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Bhagavat Gita - An Introduction

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The Gita is to the Hindus, what the Bible is to Christians. It is on the Gita that one swears to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, in a Court.

First let me tell you what the Bhagavad Gita or more popularly known as Gita is. The Bhagavad Gita, written in Sanskrit, literally means the ‘Song of the God’. It is part of the Epic Mahabharata and consists of 700 verses. The content of the Gita is the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, taking place on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra war.

Before I proceed further about the Gita, let me trace the Epic of Mahabharata, briefly, so that you would know the context in which it was written.

The main theme of the Mahabharata is the exploits of two royal families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, who were the sons of two brothers, Pandu and Dhritarashtra. There were five Pandavas the eldest being Yudhishthira, and there were hundred Kaurava brothers the eldest being Duryodhana. When Pandu died at an early age, his young children were placed under the care of their uncle Dhritarashtra who usurped the throne.

The Pandavas and the Kauravas were brought up together in the same household. When the time came to crown Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas as the prince, Duryodhana, through a crooked game of dice, exiled the Pandavas into the forest. On their return from banishment the Pandavas demanded the return of their legitimate kingdom. Duryodhana who had consolidated his power refused to restore their legal and moral rights. War became inevitable.

Both Duryodhana and Yudhishthira requested Lord Krishna to support them in fighting the war. Krishna offered to give his vast army to one of them and to become a charioteer and counselor for the other, but he would neither touch any weapon nor participate in the battle, he said.

Duryodhana chose Krishna's vast army, Yudhishthira preferred to have Krishna as his counselor and Charioteer. Thus began the great Kurukshetra war, which lasted for just 18 days.

The content of the Gita is the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna (Yudhishthira’s brother) taking place on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra war.

Arjuna, the great warrior, faces his cousins in the battle field. He is unable to lift his bow and arrow against his own kith and kin. It is at this moment that the Gita unfolds. Krishna, now Arjuna’s charioteer counsels him on his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies.

One could call the Gita as a concise guide to life and a lighthouse of eternal wisdom that has the ability to inspire any man or woman to supreme accomplishment and enlightenment beyond the realms of religion.

There are 18 chapters in all, in the Gita, the synopsis of which will follow.

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