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OF the three Śatakas or centuries of couplets ascribed to Bhartřihari, the Nîti and Vairâgya Śatakas alone are included in the following pages. The Sringâra Śataka contains so many stanzas requiring modification, so many more wholly untranslatable into English, that on due consideration I have decided to omit this collection of stanzas from the volume now published. It only remains for me to convey my thanks to the friends who, in various ways, have so kindly and willingly contributed their aid in helping me to carry out this work.
B. H, W.
Who was Bhartrihari ? what was his date? where did he live ? did he, in fact, ever really exist at all? These are questions to which no satisfactory answer has as yet been given. It has been alleged that he was of regal descent, and the brother of Vikramâditya; that not only did he belong to a reigning family, but that he was next in succession to the crown, and that, disgusted with the world, he resigned in favour of his brother Vikrama.
He is the reputed author of three Šatakas or centuries of couplets :
1. Śringâra Śataka, a purely amatory poem ; 2. Nîti Sataka, on polity and ethics;
3. Vairâgya Sataka, on religious austerity. Besides these, tradition assigns to him a grammar called Vâkyapadîya, and a poem called Bhattikavya.
But beyond tradition there is no evidence whatever as to the authorship of these Šatakas. The theory already referred to, that Bhartrihari was a prince who quitted the world in disgust, is founded upon the somewhat vague allusions in the second śloka of the Nîti Sataka. This has been supposed to refer to the discovery of a domestic intrigue in his own household, which so shook Bhartrihari's faith in worldly matters, that he decided to abdicate his royal position, and to retire into the forest as an ascetic. These conclusions seem, however, too much to deduce from a remark in itself somewhat obscure. But whoever the author may have been, there seems a continuity and a uniformity in each of these separate Śatakas, as well as a similarity in character between them, which forbid us to accept the theory that they are merely a compilation of well-known sayings. The unbroken tradition, moreover, that they are the authorship of one man (whatever his name may be) should not go for nothing. .
The question of date is almost as difficult to decide as that of authorship, and this can only be arrived at approximately on internal evidence. The doctrines enunciated in the Vairâgya Śataka are relied on as supplying us with some of the proofs that are required. Many of the Ślokas in this Šataka speak in the language of the Vedantic philosophy. The rooting out of Karma or action, absorption into the Supreme Spirit, the driving out of Moha or illusion by Jnâna, or the true knowledge— these ideas occurring very frequently in the Vairâgya Šataka, all point to Vedantic influence. The eighth or ninth century A.D. has, on these grounds, been assigned as the date of these Šatakas. Not that this date can be held as conclusive; for though Sankarâcharya, the great exponent and formulator of the Vedantic philosophy flourished and taught at that date, it is not, therefore, proved that the Vedantic doctrines did not exist before his time, and it necessarily follows, therefore, that neither similarity of idea nor of phraseology can warrant us in making Bhartsihari's Satakas cotemporary with Sankaracharya.
The argument as to their date from the mention of the Purâņas in the Vairâgya Śataka seems to be equally unconvincing. Some of the Purâņas may be even comparatively modern productions, as late as the fourteenth or fifteenth century; but some are much earlier, dating back to the fifth or sixth century A.D. Further, the contents of these Purâņas may be carried back to an even