Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Literature
See also Introduction to Vaitaal Stories 2-2; Bhartrihari's Teachings
A similar story appears in Tripur Rahasya also - Story of a Handsome Prince
(660-740 AD) A philosopher, law-giver, poet and grammarian. His most
famous works are "Neeti Shatak", "Shringaar Shatak", and
"Vairaagya Shatak" - each consisting of 100 verses on the topics of
moral conduct, pleasures of the senses, and renunciation. "Shringaar
Shatak" has been written from the point of view of males where the woman
is at once the joy of life and the source of sorrow. She can be the best guide
in virtue and can take a man to worst evils. Still he says that life of a man
without a woman is empty. "Neeti Shatak" is a marvel of great aphorisms
on righteous conduct and many of the aphorisms are, even today, the best statements
ever made to guide human beings into right conduct. "Vairaagya Shatak"
is a complete turn-about from his "Shringaar Shatak" where he says that
the pleasure of flesh is meaningless.
Raajaa Bhartrihari was the elder son of King Gandharvsen, by a maid and received the kingdom of Ujjain from the celestial god Indra and the King of Dhaaraa Nagaree. He had a younger brother also, named Vikramaaditya.
When Bhartrihari was the king of Ujjayanee (modern day Ujjain) there lived a Brahman in his state. After years of severe austerities he received the fruit of immortality from the celestial tree of Kalp Vriksh. The Brahman thought what he would do of that fruit of immortality, a king will be more benefited from it, so he presented that fruit to his monarch, Raajaa Bhartrihari, who in turn, passed it on to his love, the beautiful Dangalah Queen Pingalaa - Raajaa Bhartrihari's last and the youngest wife. The queen, being in love with the Head police officer of the state, Maheepaal, presented the fruit to him, who further passed it on to his beloved, Lakhaa, one of the maids of honor. Eventually, Lakhaa being in love with the king presented the fruit back to the King.
Having completed the circle, the fruit revealed the downsides of infidelity to the King, he summoned the queen and ordered her beheading, and ate the fruit himself. After that he abdicated the throne, to his younger brother Vikramaaditya, and became a religious mendicant. He later became a disciple of a Nath saint, Jaalandhar Nath, along with the son of his sister Mainaavatee (also known as Mayanaamatee or Mainaavantee), Raajaa Gopi Chand of Bangaal.
Bhartrihari and Pingalaa Have a Son
How Bhartrihari Became the Disciple of Gorakshnaath?
Pingalaa Dies Pingalaa Lives-One Version
He started crying for his queen - "Hey Pingalaa, Hey Pingalaa." Guru Gorakhnaath heard about the grief of the King and came to help him overcome his grief. He started crying in a louder voice - "Hey my mud pot, Hey my mud pot." When the King saw this, he asked him why was he grieving? Gorakshnaath replied that he was grieving for his begging bowl which was broken. The King said - "What? You are crying for your begging bowl? Stop crying for that, I will give you a thousand bowls, better than that." Gorakshnaath said crying - "I need only my own one which I loved so much, I don't need yours." The King said - "What are you talking about? Whatever has been destroyed cannot be brought back." Gorakshnaath stopped crying and said - "If you know this then why are you crying for your queen who has also gone forever? She is not going to return by your crying, then why do you cry so much for her?" Bhartrihari said - "It is illogical to compare a queen's love to a broken earthen pot." Gorakshnaath said - "O King, There is not much difference between the queen and an earthen pot, because both are made of the earth. And whatever has come out of earth, one must return to earth. This is the law of nature." he continued - "All right, Will you be able to recognize your queen if I bring her alive by my Yaugik powers?" The King immediately said - "Why not? Of course."
It is said that Guru Gorakhnaath
created 750 copies of Raanee Pingalaa to demonstrate the illusory nature of the world to Raajaa
Bhartrihari. The King got very ashamed because he could not recognize his queen. Even though
Raanee Pingalaa came alive Raajaa Bhartrihari decided to renounce the world and became the
disciple of Guru Gorakhnaath. He became a very famous saint and is also known as Sant Bhartrihari
by the people of North India. After he had joined the Naath tradition, or became the disciple of
Gorakshnath, he became known as Siddh Vichaar Naath. He is considered to be founder of Bhartrihari
Vairaag Panth, one of the 12 Panth presently existing in Naath Sampradaaya.
Pingalaa Dies, Pingalaa Lives-Another Version
One day a Braahman came to his palace and presented him a fruit which would give the youth and immortality to the eater of the fruit. Since the King loved his youngest queen Pingalaa very much, he brought the fruit to her and gave it to her thinking that if she will be young forever he will be enjoying with her throughout his life. Now Pingalaa was in love with the King's officer, so she gave it to that officer thinking that if he will eat it, he will remain young forever and she will enjoy with him for ever. This officer used to go to some prostitute, so he gave that fruit to her thinking that if she will eat it, she will be young forever and he will enjoy her forever. The prostitute was tired of her life style, so she thought that who else could be more deserving candidate to eat this fruit except the King. She got up in the morning, went to the royal court and presented the fruit to the King.
When the King saw
that fruit, which he gave to his wife yesterday morning, in the prostitute's
hands, he got astonished and puzzled, he asked the prostitute - "Where
did you get this fruit?" She was not aware of the whole story of the
fruit, so she said without any hesitation that she got it from the officer
of the King. The whole story was open before the King. He had correlated all
the events of his queen Pingalaa. The situation was this that neither he could
live with Pingalaa nor he could live without Pingalaa. His heart was broken.
He was so disappointed that he decided to leave his kingship and become a Yogee.
Later he wrote a verse also of this matter -
Bhartrihari's Vairaagya-Shivaanand Version
Some time before his brother Vikram came to him reporting about the character of the queen that she had illicit relations with his charioteer and it was an insult to keep such a woman as a queen who had a secret love affair with a charioteer. Bhartrihari thought that the charge against his queen by his brother were true. The queen whom he loved so much, deceived him, even this idea was so much disturbing to him, that a true Vairaagya came to his mind - nobody is of anybody in this world, not even one's wife, brother or mother. He at once left his kingdom, wealth, wife and children and retired for forest. There he did lots of meditation and wrote a book also, "Vairaagya Sahtakam".
Bhartrihari's Vairaagya-Another Version
When she was taken to the cremation ground, the King was crying with great grief. At that time Gorakshnaath appeared on the scene. He broke his begging bowl, walked around it weeping. the King asked him why was he weeping? The saint told him that his begging bowl broke that was why he was weeping? The King said - "You may get so many begging bowls, I can't get my wife again." The saint said - "I can get you hundreds of wives." and he showed him hundreds of girls like Pingalaa. Each time he tried to hold one of them, she said - "Hold on, Are you mad? No one knows, how many times we have been your mother, sister and wives?" Hearing this Bhartrihari's grief got calmed down and he became the disciple of Gorakshnaath Jee. He did not leave his kingdom, but when he was living there, Pingalaa's memories continued to haunt him. His other queens suggested him that he should distract his mind in hunting. So he started going for hunting. Once he saw a herd of deer, 70 hinds with a single stag. He wanted to kill him but failed, and one of the hinds wanted to kill him, because the stag was very dear to them, as Bhartrihari was dear to his queens. Now the King could not kill a hind as he was a Kshatriya, so he killed the stag. the dying stag said - "Give my feet to the thief so that he can escape with his life, my horns to a Yogee that he may use them as his nad, my skin to an ascetic that he may worship on it, my eyes to a fair woman that she may be called Mrig-nayanee, and eat my flesh yourself." And to this day these things are used as the dying stag desired.
After that the King came back to his palace and saw Gorakshnaath there. He said to the King that he had killed one of his disciples. The King retorted that if he had any spiritual powers, he could revive the stag. Gorakshnaath threw a little earth on his body and he became alive. Bhartrihari immediately became ready to be his disciple and go with him, but Gorakshnaath did not accept him as a disciple unless he brought alms from his queens addressing them his mothers and practicing Yog for 12 years. Bhartrihari did as Gorakshnaath said to him. Regarding addressing his queens as his mothers, he said - "According to my being a king, you are my queens, but according to my Yog, you are my mothers. Thus he became a perfect Yogee and founded the Bhartrihari Vairaag Panth of the Yogee.
Some Other Events of Bhartrihari's Life
There are two stories related to this verse--
(1) When the King became the Yogee abandoning his kingdom. he had rags on his body and he ate food available to him in alms only. He was brought up in luxury, but now he was worse than a beggar. It was all disgusting for him. Once he came in a city and came to a sweets shop. he saw Jalebee there. He was overcome by desire of having good food, so he asked the shopkeeper to give him some Jalebee. The shopkeeper replied - "It is not good for a Yogee to have such an expensive food. If you want them do some job to buy them." He had such a strong desire to eat them that he agreed to do some work for the shopkeeper for them. After he finished his work the shopkeeper gave him some Jalebee. He brought them to a lonely place and started eating them, but he could not eat them, as he felt a strong repulsion for them. he thought, "I abandoned my royal life to become free from attachments and now I am entering it again, shame on me." he thus cursed himself and threw all Jalebee on the ground one by one.
(2) One day as he was wandering around, the evening had fallen and the night was approaching. he saw shiny thing, like a diamond. He passed by but he thought, "If it was a diamond, it should be very costly and I could have many things I desire." But he again thought, "But for a Yogee a stone and a gem are the same thing, when I have left the whole kingdom, then why to bother about this small diamond?" Another thought came, "But why to leave it anyway? It is a gift of God." So he went back and picked it up, but it turned out to be wasted food bit thrown by someone after chewing it. he regretted on his desire.
Especially in the Vairaagya Shatak, but in the other two also, his poetry displays the depth and intensity of his renunciation as he vacillates between the pursuits of fleshly desires and those of the spirit. Thus it reveals the conflict experienced "between a profound attraction to sensual beauty and the yearning for liberation from it", showing how "most great Indian art could be at once so sensuous and so spiritual".
There is great variation between versions of his Shatak, and together the available manuscripts have over 700 verses instead of 300. DD Kosambi identified only about 200 verses that appear in all manuscripts. Despite the variation in content, there is remarkable similarity in theme; Kosambi believes that each Shatak came to attract a certain type of stanza similar to the ones present in the original collection. Moreover, at least among the 200 "common" stanzas, there is a distinctive voice of irony, skepticism and discontent, making the attribution to a single author plausible.
Many verses suggest
that the poet was not a king but a courtier serving a king.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/09/13