GATHASAPTASHATI is a collection of ancient poems written in Prakrit language. Gatha means poem. Saptashati means seven hundred.It is a collection of seven hundred poems. Gatha means a poem that is sung with Raga and Laya. It means a song. We may therefore say, it is a collection of seven hundred folk songs. Eminent scholars discovered that in Shara Deva's Sangeeta Ratnakaramu in Raga Viveka Adhyayamu, it was mentioned that a poem of GATHASAPTASHATI was sung in Shadjakisika raga. It was also discovered that a mention was made in the Puratana Prabandha Samgrahaha of the Jain book that particular poem was taught to Sidha Nagarjuna by Padaliptacharya, the court poet of Shatavahana. It shows that these poems were sung as folk songs by the people. It was mentioned that in third poem(Hala - 1-3 ) that there were a crore poems sung by the people and out of them seven hundred charming poems were selected. Those spoken poems or folk songs were written in Prakrit language.
GATHASAPTASHATI was written in Prakrit which is an important language of Ancient and Mediaeval India. The Prakrit languages have thousands of years of antiquity as common people's languages used in their living and lives. They were divided on regional basis of their use. Maharashtri, Shouraseni, Goudi, Lati, Magadhi, Paisachi, Avanthi, Arthamagadhi, Praschya, Bahlika, Dakshinatya were important Prakrit languages. Similarly, Abhiri, Shakari, Bandali and some others were divided on race basis. The Prakrit language appears in epigraph before Sanskrit.
The antiquity of Prakrit languages has well been accepted by linguists. The grammar of the languages has been formed by Acharyas like Panini, Chand, Vararuchi, Samant Bhadra and some others. The spoken languages were transformed into writing languages. ( Department of Prakrit, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri National Sanskrit University, Delhi.)
The first collection of GATHASAPTASHATI came in Maharashtri Prakrit language with the title Gaha Sattasai. We come across words of Dravidian vocabulary in it. We also find Deccan-South Indian names of poets who composed some poems of the collection.
3. The SANSKRIT
The Sanskrit was also a Prakrit language. The eminent Pandits collected words which were largely used by the common people, they reformed them for common and larger use and created and constructed a classic form of Sanskrit. The court poets of the kingdoms and other poets developed the grammar, Aesthetics and other organizing principles and developed the Classical Sanskrit and created great works of international repute and they remained as Historical and Cultural wealth of India. During those periods, the Sanskrit spread as Unifying and Uniting language in the Akhand Bharat and great works were created in all the regions of Akhand Bharat. That is Akhand Bharat, One Nation and One India and the Nation of Unity in Diversity.
The regional Prakrit languages created great works of international repute and they are Historical and Cultural wealth of India. There is no historical or substantial evidence, but some historians opined that some works of great importance were lost owing to language fights and religion fights. There is historical evidence that great Sanskrit works and also the Prakrit languages works were destroyed in the battles of Foreign Forces. Those Political battles were Religion battles too.
The Buddhism and Jainism protected and saved the Prakrit languages, but when they deteriorated, along with them the Prakrit languages also deteriorated. What is the state of Sanskrit in India now? It too deteriorated! Why!?
4. GAHA SATTASAI
The GAHA SATTASAI written in Prakrit language was translated into German, Sanskrit, English, Telugu, Hindi and some other languages. The use of the Prakrit language ended many centuries ago, that is in 9th century, but the literary works created live with full life in the translations! There lies the historical importance of translations. BRIHATKATHA was also written in PAISHACHI Prakrit language. SOMADEVA BHATT of 11th century translated it into Sanskrit with the title KATHASARITSAGARAM. There is some historical evidence that SOMADEVA BHATT belongs to Andhra Region. C.H. Tawney ( 1837 - 1932 ) translated it into English and published the 1300 pages of translation in two volumes in 1880. It was translated into some Indian regional languages. Thus, even though the use of Prakrit languages ended centuries ago, they live timeless in the translations. The same is the thing in respect of Sanskrit also!
Many literary works that were created in the Prakrit languages and the Sanskrit were destroyed in the battles of the Foreign Forces. The Religions speak of Peace and Universal peace, but the human blood they drank and drink could not be measured in any units of measurements the scientists so far invented! They speak something with the tongue and do something with the hands! That is the true history of the Religions!
5. The Poet
GATHASAPTASHATI was not written by a single poet nor the poems were collected by a single poet. Bhuvanapala who wrote a commentary on the work mentioned that 384 poets collected the 700 poems from amongst the common people. 19 scholars wrote commentaries on the work. Jagannath Pathak, in his foreword for his Hindi translation mentioned the names of 14 commentators. Peethambara, in his commentary, mentioned names of some poets who collected the poems. Albrecht Weber also furnished the names of some poets in his German translation of 1881.
6. The Editor
In the 3rd poem of the work, HALA's name was mentioned and so he was regarded as the Editor. Two more names, Kavivatsala and Shalivahana were also mentioned there. It was presumed that the first name was his title and the second name was his another name. There is no historical evidence about the Editor.
7. The Era
BANABHATT, in his foreword to his book, Harsha Charitra, made a mention of GATHASAPTASHATI. He belongs to 6th century. Hence, it was regarded that the Editor and the work belong to some time before 6th century. There is no historical evidence. The Alamkara Shastras of 6th and 7th centuries also made a mention of it and thereby it may safely be said that it belongs to the Era before 6th century.
8. The Translations
The German Scholar, Albrecht Weber is the First Scholar who gave life to the GATHASAPTASHATI with his translation in 1881. He had secured 17 manuscripts and researched them. He identified 698 poems are common to all the 17 manuscripts. It seems that he did it with the help of Gangadhara Bhatt's book, Bhavaleshaprakashika in identifying the common poems. He identified 116 special poems from the commentaries of other scholars. He identified 151poems from Telugu manuscripts and 35 poems from various Alamkara Shastras. He, thus collected 1000 poems and translated them into German. He wrote commentary on each and every poem. He wrote analytical foreword and published it in 1881. He wrote the original poems in Roman script. He prepared the list of the poems common to all scripts. He also prepared the list of poems which are different in different manuscripts. He did a lot of research and gave life to the work. The GATHASAPTASHATI remains indebted to him for ever! It came to light after over 1300 years after the original manuscript!
A Sanskrit translation came in 1911 and was published by Kavyamala of Bombay along with the commentary of Gangadhar Bhatt's Bhavaleshlkaprakashika. Pandit Durgaprasad was it's editor. These three works on Gaha Sattasai were considered as original works.
9. Telugu Translations
1. Kondaveeti Raju, komati Vema Bhupaludu, wrote a book with the title, SAPTASHATI SARAMU, in Sanskrit in the first part of 15th century. He selected 104 poems from the Prakrit SAPTASHATI and wrote a commentary with the title BHAVADEEPIKA. The 104 poems include some poems selected from the Commentaries. It was translated into TELUGU by Digumarti Seetarama Swamy and published by the Andhra University Visakhapatnam in 1951.
2. Srinatha Kavi Sarvabhoumudu, the court poet of the Asthanamu of Komati Vema Bhupaludu made a mention in his foreword of Kashikhanda Kavyamu, "I wrote Shalivahana ShaptaShati when I was in my early youth". It could not be traced out. Only three poems were available. One poem was printed at the footnote of Kumarasambhavamu ( 1908 ) written by Manavalli Ramakrishna Kavi. Two poems were included in Kreedabhiramam written by Veturi Prabhakara Sastry.
3. Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sarma, translated GATHASAPTASHATI into Telugu in 1931 with the title Shalivahana GATHASAPTASHATI SARAMU. He translated 395 poems from the book published by Kavyamala, Bombay in 1911. Kattamanchi Ramalingareddy wrote Introduction of the book on 22 - 09 - 1931and was published by Shrisadhana press, Anantapuram, Andhra Pradesh.
4. Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sarma brought out his second edition in 1964 published by Andhra Saraswata Parishattu, Hyderabad. He collected 734 poems from Weber's German translation of 1881, from Sanskrit Saptashati Saramu of Komati Vemabhupaludu of 15th century, and from Alamkara Sastras and translated them into Telugu. He mentioned honestly full details as to how he did the translation.
5.Gatti Lakhminarasimha Sastry translated the GATHASAPTASHATI with 700 poems from Sanskrit in 1944.
All these translations were done in verses as the original work was in verses.
Some works of imitations also came influenced by GATHASAPTASHATI
The poems portrayed the village life of those times honestly far far away from the smell of any religion. They portrayed the emotions of lovely life through realities of realistic life.we see with our own eyes the villages, green fields, green crops, flower plants with different colours and shapes of flowers, green pastures and shores of Godavari river and the Nature as a whole. We enjoy with our inner soul the true love, lively hope and constructive out look in their lovely living. We experience with our mind the emotions of Shringaram, Prema, Virahavedana, Pranaya Agraham, and such pure human emotions. It is all an honest portrayal of emotions.
The poems are written in simple style. The translations are made in verses using the organizing principles of the poetry of that particular language into which it is translated. Since the content is simple and realistic, so is the style. The portrayal stimulates the emotions and the reader enjoys the emotions as of his own!
I narrate the summary in essence of ten poems for clear understanding.
(a). How those who did not read or hear these poems in Prakrit language could know the soul of Shrimgaram and Prema!?(1 – 2)
(b). It is better to die in despair loving and living with a suitable person rather than loving and living with an unsuitable person.
(Duggasami. 1 – 12).
(c). His wife died. He could not go home and weep. There was no work to do in his field, yet, he stayed in his field only.(Pundareeyudu, 2 - 69)
(d). A huntsman was hunting elephants before marrying me. After marrying me, involved in deep love with me, he hunts peacocks. (Potisudu. 2-73)
(e). She used to cross the river Godavari in the rainy season in the midnight to meet her lover. (Mayaraddayudu. 3-31)
(f).The manhood does not come back. The life is not everlasting. If one longs to live freely enjoying his lovely life, why does this world behave so severely against him!? (Haludu. 3-47).
(g). We can not get salt in the villages, but we get friendliness. We get so much of salt in the towns, but, what is its use if we can not enjoy friendliness!? (Tiloyanudu. 4-16.)
(h)You killed your enemy. His wife lives with her child without any means of livelihood in the forest. (Bhimasamy. 6-95.)
(i). The houses are burning in flames, but the young men did not come forward to put out the flames! Do you know why? They have lost themselves looking at your charm and beauty! (714)
(j).My husband spears his looks at my body, I cover my body fully to avoid his looks. But, my mind longs he should do so!
The poems enlighten mankind on the soul of Shrimgaram and Prema from realities of realistic life and directs to enjoy lovely life with love happiness and hope of bright future, the ultimate goal of human life.
The GATHASAPTASHATI came in Prakrit language some time before 6th century. The use of Prakrit ended in 9th century. The very first German translation came out in 1881, after over 1300 years after the original manuscript and after over a1000 years after the use of Prakrit ended.we can not even imagine an exact and accurate rendering in the translations. We can not call them translations nor transcreations. We may at best call them IMITATIONS only. It needs thorough Research by eminent sholars.