In the previous parts of this series, we looked at Bhagavad Gita chapter 1, verses from 1 to 20 where Sanjaya was describing what was happening at the Kurukshetra battlefield in detail to Dhritarashtra. As part of that, we also looked at the beautiful stories of Kapi Dhwaja and Shikhandi. In this part, let us look at verses from 21 to 30 of chapter 1.
Chapter 1, Verse 21 – 22
रथं स्थापय मेऽच्युत।
कैर्मया सह योद्धव्यम
senayor ubhayor madhye
rathaṁ sthāpaya me ’cyuta
yāvad etān nirīkṣe ’haṁ
kair mayā saha yoddhavyam
Arjuna said: O infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms.
Chapter 1, Verse 23
य एतेऽत्र समागताः।
yotsyamānān avekṣe ’haṁ
ya ete ’tra samāgatāḥ
Let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
Chapter 1, Verse 24
evam ukto hṛṣīkeśo
senayor ubhayor madhye
Sañjaya said: O descendant of Bharata, having thus been addressed by Arjuna, Lord Kṛṣṇa drew up the fine chariot in the midst of the armies of both parties.
Chapter 1, Verse 25
सर्वेषां च महीक्षिताम्।
उवाच पार्थ पश्यैतान्
sarveṣāṁ ca mahī-kṣitām
uvāca pārtha paśyaitān
samavetān kurūn iti
In the presence of Bhīṣma, Droṇa and all the other chieftains of the world, the Lord said, “Just behold, Pārtha, all the Kurus assembled here.”
Chapter 1, Verse 26
पुत्रान् पौत्रान् सखींस्तथा ।
tatrāpa yat sthitān pārthaḥ
pitṝn atha pitāmahān
ācāryān mātulān bhrātṝn
putrān pautrān sakhīṁs
tathā va urān suhṛda caiva
senayor ubhayor api
There Arjuna could see, within the midst of the armies of both parties, his fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and also his fathers-in-law and well-wishers.
Chapter 1, Verse 27
तान्समीक्ष्य स कौन्तेयः
tān samīkṣya sa kaunteyaḥ
sarvān bandhūn avasthitān
viṣīdann idam abravīt
When the son of Kuntī, Arjuna, saw all these different grades of friends and relatives, he became overwhelmed with compassion and spoke thus.
Chapter 1, Verse 28
दृष्ट्वेमं स्वजनं कृष्ण
सीदन्ति मम गात्राणि
मुखं च परिशुष्यति।
dṛṣṭvemaṁ sva-janaṁ kṛṣṇa
sīdanti mama gātrāṇi
mukhaṁ ca pariśuṣyati
Arjuna said: My dear Kṛṣṇa, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.
Chapter 1, Verse 29
वेपथुश्च शरीरे मे
गाण्डीवं स्रंसते हस्तात्त्वक्चैव
vepathu ca arīre me
roma-harṣa ca jāyate
gāṇḍīvaṁ sraṁsate hastāt
tvak caiva paridahyate
My whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow Gāṇḍīva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning.
Chapter 1, Verse 30
न च शक्नोम्यवस्थातुं
भ्रमतीव च मे मनः।
निमित्तानि च पश्यामि
na ca aknomy avasthātuṁ
bhramatīva ca me manaḥ
nimittāni ca pa yāmi
viparītāni ke ava
I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Kṛṣṇa, killer of the Keśī demon.
Commentary for Chapter 1, verses 21 to 20
The chapter 1, verse 20 of the Gita describes how Arjuna who was very excited about the war and was seated in his chariot, Kapi Dhwaja, took up his bow and prepared for the great battle of Kurukshetra. While looking at his opponents who are the sons of Dhritarashtra, drawn in military array in preparation for the Kurukshetra war, Arjuna said to Lord Krishna, who was his charioteer, “O infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms.”
With that, the main theme of the Bhagavad Gita, the conversation between Lord Krishna and his favourite friend and greatest devotee begins from the verse 21 onwards of chapter 1.
Arjuna asks Lord Krishna to draw his chariot between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and says, “let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra”.
It was Duryodhana’s greed that brought them to this great battle of Kurukshetra. Duryodhana and his brothers tried their entire life to usurp Pandavas’ kingdom, by all kinds of evil means. Arjuna asked Lord Krishna to take his chariot between the two armies so that he could see who have all come to fight and at the same time, also to measure the strength of Kaurava army.
Here, Arjuna addresses Lord Krishna as “Achyuta”, meaning, “the one who would never lose his inherent nature and powers”, as explained by Shri Shankaracharya in his commentary. Even though Lord Krishna is the charioteer of Arjuna, he is still the Supreme God and does not lose his supreme position even for a second.
Lord Krishna had given the option to choose between his army and him to both Arjuna and Duryodhana before the war begun. Duryodhana, the ever ignorant and greedy one, decided to choose Lord Krishna’s army, the Narayani Sena. In material sense, Lord Krishna’s Narayani Sena, the most powerful and incomparable in strength and skills, would have been the choice of most people.
Arjuna, here referred as “Guḍākeśa”, chose to have Lord Krishna instead of his most powerful army, Narayani Sena. Guḍākeśa means the one who has overcome sleep / darkness and is ever awake and alert. True to that name, Arjuna was spiritually awaken and he knew that nothing could defeat the side where the Lord himself is present. Arjuna had the wisdom to know that wherever the Lord is, there lies Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of victory and there is also Dharma!
However, when Lord Krishna gave the entire Narayani Sena to Duryodhana, it made Duryodhana extremely happy! Duryodhana, out of greed and with his crooked mind, had no wisdom to recognise who Lord Krishna truly was!
There is another reason as to why Lord Krishna would have given his powerful army to Duryodhana.
This whole Kurukshetra war is about the fight between Dharma and Adharma. By giving his powerful army to Duryodhana, Lord Krishna wanted to make a simple, yet powerful statement – Yato Dharma Tato Jaya. It doesn’t matter how powerful the opponent is, Where there is Dharma, there is victory!
“Yato Krishna Tato Dharmah
Yato Dharma Tato Jayah”
Where there is Lord Krishna, there is Dharma
Where there is Dharma, there is Victory!
The size of both Kauravas’ and Pandavas’ armies consisted of 11 Akshauhinis and 7 Akshauhinis respectively.
If Lord Krishna were to give his Narayani Sena consisting of 2 Akshauhinis, the size of the Kauravas and Pandavas armies would have been equal:
Kauravas: 11 – 2 = 9
Pandavas: 7 + 2 = 9
In such a scenario, Pandavas army would have been far superior to the army of Kauravas and their victory in the battle would have simply been considered a victory of a superior army instead of victory of Dharma.
Sanjaya continues to describe the situation at the battlefield to his king, Dhritarashtra. Having requested by Arjuna to bring the chariot in between both the armies, Lord Krishna drew up the chariot and placed right in front of Bhishma and Dronacharya.
There are two beautiful words used in the verse 24 of chapter 1 – Guḍākeśa and Hrishikesha. Arjuna is addressed as Gudakesa – the one who has overcome sleep and darkness. Arjuna is addressed as Gudakesa to show his ever alert and spiritually awaken nature, making him an unmatchable warrior! Lord Krishna is being addressed as Hrishikesha – the one who is the controller or ruler of all senses!
When Arjuna requested Lord Krishna to draw the chariot between the armies, Lord Krishna knew exactly what was happening in the mind of Arjuna. If Krishna had drawn the chariot right near where Duryodhana was, probably the war would have just started right away! Duryodhana is solely responsible for this war. He and his brothers even humiliated Draupadi in front of the entire court and Arjuna and all other Pandavas were helpless having lost in the cheating game of dice! Imagine, with all that humiliation and anger, if Arjuna had been brought right in front of Duryodhana at the battlefield!
Lord Krishna wanted Arjuna to fight this war with the right mindset, not with an attitude of anger. He wanted this war to be purely on the basis of Dharma and Adharma. After all, this whole battle is about defending Dharma through Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is about doing the right work with the right mindset, as a spiritual offering. Kurukshetra battle was all about defending Dharma against Adharma and it must be done with the right mindset. If not, there was no difference between the Kauravas who represent Adharma and Pandavas who are the embodiment of Dharma.
After drawing the chariot right near Bhishma and Dronacharya, Lord Krishna says, “O Partha, behold these Kurus gathered here…” Instead of describing the Kaurava army as Dhritarashtra’s sons, Lord Krishna deliberately brings up the word “kurūn” – the descendents of Kuru – at this point!
It is a fact that both Pandavas and Kauravas belonged to the same Kuru clan, Krishna was simply pointing this out to confuse Arjuna’s mind which leads to his attachments to his kinsmen and eventually he not wanting to fight.
Lord Krishna wanted to create this opportunity to deliver this beautiful message of the Gita to the whole world, as the Dwapara Yug was coming to an end before the beginning of Kali Yug. That may have not happened if Arjuna met Duryodhana at the battlefield instead of Bhishma and Dronacharya!
By drawing the chariot right in front of Bhishma and Dronacharya, Lord Krishna knew exactly what was running in the mind of Arjuna, thus Krishna says, “Just behold, Pārtha, all the Kurus have assembled here.”
Thus the first word spoken by Lord Krishna in the Gita in the verse 25 of chapter 1 was, “pārtha…”
“Partha…” – the son of Pritha or Kunti. Kunti was Lord Krishna’s aunt, Vasudeva’s sister. Lord Krishna, by addressing Arjuna as Partha, was reminding Arjuna that he is none other than his own family and that the Lord does not expect Arjuna to back away from the battle. In other words, Lord Krishna could predict exactly what was happening Arjuna’s mind and what follows next…
Seated on his chariot which was drawn between the two armies, Arjuna could see all of them – his great grandfather, Bhishma, his gurus like Dronacharya, Kripacharya, maternal uncles, brothers, his friends and well wishers!
Seeing all of them, Arjuna became overwhelmed with compassion and spoke thus to Lord Krishna, “My dear Krishna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.”
All his anger against Duryodhana, his brothers and their evil acts that forced Pandavas to exile and humiliation suddenly dissipated from Arjuna, and he was filled with compassion, unable to bear the sight of Bhishma, Dronacharya and all his beloved people, standing to fight against him in the Kurukshetra battlefield!
Arjuna continued telling Lord Krishna, “I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Krishna, killer of the Kesi demon.”
Arjuna says, “dṛṣṭvemaṁ sva-janaṁ kṛṣṇa…” – “Sva janam…” – they are all my people! Neither Dhritarashtra nor Duryodhana ever considered Pandavas as their own people, but here, the moment Arjuna saw all of them in the battlefield in such a fighting spirit, he had forgotten everything else and was overwhelmed with compassion and addressed them as, “my people”.
Arjuna says, ‘my whole body is trembling and am unable to stand in the battlefield. The great Gandiva bow is slipping out of my hands and my skin is intensely burning…it is as if a tremor is running through my body that my hairs stand on its end..!
Arjuna wasn’t afraid of him losing the battle. He knew that Pandavas would win this battle as long as Lord Krishna was with them. He was, however, afraid of being the cause of the death for so many of his favorite people, including his great grandfather and gurus in this battle! Arjuna was overwhelmed by his attachment to his people!
Arjuna says, “nimittāni ca pa yāmi viparītāni ke ava”. It means that, all he sees after seeing his people in the battlefield is that, this whole battle would only bring opposing results. Even if he wins, he feels that there is no point in such a victory after killing so many of his kinsmen, since he would only feel remorse. Arjuna was overwhelmed by the thought that, even victory by killing his kinsmen would only bring sorrow.
Arjuna has completely forgotten about all the wrongs committed by Dhritarashtra’s sons all of a sudden, including the humiliation of his wife, Draupadi, in front of the entire court after seeing Bhishma, Dronacharya and other family members and gurus at the battlefield. His mind took full control of his entire being at this moment and his heart sank! His intellect dazed and confused by his affection towards his kinsmen, forgetting his duties as a warrior.
In these verses, Ved Vyasa beautifully explains Arjuna’s experience of material attachments to his family, fully being controlled by his mind without any application of his intellect.
It is intellect that helps us make right judgments, that helps us differentiate between what is right and wrong, good and bad, etc. When we are consumed by our mind, we go to a state of confusion and lose ourselves in that process. Here, Arjuna forgot the fact that, this war was about defending Dharma against Adharma.
We will conclude here for now. In the next part, we will look at what else Arjuna says and how Lord Krishna responds to Arjuna.
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||