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nArAyaNa Satakamu

By bammera pOtana

Click here for the full transliterated text.

 

 

 

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)

 

The Sataka has been a very popular literary genre in telugu over the centuries. One of the most popular vaiShNava Satakams is the nArAyaNA Satakamu.

 
 

Authorship and Content

 

The great bammera pOtana (author of BhAgavataM, perhaps the most popular Telugu literary work ever) has traditionally been credited with the Satakam's authorship.

This SatakaM has been extremely popular with rural public in telugu nADu. The verses are very simple. Simple language is characteristic of pOtana. These verses are considerably simpler than those in the BhAgavataM. On the other http://www.wp.com/KalaJnana/Charitra.html hand, the content of the SatakaM is not characteristic of pOtana BhAgavataM. In BhagavataM, pOtana created a universe filled with his chosen Lord (kRShNa) and His manifestations and deeds through the various eons. The main emphasis was Bhakti. There is Bhakti in nArAyaNa SatakaM too. But it is hardly in the same vein as that in BhAgavataM. The SatakaM is much more metaphysical than devotional. It explains a number of technical points relating to his beliefs about the progression of the universe. Essentially the SatakaM summarizes the material contained in several volumes of "sAdhana rahasyamulu" type discourses. Such descriptions are clearly reminiscent of the tattvAlu that were made famous by pOtulUri veera brahmaM gAru who lived long after pOtana. The SatakaM is unlike other well-known vaiShNava compositions of that time. vaiShNava works generally follow the lines of viSiShTAdvaita /dvaita philosophies, extol total surrender to God and portray His seemingly infinite qualities. They aim at establishing a personal relationship with a personal God. The Bhakti portrayed therein expresses wonder, love, and many such endearing qualities. It urges the devotee to kneel down and give himself up to his chosen personal form of God. The dASarathee Satakamu and kRShNa Satakamu are examples of this. The nArAyaNa Satakamu while paying some attention to "total surrender" actually concentrates on creating a transcendental vairAgyaM to eliminate all feelings. It is the vairAgyaM born out of a sophisticated understanding of the cause of birth and death (janma tattva rahasyaM). The essence of this teaching is that if one gains the necessary (metaphysical) knowledge from a proper guru, all sense of attachments would vanish. Once that happens, what else would one do but practice Bhakti? Conclusions to this effect are certainly hinted at various locations in the BhAgavataM. But they cannot be compared to the out right statements of the SatakaM. In that sense, the nArAyaNa SatakaM may be a unique work for its time. Much later, during the period between 17th and 19th centuries, vaiShNava works had been composed with an explicit metaphysical bent.

 

 

 

The Authorship Problem

 

 

 

Some critics have expressed doubts about the Satakam's authorship since there is no clear proof. It should be noted that many other well-known Satakams have also been without any poof of authorship. It is very rare to find details of an author built into the SatakaM itself. Without such built-in proof of authorship, any ancient work is subject to questions from scholastic criticism.

 

Without meaning any disrespect to critics, we should bear in mind that it has been a minor tradition of Telugu literature to attribute one's own works to some "great one" from a distant past. This is perhaps true of all Indian scholarly traditions, e.g., look at all the stOtras and discourses blaring Adi Sankara's name as their author! Another minor tradition is to doubt the authenticity of any literary work attributed to any one -no holds barred! Continuing in this tradition, we can say that for the sake of argument, the authorship of this Satakamu is doubtful. We can then conjecture that the vaiShNavas of seventeenth or eighteenth centuries were worried about the challenge posed by the growing popularity of tattvAlu. tattvAlu till then were mainly in the domain of Saivaite and/or yogic authors. Such tattavas were mainly concerned with vairAgyaM and esoteric knowledge about becoming/being a sAdhaka. To counter the challenge, vaiShNavas created their own version of tattvAlu and appended pOtana's popularity and antiquity to the Satakamu. They could then declare that the composition of tattvAlu actually started with vaiShNava writers! In real terms, the vaiShNava poets perhaps wanted to jump on to the bandwagon of tattvAlu. Somewhere along the way pOtana's name got stuck with it. By the same token, just about every SatakaM will also be of recent origin! Unless there is some other concrete reason for doubting the authorship, it may be reasonable to go with pOtana as the author.

 

 

 

Relevance

 

 

 

Even if the above (perhaps wild) speculations were all true, we can appreciate the SatakaM and its message just the same. A true exposition of tattvaM has no allegiance with vaiShaNavism or Saivism. It is just a beautifully evolved philosophical system. Whether we accept or reject its conclusions, it is still a coherent and well developed system and forms a major part of Telugu thought of the past several centuries. The SatakaM succinctly explains it. An added bonus: since we can sing the poems, any perceived dryness of the subject melts away leaving a rich taste of traditional Telugu thought!

 

The Satakamu was known by heart to several old timers including many women. Even now, in many rural areas, one comes across an occasional grandmother who would sing the verses in lullaby fashion while sitting down and attending to her knitting /wick making (vattulu vaDakaTaM!) or while presiding over a noisy bunch of grandchildren.

 

 

 

Transliterated Text

 

 

 

All 119 poems of the SatakaM are given here in RIT/RTS transliteration format. Click here for the poems in Telugu Lipi font. There are a few important textual differences between the two versions I examined -one from Balasarasvati Book Depot (Kurnool) and the other from C.V. Krishna Book Depot (Madras). Both editions are indicated to have been edited by Pundits. At some locations it appears that the rules of meter have been violated. (Perhaps this is yet another indication of pOtana not being the author! -or is it?) The poems were not rearranged in an alphabetical order since they would loose their continuity of thought.

 

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

 

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