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Adhyaya 1: Arjuna-vishad Yoga

The first Adhyaya opens up with a scene on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The epic narrative mood of Mahăbhărata continues, giving vivid description of army alignments on the battlefield with lively dialogues coming in between. The Gită bears a distinctive look because of its unique setting. It is not a treatise written in a peaceful atmosphere nor it is a discourse presented to seekers of spiritual knowledge. Unlike Upanishads it is not a revelation, not even prophetic utterances disclosed to close disciples.

Neither a forest nor a hermitage is its birthplace. It is born on tense battle field to solve an immediate problem of a warrior, nay, of every householder so to say, caught in a similar dilemma in similar situation. What to do and what not to do ? Well known Shakespearean heroes like Hamlet and Caroilanus and many others faced such dilemmas and were destroyed for want of a good teacher.

Arjuna is a warrior by birth and profession and the first Adhyăya wherein he appears as one of the generals of Păndava army surprisingly presents him exactly in the opposite mood. The circumstances of the moment give unexpected turn to his brave character.

The first Adhyăya strikes a great blow to Arjuna’s established image of a valiant, ever successful and well - experienced warrior of an extraordinary calibre. Here he is seen bewildered and confused , brooding over the disastrous consequences of the war. The compassion that envelops him is the outcome of his suddenly felt love for his blood relations and friends standing in front of him with a resolve to fight or die. Strangely enough he is seen justifying his pensive mood and strongly condemning the war he has to face.

Verses 1 to 11

‘Tell me Sanjaya, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do on the holi land of Kurukshetra ?’ This was the opening question of king Dhritarashtra. In reply Sanjaya describes how Duryodhana, seeing a well-organised Păndava army went to Drona, his teacher and expressed his apprehension. His citing the names of leading warriors on either side brings to fore the gravity of the war. Both the armies had a large number of neighbouring kings joining them in this war, Remember, the whole of India was involved in this great Mahăbhărata war.

Verses 11 to 19

Duryodhana anxiously told Drona to guard his commander-in-chief from enemy’s deceitful tactics - But Bhishma, a true warrior, sensing Duryodhana’s mental agony blew his powerful conch-shell-horn in order to raise his failing courage and to boost up the morale of his army but in reply the chieftains from Păndava army blew their conch shell horns so forcefully that their noise resounded through heaven and earth and pierced the hearts of the Kauravas.

Verses 20 to 31

In a true epic style the charged atmosphere of the battlefield was picturesquely narrated in the opening verses thus creating a sense of awe in our mind preparing us for the most fearful civil war. Resounding trumpets brought down a queer silence every where and all of a sudden something strange and unexpected happened and Arjuna, the main hero of the war, looked something different.

Arjuna in a heroic style requests Krishna to bring his chariot to no man’s land between the armies to facilitate him to see the warriors he must fight with. Krishna accordingly drove the chariot to the desired place confronting Bhishma, Drona and other rulers of Kaurava’s army and exclaimed —"O prince, behold the assembled Kurus!’ Whereupon at the very first look, Arjuna sees and recognises fathers and grandfathers, teachers, uncles, sons, brothers, grandsons, fathers in -law, dear friends and many other familiar faces. Forgetting his bravery Arjuna is immediately filled with deep compassion. He is unable to bear a thought that his own kinsmen are involved in the battle.

Arjuna might have fought several battles before but this time it is his direct and immediate realisation about the evil effects of a war especially when four generations in succession are facing each other with a resolve to kill or to be killed.

His heart melted and as a result he finds his limbs weakening, mouth parching, with hair upright, body trembling, skin seems burning and greatest of the surprise! his powerful bow (Gandiva) slipping from his hand. He complained of his mind whirling round and round " I can stand no longer! " He exclaimed to Krishna, " I see evil omens ahead, I doubt whether by killing of kinsmen, I shall have any holy gain."

Verses 32 to 39

Arjuna’s mood of revulsion due to his kind-hearted compassion for his own near and dear ones, no doubt, invites sympathy from us. Since every one of us is basically a pacifist, very much against war killings in normal condition, we feel like agreeing with Arjuna when he starts justifying his compassion on emotional ground. His realisation that he is about to kill those whom he loves better than life itself was his honest reaction. Emotionally feeling attached to his beloved ones, he is reluctant to accept victory, empire or their enjoyment, even the throne of the three worlds much less the earthly lordship by killing his own kinsmen. Boastingly he calls the Kauravas, his brothers fools, foul - hearted and blinded with greed and therefore eager to ruin family bonds and comradeship. But calling himself clear-sighted Arjuna foresees the destruction of royal families with a chain of terrible evils to follow. Krishna is quietly listening to Arjuna’s emotionally charged arguments and allows him to ventilate his feelings, he himself not uttering a single word.

Verses 40 to 45

Arjuna continues saying, " O. Krishna! Once families are destroyed, the ritualistic religions break, vices taking over the hold, women folk gets defiled resulting into corruption of the caste. Not only the victimised kinsmen but their destroyers also are condemned to hell. The ancestors, not getting their rightful offerings, fall dishonoured. The ancient and sacred family tradition, thus destroyed, hell forever is the only reward to such sinners. Arjuna is thus appealing in the name of ancient religion and innocent victims of the family facing destruction.

Verses 46 to 47

A stunning picture of horrifying effects of family destruction, naturally results into Arjuna strongly condemning the war by calling it the most hateful murder of his brothers. He is now so much convinced about the sinful character of the war, that he declares, " Let the evil children of Dhritrăshtra attack me with their weapons, I shall not retaliate. Let them kill me,that will be better !" Having spoken thus, Arjuna throws aside his arrows and his bow in the midst of the battlefield, with his heart full of sorrow, he sits down in the chariot.

One has to understand clearly the significance of the war setting and emergence of compassion in Arjun’s heart. Such a contrast raises several questions in our mind. Had Arjuna any right to disturb the war situation? Was it Arjuna’s wisdom or delusion when he condemned the war ? His common place argument has certain human strength but is it possible to eliminate wars altogether ?

Arjuna’s basic problem outwardly appears to be philosophical one. Neither he wanted to be a "killer." nor his opposing men to be killed.’ To him death means total and permanent destruction and he would not like to be the cause for such sinful act.

Arising out of the first dilemma he raises the second one of ethical nature. " Is killing legitimate? Can violence be a good thing in life? How to decide what is good and what is bad? Right or wrong on what basis ? In addition Arjuna was facing men of his own blood ties. Is it fair to kill your own loving people? And for what gain? Just for the greed of power? To fight for the right cause and to punish injustice was Arjun’s sacred duty caste upon him as a warrior. But he prefers sacrificing his own interests, whatsoever, for the sake of protecting his family, religion and to uphold righteousness. Lord Krishna is just looking at him, quietly listening, with a inner resolve to take the opportunity to enlighten the world under the pretext of solving Arjuna’s immediate problem raised in the first Adhyăya called "ArjunavishădYoga", i.e. Arjuna’s despondency.

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