Verses of Wisdom

Bharthruhari’s ‘Neethi Shathaka' – II

The manuscripts of Bharthruhari’s verses have been floating for centuries throughout the country and there are many editions. One or two verses, missing in one edition are found in some other edition. Even the order of presentation is different. Nevertheless, all the editions are close to the running theme. 

The hundred verses on morals (Neethi) is not the style of instructions. They state the hard realities and the inexorable law is life. Secondly, the language with its unique flavour is simple and unobstructed. Thirdly, the thought process runs like a free flowing stream. Finally, the verses cast a spell on the reader and the splendour of the language becomes apparent. 

6. Svāyattamekāntagunaṁ Vidhātrā Vinirmitaṁ Chāndanamajñtāyāḥ

Viśeṣataḥ Sarvavidāṁ Samāje Vibhuṣaṇaṁ Maunamapaṇḍitānāṃ.


Surely, it’s heaven’s handsome gift, I bet, 

To the proverbial and incorrigible idiot, 

The will, to keep discreetly mum, 

As a handy armour, in a scholar’s forum!

7. Yadā Kiñcijjño ̍haṁ Dviva Iva Madāndhaḥ Samabhavaṁ,

Tadā Sarajño ̍smītyabhavadavaliptaṁ mama manaḥ;

Yadā Kiñcitkiñcid Budhajanasakāśādavagataṁ,

Tadā Mūrkho ̍smītijvara Iva Mado Me Vyapagataḥ.


When my learning had little to talk, 

I, like a tusker-in-rut used to walk, 

But, now, amidst scholars bright, 

I have learnt to see myself aright!

 8. Kṛmikulacitaṁ Lālāklignaṁ Vigandhijugupsitaṁ,

Nirupamarasaṁ Prītyā Khādannarāsthi Nirāmiṣaṃ;

Suraptimapi Śvā Pārśvasthaṁ Vilokya Na Śaṅkate,

Na Hi Gaṇayati Kṣudro Jantuḥ Parigrahaphalgutāṃ.


It is a dirty, dry, stinking, infested bone of an ass,

That the wretched mongrel feels excited it has,

Licking it, it takes no notice of even Indra nearby.

That is how shameless men of meanness go by!

 9. Śiraḥ Śārvaṁ Svargāt Paśupatiśirastaḥ Kṣitidharaṁ,

Mahīdhrāduttuṅgādavanimavaneścāpi Jaladhim;

Adho ̍dho Gaṅgeyaṁ Padamupagatā Stokamathavā,

Vivekabhraṣṭānāṁ Bhavati Vinipātaḥ Śatamukhaḥ.


The path of the unwise is akin to the lofty river Ganges,

Which from above, descends on Shiva’s head, then ranges, 

Through the sacred Himalayas, the pains, the great sea, 

And finally, goes under, to the land of adders, we can't see!

 10. Śakyo Vārayituṁ Jalena Hutabhuk Chattreṇa Sūryātapo,

Nāgendro Niśitāṅkuśena Samado Daṇḍena Gogardabhau;

Vyādhirbeṣajasaṅgrahaiśca Vividhairmantraprayogairviṣaṁ,

Sarvasyauṣadhamasti Śāstravihitaṁ Mūrkhasya Nāstyauṣadhaṃ.


Water to quell fire; for shade under the sun, some cover;

Stick to calm the ox and the ass; Spike to calm the tusker;

Potion, while unwell; chants to wish away even poison;

But, to mend the fool, there is no ready remedy, my son!

(To be continued...)

Sridharan Kidambi, born in 1938 at Chittoor (Now in Andhra Pradesh), took his M. A. Degree in Economics from Vivekananda College in 1962. He was a research scholar of the Madras University for two years. He is interested in a wide range of subjects like astronomy, poetry, comparative religion, philosophy, classical music, lyrics etc. Besides Tamil, his mother tongue and English, the academic language, he is familiar with Telugu, Sanskrit, and Russian.