For about 500 years, starting from the 12th century CE, poets and philosophers of India wrote thousands of subhashitas (su = good, bhāṣita = spoken). These are self-contained verses that are witty, romantic, wise, puzzling, devotional, sarcastic, or didactic. They are typically composed in the classical anushtup poetic metre with four lines and eight syllables to a line (and certain other rules). While many of the subhashitas are standalone compositions by various poets, some of them are extracts from major works of poetry or drama (like Raghuvamsham). The subhashita form itself is probably much older than 12th century CE but it was during those 500 years that they became exceedingly popular.
Many languages have such standalone verses that deal with a specific topic and set to a poetic metre (of varying lengths; couplets, tercets, quatrains, etc.) For example, the Tamil venpa, the Japanese haiku and tanka, the Persian rubai, the Kannada tripadi and chatushpadi, the Urdu nazm, the Telugu chaatu padyam, the Marathi ovi, the Hindi doha, and the English limerick. Often they are exclusively devotional or instructional or comical or amorous, but the Sanksrit subhashitas cover a broad range of subjects and themes.
Often we don't know the composer of the subhashita because unlike some other forms of Indian poetry, the name (or signature word) of the poet does not appear in these verses. However, we have a record of some traditional works of subhashitas which bring together the works of several poets. For instance, the Subhashitavali is a compilation of more than 3,000 subhashitas written by over 350 poets, put together by the Kashmiri poet Vallabhadeva.
Let us look at subhashitas across themes. A good place to start is with a subhashita about subhashitas:
Here is a word of caution to the people of the world:
A famous comic verse, making mock of doctors:
Here is a subtle one for the romantics:
Here's one for the parents who are rearing a child:
Here's great material for a motivational poster:
And here's the prefect one for a de-motivational poster:
A verse with a twist in the end:
(Note: This verse is composed in the trishtup poetic metre, which has four lines and eleven syllables per line.)
This verse closely resembles a Zen koan:
And we have a riddle to conclude the list of ten:
Clearly, there is something amiss here. The Pandavas are such dear friends and admirers of Krishna that they would obviously not rejoice in his fall. The Kauravas so hate Krishna that they would surely not wail at his collapse. The real meaning of this kind of trick verse is often understood by splitting the words in a way that is not readily evident. The word keśavaṃ (Keshava is another name for Krishna; Keshava means "the lord of creation, sustenance, and dissolution") can be split into ke śavaṃ (ke = in the water; śavaṃ = corpse). The word pāṇḍavāḥ (Pandavas are sons of King Pandu) can be split into pā aṇḍavāḥ (pā = water; aṇḍavāḥ = born from eggs). The word kauravāḥ (Kauravas are descendents of King Kuru) can be split into kau ravāḥ (kau = who; ravāḥ = noise, howl).
Now, with the word-splits, we get the revised meaning:
(Here, "born from eggs" refers to fish while "one who howls" could refer to the wolves or other wild animals who can't access the meat; or it could refer to the crows cawing loudly).