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Bhagavad Gita

By: Vyasa

One of the world’s most valued scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu scripture which is a part of the Indian epic Mahabharata. Undeniably, it is also one of the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy. The scripture offers a guide on how to achieve a self-sufficient life and clarification of Indian theology. Written in the form of a poetic dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, the piece is comprised of 700 verses. It depicts the relationship between man and God, a divine purpose, and the omnipresence of God that serves to reward good.

Structure

The Bhagavad Gita is a poem written in the Sanskrit language. Its 700 verses  are structured into several ancient Indian poetic meters, with the principal being the shloka (Anushtubh chanda). It has 18 chapters in total.  Each shloka consists of a couplet, thus the entire text consists of 1,400 lines. Each shloka line has two quarter verses with exactly eight syllables. Each of these quarters is further arranged into "two metrical feet of four syllables each", state Flood and Martin. The metered verse does not rhyme. While the shloka is the principal meter in the Gita, it does deploy other elements of Sanskrit prosody. At dramatic moments, it uses the tristubh meter found in the Vedas, where each line of the couplet has two quarter verses with exactly eleven syllables.

Narrative

The Gita is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna right before the start of the climactic Kurukshetra War in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Two massive armies have gathered to destroy the other. The Pandava prince Arjuna asks his charioteer Krishna to drive to the center of the battlefield so that he can get a good look at both the armies and all those "so eager for war". He sees that some among his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers. He does not want to fight to kill them and is thus filled with doubt and despair on the battlefield. He drops his bow, wonders if he should renounce and just leave the battlefield. He turns to his charioteer and guide Krishna, for advice on the rationale for war, his choices and the right thing to do. The Bhagavad Gita is the compilation of Arjuna's questions and moral dilemma, Krishna's answers and insights that elaborate on a variety of philosophical concepts. The compiled dialogue goes far beyond the "a rationale for war"; it touches on many human ethical dilemmas, philosophical issues and life's choices. According to Flood and Martin, the Gita though set in the war context in a major epic, the narrative is structured for the abstract to all situations; it wrestles with questions about "who we are, how we should live our lives, and how should we act in the world". According to Sargeant, it delves into questions about the "purpose of life, crisis of self-identity, human soul, human temperaments, and ways for spiritual quest".

 

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

Sanskrit

Published In

Author

Vyasa

Hindustan

Vyasa is believed to be an expansion of the God Vishnu, who came in Dvapara Yuga to make all the Vedic knowledge from oral tradition available in written form. According to the Mahabharata, he was the...

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