Shataka (ಶತಕ) is a literary genre in Kannada. Shataka means hundred and any composition containing one hundred stanzas is given the name ‘shataka’. These poems could be in any prosodic form such as Vrutta, Kanda padya, Shatpadi, Sangatya etc. Occasionally the number of stanzas exceeds one hundred and in Kannada it has gone up to 228. A shataka is essentially an outpouring of the emotions or thoughts of the narrator and they do not have a story line. In that sense, shatakas are subjective and some of them have a lyrical strain. Most of them have ethical, religious and philosophical overtones. Of course, some of them have themes that are less lofty and deal with amorous matters. Obviously shatakas in Kannada are inspired by their counterparts in Sanskrit penned by poets such as Bhartruhari and Amaruka. Some of the originals are available in Kannada translation.

‘Chandrachudamani Shataka’ by Nagavrmacharya (1071 A.D.) is the first shataka in Kannada and it is devoted to the theme of renunciation. Shadakshara Kanda by Kondaguli Keshiraja (1160 A.D.) and Stanashataka (1200) by Kavi Kama (Not found) are next in the lineage

Harihara, Puligereya Somanatha and Ratnakaravarni are the major poets who have written shatakas and elevated it to poetic heights. Harihara has written ‘Raksha Shataka’ and ‘Pampaa Shataka’. Both of them are filled with devotion (Bhakti) and remorse (Pashattaapa). They do not indulge in praising the Lord in a verbose manner. The narrator takes a look at the experiential spectrum of his own life and feels sad for his weakness and follies. These poems read as though the poet is talking to himself and repenting for his misdeeds. These poems were rendered to music by Siddarama Jambaladinni in an exemplary manner.

Puligereya Somanatha of the sixteenth century is the author of ‘Someshvara Shataka’. A preaching of the moral and ethical precepts has not made this work insipid and monotonous because the poet has made use of wonderful and vibrant similes. Most of them are plucked from every day experience and retain their freshness even to this day. They have been a part of the school curriculum for decades. Many of his sayings have acquired the status of idioms in Kannada.

Ratnakaravarni another poet belonging to the 16th century has written three shatakas. They are ‘Aparajiteshvara Shataka’, ‘Ratnakara Shataka’ and ‘Triloka Shataka’. Ratnakaradheeshvara Shataka’ does not contain one hundred poems as the name implies. Actually it is a collection 228 poems. These are essentially philosophical, veering towards a renunciation of worldly pleasures. It’s as though the poet is making amends for his earlier indulgences both as a poet and an individual. The poems are lyrical because they contain more of personal agony than theological musings. The protagonist is aware of the difficulty in reining in one’s senses and a sense of melancholy prevails all through. Aparajita Shataka is a collection of 128 poems and it is complementary to the other shataka. These two shatakas delineate the growth of a soul towards mellowness by an act of intense introspection. They transcend the boundaries of religion and document universal themes. ‘Triloka Shataka’ is rather insipid in when compared to its companions. It contains 129 ‘kanda padyas’ which delineate the salient features of the external world according to the Jaina world view.

‘Haribhaktisaara’ by Kanakadasa is another important shataka. This is composed in Bhamini Shatpadi. Chikkupadhyaya has written his ‘Shrungara Shataka’ and ‘Rangadhama Shataka’ in the Sangatya meter. ‘Haradaneeti’ by Hulugereya Simharaja contains 110 Kandapadyas. Moggeya Mayideva who lived in the fifteenth century has composed three shatakas all of them in different vruttas. B.Shivamurthyshastry has edited five shatakas all of them pertaining to the Veerashaiva religion.

The total number of shatakas in Kannada exceeds six hundred. The introduction written by G.A.Shivalingaiah to his work “Shataka Samputa’ contains a detailed history of this genre. He provides a list of 637 shatakas as an appendix to his work. He has included twenty shatakas in this work some new and some already edited by others. However not many of them have acquired the status of literature because they belong to the realm of religion.


References: 1. Encyclopaedia of Indian literature vol. 1 - Google Books Result

2. KANNADADALLI SHATAKA SAHITYA: A. Srikrishna Bhat; Pub. by Sri Bhagavatpada Prakashana, Sri Sonda Swarnavalli

Maha Samsthana, Post Mathadevala, Sirsi Taluk, North Kanara District.


Home / Literature