Reflections on The Gita – Chapter 1, Verse 1

This is an ongoing series on my reflections on The Bhagavad Gita. I will post 2-5 posts a week, each post talking about 1 verse. You can find links for the entire series here.

Chapter 1 – Arjun Viṣhād Yog (अर्जुन विषाद योग) – Lamenting the Consequence of War – Verse 1

This post talks about the first verse of the first chapter.

Verse:

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच |

धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः |

मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||1||

Translation:

Dhritarashtra said:

On the holy fields of Kurukshetra, where my sons and sons of Pandu have assembled, desirous of battle, what did they do, O Sanjaya?

Reflection:

Usually, the first chapter talks about the theme of the book. That is the case here too. The first chapter introduces the book and talks about the upcoming battle between Kurus and Pandavas.

The blind king Dhritarashtra asked Sanjaya (a neutral clairvoyant) a redundant question – the goings-on at Kurukshetra. He already knew that Kurus and Pandavas were gathered for battle at Kurukshetra which is also reflected in his own words (desirous to fight). But because he was unsettled by his own conscience and the news of Krishna being Arjuna’s charioteer, he felt compelled to make this enquiry.

The verse also mentions the sacredness of Kurukshetra labelling it as Dharmakshetra. This reflects the importance of Kurukshetra field. It was considered as a place for sacrifice in Vedas and the battle being held at the holy ground may have been one of the several factors distressing Dhritarashtra.

The language used by Dhritarashtra also sheds light on his familial relationships. He used the word “Mamakah” to talk about his sons and “Pandavah” to talk about his brother’s sons. In ancient India, sons of your brother were usually treated as your own sons but Dhritarashtra didn’t treat Pandu’s sons as his own after Pandu’s death, showing a divide between the family.

I have always heard that the battle described in the Gita did not take place in the northern fields of India but is actually a universal battle which rages daily inside all individuals. If that is true, then this verse asks us to take stock of our day to understand what happened throughout the day and how we stand at that particular moment.

gita
A 19th-century illustrated Sanskrit manuscript from the Bhagavad Gita, composed c. 400 BCE – 200 BCE

Image Credits – British Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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