‘भर्तृहरिणा कृतं शतकत्रयं मानवजीवनस्य मार्गदर्शकः’ इति लोकोक्तिः अस्ति। तेन कृत ग्रन्थः प्रसिद्धिं अलभत, परन्तु तस्य जीवनविषये सप्रमाणयुक्तिः न लब्धा। भर्तृहरिः जन्मना राजवंशीयः, तथापि सः राज्यभोगान् त्यक्त्वा वनम् अगच्छत्, यत्र सः नीतिशतकम्, श्रृङ्गारशतकम्, वैराग्यशतकम् इति त्रीन् ग्रन्थान् अरचयत्।
शीर्षकस्य समर्थनानुसारेणैव नीतिशतके नैतिक अथवा धर्मप्रतिपादनविषयाः उक्ताः, तथा च
श्रृङ्गारशतके विषयसुखम् अधिकृत्य लिखितं कविना।
मोक्षप्राप्तिरेव मानुषजन्मनः प्रयोजनम्। संसारे विरक्तिः, ईश्वरे अनुरक्तिः, ततः ब्रह्मणि अनुध्यानेन परमं पदं लभ्यते। संसारस्य अनित्यत्वं तथा आत्मनः अमृतत्वं च रमणीयश्लोकेषु वर्णितं कविना।
It is very difficult to settle the dates of ancient writers generally and it is specially so with the Indian writers. The date of birth and the date of death of great poets like kalidAsa, BhavabhUti, SrIharshA etc. were not recorded in books. It is the same with the poet Bhartrhari, whose date and time are still under dispute.
Tradition weaves plenty of stories round an old, reputed personage, and the tales may be based on fact or fancy. Bhartrhari belonged to a royal family and renounced the world later on in life to become a yogi. He then retired to the forest where he is said to have composed the three satakams. They are the nIti satakam, sringAra satakam and vairAgya satakam. Satakam means hundred. So, there are hundred slokas in each text.
Among the works of the poet, nIti satakam is the collection of wise sayings, morals etc.
In the ‘mUrkha paddhati’ of nIti satakam, the poet says- ‘Those who have knowledge are affected by jealousy, those who hold high position are spoiled by arrogance, and the rest are overpowered by ignorance. Therefore, the good sayings said in this work remain absorbed in the body of its possessor. Even if there is no one to appreciate, my work will continue.
बोद्धारो मत्सरग्रस्ताः प्रभवः स्मयदूषिताः।
अबोधोपहृताश्चान्ये जीर्णमङ्गे सुभाषितम्।।
boddhāraḥ matsaragrastāḥ prabhavaḥ smayadūṣitāḥ
abodhopahatāścānye jīrṇamaṅge subhāṣitam
The verses of sringara satakam are generally sensual. The effect of moon-light, cool breezes etc. on the minds of lovers are well depicted.
The vairaagya satakam or the hundred slokas of renunciation. They are written with the full enthusiasm and determination of an ascetic who has renounced the world.
Personally I feel, a student of Sanskrit must read two books. One is Adi sankara’s ‘Bhaja Govindam’ and undoubtedly the second one is Bhartrhari’s ‘vairAgya satakam’.