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Inspirational Messages Through Poetry by Two South Indian Telugu Poets Using Satakam Genre

Venkat loves arts and literature and keeps reading books of all genre and developed an interest in writing literary and fictional articles.

Introduction to Satakam Genre in Poetry

"Satakam" in Indian literature refers to a composition or compilation consisting of hundred verses. In Indian classical literature, the poets used to appeal to the common man using the sataka literature as one of the most effective genres of literature to convey their messages through four-liner verses. This genre uses very simple language that can be understood even by the illiterates for creating awareness among them. It is the most effective form of popular literature among the general public. It can be referred to as the people's literature as opposed to the scholastic literature.

In this hub (article), my aim is to spotlight the greatness of two collections of the satakam literature which are most popular in the Telugu language. These two collections are referred to as "Vemana satakam" and "Sumati satakam".

Vemana satakam is written by Yogi Vemana (original name Gona Vema Buddha Reddy of Kondaveedu dynasty) during the 14th century.

Sumati satakam was written by Baddena Bhupal (also known as Bhadra Bhupala of Chola dynasty) of the 13th century.

Their poems are taught in schools even now to impart moral education to children.

Most lines from those verses are also used frequently by even the common man during his daily interactions with people.

Poet Vemana Statue in Hyderabad, India

Vemana satakam author Vemana statue on Tank Bund Road at Necklace Road, Hyderabad

Vemana satakam author Vemana statue on Tank Bund Road at Necklace Road, Hyderabad

Important Facts and Characteristics of Satakam Literature

  • The satakam form of literature is made up of verses (usually 100 verses) each verse consisting of four lines.
  • The fourth line is usually a signature line or like a chorus of repeating the same words at the end of each verse.
  • Satakam is usually in very simple language that is being used by the common public.
  • It is composed in a musical style (referred to as the "ataveladi" style in Telugu) that is similar to the dancing lady style.
  • Each verse composed is short in meter and typically unique in nature, explaining in itself the whole message.
  • The sataka literature, generally, is intended to create awareness in people through simple messages that can be easily grasped by a common man to develop the right conduct and social values.
  • The themes conveyed are human values, moral lessons, social and spiritual ideals, and values of life.
  • Some of the messages may be ridiculous and satirical, pinpointing the superstitious beliefs and other ills of society.

Portrait of Poet Vemana


The poets used the sataka genre to impart wisdom and knowledge through analogies of simple known facts of everyday life to the common man. The below-mentioned verses of Vemana and Baddena illustrate this method of educating people through an analogical explanation of simple things and facts of life.

The original language of all these poems was Telugu. But, I am translating them into English here. These are only samples of many more verses.

PS: - Vemana poems end with "listen Vema" (Vema is a short form for his name Vemana) whereas Sumathi satakam poems end with the word "Sumathi" which means wise man.

Salt and camphor look alike (but) their tastes are different (similarly) virtuous people differ from ordinary people O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. Don't show superiority where it is not worthy Humbleness is not inferiority Doesn't a mountain look small in the mirror? O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. Even if the rat skin is washed throughout the year It will remain black but not turn white (Similarly)if you beat a wooden doll, does it speak? O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. A stone in the shoes, a fly near the ears, Dust particle in the eye, thorn in feet, (similarly)Quarrel in the house, are all unbearable O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. Inferior person speaks always loudly Gentleman speaks softly Does gold sound like bronze? O beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. If you adore a golden throne By placing a dog on it at an auspicious time And crown the dog Does it leave previous habits? listen Sumathi. (It means that giving good position and respect to mean people can't change their bad habits) Whenever you become rich Relatives will surround you Just like pond full of water Gets inhabited by thousands of frogs, isn't Sumathi? Even milk is not drunk if you tell softly But, even poison gets drunk when you tell harshly Softness doesn't work always Better be harsh in this world, Sumathi. Even the rich Kuber being his friend Lord Shiva had to beg for alms However rich your connections may be Your own wealth comes to your help,listen Sumathi. Relatives that are of no use during problems God that does not respond even after prayers Horse that doesn't go forward in battle field All these should be left immediately, Sumathi. Don't be over confident with your strength Quarrelling with all carelessly is not correct Don't you see even huge and strong snakes meet death When caught between lots of ants, Sumathi?

Sumati Satakam Author Baddena

a sketch of the poet on a book cover

a sketch of the poet on a book cover

Poems Attacking Weak Points in Human Behavior, Society, Administration

The poets used the sataka literature to pinpoint the weaknesses of the society, the government administrations, and the human perceptions as evident from these following verses.

Those finding fault in others are many All people have some or other faults But those counting faults do not know their own faults Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. Whole virtuousness took birth as male And all sin took birth as female? Why all these male female discriminations? Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. Governments having ministers Run forever with good control of the governing system But those without ministers Can't run even for a while like machines with dismantled nuts,Sumathi. One village should have one accountant And one village head not more than this Otherwise confusion gets created The whole administration will get disturbed, Sumathi. Statements once asserted as true Does not take even seconds to be rejected as false Only God can protect from such people Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. Body is mortal, wealth is temporary One can teach anything to others except himself Teaching is easier than practising Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema. When soul itself is impure, why practise physical untouchability? When food itself is impure, why cook it? When heart is impure, why indulge in worships of God? Beloved of Lord Shiva, listen Vema.

Videos of Poems from Vemana Satakam and Sumathi Satakam

The below-linked videos are both in the Telugu language, the original language in which these poets have composed. Only very few poems are linked here of both these poets. The poems are sung by fans of these two poets and uploaded on youtube.

Some of these poems have already been included and explained by me in the above sections of poems.

Scroll to Continue

Poems from Vemana Satakam

Poems from Sumathi Satakam

What about your choice for inspirational poetry?

Charles Philip Brown - Compiler of the Works of Vemana and Sumati


Charles Philip Brown Transliterated Vemana Satakam and Sumati Satakam

Charles Philip Brown (shortly known as C.P.Brown) translated all the poems of Vemana amounting to more than 1200 poems and many poems of Sumati satakam also from the Telugu language to English, during his tenure in Andhra Pradesh, India in the years 1820 to 1854, as an official of the Collectorate during the British Rule of India.

You can find poems of Vemana along with an introduction to Telugu poetry and Vemana life at this link.

Brown did a great service to the Telugu people and poetry lovers by compiling all these poems which were not easily available in one place.

But the poems described by me in the above paragraphs are all my own translations from Telugu to English.


Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on July 01, 2016:

Thank you, for the visit and such nice comment. There are so many wonderful things and lessons to be learnt in this amazing world that we can't explore all of them within our lifespan. My heart wishes and blessings to all your family members.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 01, 2016:

So glad you shared this...I had no previous knowledge of it...I am marking this to come back and reread. Very interesting. Angels are on the way to you ps

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on March 12, 2016:

Thanks for the visit and nice comment.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on March 12, 2016:

Very thoughtful quotes.

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on March 03, 2016:

Thanks Devika, for your visit and the nice comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 03, 2016:

Another interesting hub! I enjoyed learning from this hub always a good learning lesson. I Tweeted!

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on February 15, 2016:

Wow!Marie, you awarded me a good title "transliterator"!!That's great. Thanks a lot for it. I keep doing something or other to improve myself and also to entertain myself.

Thanks for the visit and nice comment.

MarieLB from YAMBA NSW on February 15, 2016:

You widen my world Venkatachari M. I am not normally that much into poetry, but you make it all sound so interesting.

And I note that you too are a transliterator - this last word is one I did not know before. Thank you V M.

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on February 13, 2016:

Thank you, thank you Surabhi. Glad to know you like it. I tried my best to put them into English, though not fully satisfied.

Surabhi Kaura on February 12, 2016:

How did I miss this? This is a brilliant hub filled with best poetries. I would come again sometime here to re-read it. What a pleasure, Sir... what a pleasure! Much Love and Respect, Venkatachari ji :)

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on February 06, 2016:

Thank you, Sujaya.

sujaya venkatesh on February 06, 2016:

very interesting and enlightening hub

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on February 05, 2016:

My friends, I have just noticed that 10 comments were pending for approval while browsing the Hubpages feed page and went to the pending comments section to approve all of them.

My hearty thanks to all of you - Missy Smith, Jodah, Vasantha, Eric, Carb Diva, Manatita, Alicia, Chitrangada, Gypsy Rose Lee and Frank Atanacio - for your nice comments and feedback and supportive encouraging words. Thank you all.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 04, 2016:

My goodness what a wonderful collection of poetry awesome my friend :)

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 02, 2016:

Most fascinating and interesting hub. Enjoyed reading about the different literary works.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 02, 2016:

A very nice, interesting and informative hub!

Satakam literature is very interesting and I loved the examples you gave above. Both poems have deep meanings with beautiful clear verses.

I have heard about these wonderful literary works through one of my South Indian friend but your hub enlightened me further.

Thank you for the education!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 01, 2016:

This is a very interesting and educational hub, Venkatachari. I enjoyed reading the poems and learning about their history.

manatita44 from london on February 01, 2016:

What a beautiful and welcome change! I like this new style and the wise way of teaching. A bit like the ancient sutras or our psalms and beatitudes in Christianity.

My own Guruji's poems are by far the best, naturally, but among your lists, Rumi is my favourite, although I grew up with the others and like them also.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 01, 2016:

I believe that the best way to instruct is to use poetry, simile, and verse. (These things stay with the listener in ways that simply speaking or delivering a speech do not.) This is well written and the lessons taught are beautiful. It is good to hear from you. You have been missed.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 01, 2016:

Very interesting. I sure enjoyed learning about this type of poetry. Thank you for sharing it with us.

vasantha T k on February 01, 2016:

Well written , now and then I have heard about the master pieces of Vemana and Sumathi satakam from my mother. Thanks for sharing and bringing it to spotlight.

Missy Smith from Florida on February 01, 2016:

I'm glad I could point it out Venkatachari. I also made this error on accident one time and several were nice enough to let me know as well. :)

Now, back to the importance of leaving a comment. Which I always like to do when I read your hubs.

Satakam literature struck me as very interesting. I loved the examples you gave above. Both poems had depth but stated the point with beautiful clear verses. I liked that. I hope this is the kind of poetry I write as well.

Although sataka has its own style of verse and use of words, the simplicity of it, reminds me of a style that writers such as Hemingway tried to use; uncomplicated dialogue.

Nice hub Venkatachari. If I've made errors in my comment, I do apologize. I typed this post on my phone. I am not around my computer at the moment. Lol. Take care my friend. :)

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 01, 2016:

Thank you for sharing this form of poetry (Satakam) that I was previously unaware of Venkat. This is a well written and interesting hub. Glad you got the "comments" section reinstated.

Venkatachari M (author) from Hyderabad, India on January 31, 2016:

I am extremely sorry to come to know that my comments section has been deleted by me unknowingly while publishing this hub.

I am very grateful to Missy Smith for pointing out this mistake done by me. Now I have reinstated this section for the convenience of viewers and my friends.

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