Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Literature


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Literature


Back to Literature

Raajaa Bhartrihari
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.
[Aangiras, p 260-261]

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
There is a very famous song sung by the bards of Chhateesgarh in the memory of Raajaa Bhartrihari. The story says that Queen Pingalaa and Raajaa Bhartrihari did not have a son and the queen was very sad as a result of that. Once a saint came to their palace and asked for alms. When Raanee Pingalaa went down to give him alms, he said, "I know you are sad and I have brought some holy water for you. If you drink this water with faith, you will have a son in twelve months time." Raanee Pingalaa had the water and as told by the Yogee, and she had a son after twelve months.

How Bhartrihari Became the Disciple of Gorakshnaath?
Once Guru Gorakshnaath was doing Tap on Toranmal Mountain. At the same time Bhratrihari also went there for hunting. He killed there a deer and Gorakshnaath saw it happened. When the King was taking the male deer his female deer was sorrowfully watching with pitiable eyes. Gorakshnaath rebuked Bhartrihari for his this act saying that it was not good to kill to whom he could not bring alive. Bhartrihari got angry hearing this and started arguing with him. At this Gorakshnaath Jee brought the deer alive. As he became alive, he ran away in the forest. The King got very impressed by this event and expressed his wish to renounce the world and requested Gorakshnaath to accept him as his disciple. Gorakshnaath said that he should go to his palace and ask the permission from his wife before he would accept his disciple. After this they got separated - Gorakshnaath went to his hut and the King went to his capital.

Pingalaa Dies Pingalaa Lives-One Version
There is one more very interesting story related to Raajaa Bhartrihari and Raane Pingalaa. It is said that one day Raajaa Bhartrihari was out for a hunt and he saw a woman jump into the pyre of her husband (becoming Satee) as her grief would not let her stay alive without her husband. Raajaa Bhartrihari was moved with this incident and this incident stayed deep in his mind. When he returned to his palace, he told the story to Raanee Pingalaa and asked her if she would do the same if he died. Raanee Pingalaa said that she would die on hearing the news itself and there would be no chance of her staying alive till the funeral ceremony. Raajaa Bhartrihari decided to test her and went on a hunt once again and sent the news of his death back to the palace. The Mahaaraanee actually died on hearing the news as she had promised, she had drunk the poison, and Raajaa Bhartrihari was grief-stricken and repented on his action.

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.
[Taken from Wikipedia's "Bharthari"]

Pingalaa Dies, Pingalaa Lives-Another Version
This is another version of the above story. It is without the intervention of Guru Gorakshnaath. Bhatrihari was the King of Maalavaa whose capital was Ujjayinee or Avantee (modern Ujjain). He had a younger brother also, named Vikram who later ruled Ujjain with the name of Vikramaaditya and had started a Samvat name on his name (Vikram Samvat). Bhartrihari had several queens, still he married another one named Pingalaa. She was young and beautiful. The King soon started loving her very much. As she was beautiful, she was cunning too. After a while she developed illicit relationship with an officer of the King. Her relations later became a problem for the people in palace in special and for the  public in general. But since the King was blind in his love he was not able to see anything dangerous. Pingalaa was establishing her powers all around. If somebody tried to say something about her, he was punished. One day Vikram also told thhis to his brother but he was expelled from the kingdom for this crime.

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 -
Yaam Chintayaami Satatam Mayee Saa Viraktaa, Saapi animichhati Janam sa janonyasaktah
Asmatkrite cha Parisushyati Kaachidanyaa,  Dhik Taam cha Tam cha Madanam cha Maam cha ||Neeti Shatakam-2||
She, whose thoughts make me mad, does not love me, but desires some another man. That man is in love with other (women), who in her turn wishing other (myself). Shame to that women (to Queen) and to him! To Cupid (to all love and attachments)! To her (prostitute) and to me!
Neeti Shatak || 2||

Bhartrihari's Vairaagya-Shivaanand Version
A Braahman came in Bhartrihari's court. Seeing him coming, the King welcome him and respected him very much. Pleased with his services, the Braahman gave him a fruit that could give him immortality and peace. He had a queen to whom he loved very much. he though she was the most deserving person to eat it, so he went to his queen and gave that fruit to her to eat. The young queen had a soft heart for the king's charioteer who used to take her around sometimes. Now the charioteer used to go to a prostitute whom he loved dearly, so he gave that fruit to her. The prostitute thought the best deserved person for this fruit was the King so she took that fruit and went to the King's palace and offered it to him. Seeing that fruit the King got baffled. he was unable to solve the problem that how the fruit came in this prostitute's hands, while it should have been eaten by his queen. After quite sometime he was able to solve this problem.

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
King Bhartrihari was the son of king Bhoj, the King of Dhaaraa Nagaree. He had 71 wives, one of whom named Pingalaa was the disciple of Guru Gorakshnaath. Once he gave Pingalaa a flower and said to her - "This flower will stay fresh till her husband will be alive." One day Bhartrihari wanted to test Pingalaa's love towards her, so when he went for hunting, he did not come back home and sent his blood stained clothes and horse with the news to his palace, that he had been killed. Hearing this Pingalaa immediately went to check for the flower which was still fresh. She knew that the King wanted to test her love to him that is why he created this story. She got so much shocked that she killed herself.

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
When he had abandoned his kingdom and became the Yogee, he wrote a verse in his Vairaagya Shatak--
Bhikshaashanam Tadapi Neer samekvaaram,  Shayyaa cha Bhoo: Parijano Nij Dehamaatram
Vastram Visheern Shat Khandmayee cha Kanthaa,  Haa Haa tadaapi Vishyaa na Parityajanti ||Vairaagya Shatak-15||
For food I have tasteless food once a day, after begging of alms; the earth for a bed, and my own body as a servant; for dress, a blanket made from hundreds of rags; and yet alas! Sensual desires do not leave me!

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.

Bhartrihari's Works
He is believed to have written three Shatak (100 verses of four lines each) - Neeti Shatak, Shringaar Shatak and Vairaagya Shatak - containing 100 verses each in Sanskrit language. The first of these, the Neeti Shatak, deals with the state of the world, and contains verses on the power of wealth, the haughtiness of kings, the futility of greed, the vicissitudes of fate, and so on. The second one, the Shringaar Shatak, deals with love and women, while the third one, the Vairaagya Shatak contains verses on renunciation. The Sanskrit scholar Barbara Stoler Miller translated these sections as "Among Fools and Kings", "Passionate Encounters" and "Refuge in the Forest" respectively.

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.
[From Wikipedia's "Shatak-traya"]

Bhratrihari's Temple
There is a Bhartrihari's temple also in Alavar, Raajasthaan, 30 kms from the city. One of the legends associated with the temple is that Bhartrihari left his kingdom to become a saint. Several years later, he went to his wife and asked her something to eat in the form of alms. She gave him a fruit in alms. He became immortal by eating that fruit given by his wife. Devotees believe that Bhartrihari was gifted with saintly powers. He once prayed to God for many years to bring water to the city that experienced acute shortage of water in those days. God was so pleased with his prayers that a stream of water emerged from a rock to fulfill the need of water of the city. It is also believed that Bhartrihari buried himself alive and the temple is built on his grave. Even today the devotees believe that if one prays with a pure heart Baabaa accepts his prayers.

Bhatrihari Cave
Bhartrihari Cave is located very near to Kshipraa River in Ujjain, and is frequently visited by visitors. The history of the Bhartrihari Cave, Ujjain dates back to the ages past when the great priest and philosopher meditated here on the banks of the River Kshipraa. Perhaps the shimmering river helped him in his prayers. But the caves came to be known as the Bhartrihari Caves afterwards and people visit here and pay homage to the great sage.

Some say that there was a Braahman named Vidyaa Saagar and he married four women from four Varn as according to Dharm Shaastra that a Braahman can have 4 wives. So he got Vararuchi from his Braahman wife, Vikramaaditya from his Kshatriya wife, Bhattee from his Vaishya wife and Bhartrihari from his Shoodra wife. Thus Vararuch, Vikramaaditya, Bhattee and Bhartrihari all were brothers.


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Literature


Back to Literature

Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/09/13