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Moral lessons |inspiring quotes using Satakam genre by two most popular South Indian Telugu poets

Updated on April 16, 2016
Venkatachari M profile image

Venkat loves arts and literature and keeps reading books of all genre and developed an interest in writing literary and fictional articles.

Introduction to Satakam genre in poetry

"Satakam" in Indian literature refers to a composition or compilation consisting of hundred verses. In Indian classical literature, the poets used to appeal to the common man using the sataka literature as one of the most effective genres of literature to convey their messages. This genre uses very simple language that can be understood even by the illiterates for creating awareness among them. It is the most effective form of popular literature among the general public. It can be referred to as the people's literature as opposed to the scholastic literature.

In this hub (article), my endeavour is to spotlight the greatness of two collections of satakam literature which are most popular in the Telugu language, famously referred to as "Vemana satakam" and "Sumati satakam".

Vemana satakam is written by Yogi Vemana (original name Gona Vema Buddha Reddy of Kondaveedu dynasty) during the 14th century and Sumati satakam by Baddena Bhupal (also known as Bhadra Bhupala of Chola dynasty) of the 13th century.

Their poems are taught in schools even now to impart moral education to children.

Poet Vemana statue in Hyderabad, India

Vemana satakam author Vemana statue on Tank Bund Road at Necklace Road, Hyderabad
Vemana satakam author Vemana statue on Tank Bund Road at Necklace Road, Hyderabad

Features and characteristics of shatakam literature

  • The satakam form of literature is made up of verses (usually 100 verses) each verse consisting four lines.
  • The fourth line is usually a signature line or like a chorus of repeating the same words at the end of each verse.
  • Shatakam is usually in very simple language that is being used by the common public.
  • It is composed in a musical style (referred to as "ataveladi" style in Telugu) that is similar to dancing lady style.
  • Each verse composed is short in meter and typically unique in nature, explaining in itself the whole message.
  • The sataka literature, generally, is intended to create awareness in people through simple messages that can be easily grasped by a common man to develop right conduct and social values.
  • The themes conveyed are human values, moral lessons, social and spiritual ideals and values of life.
  • Some of the messages may be ridiculous and satirical, pinpointing the superstitious beliefs and other ills of society.

Portrait of poet Vemana

Portrait of Vemana by Rahmanuddin wikimedia commons:CC BY-SA 3.0
Portrait of Vemana by Rahmanuddin wikimedia commons:CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

Sumati satakam author Baddena

A sketch of the poet of sumati satakam Courtesy teluguwishesh.com:
A sketch of the poet of sumati satakam Courtesy teluguwishesh.com:

Sataka literature used for educating people through inspiring quotes

The poets used the sataka genre to impart wisdom and knowledge through analogies of simple known facts of everyday life to the common man. The below-mentioned verses of Vemana and Baddena illustrate this method of educating people through an analogical explanation of simple things and facts of life.

The original language of all these poems was Telugu. But, I am translating them into English here. These are only samples of many more verses.

PS: - Vemana poems end with "listen Vema" (Vema is a short form for his name Vemana) whereas Sumathi satakam poems end with the word "Sumathi" which means wise man.

Salt and camphor look alike
(but) their tastes are different
(similarly) virtuous people differ from ordinary people
O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.


Don't show superiority where it is not worthy
Humbleness is not inferiority
Doesn't a mountain look small in the mirror?
O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

Even if the rat skin is washed throughout the year
It will remain black but not turn white
(Similarly)if you beat a wooden doll, does it speak?
O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

A stone in the shoes, a fly near the ears,
Dust particle in the eye, thorn in feet,
(similarly)Quarrel in the house, are all unbearable
O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

Inferior person speaks always loudly
Gentleman speaks softly
Does gold sound like bronze?
O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. 

If you adore a golden throne
By placing a dog on it at an auspicious time
And crown the dog
Does it leave previous habits? listen Sumathi.
(It means that giving good position and respect to mean people can't change their bad habits)

Whenever you become rich
Relatives will surround you
Just like pond full of water
Gets inhabited by thousands of frogs, isn't Sumathi?

Even milk is not drunk if you tell softly
But, even poison gets drunk when you tell harshly
Softness doesn't work always
Better be harsh in this world, Sumathi.

Even the rich Kuber being his friend
Lord Shiva had to beg for alms
However rich your connections may be
Your own wealth comes to your help,listen Sumathi.

Relatives that are of no use during problems
God that does not respond even after prayers
Horse that doesn't go forward in battle field
All these should be left immediately, Sumathi.

Don't be over confident with your strength
Quarrelling with all carelessly is not correct
Don't you see even huge and strong snakes meet death
When caught between lots of ants, Sumathi?


Poems attacking weak points in human behaviour, society and administration

The poets used the sataka literature to pinpoint the weaknesses in society, government administrations and human perceptions as evident from these following verses.

Those finding fault in others are many
All people have some or other faults
(But)those counting faults do not know their own faults
Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

Whole virtuousness took birth as male
And all sin took birth as female?
Why all these male female discriminations?
Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

Governments having ministers
Run forever with good control of the governing system
But those without ministers
Can't run even for a while like machines with dismantled nuts, Sumathi.

One village should have one accountant
And one village head not more than this
Otherwise confusion gets created
The whole administration will get disturbed, Sumathi.

Statements once asserted as true
Does not take even seconds to be rejected as false
Only God can protect from such people
Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

Body is mortal, wealth is temporary
One can teach anything to others except himself
Teaching is easier than practising
Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

When soul itself is impure, why practise physical untouchability?
When food itself is impure, why cook it?
When heart is impure, why indulge in worships of God?
Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.


About below linked videos of poems from Vemana satakam and Sumathi satakam

The below-linked videos are both in the Telugu language, the original language in which the poems have been composed by these poets. Only very few poems are linked here of both these poets. The poems are sung by fans of these two poets and uploaded on youtube.

Some of these poems have already been included by me in the above sections of poems.

Poems from Vemana satakam

Poems from Sumathi satakam

What about your choice for inspirational poetry?

Who is your inspiring poet?

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About Charles Philip Brown who transliterated Vemana satakam and Sumathi satakam

Charles Philip Brown (shortly known as C.P.Brown) translated all the poems of Vemana amounting to more than 1200 poems and many poems of Sumathi satakam also from the Telugu language to English, during his tenure in Andhra Pradesh, India in the years 1820 to 1854, as an official of the collectorate during British rule of India

You can find poems of Vemana along with an introduction to Telugu poetry and Vemana life at this link. Brown did a great service to the Telugu people and poetry lovers by compiling all these poems which were not easily available at one place.

But above given poems are all my own translations from Telugu to English.

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    • Venkatachari M profile image
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      Venkatachari M 16 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, for the visit and such nice comment. There are so many wonderful things and lessons to be learnt in this amazing world that we can't explore all of them within our lifespan. My heart wishes and blessings to all your family members.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 16 months ago from sunny Florida

      So glad you shared this...I had no previous knowledge of it...I am marking this to come back and reread. Very interesting. Angels are on the way to you ps

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 20 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks for the visit and nice comment.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very thoughtful quotes.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 20 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks Devika, for your visit and the nice comment.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 20 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Another interesting hub! I enjoyed learning from this hub always a good learning lesson. I Tweeted!

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 21 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Wow!Marie, you awarded me a good title "transliterator"!!That's great. Thanks a lot for it. I keep doing something or other to improve myself and also to entertain myself.

      Thanks for the visit and nice comment.

    • MarieLB profile image

      Marie L Boler 21 months ago from Yamba

      You widen my world Venkatachari M. I am not normally that much into poetry, but you make it all sound so interesting.

      And I note that you too are a transliterator - this last word is one I did not know before. Thank you V M.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 21 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, thank you Surabhi. Glad to know you like it. I tried my best to put them into English, though not fully satisfied.

    • profile image

      Surabhi Kaura 21 months ago

      How did I miss this? This is a brilliant hub filled with best poetries. I would come again sometime here to re-read it. What a pleasure, Sir... what a pleasure! Much Love and Respect, Venkatachari ji :)

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 21 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Sujaya.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 21 months ago

      very interesting and enlightening hub

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 21 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      My friends, I have just noticed that 10 comments were pending for approval while browsing the Hubpages feed page and went to the pending comments section to approve all of them.

      My hearty thanks to all of you - Missy Smith, Jodah, Vasantha, Eric, Carb Diva, Manatita, Alicia, Chitrangada, Gypsy Rose Lee and Frank Atanacio - for your nice comments and feedback and supportive encouraging words. Thank you all.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton

      My goodness what a wonderful collection of poetry awesome my friend :)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 21 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Most fascinating and interesting hub. Enjoyed reading about the different literary works.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 21 months ago from New Delhi, India

      A very nice, interesting and informative hub!

      Satakam literature is very interesting and I loved the examples you gave above. Both poems have deep meanings with beautiful clear verses.

      I have heard about these wonderful literary works through one of my South Indian friend but your hub enlightened me further.

      Thank you for the education!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting and educational hub, Venkatachari. I enjoyed reading the poems and learning about their history.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 21 months ago from london

      What a beautiful and welcome change! I like this new style and the wise way of teaching. A bit like the ancient sutras or our psalms and beatitudes in Christianity.

      My own Guruji's poems are by far the best, naturally, but among your lists, Rumi is my favourite, although I grew up with the others and like them also.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 21 months ago from Washington State, USA

      I believe that the best way to instruct is to use poetry, simile, and verse. (These things stay with the listener in ways that simply speaking or delivering a speech do not.) This is well written and the lessons taught are beautiful. It is good to hear from you. You have been missed.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting. I sure enjoyed learning about this type of poetry. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • vasantha  T k profile image

      vasantha T k 21 months ago from Bangalore

      Well written , now and then I have heard about the master pieces of Vemana and Sumathi satakam from my mother. Thanks for sharing and bringing it to spotlight.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 21 months ago from Florida

      I'm glad I could point it out Venkatachari. I also made this error on accident one time and several were nice enough to let me know as well. :)

      Now, back to the importance of leaving a comment. Which I always like to do when I read your hubs.

      Satakam literature struck me as very interesting. I loved the examples you gave above. Both poems had depth but stated the point with beautiful clear verses. I liked that. I hope this is the kind of poetry I write as well.

      Although sataka has its own style of verse and use of words, the simplicity of it, reminds me of a style that writers such as Hemingway tried to use; uncomplicated dialogue.

      Nice hub Venkatachari. If I've made errors in my comment, I do apologize. I typed this post on my phone. I am not around my computer at the moment. Lol. Take care my friend. :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing this form of poetry (Satakam) that I was previously unaware of Venkat. This is a well written and interesting hub. Glad you got the "comments" section reinstated.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 21 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      I am extremely sorry to come to know that my comments section has been deleted by me unknowingly while publishing this hub.

      I am very grateful to Missy Smith for pointing out this mistake done by me. Now I have reinstated this section for the convenience of viewers and my friends.