The Bhagavad Gita comes under both Shruti as well as Smriti Literature. The term ‘Smriti’ signifies ‘something which is remembered’ and ‘Shruti’ denotes ‘that which is heard’. The Gita being ‘Smriti’ literature, has been handed down over generations. There are a few differences between the commentaries written by great scholars and teachers who carried the knowledge of the Gita through bygone centuries. There are also slight differences in the numbering of the verses. These differences may be found in Chapters 1 and 13.
The metre used almost throughout Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the ‘Anushtup Chanda’ अनुष्टुप्छन्दः . Verses composed in the Anushtup Chanda are quatrains. Each stanza has four lines consisting of 8 syllables each. Every quatrain in Anushtup Chanda has 32 syllables. The entire Mahabharata and the Valmiki Ramayana are composed in Anusthup Chanda.
It is also important to note that there are some verses in the ‘Trishtup Chanda’ too. They are the verses 15 to 50 in the 11th Chapter. Arjuna is the one who starts speaking in the ‘Trishtup Chanda’. The ‘Trishtup Chanda’ consists of 11 syllables per line and 44 in a verse. Verses 51 to 55 of Chapter 13, are back in the Anushtup Chanda or 8 syllables per verse.
The (:) विसर्गः Visarga is an h sound which is either pronounced or not pronounced in order to maintain metrical balance of 32 syllables per verse.
As we all know, the Srimad Bhagavad Gita has 700 (or 701) verses in total. The one we follow has 47 verses in the 1st Chapter and the 13th chapter ends with verse 34. (Note: The Chapter 13 starts with the verse 13.0 and not 13.1). Some large organisations teaching the Gita, have 46 verses in Chapter 1 and 35 verses (13.1 to 13.35) in Chapter 13. The difference in numbering of the verses of Chapter 1 can be noticed between verses 1.30 to 1.37.
Reading and understanding the 18 chapters of the Gita will change your life, forever.
Let’s begin our quest of understanding the eternal truth as revealed by Shri Bhagavan Krishna to Arjuna …
Then seated in a great chariot which was drawn by white horses, Maadhava (Bhagavan Krishna) and also Pandava (Arjuna, son of Paandu) blew their celestial conch shells
The sound produced by the celestial conch shells forebode the certain defeat of the opposite side simply because Bhagavan Krishna was with the Pandavas. As Bhagavan was on the side of the Pandavas, His consort Shri Mahalakshmi the Goddess of wealth and fortune was also present with them. Hence, the sounding of the celestial conch shell of Bhagavan Krishna meant that Arjuna was going to be fortunate and victorious. Agni (the God of Fire) gifted the chariot Arjuna was using, and this indicated that his chariot was indestructible.
Hrishikesha (Bhagavan Krishna), blew his conch Panchajanya, Arjuna blew his conch shell Devadatta and Bhima the one of terrifying deeds blew his great conch shell Paundram.
Note: Hrishikesha is another name for Bhagavan Krishna. He owns the senses. All living beings are a part of Him and so are their senses. Bhagavan Krishna is referred to as Hrishikesha in this verse because He is the owner of all senses. In the warfield, Bhagavan controls the transcendental senses of Arjuna. In the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Bhagavan instructs and directs Arjuna.
अनन्तविजयं राजा कुन्तीपुत्रो युधिष्ठिरः | नकुलः सहदेवश्च सुघोषमणिपुष्पकौ ||१- १६||
drupado draupade-yaas cha sarvashah pruthiivii pate saubhadras cha mahaa baahuhu shankhaan dadhmuh prthak-prthak (SBG 1:18)
…Drupada, the sons of Draupadi and Subhadra’s powerfully armed son, all of them blew their respective conch shells.
Sanjaya very subtly lets Dhrtarastra know that the idea of tricking Pandu’s sons in order to seat his own son on the throne was not a very clever one. All the signs very clearly showed that the Kurus would be obliterated. Had Dhrtarastra not encouraged his sons to carry on with their sinister plan, the devastating battle could have been avoided.
sa ghosho dhaartaraastraanaam hrdayaani vyadaarayat nabhas cha prthiviim chaiva tumulo bhyanunaadayan (SBG 1:19)
That fierce roaring sounds made by the conch shells reverberated across the earth and the heavens and rent the hearts of the sons of Dhrtarastra.
There is nothing much mentioned about the sounds produced by the conch shells of Bhishma or anyone else from the other side. However, the heart shattering sounds (hrdayaani vyadaarayat) made by the conch shells of the Pandavas are mentioned in this verse. The supreme confidence of the Pandavas was due to the presence of the Supreme Bhagavan Krishna along with them. He who surrenders before Bhagavan has absolutely nothing to fear.
yaava-detaanni rikshe ham yoddhu-kaamaan-avasthithaan
kairmayaa saha yoddhavyam asmin rana samudhyame (SBG 1:22)
Then Arjuna, with his flag bearing the image of Hanuman, saw the sons of Dhrtarastra lined up and prepared to fire their missiles’. He raised his bow and said to Hrishikesha (Bhagavan Krishna) the following words : O Achyuta (Bhagavan Krishna) please position my chariot between the two armies in order for me to see all those lined up seeking battle. I need to know all of whom I will have to fight in this great endeavour of war.
Note: The scene is being set for the great battle of Kurukshetra. The Hanuman flag clearly indicates that just as Hanuman served Bhagavan Shree Rama (another Avataara of Shree Vishnu, just like Shree Krishna) in the victorious war against Raavana, the battle of Kurukshetra will also be won. The sons of Dhrtarastra had already begun to sense the lurking defeat. With Bhagavan Krishna on their side, the Pandavas had no reason to fear or doubt. They would be fighting guided by Hrishikesha the Bhagavan Himself. All this clearly indicated victory for the Pandavas.
Bhagavan never fails. He never lets his devotees down. Bhagavan is always ready to help His devotees who are pure in the heart.
However, Arjuna, the ardent devotee of Bhagavan Krishna, who followed Dharma, did not want to fight with his own cousins and teachers. He knew that all of them were there in the battle only due to the stubbornness of Duryodhana who was not willing to settle for negotiation at all. But a war is a war and the rules of war had to be followed. Arjuna wanted to first study his enemies and see how determined they were to fight such a battle which could have been avoided.
I see all my kinsmen are gathered here together ready to fight, desirous of pleasing the evil minded son of Dhrtarastra.
Duryodhana with his evil designs to take over the kingdom of the Pandavas was well known for his diabolical and wicked mind. Therefore, whoever joined him were equally evil because they knew about Duryodhana’s monstrous plans, which were approved by his father Dhrtarastra. An ace warrior that Arjuna was, he wanted to take a look at his opponents to gauge their strength which would help him strategise. With Bhagavan Krishna and Dharma on his side, Arjuna was absolutely sure of victory but still he wanted to be methodical in war.
Sanjaya said to Drtarashtra: O descendant of Bharata, being thus spoken to by Gudakesha (Arjuna), Hrishikesha (Bhagavan Shri Krishna) positioned the fine chariot in between the two armies, in front of Bhishma, Drona and all the Kings and said, ” Look, O Partha (Arjuna), at the Kurus assembled here.”
Note: There are a couple of subtle but important points to be understood from the two verses above 1: 24 and 25.
Arjuna had conquered sleep and could stay awake for days and nights at a stretch. That is why he is also referred to as Gudakesha which means ‘conqueror of sleep.’ This can also be interpreted as one who has conquered the darkness caused by ignorance. Arjuna overcame ignorance simply due to his closeness with Bhagavan and his total faith in Him. One who has learned to completely trust in Bhagavan and be conscious of Him at all times, is free from ignorance. One who has understood that actions have equal and opposite reactions will stop blaming others and instead take responsibility for the situations they are in.
Arjuna asked Bhagavan to position the chariot between the two armies. Bhagavan is referred to as Hrishikesha or one who can ‘own’ senses of others and control them. When Bhagavan said “पश्यैतान्समवेतान्कुरूनिति ” (pashyaitaan samavetaan kuruu nithi) or (Look at the Kurus thus assembled), He probably knew what Arjuna was thinking and was going to think.
There, among the two armies, Paartha (Arjuna) saw, fathers, as also grandsires, preceptors, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, associates, fathers-in-law and also well wishers.
There on the battlefield, Arjuna could see all his kinsfolk. His teacher Dronacharya, maternal uncles, grandfathers Bhishma and Somadutta, friends like Asvattaama and other well wishers were there. The truth was slowly sinking in Arjuna’s mind. He saw the seriousness and gravity of the situation and realised that it would be heartrending for him to fight his own people.
तान्समीक्ष्य स कौन्तेयः सर्वान्बन्धूनवस्थितान् | कृपया परयाविष्टो विषीदन्निदमब्रवीत् ||१- २७|
Seeing all his kinsmen assembled together, the son of Kunti (Arjuna), was overcome with great compassion and spoke as follows:
अर्जुन उवाच | दृष्ट्वेमं स्वजनं कृष्ण युयुत्सुं समुपस्थितम् | सीदन्ति मम गात्राणि मुखं च परिशुष्यति ||१- २८||
arjuna uvaacha drshtvemam svajanam krshna yuyutsum samu-pasthitham siidanti mama gaathraani mukham cha pari-shushyati
Arjuna said: O Krishna, Seeing my kinsmen and friends in a belligerent state of mind, my limbs are failing and my mouth is parched.
A brave and born warrior like Arjuna, of course had nerves of steel so there was no element of fear in him. However, he saw that his own people, his cousins and all those he highly respected and admired like his own teacher, standing there waiting to fight him. All of them had turned hostile toward him. This made his limbs go weak and his emotions made his mouth go dry. It was his compassion that made him feel exhausted. The fearless and extremely powerful Arjuna was a pure hearted devotee of Bhagavan Krishna. He was a just and highly compassionate warrior and it was his soft-heartedness towards his own people that made his knees tremble.
vepathus cha sharire me roma harshas cha jaayate gaandivam sramsate hastaat tvak chaiva pari-dahyate(SBG 1:29)
My body is quivering and I have goose-flesh. I feel my bow Gandiva slipping from my hands and my skin, burning.
People experience gooseflesh or the feeling of hair standing on end when subjected to fear, extreme cold or even when they feel ecstatic or moved by extreme emotion. The emotion is also caused by the loss of possessions. Arjuna was not afraid that evil would befall him but he felt sad for all the deaths that would take place in the war. This meant that he was worried and concerned about loss of life. It shows his sense of attachment to impermanent things like life. He felt his bow slipping and as if his skin was burning. This indicates that he was losing his composure and was allowing the situation to affect his intelligence, intellect and his general power of reasoning. This is the first thing to happen to people who all of a sudden find themselves in an unpleasant situation.
न च शक्नोम्यवस्थातुं भ्रमतीव च मे मनः | निमित्तानि च पश्यामि विपरीतानि केशव ||१- ३०||
na cha shaknomya vasthaathum bhramatiiva cha me manaha nimittaani cha pashyaami vipariitaani keshava (SBG 1:30)
I am not able to stand and my mind is reeling. O Keshava (Bhagavan Krishna), I see adverse omens.
न च श्रेयोऽनुपश्यामि हत्वा स्वजनमाहवे ||१- ३१||
na cha shreyo nupashyaami hatvaa svajana maahave (SBG 1:31)
I see no good in killing my own folks in this battle,
न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण न च राज्यं सुखानि च | किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा ||१- ३२||
na kankshe vijayam krshna na cha raajyam sukhaani cha kim no rajyena govinda kim bhogair jivitena va (SBG 1:32)
I do not desire victory O Krishna, nor do I want a kingdom or comforts; of what use is sovereignty to us, O Govinda (Bhagavan Krishna), or pleasures or even life itself?
येषामर्थे काङ्क्षितं नो राज्यं भोगाः सुखानि च | त इमेऽवस्थिता युद्धे प्राणांस्त्यक्त्वा धनानि च ||१- ३३||
yeshaam arthe kaankshitam no raajyam bhogaaha sukhaani cha ta ime ‘vasthithaa yuddhe praanaam-styaktva dhanaani cha (SBG 1:33)
All those for whose sake we desire sovereignty, enjoyments and pleasures are gathered here, ready to give up their lives and wealth.
Although these people, whose minds are taken over by greed, see no evil in destroying their family, and sin in being hostile towards friends, why should we O Janardana, knowing very well that destroying family is wrong, not stay away from sinning.