Bhartrihari’s Nitishatakam

As is the case with many writers/ poets who lived several centuries ago, there is not much definite information about Bhartrihari (भर्तृहरि).

Bhartrihari, the poet who wrote the Shatakatrayammay have been the grammarian, Bhartrihari, who lived in the 5th century AD, (author of the Vakyapada, the seminal text on Sanskrit grammar).

Or he may have been a scholar living at an entirely different time.

According to one popularly held theory,  Bhartrihari was the ruler of Ujjain (in the 1st century BC). He was once gifted a fruit of immortality. This fruit he gave to his beloved queen- Rani Pingala. The queen in turn gifted it to her beloved Mahipala, who gave it to one of the ladies-in-waiting. She, being infatuated with the king, in turn, gave it to him.

Realising what had happened, the King, Bhartrihari became disillusioned, and renounced his kingdom. He later composed the collections of verses known as the Shatakatrayam.

The Shataktrayam is an amazing work of Sanskrit poetry, comprising three collections of about 100 stanzas each, the Nitishatakam, the Shringarshatakam, and the Vairagyashatakam.

In the  Nitishatakam, Bhartrihari deals with a variety of subjects such as duties of rulers, education, social relationships, etc. He has given advice in these verses which we may find relevant even today.

There are several versions of the Nitishatakam, with most, but not all, verses common to all. A few verses in some of the versions are thought to have been added to the original by later poets.

In subsequent posts on this blog, the version of the Nitishatakam, having 117 verses, compiled and translated into Marathi by Dattatraya Gajanan Dev (published by Varada Publications, Pune, 1998)  will be followed.

Bhartrihari has commenced his Nitishatakam with a Mangala-shloka

दिक्कालाद्यनवच्छिन्नानन्तचिन्मात्रमूर्तये l

स्वानुभूत्येकमानाय नमः शान्ताय तेजसे ll१ll

Salutations to him,  who is not bound by dimensions of space or time, who is limitless, who is the very embodiment of knowledge, who can be understood only through one’s own experience,  and who personifies calm brilliance.

He then goes on to say-

यां चिन्तयामि सततं मयि सा विरक्ता

साप्यन्यमिच्छति जनं स जनोऽन्यसक्तः l

अस्मत्कृते च परिशुष्यति काचिदन्या

धिक् तां च तं च मदनं च इमां च मां च ll२ll

The woman who is always in my thoughts has no affection for me. She, however, adores another who loves some one else.  At the same time, a certain other woman is in love with me even when I do not reciprocate. Shame on her, on him, on Madan (the God of Love), on that woman, and on myself, also.

The verses in the Nitishatakam are usually divided into ten categories according to their subject matter.

In the next post, we shall  consider the first verse in the category,  “अज्ञ-पध्दति” (the way of the ignorant).



  1. Coming here after such a long time! The series sounds very interesting and I hope to be able to understand at least some of the wisdom you share here.

    There is an old Hindi movie Bhartrihari which has some wonderful songs, and it is about the the king of Ujjain, as mentioned in the post.


    1. I have heard about the movie, haven’t seen it though.

      I have quoted several of the shlokas from the Nitishatakam in previous posts, so I thought I’d give them some posts of their own.😊

      Let’s see how many I can manage to write!

      Thanks for your unfailing encouragement, Zephyr! Much appreciated!


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