The Gāhā Sattasaī or Gaha Kosha (Sanskrit: गाथासप्तशती Gāthā Saptaśatī) is an ancient collection of Indian poems in Prakrit language of Maharashtra. The poems are about love and love's joy. They are written as frank monologues usually by a married woman, or an unmarried girl. They often express her unrequited feelings and longings to her friend, mother or another relative, lover, husband or to herself. Many poems are notable for describing unmarried girls daring for secret rendezvous to meet boys in ancient India, or about marital problems with husbands who remains emotionally a stranger to his wife and bosses over her, while trying to have affairs with other women.
Gatha Saptasati is one of the oldest known Subhashita-genre text. It deals with the emotions of love, and has been called as "opposite extreme" to Kamasutra. While Kamasutra is a theoretical work on love and sex, Gaha Sattasai is a practical compilation of examples describing "untidy reality of life" where seduction formulae don't work, love seems complicated and emotionally unfulfilling.
Authorship and date
The collection is attributed to the king Hāla who lived in the 1st century, but this attribution is most likely fictitious and the real author was someone else from a later century. Inside the text, many poems include names of authors, some of which are names of kings from many South Indian particularly Deccan region kingdoms from the first half of the first millennium CE. According to Schelling, one version of the text names 278 poets; with half the poems being anonymous.
According to Ram Karan Sharma, this text is from the 5th century CE. According to Ludwik Sternbach, the text was interpolated and revised by later scribes. It is unlikely to be the work of Hala, based on style, inconsistencies between its manuscripts and because other sources state it had as many as 389 authors. Sternbach places the text between 2nd and 6th-century CE. Khoroche and Tieken place the text between 3rd and 7th century CE, but before 640 CE because Banabhatta cites it in his preface to the 7th-century classic Harshacharita.
The text exists in many versions. Manuscripts have been found in many parts of India in many languages, far from Maharashtra. The existence of many major recensions, states Moriz Winternitz, suggests that the text was very popular by early medieval era in India. The poems were changed over time, sometimes deleted and replaced with different poems, though every manuscript contains exactly 700 poems consistent with the meaning of the title.
The first critical edition of the Sattasaī was by Albrecht Weber in 1881. It is based on seventeen manuscripts, and contains 964 poems in total, of which 430 are common to all manuscripts. Weber was also the first person to translate the poems into a European language (into German), but his translation was published in journals and not as a separate book. The only English translation to include 700 verses (1–700 of Weber's edition) is by Radhagovinda Basak in 1970. There is also a Sanskrit translation of the Sattasaī with commentary, made available by the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan.
The text was popular across India, and attracted at least fourteen commentaries.
It consists of 700 single-verse poems, divided into 7 chapters of 100 verses each. All the poems are couplets, and most are in the musical arya metre. Many poems of the text include names of gods and goddesses in Hinduism, for allegorical comparison of a woman's feelings.
with the blink of an eye
his love vanished
A trinket gets
into your world
you reach out and it's gone— Hala, tr. Schelling
in the clearing
eyes him with such
in the trees the hunter
seeing his own girl
lets the bow drop— Anonymous, tr. Schelling
I have heard so much about you from others
And now at last I see you with my own eyes.
Please, my dear, say something
So that my ears, too, may drink nectar.— Unknown, tr. Peter Khoroche and Herman Tieken
If one of two beings
who grew up together in joy and pain
and loved each other for a long time,
this one lives,
and the other one is dead.— Poem 142, tr. Ludwik Sternbach
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, pp. 1-2.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, pp. 2-3.
- Ludwik Sternbach (1974). Subhasita, Gnomic and Didactic Literature. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 10–14 with footnotes. ISBN 978-3-447-01546-2.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, p. 3.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, pp. 3-5.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, pp. 8-10.
- Schelling, Introduction
- Ram Karan Sharma (1997). Ayyappappanikkar (ed.). Medieval Indian Literature: Surveys and selections. Sahitya Akademi. p. 481. ISBN 978-81-260-0365-5.
- Students' Britannica India. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2000. p. 341. ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, pp. 9-10.
- Moriz Winternitz (1963). History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 114–116. ISBN 978-81-208-0056-4.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, p. 10.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, p. 13.
- Sanskrit Gatha Saptashati
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, p. 1.
- Peter Khoroche & Herman Tieken 2009, pp. 175–176, 195.
- Peter Khoroche; Herman Tieken (2009). Poems on life and love in ancient India: Hāla's Sattasaī. Excelsior Editions. ISBN 978-0-7914-9392-2.
- Schelling, Andrew (2008). Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India (2 ed.). Companions for the Journey Series: 15. Review
- Moriz Winternitz (1985). Subhadra Jha (transl.) (ed.). History of Indian literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 108–116. ISBN 978-81-208-0056-4.
- T. R. S. Sharma; C. K. Seshadri; June Gaur (2000). Ancient Indian literature: an anthology, Volume 1 (reprint ed.). Sahitya Akademi. p. 689. ISBN 978-81-260-0794-3.
- Albrecht Weber, ed. (1881). Das Saptaçatakam des Hâla. in Commission bei F.A.Brockhaus.