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
Arjunas 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 enemys deceitful tactics - But Bhishma, a true warrior,
sensing Duryodhanas 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
Arjuna in a heroic style requests Krishna to bring his
chariot to no mans 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 Kauravas 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
Arjunas 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 Arjunas 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 Arjuns heart. Such a contrast
raises several questions in our mind. Had Arjuna any right to disturb the war situation?
Was it Arjunas wisdom or delusion when he condemned the war ? His
common place argument has certain human strength but is it possible to eliminate wars
Arjunas 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 Arjuns 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 Arjunas immediate problem raised in the first Adhyăya
called "ArjunavishădYoga", i.e. Arjunas despondency.