Sumati Shatakam

Sumati Satakam original Palmleaf
Sumati Satakam original Palmleaf

Sumati Satakam is composed of more than a 100 poems(padyalu). According to many literary critics Sumati Satakam was reputedly composed by Baddena Bhupaludu (AD 1220-1280). He was also known as Bhadra Bhupala. He was a Chola prince and was a Vassal under the Kakatiya empress Rani Rudrama Devi during the thirteenth century. He was a pupil of Tikkana, the greatest writer in Telugu.

If we assume that the Sumatee Satakam was indeed written by Baddena, it would rank as one of the earliest Satakams in Telugu along with Vrushadhipa Satakam of Palkuriki Somanatha and Sarveswara Satakam by Yathavakkula Annamayya. The Sumatee Satakam is also one of the earliest Telugu works to be translated in to European languages. C. P. Brown (1798-1884) rendered it in English in the 1840s. Sri Riasat Ali Taj (1930-1999) a prominent personality, poet, author, critic, writer, educationist, linguist & translator from Karimnager has made poetic translations (Manzoom Tarjuma in Urdu Rubaiyaat) published in popular Urdu magazines and news papers in early 1950s.


Sumati Satakam has been extremely popular for a long time with parents and teachers who try to teach the right conduct and social values to young children. That is why these poems were also learnt by the students of Andhra Pradesh. The language used is very simple. The poems have the musical quality of classical meters. Most of the words are simple Telugu. The use of Sanskrit words is very limited. There are hardly any words unfamiliar to modern readers. The poems do not look anything like the sophisticated compositions using the highly cultivated language of prabandhams.

Since the Telugu used by the author is so close to what the common people used, the poems look surprisingly familiar to the users of the Telugu. The poems have an astonishing communication power. All the poems are in kanda padyam meter (Chandas). Being in short meter and being unconnected to each other the poems are easy to remember. Even if one does not remember the entire poem, it is commonplace to quote some gem like statements from the Satakam. Each generation of school children learns some of them during elementary and high schools.

There are some outdated notions in the Satakam, such statements like “nammakumee vAmahastun”. These are plainly ridiculous. It must be warned that there are caste-based references that are pure anathema to modern readers. But one should remember that the poems were written in a society that was essentially stable for many centuries. In a stable society, it was easy to attribute stereotypical behaviour. Then there are those inevitable superstitions. These superstitions are more a reflection of the society and the times than the author himself. Some of the attitudes discernable from the Satakam are castiesm, male chauvinism, and other ills of the society. As mentioned these are the artifacts of a bygone era. The author may be guilty of engaging in chauvinism, however he redeems himself with his sharp attacks on other ills of the society. Even though the author himself was a feudatory ruler, his attack of kings and their employees stands out unmistakably. If one can keep this in mind and if one is willing to put one’s own notions of political correctness, liberal tradition and empathy with particular sections of the society aside, the Satakam can educate and enthrall him or her.