Relevance of Gita Jayanti

published on December 4, 2009
V.N. Gopalakrishnan

The Bhagavad Gita (Song Celestial) is one of the greatest and most beautiful of the Hindu scriptures. It is said to be the most popular religio-philosophic poem of its kind existing in any known tongue. This Sanskrit text conveys the sublime teachings on religion, philosophy, ethics, and the art and science of correct and efficient living. Bhagavad Gita gives a synopsis of the religious thought and experience of India through the ages and describes the ultimate reality as a personal god, identified with Lord Krishna.

Gita Jayanti marks the birth of this Holy Book and is to commemorate the day when Lord Krishna, an earthly incarnation of Lord Vishnu rendered his philosophical teachings to Prince Arjuna on the first day of the 18-day battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The two armies stand opposing each other, and on seeing many of his friends and kinsmen among those lined up on the other side, Arjuna hesitates to engage in a just but cruel war. But he is recalled to his sense of duty as a warrior by Lord Krishna. The epic battle of the Mahabharata took place in Kurukshetra in Uttar Pradesh and Sage Manu is said to have written the Manusmriti here. According to the Hindu calendar, Gita Jayanti falls on the Ekadashi day of Shukla Paksha (November-December).

The Bhagavad Gita consists of 700 Sanskrit verses divided into 18 chapters. Bhishma Parva (Chapters 25 to 42)  of the Mahabharata constitutes this immortal dialogue. All the 18 chapters in the Bhagavad Gita are designated, each as a type of Yoga and all the 18 Yogas contained in it may be reduced to four – the Karma Yoga, the Raja Yoga, the Bhakti Yoga and the Jnana Yoga. Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita is not merely thought control as in the technical Yoga-shastra, but the whole of spiritual life which aims at union with the Supreme. Since Lord Krishna handles all the four Yogas with equal importance, he is called Yogeswara.
The popularity of the Bhagavad Gita is evident from the many commentaries, glossaries and expository works written on it. The earliest commentary on Bhagavad Gita is by Shankaracharya followed by Bhaskaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Nilakanthacharya, Sridharachaya, and Madhusudanacharya. In modern times, commentaries were written by Bal Gangadhara Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

The Bhagavad Gita has been translated into many languages. It was first translated into English by Sir Charles Wilkins and published by the East India Company, with an introduction by Warren Hastings, the then Governor General of India. It was well received in Europe and translated into the French, German and Russian languages. A.W. Schlegal published the Latin version and calls the Bhagavad Gita “the most beautiful, and perhaps the only truly philosophical poem that the whole range of literature known to us has produced”. The Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, Canarese and English with Schlegal’s Latin version and Humboldt’s Essay on the Philosophy of Gita, was published in 1847 by John Garrett. J. Cockburn Thomson translated Bhagavad Gita into English in 1885. Dean Milman says, “It reads like a noble fragment of Empedocles or Lucretius, introduced into the midst of an Homeric epic. Some of the Western scholars who studied deeply the Bhagavad Gita include Albert Einstein, Dr. Albert Schweizer, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung and Henry David Thoreau.
A clear and exhaustive exposition of Sat-Chit-Anand (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss) is the theme of Bhagavad Gita and it expounds the philosophy of Karma and Dharma. Though the words Karma and Dharma have been used with 30 different meanings in Bhagwad Gita, nowhere have the word ‘Dharma’ meaning ‘religion’ comes up. The word ‘Hindu’ also does not occur anywhere in Bhagavad Gita. In its three disciplines, the Bhagavad Gita gives a typology of the three dominant trends: dharma-based Brahmanism, enlightenment-based asceticism and devotion-based theism. For those who must lead a normal life in this world, the Bhagavad Gita gave a moral code and a prospect for final liberation. It has been addressing contemporary issues and solving day-today problems of humanity.

The Bhagavad Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for transformation. It has become a secret driving force behind the unfoldment of one’s life and will contribute to self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one’s inner process. It has got all the management tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to overcome any crisis situation. The method of salvation taught in the Bhagavad Gita is that a man should live a life of actions without hankering after their results, which should be dedicated to God.

The Bhagavad Gita reveals the experience of everyone in this world, the ascent of man from a state of utter dejection, sorrow and total breakdown and hopelessness to a state of perfect understanding, renewed strength and triumph. The Bhagavad Gita serves as an essential guide to better living and it prompts an individual to think, to take fair and right decision without surrendering one’s identity. Lord Krishna has shown the way and has said time and again: “Use your intellect and decide”.

The Bhagavad Gita is the essence of the Vedas and Upanishads and it is profound in thought and sublime in heights of vision. If the hold which a work has on the mind of man is any clue to its importance, then evidently the Bhagavad Gita is the most influential work in Indian thought.

(The author is a social activist and is Director, Indo-Gulf Consulting. He can be contacted on [email protected])

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