The Century of Life: The Nitishataka of Bhartrihari Freely Rendered Into English Verse (Sanskrit Text, Transliteration and English Translation)

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Item Code: NAD007
Author: Sri Aurobindo
Publisher: Aurobindo Ashram
Language: (Sanskrit Text, Transliteration and English Translation)
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 9788170601203
Pages: 117
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.4 inch
Weight 170 gm
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Book Description

we are happy to bring together in this book, Sri Aurobindo’s English translation of the, nitisataka of Bhartrihari, along with the original Sanskrit text. This translation was done sometime around 900 when Sri Aurobindo was staying at Baroda. It was flrstpubhshed from Pondicherry in 1924 without the original verses.

It is an elevating and enriching experience to read a great work, as well known as the n&1aka, in the original Sanskrit with its typical epigrammatic style and to see the form it takes, when expressed n the English Language. The mastery hands of Sri Aurobindo. This poetical translation will also help those not familiar with Sanskrit to enter the spirit of one of its great masterpieces. We feel that such works will play an increasingly important role as the world moves towards a greater unity and there is a greater intermingling and fusion of cultures.

We acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Sampadananda Mishra who has done the research and the editing and Dr. AK. Gangly who has helped in writing the introduction. Sushanto has done the cover design for this book.

In this revised edition of The Century of Life the Roman transliteration of the entire nitisataka has been incorporated into the main body of the text. The story of Bhartrihari is given in the from of an appendix. Index to the Sanskrit metres containing explanatory notes on the chundas or metres used in the nitistaka have been given separately in another appendix. The names of the chandas used in each verse arc given in the shloka index.



several centuries have passed since the time of Bhartrihari, the author of nitisataka, and in the absence of any authentic chronology, it is difficult to say anything concrete either of Bhartrihari life or of his poetical works. Today he is almost a legendary figure. Tradition speaks of the poets Kalidasa and Bhartrihari as being contemporaries. Critics even say Bhartrihari was an elder brother of king Vikramaditya to whom he transferred his crown. Some European scholars go to the extent of saying that bhartrihari was not the poet of the three satakas — nitisataka, srngarsataka, and vairãgyasataka — he merely compiled them. However, to this last view we do not find any internal evidence in the.*satakas. There is no stamp of a compilation En them. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, “there is one characteristic tone, a note strong and unmistakable, the persistent self-repetition of an individual manner; all is mint of a single mind.

As the word satakas indicates, each 4atakas should normally comprise a hundred verses or epigrams. But what is available to us today is more than hundred in each satakas. This must be “due to accretion and the mistaken ascription to Bhartrihari of verses not of his making but cast in his spirit and manner’2 by later poets. E3hartrihari’s nitisataka (Century of Morals) is “a series of poetical epigrams or rather sentences upon human life and conduct grouped loosely round a few central ideas..3’. Classical Sanskrit poetry of E3hartrihari’s time, and literature in general, was characterized, as Sri Aurobindo writes, by “a sort of lucid density of literary structure; in style a careful blending of curious richness with concentrated force and directness of expression, in thought and matter a crowded vividness and pregnant lucidity”4. The ‘infinite harmonic variations of four-lined stanza” as provided by classical prosody, gave the poet of the age ample scope and opportunity to express some vivid and beautiful picture, “some great or apposite thought, some fine-edged sentiment. If a picture, it might be crowded with felicitous detail; if a thought, with pregnant suggestion; EPA sentiment, with happy shades Of feeling.

And Bhartrihari’ with his talent made the whole poetical expression, ‘perfectly lucid and firm in its unity.”A poetry that successfully achieves the above manner of expression was called by the ancients a subhasita. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, a subhasita may be defined as “a thing well said and therefore memorable. Sometimes the subhãsita clarified into a simple epigram...” A successful subhasita throws an arc-light on a passing object; there is the “instantaneous concentration of vision, the... carefully-created luminousness and crowded lucidity of separate detail in the clear-cut unity of the picture.”6 Bhartrihari nitisataka belongs to this category of poetry. “The extraordinary power of compression which Sanskrit possesses is seen here at its best; the effect on the mind is that of a perfect whole.

What is the theme and subject matter of the nitisataka to which the epigrammatic poetry (subhasita) of Bhartrihari gives expression? Sri Aurobindo has entitled his translation nitisatataka as “The Century of Life”. In his introduction to this translation he writes, “I had at first entitled the translation of ‘The Century of Morals’, but the Sanskrit word niti has a more complex sense. It includes also policy and worldly wisdom, the rule of successful as well as the law of ideal conduct and gives scope for observation of all the turns and forces determining the movement of human character and We may perhaps look upon it in the words of Mathew Arnold, the Victorian poet and critic, as “a criticism of life”. Leaving aside the interpretation and additions, the nitisataka is a product of its age—’the keen intellect and the wide, mature and well-stored experience of the age.. .“. And yet it is also sonic thing more, It has the touch of Bhartrihari genius. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, “he (Bhartrihari) writes not only with the thought but with emotion, with what might be called a moved intellectuality of the feeling and an intimate experience that gives potency and sometimes poignancy to his utterance. of the three satakas of Bhartrihari, nitisataka contains and expresses ‘high ethical thought or worldly wisdom or brief criticisms of aspects of life.

This work is particularly significant as it underlines one of ‘the three leading motives of the mind of the age, Its reflective interest in life and turn for high and strong and minute thinking. Budhendra a commentator of the satakas of Bhartrihari hs clasifed, Trithtak into ten sections called paddhti. These ten paddh1i are murkha-pddhafi ‘On Fools and Folly’, vidvat paddhati ‘On Wisdom’, ,ã -paddhti ‘On Pride and Heroism’tha-paddhti ‘On Weaith’, durjana -pddhati ‘On ted’paddhati and paopkä-paddhati On dhariya-paddhati On Firmness’, daya paddhati ‘On karma-paddhati ‘On Karma’, In this sataka the poet uses many possible variations of the four-lined stanza and thirteen different metres. Some metres even contain 21 syllables in each pãda or quarter. The use of longer metres gives the poet “the opportunity of comprising into a single stanza material sufficient to fill a compact English sonnet.

The personality of Bhartrihari as it appears in the Centuries is striking. This is personality with “the true heroic turn of mind and turn of speech; he breathes a large and puissant atmosphere. High spirited, high-minded, high of temper, Admiring courage, firmness and daring aspiration above all things, owered with a trenchant power of scorn arid somber Irony, and occasionally 0f stern invective. What we may perhaps miss in the nitiSataka are the milder and more feminine shades of the Aryan idea In translating Bhartrihari, s nitistaka Sri Aurobindo has followed the Sanskrit text edited by Mr. Telang in the Bombay Sanskrit series. “The accepted order of the verses, although it admits a few gross errors and misplacements, has nevertheless been preserved literal translation from one language into another of the same family is not very difficult. As for example. A literal translation from one European language into another is possible for ‘European language is not very dissimilar; they belong to one family’. But there is a wide gulf between Sanskrit and English. Therefore ‘any attempt at close verbal rendering would be disastrous.

The nature of the translation by Sri Aurobindo may best be stated in his own words: “The principle of translation followed has Been to preserve faithfully the thought, spirit and images of the original, but otherwise to take the full license of poetical rendering.” He further elaborates, “I have made no attempt to render the distinctive features of Bhartrihari style on the contrary I have accepted the necessity of substituting for the severity and compact massiveness of Sanskrit edition which must necessarily vanish in translation, the greater richness and color preferred by the English tongue,’’8Another marked distinction between the original and the translation needs to be pointed out. The epigrammatic style of Bhartrihari subhäsita could find expression into a looser and freer style in English sometimes expanded to considerable dimensions’. “Lines of cunningly wrought gold have had to be beaten out into some tenuity,ro as Donne poetically expressed gold beaten to airy thinness’. This is the reason why Sri Aurobindo did not attempt to preserve the peculiar qualities of the subharita, “Other wise the finer associations and suggestions of the original world have been lost or blurred’20. In his own words: “1 holds it more pardonable in poetical translation to unstring the language than to dwarf the spirit and mutilate the thought. For in poetry it is not the verbal substance that we seek from the report or rendering of foreign masterpieces; we desire rather the spiritual substance, the soul of the poet and the soul of his poetry”. Although in such an Endeavour, the sounds and rhythms of the original languages, which the poet’s countrymen and contemporaries loved and admired get lost, yet what ‘that ancient music set vibrating in the heavens of thought’ may find responses and echoes in a good translation.

Sri Aurobindo, a poet philosopher par excellence with a wonderful command of English and Sanskrit languages and their prosody. Had at his disposal all the necessary requisites needed for rendering Bhartrihari into English. Therefore this translation is among those new works which have caught and impressed so admirably in the English) language, the Indian mind and spirit.




Preface iii
Introduction. v
Invocation. i
On fools and folly . 2
On wisdom. 13
On pride and heroism. 27
On wealth. 35
On the wicked. 46
On virtue . 53
On firmness. 68
On fate. 73
On karma . 78
Miscellaneous verses. 78
The story of bhartrihari. 105
Index to the Sanskrit metres. 108
Index to the verse titles. 112
Shloka index. 114

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