Sanskrit quote nr. 38 (Maha-subhashita-samgraha)

Sanskrit text:

अकस्मादुन्मत्त प्रहरसि किमध्वक्षितिरुहं ह्रदं हस्ताघातैर्विदलसि किमुत्फुल्लनलिनम् ।
तदा जानीमस्ते करिवर बलोद्गारमसमं सटां सुप्तस्यापि स्पृशसि यदि पञ्चाननशिशोः ॥

akasmādunmatta praharasi kimadhvakṣitiruhaṃ hradaṃ hastāghātairvidalasi kimutphullanalinam |
tadā jānīmaste karivara balodgāramasamaṃ saṭāṃ suptasyāpi spṛśasi yadi pañcānanaśiśoḥ ||


Meter name: Śikhariṇī; Type: Akṣaracchanda (sama); 17 syllables per quarter (pāda); Caesurae after the sixth syllable.

Primary English translation:

“It is in vain, when mad, that you uproot the way-side tree; and wherefore trash the lake that blooms with lotuses? Oh best of elephant, we shall admit your strength/when you touch the mane of sleeping lion cub.”

(translation by D. H. H. Ingall)



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

Unmatta (उन्मत्त) literally translates to “mad”, “insane”, “intoxicated”, “distrcated”, etc. It is derived from the prefix ut and matta (‘delighted’, ‘drunk’). (more info)

Kṣitiruha (क्षितिरुह, kshitiruha) is a compound that refers to a “tree”, while it literally translates to “grown from the earth”. It is composed of kṣiti (‘earth’) and ruha (‘growing’, ’ascending’).

Hrada (ह्रद) is a Sanskrit word that refers to “lake” (a large or deep piece of water).

Nalina (नलिन) refers to a lotus (Nelumbium Speciosum). In the context of Vāstuśāstra (ancient Indian architecture), this word refers to a classification of South-Indian temple. (more info)

Karin (करिन्) in this context refers to “elephant”. It literally translates to “doing” or “effecting”. A more common name for elephant is gaja. (more info)

Saṭā (सटा, sata) refers to the “mane of a lion”.

Supta (सुप्त) is a common Sanskrit word to indicate “sleeping”, “dreaming” etc. It is listed in Nāṭyaśāstra (ancient Indian dramaturgy and theatrics) as one of the thirty-three ‘transitory states’ (vyabhicāribhāva). (more info)

Pañcānana (पञ्चानन, pancanana) refers to a “lion”. It literally translates to “the five-faced one”. Pañcānana is also regarded as an aspect of Śiva (a major Hindu deity). In this form, he is depicted as having five faces, ten arms, fifteen eyes and is seated on a bull. The compound is composed of the words pañca (‘five’) and ānana (‘face’ or ‘mouth’).

Śiśu (शिशु, shishu) refers to “infant”, “child”, “young animal”, etc. In compound with the previous word, thus making pañcānanaśiśu, it translates to “a lion cub”.


This quote is contained within the following Sanskrit literary sources:

Subhāṣitaratnakośa 1072: Contains Sanskrit aphorisms on the subject of court poetry. Supposedly, contents were drawn from a large library housed in the monastery of Jagaddala. The book was compiled by Vidyākara in the 12th century.
More info

Saduktikarṇāmṛta (Sures Chandra Banerji: 1831; Rāmāvatāra Śarmā: 4.39,1): Name of a Sanskrit anthology, containing poetical verses. The final section is devoted to verses of the author’s father (Vaṭudāsa). The book was compiled by Śrīdharadāsa in 1205.
More info

Anyoktimuktāvalī 36.88: The book was written by Haṃsavijaya in 1679.
More info


Vidyākara (11th century) is the compiler of the Subhāṣitaratnakośa, into which he included this quote, ascribing the authorship to Nārāyaṇa. Vidyākara was a Buddhist scholar and author of poetic works.

Śrīdharadāsa (12th century) is the compiler of the Saduktikarṇāmṛta, into which he included this quote, ascribing the authorship to Nārāyaṇa. Śrīdharadāsa was active at the Sena court and author of various Sanskrit works. His father was Vaṭudāsa. In one of his major books, the Saduktikarṇāmṛta, he identifies himself as holding a substantial feudal rank (mahāmāṇḍālika).

Haṃsavijaya (1650) is the author of the Anyoktimuktāvalī. He was also known as Haṃsavijayagaṇi or Haṃsavijayagaṇīśa.

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 38 and can be found on page 7. (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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