The srimad Bhagvad gita is a spiritual dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna- a dialogue of and on dharma. It comes in the middle portion of the great epic, the Mahabharatha written by Sage Vyasa. Lord Krishna was the avatar or the incarnation of the supreme being into the form of a human being whereas Arjuna typifies the ordinary man, faced with one of the most difficult problems which any one could conceive- the killing of his own kinsmen. The whole dialogue is placed in the middle of the battlefield of Kurushetra amidst the din and clamour of a fratricidal war. Arjuna’s problem was a particular one related to his particular need. Lord Krishna’s answer is the whole of the Bhagvad Gita, and cuts at the root of the human problems- which is one of ignorance. Ignorance of the nature of our own selves, ignorance of the nature of the supreme being and ignorance of the nature of the universe which we inhabit. This is the srimad Bhagavad Gita.
The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is one of the most well known of the Hindu scriptures. It comes in the middle portion of the great epic called the Mahabharatha, composed by the sage Vyasa. All the names which appear in the first chapter of the
Bhagavad Gita is prominent characters in the epic. The Mahabharatha is a voluminous treatise dealing with the fortunes of the Kuru dynasty which ruled ove India, or Bharathavarsha as it was called then, about five thousand years ago.
Bhishma is the grandsire of the Kuru clan who in earlier years had abdicated the throne in favour of his step-brother. Dritarashtra (the first character to appear in the first chapter of the Gita), was Bhishma's eldest nephew. Since he was born blind, the kingdom went to his younger brother Pandu. Dritarashtra had a hundred sons who were collectively known as the Kauravas. Duryodana was the eldest of the Kauravas. Sanjaya, the second character to appear in the Gita, was Dritarashtra's companion.
Pandu the younger nephew who inherited the throne of the Kurus had five sons who were collectively known as the Panda vas. Yudhistira was the eldest, Bhima was the second, the twins, Nakula and Sahadeva were the fourth and fifth, and Arjuna, known by many names (refer glossary of names), was the third or middle Pandava, to whom the discourse of the Gita was given.
Dorona was the preceptor of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. After the death of his father, Pandu, Yudhistira was proclaimed as heir apparent to the throne of the Kurus. This aroused the animosity of the Kauravas who plotted to seize the kingdom using unfair means if necessary. Their many plots to kill the Panda vas did not succeed but eventually they managed to banish the Pandavas and grab the kingdom for themselves. When the Pandavas re- turned they demanded half the kingdom which was theirs by right but Ouryodana refused. The bitter animosity which had sprung up between the cousins from childhood could no longer be contained with reasonable counsel and eventually culminated in the great Mahabharatha war, in which Bhishma and Dorona were forced to side with the wicked Kauravas despite their partiality for the noble Pandavas. How- ever, the Panda vas were helped by Lord Krishna who was not only their cousin but also the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu Trinity.
On the morn of the fateful day of the battle, the two armies arrayed themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield of the Kurus known as Kurukshetra. Dritarashtra, the father of the Kauravas was unable to participate in the battle due to his disability. He was very anxious to know of the happenings on the battlefield. The sage Vyasa gave the power of television to his Prime Minister, Sanjaya, who described the whole battle to the blind king in graphic detail.
The first chapter of the Gita starts with Oritarashtra's opening words to Sanjaya, asking him to describe the scene of battle. The rest of the chapter is Sanjaya's description of the battle and the names of the various heroes who participated. Lord Krishna had opted to be Arjuna's charioteer in the battle since he had promised Ouryodana not to take up arms. On the morn of the fateful day, just before the commencement of. the battle, Arjuna asked Lord Krishna to drive his chariot between the two armies so that he could observe the opposite ranks. However, the sight of his beloved grandsire Bhishma, and his revered preceptor Orona, completely unnerved him and shocked him into a realisation of the enormity of the crime he was about to commit-the slaughter of his own kith and kin in order to gain a kingdom. This thought totally demoralised the mighty hero so that he became a nervous wreck. He threw down his arms and refused to fight. The discourse of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is given to the dejected" Arjuna by Lord Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra just before the commencement of the war.
To understand the Bhagavad Gita more fully we recommend reading the companion volume to this called, “Nitya Yoga” which is a commentary on the eighteen chapters of the Gita. It is also a Vanamali publication.
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