సుఖమారాధ్యస్సుఖతర
3Prapasahya Manimudhdha | ప్రపసహ్య మణిముద్ధ
4Vyaalam Baalamrunaalathasthubhirasau | వ్యాళం బాలమృణాళతస్తుభిరసౌ
5Labhetha Sikathaasu | లభేత సికతాసు
6Svaayaththamekaanthahitham | స్వాయత్తమేకాన్తహితం
7Yadhaa kimchidh Gnyo | యదా కించిద్ జ్ఞో
8Krimikulachitham Laalaaklinnam | క్రిమికులచితం లాలాక్లిన్నం
9Shirashvaarvam Svargaathpashupathisira | శిరశ్వార్వం స్వర్గాత్పశుపతిశిర
10Shakyo Vaarayutham Jalena | శక్యో వారయుతం జలేన
11Shaasthropaskruthashabdhasundharagirah | శాస్త్రోపస్కృతశబ్దసున్దరగిరః
12Harthuryaathi Na Gocharam | హర్తుర్యాతి న గోచరం
13Parigathaparamaarthaa | పరిగతపరమార్థా
14Aambhojineevanavihaaravilaasameva | ఆమ్భోజినీవనవిహారవిలాసమేవ
15Keyooraani Na Bhooshayanthi | కేయూరాణి న భూషయన్తి
16Vidhyaa Naama Narasya | విద్యా నామ నరస్య
17Dhakhinyam Swajane | దాక్షిణ్యం స్వజనే
18Jaadyam Dhiyo Harathi | జాడ్యం ధియో హరతి
19Kshaanthikchethkavachena Kim | క్షాన్తిక్చేత్కవచేన కిం
20Jayanthi The Sukruthino | జయన్తి తే సుకృతినో
21Kshuthkshaamo Pi Jaraakrusho | క్షుత్క్షామో పి జరాకృశో
22Svalpasnaayavasaava Sekamalinam | స్వల్పస్నాయవసావ సేకమలినం
23Laajgoola Chaalanamadhashcharanaavaghaatham | లాఙ్గూల చాలనమధశ్చరణావఘాతం
24Parivarthini Samsaare Mruthah | పరివర్తిని సంసారే మృతః
25Kusumasthabakasyeva | కుసుమస్తబకస్యేవ
26Sasthyanye Pi | సస్త్యన్యే పి
27Vahathi Bhuvanashrenim Sheshah | వహతి భువనశ్రేణిం శేషః
28Varam Praanochchedhah | వరం ప్రాణోచ్ఛేదః
29Yadhachethano Pi Paadhaih | యదచేతనో పి పాదైః
30Simhah Shishurapi Nipathathi | సింహః శిశురపి నిపతతి
31Jaathiryaathu Rasaathalam | జాతిర్యాతు రసాతలం
32Yaasyaasthi Viththam Sa Narah | యాస్యాస్తి విత్తం స నరః
33Dhaurmanrthyaannrupathirvinashyathi | ధౌర్మన్ర్త్యాన్నృపతిర్వినశ్యతి
34Dhaanam Bhogo Naashasthisro | దానం భోగో నాశస్తిస్రో
35Manishshaanolleedah Samaraviajayee | మణిశ్శాణోల్లీఢః సమరవిఅజయీ
36Pariksheenah Kashchith | పరిక్షీణః కశ్చిత్ స్పృహయతి
37Raaja Dhadhukshasi Yadhi | రాజ దధుక్షసి యది
38Sathyaa Nruthyaa Cha Parushaa | సత్యా నృత్యా చ పరుషా
39Ajnyaa keerthih paalanam | అజ్ఞా కీర్తిః పాలనం
40Yudhdhaathraanijaphaalapattalikhitham | యుద్ధాత్రానిజఫాలపట్టలిఖితం
41Akarunathvamakaaranavigrahau | అకరుణత్వమకారణవిగ్రహౌ
42Dhurjanah pariharthavyo | దుర్జనః పరిహర్తవ్యో
43Jaadyam Hreemathi | జాడ్యం హ్రీమతి
44Lobha shche dhagunena kim | లోభ శ్చే దగుణేన కిం
45Shashee Dhivasadhoosaro | శశీ దివసధూసరో
46Na Kashchichchanda Kopaanaa | న కశ్చిచ్చణ్డ కోపానా
47Maunaanmookah Pravachanapatu | మౌనాన్మూకః ప్రవచనపటు
48Udhbhaasithaakhilakhalasya | ఉద్భాసితాఖిలఖలస్య
49Aarambhagurvee Kshayanee | ఆరమ్భగుర్వీ క్షయణీ
50Mrugameena Sajjanaanaam | మృగమీన సజ్జనానాం
51Vaanychaa Sajjanasaggathau | వాఞ్ఛా సజ్జనసఙ్గతౌ
52Kare Shlaaghyasthyaagah | కరే శ్లాఘ్యస్త్యాగః
53Praanaaghathaanni vruththih | ప్రాణాఘతాన్ని వృత్తిః
54Vipadhi Dhairya Mathaabhyudhaye | విపది ధైర్య మథాభ్యుదయే
55Sampathsu Mahthaam Chiththam | సంపత్సు మహ్తాం చిత్తం
56Priyaa nyaayyaa vruththi | ప్రియా న్యాయ్యా వృత్తి
57Pradhaanam Prachchannam | ప్రదానం ప్రచ్ఛన్నం
58Santhapthaayasi Samstithasya | సన్తప్తాయసి సంస్ఠితస్య
59Yah Preenaye Thsucharithaih | యః ప్రీణయే త్సుచరితైః
60Namrathvenonnamanthah | నమ్రత్వేనోన్నమన్తః
61Bhavanthi Namraastharavah | భవన్తి నమ్రాస్తరవః
62Shrothram Shruthenaiva Na Kundalena | శ్రోత్రం శ్రుతేనైవ న కుణ్డలేన
63Padhmaakaram Dhinakaro | పద్మాకరం దినకరో
64Ethe Sathpurushaah Padhaarthaghatakaa | ఏతే సత్పురుషాః పదార్తఘటకా
65Paapaa Nnivaarayathi | పాపా న్నివారయతి
66Ksheerenaathmagathodhakaaya | క్షీరేణాత్మగతోదకాయ
67Ithah Svapathi Keshavah | ఇతః స్వపతి కేశవః
68Jaathahoormah Sa Ekah | జాతఃఊర్మః స ఏకః
69Thrushnaam Chindhi Bhajakshamaam | తృష్ణాం ఛిన్ది భజక్షమాం
70Manisi Vachasi Kaaye | మనిసి వచసి కాయే
71Rathnairmahaabdhesthuthushurna | రత్నైర్మహాబ్ధేస్తుతుషుర్న
72Praarabhyathe Sa Khalu | ప్రారభ్యతే న ఖలు
73Kvachi Thpruthveeshayyah | క్వచి త్పృత్వీశయ్యః
74Nindhanthu Neethinipunaa | నిన్దన్తు నీతినిపుణా
75Kaanthaakataakshavishikhaa Na Lunanthi | కాన్తాకటాక్షవిశిఖా న లునన్తి
76Varamthuggaa Chchruggaa | వరంతుఙ్గా చ్ఛృఙ్గా
77Kadharthitha Syaapi Hi | కదర్థిత స్యాపి హి
78Vahni Sthanya Jalaayathe | వహ్ని స్తన్య జలాయతే
79Chinno Pi Rohathi Tharuh | చిన్నో పి రోహతి తరుః
80Aishvaryasya Vibhooshanam | ఐశ్వర్యస్య విభూషణం
81Nethaa Yasya Bruhaspathih | నేతా యస్య బృహస్పతిః
82Bhagnaashasya Karanda | భగ్నాశస్య కరణ్డ
83Yathaa Kandhukapothe No | యథా కన్దుకపోతే నో
84Kharvaato Dhivaneshvarasya | ఖర్వాటో దివనేశ్వరస్య
85Gajabhugga Vimaggamandhanam | గజభుఙ్గ విమఙ్గమన్ధనం
86Srujathi Thaava Dhasheshagunaakaaram | సృజతి తావ దశేషగుణాకారం
87Ayamamruthanidhaanam | అయమమృతనిధానం
88Priyasakha Vipadhdhandaaghaatha | ప్రియసఖ విపద్దణ్డాఘాత
89Virama Viramaayaasaa | విరమ విరమాయాసా
90Dhaivena Prabhunaa Svayam | దైవేన ప్రభుణా స్వయం
91Namasyaamo dhevaa | నమస్యామో దేవా
92Brahma Yena Kulaalavanni | బ్రహ్మ యేన కులాలవన్ని
93Yaa Saadhoom Shchakhalaa Karothi | యా సాధూం శ్చఖలా
94Shubhram Sadhma Navibhramaa | శుభ్రం సద్మ నవిభ్రమా
95Gunava Dhagunava Dhvaa | గుణవ దగుణవ ద్వా
96Sthaalyaam Vaidhooryamayyaam | స్థాల్యాం వైదూర్యమయ్యాం
97Nai Vaakruthi Phalathi | నై వాకృతిఁ ఫలతి
98Majjathvambhasi Yaathu | మజ్జత్వమ్భసి యాతు
99Vanerane Shathrujalaagni Madhye | వనేరణే శత్రుజలాగ్ని మధ్యే
100Bheemam Vanam Bhavathi Thasya | భీమం వనం భవతి తస్య

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