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Sataka Literature in Telugu

 

 

nArAyaNa Satakamu
(Introduction)
(Full text)

kRShNa Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

sumatee Satakamu
(Introduction)
(Full text)

kALahasteeSvara Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

dASarathee Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

Andhra nAyaka Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

narasimha Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

BhartRhari neeti Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

BhAskara Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

rAmalingESa Satakamu
(Intro' & Samples)

Siva tattva sAramu

vRShAdhipa Satakamu

sarvESvara Satakamu

(Help wanted: Many Satakams listed here are only samples and are highly incomplete. Can anyone kindly lend the texts of these and other famous Satakams? We are especially looking for the last three. Printed versions are a big help! Of course, electronic versions are a magnificent help! If you are aware of links to any texts, kindly let us know.)

 

 

Resources

Many ultra-low-priced editions of the Satakas are available from various publishers. M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees have been awarded for Sataka studies. In addition, the following may be of interest:

vEnkaTa rAvu, niDadavOlu (Ed.) 1966. "Sataka sampuTamu," Hyderabad, A.P.

subbA rAvu, vamgUri. 1957. "Andhra Sataka kavula caritramu," Kamala Kuteer Pub., Narasapuram, A.P.

ranganAthAcAryulu, K.K. (Ed.) 1983. "telugulO toli samAja kavulu," Andhra Saraswata Parishat, Hyderabad, A.P.

nArAyaNa rAvu, velcEru. 1987. "telugulO kavitA viplavAla svarUpam," Hyderabad Book Trust, A.P.

Arudra, 1960s. "samagra Andhra sAhityam," M. Seshachalam & Co., 13 vols., Machilipatnam, A.P.

gOpAla kriShNA rAvu (Ed.) 1983. "adhikshEpa satakamulu."

Narayana Rao, V. 1992. "Symbols of Substance -Court and State in Naayaka Period Tamilnadu," Oxford Univ. Press.

Heifetz, H., and Narayana Rao, V., 1987. "For the Lord of the Animals-Poems from the Telugu: The Kalahastisvara Satakamu of Dhurjati," University of California Press, Berkeley

SreerAma rAju, naDupalli. 1991. "Siva kavula racanalu: samAjam," Visalandhra Publishing House, Hyderabad, A.P.

 

Introduction to Satakas

A Satakam (centum) in any Indian language usually refers to a book of one hundred poems. There are several of these in Sanskrit.  A popular example is suBhAShita triSatee comprising of three sets of one hundred poems each composed by BhartRhari.   In classical Telugu literature there were only a few genres that were explicitly meant to appeal to the common man directly. The Satakam was one such genre /technique. In that sense, for many centuries it has been an important part of prajA sAhityam (people's literature as opposed to scholastic, regal or court literature). Telugu, far more than any other Indian language, used the Satakam as a brilliant instrument to create popular literature.

In telugu, the beginnings of Sataka vAj~nmayam lie in mallikArjuna panDitArAdhyaís Siva tattva sAram (a book of about 490 individual poems unconnected with each other). It extols the tenets and main beliefs of pASupatam, the particular form of Saivism adopted by him. The first complete book in this genre is said to be vRShAdhipa Satakam by pAlkuriki sOmana (fl. CE 1300?). The famous sumatee Satakam by baddena (CE 1220-1280?) which continues to be extremely popular with educators, parents and children alike was also composed around this time. Also around the same period, yathAvAkkula annamayya (CE 1280-1340 or 1232-1270?) composed his sarvESwara Satakam in about 130 verses on Lord mallikESwara at satraSAla in palnADu. This Satakam set the trends in both telugu and kannaDa for all subsequent works in the Sataka genre. Over the course of the following centuries, telugu literature has been flooded with hundreds (may be thousands) of Satakams. They have been variously classified as Saiva, vaiShNava, neeti, etc. They could also be categorized as devotional/ philosophical/ romantic, etc. Many of these are well known. The kRShNa Satakam was an example of Bhakti as well as captivatingly simple choice of words. bammera pOtanaís nArAyaNa Satakam set an example of devotion along with his version of advaita tattvam (more like metaphysics) from a vaiShNava point of view. The sumatee Satakam was a famous example of neeti bOdha. The Satakam by kAsula puruShOttama kavi in vyAja ninda style is well known. The Sataka was a particularly popular genre since it afforded a personalized expression for the writer. All other ancient forms of literature such as, kAvyam and prabandham were strictly regulated through prosody (alankAra Sastram), and many other manuals (lakShaNa granthams). A Satakam, on the other hand, need not conform to any rules except meter. Each poem of a Satakam could be a complete unit in itself. Since there could not be much story telling in just one poem, the poet was free to talk about his feelings, opinions, and his own mental blocks, etc. Or, he can be an extrovert and examine the paradoxical ways of the society or the universe in general. In the hands of great poets, the Satakam turned out to be a powerful platform for self-exploration and self-expression. It established a direct link between the poet and the reader like no other poetic medium. It allowed the reader to identify and empathize with the idea under consideration and served as an instrument to explore his/her own psyche and focus on one's own emotions. Great poets could also paint succinct and brilliant stories and word pictures within short poems. More than anything else, Telugu Sataka writers have used it as a weapon for social criticism. Most often it turned out to be a denunciation of the ways of the individual person acting as per social mores. Although rare, it also contained veiled or direct attacks on the social structure. We see that especially in poets like the great vEmana.

 

There have been many other types of Satakas, e.g., containing praise of one's lover or one's patron, ridicule of some one (because he/she did not patronize the poet), poems that read like sex manuals, etc. Satakas were not just confined to Hindu subjects either. There have been Satakas on Muslim and Christian themes as well.

Historically speaking, the Sataka started with an aim of creating literature directly appealing to the common man. The big epics usually require an interpreter. The beginning Satakas did not require such service. There has been much discussion about the early influences on this genre. Claims of different critics apart, there is little doubt that early Sataka literature owes a great debt to the revolutionary Saiva movements of 12th and 13th centuries. This movement did not sustain itself in telugu nADu for very long compared to the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. But the paths blazed by the 'Siva' poets had lasting contributions. The two chief veeraSaiva poets panDitArAdhya and sOmana used literature for missionary purposes. For this, they created a new type of literature (Sataka) that can be readily understood and quoted by every one.

 

Later, during the age of the big Prabandhas, this original intention had digressed a little. The Satakas became very sophisticated in language and imagery, thus reflecting the times. This can be seen from the few but brilliantly written Satakas of this time, e.g., kALahasteeSvara Satakamu.

 

But after this age of royal patronage came to an end, the poets had difficulty in coping with the demands of creating major prabandhas. The responsibility for patronage shifted to lesser rulers, splintered (and constantly bickering) kingdoms, and the general public. Whatever residual (royal) patronage had existed had completely shifted to the far south. Also, there was a general lack of security because of several foreign invasions. The literature of this time had to reflect this change in some fashion. Poets had to create literature closer to the common man once again. The answer was the Sataka once more. A great many Satakas were created from 17th to 19th centuries. During that time, there was a general frustration with ruling elite such as Zamindars and pALayagArlu. People gradually turned away towards metaphysical thinking. Many sought refuge in devotional service (Bhakti). This was not the assertive Bhakti of veera Saiva age. Rather it was the "total surrender" devotion associated with vaiShNavism. There was very little to be assertive about in that period. Saivas of this time were more (meta)philosophical as reflected by the tattvAlu of pOtulUri veera brahmam and his disciples. There was also a growing belief that the degeneration of society is partly due to the digression of the individual from the path of virtue (though the definition of virtue varied widely). All these characteristics were reflected in the Satakas of that time.

 

Twentieth century Satakas fall in to several categories. Karunasri, Narla Venkateswara Rao, and many other eminent writers have composed them. Some modern writers (including reportedly, the irrepressibly great Sri Sri) have experimented with writing Satakas in non-classical format.  But the well known Satakas continue to be in classical styles.

 

Structure of Telugu Satakas

Most Telugu Satakas have some distinct features.  They are almost always written in popular classical meters.  They do not normally comprise of more than two or three categories of meters.  Often, it is only one meter for the entire Satakam.  Many telugu Satakas have a makuTam -a finishing flag that is repeated in each poem.  For example, poems in kRShNa Satakam were all written in kanda padyam meter and end with the flag kRShNA!

 

 

Need

 

Any genre of literature survives only if it is adopted by contemporary writers and appreciated by the general population. Till now the classical Satakas have sustained their appeal because of their wide spread use by the rural population in the villages of Telugu Nadu. Now that Telugu Nadu is increasingly becoming urbanized, the Satakas face a danger of turning to a thing of the past. Unless the public draws on them frequently (as was the case until recently) the Sataka (and indeed literature of any kind) dies a natural death. It is up to the internet community to preserve at least the important Satakas if not the prabandhas.

 

 

 

Note

 

There are so many perfect gems in many Telugu Satakams that it is impossible to chose between them and feel justified with the selection! Nevertheless, a few sample poems are given here in RIT/RTS 3.0 format. Where possible, they are also provided in Telugu font.

 

 

Seshu Madhava Rao Adluri
First posted: Feb. 1998
Suggestions, additions and corrections to the above will be gratefully appreciated.
Kindly contact:
adluri@engr.mun.ca

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