Sanskrit quote nr. 25 (Maha-subhashita-samgraha)

Sanskrit text:

अकर्तव्येष्वसाध्वीव तृष्णा प्रेरयते जनम् ।
तमेव सर्वपापेभ्यो लज्जा मातेव रक्षति ॥

akartavyeṣvasādhvīva tṛṣṇā prerayate janam |
tameva sarvapāpebhyo lajjā māteva rakṣati ||


Meter name: Śloka; Type: pathyā (‘normal’); 8 syllables per quarter (pāda).

Primary English translation:

“Avidity is like a fallen woman; it instigates a person into wrongful activities. Modesty is like a mother; it guards a person against all sins.”

(translation by Raghu Vira; notes: in Sārasamuccaya)



Presented above is a Sanskrit aphorism, also known as a subhāṣita, which is at the very least, a literary piece of art. This page provides critical research material such as an anlaysis on the poetic meter used, an English translation, a glossary explaining technical terms, and a list of resources including print editions and digital links.

Glossary of Sanskrit terms

Kartavya (कर्तव्य) literally translates to “that which ought to be done”, while the word akartavya refers to “that which ought not to be done”.

Sādhvī (साध्वी, sadhvi) refers to a “virtuous woman”. It is derived from sādhu, which can be translated in many ways, some of which are “straight”, “successful”, “peaceful”, “secure”, etc. The antonym asādhvī then refers to an “unchaste woman”. (more info)

Tṛṣṇā (तृष्णा, trishna) literally translates to “thirst”. In this context, it has been translated to “avidity”. The word tṛṣṇā is often used in contexts similair to ‘thirst’, in many of the ancient Indian branches of knowledge. Such as in tantra, where it often translates to “desire”. (more info)

Pāpa (पाप, papa) is the word that refers to “sin”. It can variously translate to “bad”, “wicked”, “evil” etc. (more info)

Lajjā (लज्जा, lajja) translates to “shame”, “modesty”, “embarrassment” etc. The  term is used since ancient times in various tantric traditions and also as a proper name in the purāṇas. (more info)

Mātṛ (मातृ, matri) translates to “mother”. (more info)


This quote is contained within the following Sanskrit literary sources:

Subhāṣitāvalī 3245: This is a compilation of Collection of 3527 subhāṣita verses authored by 360 poets. The book was compiled by Vallabhadeva in 1417-67 A.D..
More info

Subhāṣitaratnabhāṇḍāgāra 76.21: Literally, “Gems of Sanskrit poetry”. This work is a recent compilation of more than 10,000 Subhāṣitas, or ‘sanskrit aphorisms’. The book was compiled by Nārāyaṇa Rāma Ācārya in 1952.
More info

Subhāṣitasudhāratnabhāṇḍāgāra 348.23: Literally, “Treasury of Sanskrit Poetry”. A compendium of amusing, sarcastic and instructive verses. The book was compiled by Śivadatta Kaviratna in 1985.
More info

Sūktiratnahāra 225.13: A South-Indian collection of Sanskrit poems (subhāṣit-saṃgraha). Contents are drawn from sources such as the Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa or the Kirātārjunīya. The book was compiled by Sūrya Kaliṅgarāja in the 14th century.
More info

Sārasamuccaya 460: An old Javanese commentary on a series of Dharmaśāstra verses (originally in Sanskrit). The book was compiled by Vararuci.
More info


Vallabhadeva (15th century) is the compiler of the Subhāṣitāvalī, into which he included this quote.

Nārāyaṇa Rāma Ācārya (1900 A.D.) is the compiler of the Subhāṣitaratnabhāṇḍāgāra, into which he included this quote.

Śivadatta Kaviratna is the compiler of the Subhāṣitasudhāratnabhāṇḍāgāra, into which he included this quote.

Sūrya Kaliṅgarāja is the compiler of the Sūktiratnahāra, into which he included this quote, ascribing the authorship to Pratāparudra.

Vararuci is the compiler of the Sārasamuccaya, into which he included this quote. He is an unknown author of literature and poetic works, who was according to legend, one of the “nine jewels” of the court of Vikramāditya of Ujjayinī. One of his works is called the the Satagāthā which was included in the Tanjur.

About the Mahāsubhāṣitasaṃgraha

This quote is included within the Mahāsubhāṣitasaṃgraha (महासुभाषितसंग्रह, maha-subhashita-samgraha), which is a compendium of Sanskrit aphorisms (subhāṣita), collected from various sources. Subhāṣita is a genre of Sanskrit literature, exposing the vast and rich cultural heritage of ancient India.

It has serial number 25 and can be found on page 5. (read on

Sanskrit is the oldest living language and bears testimony to the intellectual past of ancient India. Three major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) share this language, which is used for many of their holy books. Besides religious manuscripts, much of India’s ancient culture has been preserved in Sanskrit, covering topics such as Architecture, Music, Botany, Surgery, Ethics, Philosophy, Dance and much more.

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