The assembly of armies – Chapter 1

The scene was set to witness the greatest war fought by the most exemplary and skilled warriors the universe had ever seen. The war as ordained by the Supreme Creator left no one in doubt of its impending and inevitable result.

 

Bhagavad Gita starts with the conversation between Dhrutharashtra and Sanjaya who was blessed with Divine Vision by Veda Vyaasa Maharshi to witness the happenings of Kurukshetra while residing in Hastinapur. Dhrutharashtra asks Sanjaya what his sons and others in the great army of Kauravas as well as in the army of Pandavas did when they assembled in the great sacred kshetra or field of Kurukshetra.

dhrtarastra uvaca
dharma-ksetre kuru-ksetre
samaveta yuyutsavah
mamakah pandavas caiva
kim akurvata sanjaya

 

Sanjaya replied to the query of Dhrutharashtra saying that when Duryodhana saw the army of the Pandavas in formation of a battle array, he approached his teacher or Acharya namely Drona and mockingly said, “O great teacher, please see this vast army of the sons of Pandu, impressively arrayed for battle by the son of Drupada, your intelligent disciple. Here are warriors of valour wielding great bows, who in battle are in comparison to Bheema and Arjuna, Yuyudhāna or Sātyaki and Virāta and the mahāratha or great chariot-rider Drupada. Dhrustaketu, Cekitāna, the valiant king of Kāsi, Purujit and Kuntibhoja and Saibya are the choicest among men and the chivalrous Yudhāmanyu, and the valiant Uttamaujas, son of Subhadrā and the sons of Draupadi – all of whom are, verily, mahārathas or great chariot-riders”.

 

Duryodhana continued, “But, best among the Brāhmanas, please be appraised of those who are foremost among us that is the great commanders of my army. I speak of them to you by way of greatness and skill. They are your venerable self, Bheeshma and Karna and Krpa who is ever victorious in battle and Ashvattamā, Vikarna, Saumadatti and Jayadratha.

There are many other heroes who have dedicated their lives for my sake and who possess various kinds of weapons and missiles and all of whom are skilled in warfare. Our army is under the complete unlimited protection of Bheeshma and others but this army of our enemies is under limited protection of Bheeshma and others.

However, venerable ones, all of you without exception, while occupying the positions assigned to you as per the battle formation in different directions and especially you, please fully protect Bheeshma in particular”.

 

The valiant grandfather and eldest of the Kurus loudly sounding a lion roar blew the conch to raise the spirits of Duryodhana.

 

Sanjaya described the scene in Kurukshetra as he saw to the the blind king Dhrutharashtra, “Following the lion-roar like sound from Pitamaha’s (Bheeshma) conch, the other conchs and kettle-drums, tabors, trumpets and cow-horns blared forth. That sound became tumultuous.

 

Then Mādhava (Krishna) and the son of Pandu, Arjuna stationed in their magnificent regal chariot with handsome white horses yoked to it, loudly blew their divine conchs. Hrsikesa (Krishna) blew the Pāncajanya, Dhananjaya (Arjuna) the Devadatta and Vrkodara (Bheema) of terrible deeds blew the great conch of Paundra.

 

King Yudhishthira, son of Kunti blew the Anantavijaya and Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughosa and Manipuspaka respectively.

 

And the King of Kāsi, wielding a great bow and the great chariot-rider Sikhandi, Dhrishtadyumna and Virāta and Sātyaki, the unconquered followed suit. Drupada and the sons of Draupadi, and the son of Subhadra, (Abhimanyu) the mighty-armed, all of them together, O King, blew their respective conchs.

 

That deafening tremendous sound pierced the hearts of the sons of Dhrutharashtra as it reverberated through sky and earth.

 

O King, thereafter, seeing Dhrutharashtra’s men standing in their position and when all the weapons were ready for action, the son of Pandu, Arjuna who had the insignia of Hanumān on his chariot flag raising his bow, said the following to Hrsikesa, “O Achyuta, please place my chariot between both the armies until I survey these who stand intent on fighting, and those who are going to engage in battle with me in this impending war. These who have assembled here and want to accomplish in the war what is dear to the foolish son of old Dhrutharashtra, I find them to be intent on fighting”.

 

Sanjaya witnessing this great conversation then said, “O scion of the line of Bharata (Dhrutharashtra), Hrsikesa, being told by Gudākesa (Arjuna), placed the excellent chariot between the two armies, in front of Bheeshma and Drona as also all the rulers of the earth, and said, O Pārtha (Arjuna), see these people assembled of the Kuru dynasty”.

 

Then Pārtha (Arjuna) saw, marshalled among both the armies, (his) uncles as also grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers (and cousins), sons, grandsons, as well as comrades and fathers-in-law and friends. The son of Kunti (Arjuna), seeing all those relatives positioned there, became overwhelmed by extreme compassion and said this sorrowfully, “O Krishna, seeing these relatives and friends who have assembled here with the intention of fighting, my limbs become languid and my mouth becomes completely dry. And there is a trembling in my body and there is horripillation. The Gāndiva (bow) slips from the hand and even the skin burns intensely.

 

Moreover, O Kesava (Krishna), I am not able to stand firmly and my mind seems to be whirling. And I notice the omens to be inauspicious. Besides, I do not see any good to be derived from killing my own people in battle. O Krishna, I do not hanker after victory, nor even a kingdom nor pleasures.

 

O Govinda! What need do we have of a kingdom, or what need of enjoyments and livelihood? Those for whom kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures are derived by us; that is our teachers, uncles, sons, and so also grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law as also relatives – those very ones stand ready for battle risking their lives and wealth.

 

O Madhusudhana, even if I am killed, I do not want to kill these even for the sake of a kingdom extending over the three worlds and what to speak of doing so for the earth.

 

O Janārdhana, what happiness shall we derive by killing the sons of Dhrutharashtra? Sin alone will accrue to us by killing these evil ones. Therefore, it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhrutharashtra, who are our own relatives. For, O Madhava, how can we be happy by killing our kinsmen.

 

O Janārdhana, although these people whose hearts have come corrupted by greed, do not see the evil arising from destroying the family and sin in hostility towards friends, yet how can we who clearly see the evil arising from destroying the family remain unaware of the need of abstaining from this sin.

 

From the ruin of the family are totally destroyed the traditional rites and duties of the family. When rites and duties are destroyed, vice overpowers the entire family also.

 

O Krishna, when vice predominates, the women of the family become corrupt. O descendent of the Vrsnis, when women fall from grace, it results in the intermingling of castes. And the intermingling in the family leads the destructors of the family verily into hell. The forefathers of these fall down because of being deprived of the mandatory traditional Pind daan or offerings of rice- balls and water.

 

Due to these misdeeds of the destructors of the family, which cause intermingling of castes, the traditional rites and duties of the castes and families become destroyed. O Janārdhana, we have heard that living in hell becomes inevitable for those persons whose family duties get destroyed.

 

What a pity that we have resolved to commit a great sin by being eager to kill our own kith and kin, out of greed for pleasures of a kingdom!

 

If, in this battle, the sons of Dhrutharashtra armed with weapons kill me when I am unarmed and unresistant, that will be more beneficial to me”. Thus ended Arjuna’s conversation with Krishna.

 

Sanjaya then narrated, “Having said thus, Arjuna, with a mind afflicted with sorrow, sat down on the chariot in the midst of the battle, casting aside the bow along with the arrows”.

 

[Chapter 1, Slokas 1.01 – 1.47]

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