Yuddhishtir gambled, and lost. Uncle Shakuni had deceitfully robbed the Pandavas of everything they had. The Pandavas were exiled into the forest for twelve years, and ordered to spend a thirteenth in hiding thereafter. They did accordingly. On completing their time in the forest and in hiding, the Pandavas returned. In consonance with the agreement, they asked for their rightful share of half the kingdom, but the evil-minded Duryodhan was not willing to comply. Many tried to dissuade him, but to no avail. Finally, Shri Krishna Bhagwan himself tried to dissuade him. He asked him to give a quarter of the kingdom instead of a half, but Duryodhan resolutely refused.
Finally, Shri Krishna tried again and proposed “O Duryodhan, son of Dhritarashtra, these Pandavas are also the royal blood of the Kuru dynasty. If nothing else, at least give them five villages to maintain their status.”
But nothing would change Duryodhan’s stubbornness. He stated clearly, ‘यावद्धि तीक्ष्णया सूत्व्या विध्येदग्रेण केशव। तावदप्यपरित्याज्यं भूमेर्नः पाण्डवान् प्रति॥’ – ‘Yãvaddhi teekshnayã soochyã vidhyedagrena Keshava, tãvadapyaparityãjyam bhoomernaha Pãndavãn prati.’ – ‘O Keshav (Krishna)! Forget five villages, I will not give the Pandavas a piece of land even the size of a needle tip. And still, if the Pandavas want land, then they should be ready for war’ (Mahabharat: Udyog Parva/127/5).
This is how the decision for a war was made. Both parties began to prepare. Then arose the question of the battlefield, where should the war take place? The learned and experienced elders of both sides got together to discuss the matter. It was unanimously decided that the battlefield should be a righteous land so that those that die there would be liberated.
The area known as Kurukshetra was a famous religious place. The devas had performed yagnas and other religious acts there.
Moreover, this land is called Kurukshetra because of its historical association with a King named Kuru. King Kuru had performed penance here, as well as yagnas and other righteous acts. On seeing Kuru’s righteousness, even Indra became pleased and associated this land with swarg, and decreed that those who died on this land would attain swarg. Since then this land has been renowned as a righteous land.
Also, it is said that King Kuru had pulled a plough here and farmed the land for the well-being of his subjects. Therefore, the land has also been come to known as Kurukshetra – the farm of King Kuru.
In this way, the righteous land, Kurukshetra, was selected as the battlefield. Equipment for use in the war began to be stockpiled at Kurukshetra. The moment of the great war was drawing nearer.
It is the happenings that occurred during these initial moments that form the basis of the Bhagavad Gita.
On opening the Gita, the first sentence reads, ‘घृतराष्ट्र उवाच!’ – ‘Dhritarashtra Uvãcha’ ‘Dhritarashtra said’.
It is surprising that a great shastra such as the Gita does not commence with the words ‘God said’, but with ‘Dhritarashtra said’!
Dhritarashtra is a compound word which is derived from ‘घृतं राष्ट्रं येन सः’ – ‘Dhritam rãshtram yena saha’ – ‘One who has plundered someone’s land’. Here is someone who has been blind since birth and now wants to see mass destruction. The wise Sanjay was the eyes of Dhritarashtra. When requested by Dhritarashtra, Sanjay would give such a detailed description of any event that the blind Dhrutarashtra would forget the grief of his blindness.
At the start of the Gita, Dhritarashtra asks:
‘घर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः। मामकाः पाण्डवाश्र्चैव किमकुर्वत संजय॥’ – ‘Dharmakshetre kurukshetre samavetã yuyutsavaha, mãmakãhã pãndavãshchaiva kimakurvata Sanjaya.’ – ‘O Sanjaya! Please tell me what my sons and Pandu’s sons who have gathered for war did in the righteous land of Kurukshetra’ (Gita: 1/1).
‘MY SONS AND PANDU’S SONS’
Words reveal the speaker’s inner thoughts. When we speak, the inclinations of our mind and our inner feelings are naturally expressed.
When Dhritarashtra said the words ‘मामकाः पाण्डवाश्र्च’ – ‘mãmakãhã pãndavãshcha’ – ‘My sons and Pandu’s sons’ his feelings were instantly expressed and the bias in his heart became plainly evident. ‘Mãmakãhã’ means ‘my sons’ and ‘Pãndavãhã’ means Pandu’s sons. Duryodhan and others are my sons, while Arjun and others are not my sons; they are Pandu’s sons. With these words, he separates his younger brother’s sons. One can understand that to be blind of sight is a pitiful situation, but to be blinded by emotions is even more pitiful. He was biased against even the Pandavas who had always respected him like a father and obeyed his commands. He was not even able to respect them as his children and accept them. We can call this biased attitude the ‘mãmakãhã attitude’. The outcomes of this ‘mãmakãhã attitude’ of Dhritarashtra were also equally pitiful. Even though they were a royal family, all they went through was continual quarrels and disputes, continual conflicts and anguish, continual discontent and disquiet, and in the end complete destruction.
Where there is bias, all these miscomings come uninvited.
This is why, although Vyas has counted many people like Duryodhan as responsible for this complete destruction, he has counted Dhritarashtra as the root of it all. He explains this with a metaphor, ‘दुर्योघनो मन्युमयो महाद्रुमः कर्णः स्कन्घः शकुनिस्तस्य शाखाः। दुःशासनः पुष्पफले समृद्धे मूलं राजा घृतराष्ट्रोऽमनीषी॥’ – ‘Duryodhano manyumayo mahãdrumaha Karnaha skandhaha Shakunistasya shãkhãhã, Duhshãsanaha pushpaphale samruddhe moolam rãjã Dhritarãshtro’maneeshee.’ – ‘Duryodhan is a great tree in the form of ego, Karna is its trunk, Shakuni is its branches, Duhshãsan is the tree’s flowers and fruits, but its root is the evil-minded Dhrutarashtra’ (Mahabharat: Ãdi Parva/1/65).
Thus, the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita’s first adhyay (chapter) starts with the biased curiosity of Dhritarashtra. Now let us take a look at Sanjaya’s reply.
Sadhu Bhadreshdas, Ph. D., D.Litt.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas