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Chapter 1 - Arjuna's Dejection
The Glory of Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is said to contain the words from the lips of God Himself. As a scripture, the Gita embodies the supreme spiritual mystery and secret. It contains the essence of all four Vedas.
In the Mahabharata, Bhisma states that “The Gita comprises all the scriptures” . However, one may argue that all other Hindu scriptures have originated from the Vedas and the Vedas was revealed through Lord Brahma. Since Lord Brahma descended from Lord Vishnu’s navel. Hence, it is not surprising that the Gita is considered superior when compared to the Vedas as it came directly from Lord Vishnu’s lips.
The sage Vedavyasa said that “the Gita alone should be sung, heard, recited, studied, taught, pondered and assimilated properly and well. What is the use of collecting other scriptures? For the Gita has emerged directly from the lotus like lips of God Vishnu Himself.”
When one reads the Bhagavad Gita, one would see that at the start of Chapter 1, it starts as "Sanjaya uvaca" which means "Sanjaya said". The meaning of "Sanjaya" in Sanskrit means "victory".
Sanjaya is one of the main characters from the famous epic Mahabhrata. In the epic, Sanjaya is Dhritarashtra's advisor. Dhritarashtra is the blind king and the father of the principal warriors on the Kaurava side.
Sanjaya, has a gift to seeing events at a distance and this gift was given to him by Vyasa. It is with this gift that Sanjaya is able to relate the events that are happening at the battlefield as well as narration of the Bhagavad Gita to the blind king.
Sanjaya, apart from narrating the events of the war, had the unpleasant duty of breaking the news of the death of Dhritarasthra's hundred sons by Bhima at various points in time during the war. During those times, he offered solace.
Sanjaya also had the unpleasant duty of predicting the destruction of the Kauravas at the hands of Arjuna and Lord Krishna.
The translated verses in Chapter 1
The numbers in brackets refer to the Chapter number followed by verse number.
Dhrtarastra said: Sanjaya, gathered on the sacred soil of Kurukshetra, eager to fight, what did my Sons and the Sons of Pandu do? (1.01)
Sanjaya said: At that time, seeing the army of the Pandavas drawn up for battle and approaching Dronacarya, King Duryodhana spoke the following words: (1.02)
Behold , master, of the mighty army of the sons of Pandu arrayed for battle by your talented pupil, Dhrstadyumna, son of Drupada. (1.03)
There are many in this army heroes wielding mighty bows and equal in military prowess to Bhima and Arjuna – Satyaki and Virata and the Maharathi (warrior chief) Drupada; Dhrstaketu, Cekitana and the valiant King of Kasi, and Purujit, Kuntibhoja, and Saibya, the best of men, and mighty Yudhamanyu, and valiant Uttamauja, Abhimanyu, the son of Subhadra, and the five sons of Draupadi – all of them Maharathis (warrior chiefs). (1.04 - 1.06)
O best of Brahmanas, know them also who are the principal warriors on our side – the generals of my army. For your information, I shall mention them. (1.07)
“Yourself and Bhisma and Karna and Krpa, who is ever victorious in battle; and even so Asvatthama, Vikarna and Bhurisrava (the son of Somadatta); (1.08)
And there are many other heroes, equipped with various weapons and missiles, who have staked their lives for me, all skilled in warfare. (1.09)
This army of ours, fully protected by Bhisma, is unconquerable; while that army of theirs, guarded in everyway by Bhima, is easy to conquer. (1.10)
Therefore, stationed in your respective positions on all fronts, do you all guard Bhisma in particular on all sides. (1.11)
The grand old man of the Kaurava race, their glorious grand-uncle Bhisma, cheering up Duryodhana, roared terribly like a lion and blew his conch. (1.12)
Then conchs, kettledrums, tabors, drums and trumpets blared forth and the noise was tumultuous. (1.13)
Then, seated in a glorious chariot drawn by white horses, Sri Krishna as well as Arjuna blew their celestial conches. (1.14)
Sri Krishna blew His conch named Pancajanya; Arjuna, Devadatta; while Bhima of terrible deeds blew his great conch Paundra. (1.15)
King Yudhistra, son of Kunti, blew his conch Anantavijaya, while Nakula and Sahadeva blew theirs, known as Sughosa and Manipuspaka respectively. (1.16)
And the excellent archer, the King of Kasi, and Sikhandi the Maharathi (great warrior), Dhrstadyumna and Virata, and invincible Satyaki, Drupada as well as the five sons of Draupadi, and the mighty-armed Abhimanyu, son of Subhadra, all of them, O lord of the earth, severally blew their respective conches from all sides. (1.17 - 1.18)
And the terrible sound, echoing through heaven and earth, rent the hearts of Dhrtarastra’s army. (1.19)
Now, O lord of the earth, seeing your sons arrayed against him and when missiles were ready to be hurled, Arjuna, who had the figure of Hanuman on the flag of his chariot, took up his bow and then addressed the following words to Sri Krishna; “Krishna, place my chariot between the two armies. (1.20 - 1.21)
And keep it there till I have carefully observed these warriors drawn up for battle, and have seen with whom I have to engage in this fight. (1.22)
I shall scan the well-wishers in this war of evil-minded Duryodhana, whoever have assembled on his side and are ready for the fight. (1.23)
Sanjaya said: O king, thus addressed by Arjuna, Sri Krishna placed the magnificent chariot between the two armies in front of Bhisma, Drona and all the kings and said, “Arjuna, behold these Kauravas assembled here.” (1.24 - 1.25)
Now Arjuna saw stationed there in both the armies his uncles, grand uncles and teachers, even great grand uncles, maternal uncles, brothers and cousins, sons and nephews, and grand nephews, even so friends, fathers-in-law and well wishers as well. (1.26 & first half of 27)
Seeing all the relations present there, Arjuna was overcome with deep compassion and spoke in sorrow. (Second half of 27 & first of half of 28)
Arjuna said: Krishna, as I see these kinsmen arrayed for battle, my limbs give way, and my mouth is getting parched; nay, a shiver runs through my body and hair stand on end. (second half of 28 & 29)
The bow, Gandiva, slips from my hand and my skin too burns all over; my mind is whirling, as it were, and I can no longer hold myself steady. (1.30)
And, Kesava, I see such omens of evil, nor do I see any good in killing my kinsmen in battle. (1.31)
Krishna, I do not covet victory, nor kingdom, nor pleasures. Govinda, of what use will kingdom, or luxuries, or even life be with us. (1.32)
Those very persons for whose sake we covet the kingdom, luxuries and pleasures – teachers, uncles, sons and nephews and even so grand uncles and great grand uncles, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grand nephews, brothers in laws and other relations – are arrayed on the battlefield staking their lives and wealth. (1.33 - 1.34)
O slayer of Madhu, I do not want to kill for them, even though they slay me, even for the sovereignty over the three worlds; how much the less for the kingdom here on earth. (1.35)
Krishna, how can we hope to be happy slaying the sons of Dhrtarastra; by killing even these desperate souls, sin will surely accrue to us. (1.36)
Therefore, Krishna, it does not behove us to kill our relations, the sons of Dhrtarastra. For, how can we be happy after killing our own kinsmen. (1.37)
Even if these people, with their mind blinded by greed, perceive no evil in destroying their own race and no sin in treason to friends, why should not we, O Krishna, who see clearly the sin accruing from the destruction of one’s family, think of desisting from committing this foul deed. (1.38 - 1.39)
Age old family traditions disappear with the destruction of a family; and virtue having been lost, vice takes hold of the entire race. (1.40)
With the preponderance of vice, Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt; and with the corruption of women, O descendant of Vrsni, there ensues an intermixture of castes. (1.41)
Promiscuity damns the destroyers of the race as well as the race itself. Deprived of the offerings of rice and water (Sraddha Tarpana), the manes of their race also fall. (1.42)
Through these evils bringing about an intermixture of castes, the age long caste traditions and family customs of the killers of kinsmen get extinct. (1.43)
Krishna, we hear that men who have lost their family traditions dwell in hell for an indefinite period of time. (1.44)
O what a pity! Though possessed of intelligence we have set our mind on the commission of a great sin; that due to lust for throne and enjoyment we are intent on killing our own kinsmen. (1.45)
It would be better for me if the sons of Dhrtarastra, armed with weapons, kill me in battle, while I am unarmed and unresisting. (1.46)
Sanjaya said: Arjuna, whose mind was agitated by grief on the battlefield, having spoken thus, and having cast aside his bow and arrows, sank into the hinder part of his chariot. (1.47)
Summary of Chapter 1
It is said that the Gita is a doctrine of Universal Truth. The message of Bhagavad Gita came to us due to the fact that Arjuna was unwilling to do his duty as a warrior because the consequence of fighting involved destruction and killing.
Here, one may say that Hinduism practices non violence or Ahimsa, yet the famous epic where the Bhagavad Gita was given by the Lord himself was at the battlefield at Kurukshetra. With this background, Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to pick up his arms and fight. This was Arjuna;s greatest dilemma as he had to make a choice between fighting and killing his relatives, friends and his revered Guru.
In Chapter 1, the verse 1 - 11 basically describes the principal warriors on both sides of the battlefield as well as their weapons.
In verse 12 - 19, it describes the blowing of the conches by the warriors on both sides of the war.
In verse 20 - 27, Arjuna observes the warriors drawn up for battle.
In the final verses of 28 - 47, it describs how Arjuna is overwhelmed with emotions as he feels that a great sin is being committed due to the lust for the throne by killing their kinsmen.
English Translation of Chapter 1
- Chapter 1 - Arjuna's Dejection
This is an English translation of the verses in Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita