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The Bihari-Satasai (Text, Transliteration, Word-to-Word Meaning and Translation in Free Verse)

The Bihari-Satasai (Text, Transliteration, Word-to-Word Meaning and Translation in Free Verse)
Item Code: IDK686
Author: Dr. Satya Dev Choudhary
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
Language: Text, Transliteration, Word-to-Word Meaning and Translation in Free Verse
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 9788172762629
Pages: 432
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8" X 5.8"
weight of book 621 gms

From the Jacket

The book is an English rendering in blank/free verse of Bihari-Satasai consisting of 713 couplets originally composed in Brajabhasa (a popular form of Hindi language) by Biharilal (Bihari), a renowned Hindi poet of 17th Cen. A.D.

The main theme of the book is the erotic sentiment depicting the union and separation of the lovers and their carnal gestures and movements at particular occasions. It also deals with the fascinating and charming beauty of the nayikas (ladies of various types) dressed in bright and shiny clothes and wearing glittering ornaments. The sakhi (female friend) of the nayika plays an important role in the union of the lovers especially when the latter is in sulky mood. An article 'Erotic Sentiment in Bihari-Satasai' given in the beginning of the book exhibits a lively picture of all the captivating and delectable events and affairs referred to above. Other couplets of the book, though in a very small number, are related with didactic theme, devotion towards God and the eulogy of the Raja Jayasimha of Jaipur (Rajasthan) – the patron of the poet.

Most of the couplets of Satasai are said to be moulded in a compressed, concise and brief form and in many cases are a jumbled and complex composition. But a free and elaborate translation of the text like this would remove for sure the complexity of it and thus help the readers appreciate the subtlety of the words deliberately woven in an elegant and compact style by the poet himself. It would also make each and every verse of it thoroughly delightful and enjoyable.

About the Author

Dr. Satya Dev Choudhary, Shastri, M.A. (Sanskrit & Hindi) both in 1st class and Ph.D. (Hindi) from the University of Delhi, taught in the University of Delhi, taught in the University of Delhi for about 35 years and for 1 year as a Guest Professor of Hindi & Sanskrit in the Deptt. Of Indology, University of Tubingen (W. Germany). Under his guidance more than 30 students completed their work for their M.Lit; M. Phil; Ph.D. and Post-doctoral achievements. His special interest: Indian Poetics, Philology, Vedic literature and Medieval Hindi literature. He has about 25 books to his credit and for them has been felicitated with a number of prizes and awards from the Panjab and Uttarpradesh Governments; Delhi Sanskrit Academy, Delhi Hindi Academy, Dalmia Puraskar Samiti and a few other institutions.

Major works :Dialogue hymns of Rgveda (in English & Hindi), The Bihari Satasai in English free verse. Glimpses of Indian Poetics; Bhartiya Kavya-shastra, Bhartiya Shaili-vijnana, Hindi Ritiparampara ke Pramukh Achariya (Thesis), Hindi Abhijnana-shakuntala in free verse, Ishopanisad (in Hindi & English free verse) etc., and also a good number of children books in Hindi & Sanskrit.


Sometime in 1980, the Late Prof. Nagendra, an eminent Hindi scholar and critic, assigned me the task of writing an article on 'The Treatment of Erotic Sentiment in Bihari' for a book he was compiling on this 17th century Hindi poet. I wrote the article within the specified period to two months, which was published in his book by the name Bihari. During that period I made up my mind to translate the verses of Bihari on the theme of Eros, the dominant theme, in his book which has become famous as Bihari Satasai or Satasaiya (a collection of seven hundred detached couplets).

At that time I came across a translation of Bihari's verses in English prose entitled The Veiled Moon by the late Dr. Amarnath Jha, a noted scholar of his time, but I deliberately avoided going through the book lest I should be influenced by the style of the translator until I had myself translated about 280 couplets chosen by me on the above-noted theme. Dr. Jha had translated 159 verses and in my selection, half the number may be the same.

The above-said 280 verses were translated by me in prose. Then the idea struck me that I should translate the whole book containing 713 verses, and that too, in free verse and it took me a number of years to do this arduous job.

Translating verses into a foreign language-specially when one has to address readers (native or foreign), who are unfamiliar with the sensitivity of the original text-is a difficult task indeed. The foreign scholars have, of course, translated into English almost all the important texts in Sanskrit right from the Vedic literature to the classical literature including not only poetic works, dramas, fables etc., but also works on Grammar, Philosophy, Astronomy and Astrology, Medicine, Law, Poetics and what not. Some of the famous Hindi texts as, for example, by Tulsidasa and many other have also been translated by these scholars, but it is an astonishing fact that they have not ventured to translate the text of Bihari. To show how difficult and toilsome it is to translate Bihari, I would like to quote here G.A. Grierson, the famous author and compiler of 'The Liguistic Survey of India', and a versatile genius, a diligent scholar, a great lover of Indian literature and one acquainted with all the languages of Northern India:

"Twenty years ago I began to translate him (Bihari) into English, and after all that time, I have only been convinced of the impossibility of the adequate performance of the task at my hand. As any attempt of mine would spoil the original by weakening its conciseness, and by rounding off the polished corners of its many jewels, I shall not venture to give here any examples in English of its beauties."

Almost the same is the view of Dr. A.N. Jha as given in the preface of the The Veiled Moon:

"Translation from one language to another is always difficult. The difficulty is specially great when verse is to be translated. The task becomes well-nigh impossible if the genius, the atmosphere, the symbolism, the literary tradition, the landscape, the myths of the two languages differ widely and deeply as they do in the case of Hindi and English. Not all the poems are translatable, some lose their all universeness and literary merit and nuance in another language…" (page 7).

My main purpose in quoting the above statements in that keeping in mind the toughness of the job of translating the work of Bihari, I should be pardoned if some of my readers do not approve of rendering of my the couplets.

I wanted to arrange the verses of Bihari according to the subject matter vis-à-vis (i) Beauty, (ii) Union, (iii) Separation, (iv) Carnal gestures and movements, (v) Emotions, (vi) The various types of Nayika, (vii) Didactic sayings, (viii) Devotion towards God, (i) The Eulogies of Raja Jayasingh, etc., but I have adopted the arrangement as presented by Shri Jagannath Das Ratnakar in his Bihari Ratnakar with no emphasis on any classification. In fact, even Bihari himself must have composed these verses without a specific plan. Again, if a particular type of classification in arrangement (viz., beauty of eyes, face, arms, breasts, etc.) is adopted, a reader would definitely find that similar ideas come one after another in a cluster of verses and such an arrangement, obviously, would create a feeling of monotony in his mind.

My readers will find this translation a free and an elaborate rendering of the text. At some places it may appear explanatory also. For the clarity of the theme, in certain cases, I have made use of the brackets '[]' whenever I felt that an extra word or a sentence was to be inserted. And this style, I believe, would help them to appreciate the subtleness of the words chosen by the poet, woven, I course, in a complicated yet dainty and elegant diction. This method becomes necessary when one has to translate the verses composed in a very concise and pithy style and in many cases, in a jumbled and complex style as well, especially when one has to expound the ideas expressed by poets like Bihari who chose to propound curious conceits.

In my translation I have had to make use of some of the technical words such as sakhi, duti, khandita nayika, etc., meaning thereby: a female friend or companion, a female messenger, a forlorn or forsaken lady respectively, as it occurred to me that purely English renderings of such words would not convey the preciseness of the poet himself.

The footnotes given below the translation of almost all the verses would serve many purposes: understanding the suggested sense of the verse, explanation of the pun in the use of words, the nomenclature of the nayaka or nayika whom the verse is dealing with according do Indian Poetics, the mythological and historical references to explain the theme of the verse, etc.

First, I am highly thankful to my friend late Prof. Ram Kumar ji (known as Verma ji) who had gone through the translation of the first draft of about 280 verses and guided me how to do the task effectively. I am also grateful to Late Mr. S.N. Nigam and Mrs. Anshu Babar (my daughter) for going through the above-noted first draft and giving me valuable suggestions.

All these verses I showed to Dr. C.D. Siddhu of the Department of English, Hansraj College, University of Delhi, who assured me that this job would serve the purpose of conveying the imaginative expressions of the poet to the readers unacquainted with the language of the poet, the Brahbhasa of olden days. I am very thankful to him.

The final finish to this work has been given by Prof. Tulsi Ram (former Head of the Department of English, M.D. University, Rohtak (Haryana) after comparing the translation with almost all the original verses. I am indebted to him for reading each and every sentence of this work and for giving appropriate and delightful nuances to them wherever required.

I also express my gratefulness to the Late Prof. Nagendra who went through my article of Bihari mentioned above, which in included in this book. In fact, it was he who had inspired me with the idea of translating the love-verses of the poet.




  Preface 9
2 Bihari Lala 15
3 Treatment of Erotic Sentiment in Bihari 21
4 The Bihari-Satasai
(Text, Translation and Comments)
5 List of Couplets according to Devanagari Alphabatical Order 423

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