Inspirational Messages Through Poetry by Two South Indian Telugu Poets Using Satakam Genre
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 through four-liner verses. 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 aim is to spotlight the greatness of two collections of the satakam literature which are most popular in the Telugu language. These two collections are 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.
Sumati satakam was written 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.
Most lines from those verses are also used frequently by even the common man during his daily interactions with people.
Poet Vemana Statue in Hyderabad, India
Important Facts and Characteristics of Satakam Literature
- The satakam form of literature is made up of verses (usually 100 verses) each verse consisting of 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.
- Satakam is usually in very simple language that is being used by the common public.
- It is composed in a musical style (referred to as the "ataveladi" style in Telugu) that is similar to the 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 the 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
Popular Poems of Awareness and Education
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?
Sumati Satakam Author Baddena
Poems Attacking Weak Points in Human Behavior, Society, Administration
The poets used the sataka literature to pinpoint the weaknesses of the society, the government administrations, and the 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.
Videos of Poems from Vemana Satakam and Sumathi Satakam
The below-linked videos are both in the Telugu language, the original language in which these poets have composed. 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 and explained 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?
Charles Philip Brown - Compiler of the Works of Vemana and Sumati
Charles Philip Brown Transliterated Vemana Satakam and Sumati 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 Sumati 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 the 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 in one place.
But the poems described by me in the above paragraphs are all my own translations from Telugu to English.