Commentary on Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita

    What were the reasons for revelation of the Bhagavat Gita to Arjuna by Sri Krishna is what this commentary on chapter 1 tells you.

Chapter 1 Commentary.

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच |
धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः |
मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||1||


Kurukshetra in the Shatpath Brahman has been described as, kurukṣhetram deva yajanam, the holy place where Devtas perform their Yajnas. In the Jabala Upanishad it is said; “Kurukshetra is for the gods the resort of the gods; and for the creatures it is the abode of Brahman, place of liberation, salvation.” 


It therefore, makes it very clear that the purpose behind Dhritrashtra’s calling it Dharmakshetra has a significant connotation. In its very first shloka, he explicitly manifests his aspiration towards the definiteness of war as he is quite aware of the divine aura of the land of Kurukshetra.


In this way by using selective verses of Bhagwat Gita, we will see that the first chapter determines the reasons for the great revelation by Bhagwan Sri Krishna.


Dhritrashtra was blind so he could not go to the battlefield. However, he wanted to know the ongoings of the war, hence Rishi Ved Vyas left his disciple Sanjay at the palace and conferred upon him the power of distant vision. Sanjay, thus provided a first-hand account of the battle to Dhritrashtra. The great discourse between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, Srimad Bhagwat Gita begins with the dialogue between Dhritrashtra and Sanjay.


The battlefield of Kurukshetra symbolizes the turbulence we continuously face in our lives. Dhritrashtra represents the intellect, confused and bewildered. His nervousness is reflected while he speaks about the Dharmakshetra Kurukshetra. He is concerned about the result of the war because his conscience to a great extent tells him that the victory will be of those on the side of Dharma. A similar fight that keeps on going in the battlefield of our mind when we try to judge between the just and unjust. Our mind gets distracted by Ego and Attachment just like Dhritrashtra’s. 


Bound by the darker clouds of befuddlement, for Dhritrashtra there comes a silver lining in the form of Sanjay, emerging as a torchbearer and acting as a controller of his supreme delusion. Sanjay knew the concern of Dhritrashtra and so to allay his fears, whether the war will materialize or not giving the Dharmic tendencies of Pandavas, who might avoid fighting the war with his sons, he informs that the Pandava army was ready to fight. Sanjay in the Mahabharat war stands as an epitome of highest wisdom of pure bliss. He is an unbiased and honest soaking in the divine grace because of his arduous Sadhana. He possessed the subtle power of intuition, hence narrating each incident on the battleground with wit and sensitivity. His instinctive skill made him a seasoned and wiser narrator while dealing successfully with the nervous trepidation of Dhritrashtra.


The next Shloka, the utterance by Duryodhana, the son of Dhritrashtra to his Guru Dronacharya, exhibits his nervousness on viewing the mammoth Pandava army. He speaks:


पश्यैतां पाण्डुपुत्राणामाचार्य महतीं चमूम् ।
व्यूढां द्रुपदपुत्रेण तव शिष्येण धीमता ।। 3।।

अत्र शूरा महेष्वासा भीमार्जुनसमा युधि
युयुधानो विराटश्च द्रुपदश्च महारथ: || 4||

धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितान: काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान् |
पुरुजित्कुन्तिभोजश्च शैब्यश्च नरपुङ्गव: || 5||

युधामन्युश्च विक्रान्त उत्तमौजाश्च वीर्यवान् |
सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथा: || 6||


Duryodhana was an impudent man who doubted the loyalties of his Guru, thinking that out of his love towards the Pandavas, he would not fight to the fullest against them.


Duryodhana sneers and tries to create some anger in Dronacharya’s mind by pointing out that the military formation of the Pandava army has been arrayed by another one of his disciples, the intelligent son of Drupada. Duryodhana purposely uses Drupadputra here to remind Dronacharya of his bitter enemy Drupad who did a sacrifice to beget a son Drishtdyumna, who would be the slayer of Dronacharya. 


Duryodhana is calling Dristadyumna intelligent because he had learned the science of warfare from Dronacharya. Furthermore, Duryodhana implies that it was unwary of Drona to teach archery to the very person who was destined to kill him and despite knowing that he was an enemy’s son. Duryodhana's intent in saying the above is that it is Drona's indifference to things that will be the cause of all the problems they will face in the battle. 


अपर्याप्तं तदस्माकं बलं भीष्माभिरक्षितम् |

पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां बलं भीमाभिरक्षितम् || 10||


Duryodhana illustrates that his intellect and mind was suffering from the vasnas or Ego. His arrogance never allowed him to behave righteously, his life is a lesson for those who act unreasonably and pay no heed to the good counsels of elders.


While we move ahead in the Pratham Adhyay of the Srimad Bhagwat Gita, the resonance of the warring spirit becomes clearer as the blowing of the conches, indicate the beginning of the battle, reverberates in the atmosphere not anticipating that soon this battleground will witness the most profound Jnana directly coming from Sri Krishna.


Amid the ambience of war cry, all of a sudden everyone present on the battle ground is awestruck seeing Arjuna’s chariot being placed at the middle of the battleground. Arjuna was a proficient warrior, the most privileged fighter in the battle of Mahabharat because he enjoyed the constant company of Sri Krishna during the course of battle. The blissful bond between both had the celestial quintessence. While before the commencement of the battle, both Duryodhana and Arjuna visit Sri Krishna for his aid in the war, the wiser Arjuna asks for the Lord himself and the haughty Duryodhan demands Lord’s army as a help in the War. The Jnanai Arjuna knew who Sri Krishna was and how his blessings would be sufficient to enable him face daringly all the trials and tribulations not just during the battle but even in the life. 


Arjuna had enough confidence that his was a legitimate reason to fight for their claim over half of the kingdom of Hastinapur and this was the reason he wanted to have a first hand glance of the Kaurava army. Here Sri Krishna points at all the warriors of the Kaurava army as the KURUS, emphasizing them being the kinsmen of Arjuna.


It was his idea to arouse the sense of delusion in the mind of Arjuna which later he himself will dispel and that becomes the foundation of the teaching of Bhagwat Gita. Looking at the armies on both sides of the battlefield, Arjun’s heart sank, they were all “Kurus” his relatives.  Immediately he foresees the devastation as a result of the battle and speaks;

निमित्तानि च पश्यामि विपरीतानि केशव |
न च श्रेयोऽनुपश्यामि हत्वा स्वजनमाहवे || 31|| 

एतान्न हन्तुमिच्छामि घ्नतोऽपि मधुसूदन |
अपि त्रैलोक्यराज्यस्य हेतो: किं नु महीकृते || 35||


Arjun was aware that killing one’s own relatives was a great sin. He said to Sri Krishna, “Greed has blinded them (Kauravas) and they do not realize that it is a great sin to kill their own relatives and friends, but why should we do the same thing, when we can avoid this transgression?” Arjun here pleads and gives to Lord Krishna all Shashtriya janit reasons of not fighting his family members, all of which seem quite compelling in the light of our scriptures. But Sri Krishna knew that his present state is not due to the wisdom of ultimate but only because of compassion emerging due to attachment.  Arjuna at last surrendering to his deep grief and dejection, casts aside his bow and arrows and sinks into the seat of his chariot.

सञ्जय उवाच |
एवमुक्त्वार्जुन: सङ्ख्ये रथोपस्थ उपाविशत् |
विसृज्य सशरं चापं शोकसंविग्नमानस: || 47||


Here, ends the first chapter of the Bhagwat Gita, leaving Arjuna in the heights of illusion. The first chapter, the despondency of Arjuna creates a splendid background for the reason why Shri Krishna spoke the profound words of Gita to Arjuna and through him to humanity.


The chapter is called a Vishad Yoga because it’s the despair of Arjuna acting as a Yoga, becomes a powerful mean of joining him the ultimate. Had there been no such feeling, there would be no Bhagwat Gita. The chapter is very significant for a spiritual seeker because of the questions asked by Arjuna. 


Reading the Gita without knowing the state of Arjuna’s mind and his questions makes the journey highly disengaging. 


The shlokas in Gita have three layered meanings, the Shabdaarth (the literal meaning), the Bhaavartha (the purport) and the Gudhartha (the deep or the hidden meaning).


Any Sanskrit scholar can very easily understand the first two meanings of every shloka as it has been spoken by Lord in a very succinct manner. But limiting the Gita to merely these two meanings is a completely unjustified attempt to read it because it is not for reading but for realizing and for this one needs to do strict Swadhyay and use the techniques of SHRAVAN, MANAN and NIDIDHYASAN being given to us by our experienced Seers. After discerning Gita and its true spirit one becomes one with the divine and attains the eternal message of spiritual wisdom.



1. Bhagwat Gita, The Song Of God; Swami Mukundananda.

2. Srimad Bhagwat Gita; Shankar Bhashya with Hindi Anuvaad, Gita Press Gorakhpur.

3. Bhagwat Gita with the Commentary of Sankaracharya Translated by Swami Gambhiranand.


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