The seventeenth-century Hindi classic treasured for its subtle and beautiful portrayal of divine and erotic love’s pleasures and sorrows.
In his Satsai, or Seven Hundred Poems, the seventeenth-century poet Biharilal draws on a rich vernacular tradition, blending amorous narratives about the god Krishna and the goddess Radha with archetypal hero and heroine motifs from older Sanskrit and Prakrit conventions. While little is known of Biharilal’s life beyond his role as court poet to King Jai Singh of Amber (1611–1667), his verses reflect deep knowledge of local north Indian culture and geography, especially the bucolic landscapes of Krishna’s youth in the Braj region (in today’s Uttar Pradesh). With ingenuity and virtuosity, Biharilal weaves together worldly experience and divine immanence, and adapts the tropes of stylized courtly poetry, such as romantic rivalries, clandestine trysts, and the bittersweet sorrow of separated lovers.
Poems from the Satsai comprises a selection of four hundred couplets from this enduring work. The Hindi text—composed in Braj Bhasha, the literary language of early-modern north India—is presented here in the Devanagari script and accompanies a new English verse translation.