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For other uses, see Bhagavad Gita (disambiguation).Gita redirects here. For other uses, see Gita (disam-biguation).
The Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: , rmadb-
Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, c. 1830 painting
hagavadgt, pronounced [bd ita] ( )), liter-ally meaning The Song of the Bhagavan, often referred toas simply the Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that ispart of the Hindu epic Mahabharata.The Gita is set in a narrative framework of a dialoguebetween Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and char-ioteer Krishna. Facing the duty as a warrior to ght theDharma Yudhha or righteous war between Pandavas andKauravas, Arjuna is counselled by Krishna to fulll hisKshatriya (warrior) duty as a warrior and establishingDharma. Inserted in this appeal to kshatriya dharma(chivalry) is a dialogue [...] between diverging atti-tudes concerning and methods toward the attainment ofliberation (moksha)".
The Bhagavad Gita presents a synthesis of the Brah-manical concept of Dharma, theistic bhakti,the yogic ideals of moksha through jnana, bhakti,karma, and Raja Yoga (spoken of in the 6th chapter). and Samkhya philosophy.[web 1][note 1]
Numerous commentaries have been written on the Bha-gavad Gita with widely diering views on the essen-tials. Vedanta commentators read varying relations be-tween Self and Brahman in the text: Advaita Vedantasees the non-dualism of Atman (soul) and Brahman as itsessence, whereas Bhedabheda and Vishishtadvaita seeAtman and Brahman as both dierent and non-dierent,and Dvaita sees them as dierent. The setting of the Gitain a battleeld has been interpreted as an allegory for theethical and moral struggles of the human life.The BhagavadGita ' s call for seless action inspired manyleaders of the Indian independence movement includingBal Gangadhar Tilak & Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.Gandhi referred to the Gita as his spiritual dictionary.
1 Composition and signicance
Bronze chariot, depicting discourse of Krishna and Arjuna inKurukshetra
1.1 AuthorshipThe epic Mahabharata is traditionally ascribed to theSage Ved Vyasa; the Bhagavad Gita, being a part of theMahabharata, is also ascribed to him.
1.2 Date of compositionTheories on the date of composition of the Gita varyconsiderably. Scholars accept dates from fth centuryto second century BCE as the probable range. Profes-sor Jeaneane Fowler, in her commentary on the Gita,
2 1 COMPOSITION AND SIGNIFICANCE
considers second century BCE to be the likely date ofcomposition. Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, a Gita scholar,on the basis of the estimated dates of Mahabharata,Brahma sutras, and other independent sources, concludesthat the Bhagavad Gita was composed between fth andfourth centuries BCE.
It is generally agreed that, Unlike the Vedas, whichhave to be preserved letter-perfect, the Gita was a pop-ular work whose reciters would inevitably conform tochanges in language and style, so the earliest surviv-ing components of this dynamic text are believed to beno older than the earliest external references we haveto the Mahabharata epic, which may include an allusionin Paninis fourth century BCE grammar. It is estimatedthat the Sanskrit text probably reached something of a -nal form by the early Gupta period (about the 4th centuryCE). The actual dates of composition of the Gita remainunresolved.
1.3 Hindu synthesis and smritiSee also: Smarta Tradition
Due to its presence in the Mahabharata, the BhagavadGita is classied as a Smriti text or that which isremembered.[note 2] The smriti texts of the period be-tween 200 BCE-100 CE belong to the emerging Hindusynthesis, proclaiming the authority of the Vedas whileintegrating various Indian traditions and religions. Ac-ceptance of the Vedas became a central criterion fordening Hinduism over and against the heterodoxies,which rejected the Vedas.
The so-called Hindu synthesis emerged duringthe early Classical period (200 BCE-300 CE) ofHinduism. According to Hiltebeitel, a periodof consolidation in the development of Hinduism tookplace between the time of the late Vedic Upanishad(ca. 500 BCE) and the period of the rise of the Guptas(ca. 320467 CE) which he calls the Hindu synthesis,Brahmanic synthesis, or orthodox synthesis. Itdeveloped in interaction with other religions and peoples:
The emerging self-denitions of Hinduismwere forged in the context of continuous in-teraction with heterodox religions (Buddhists,Jains, Ajivikas) throughout this whole period,and with foreign people (Yavanas, or Greeks;Sakas, or Scythians; Pahlavas, or Parthians;and Kusanas, or Kushans) from the third phaseon [between the Mauryan empire and the riseof the Guptas].
The Bhagavad Gita is the sealing achievement ofthis Hindu synthesis, incorporating various reli-gious traditions.[web 1] According to Hiltebeitel,bhakti forms an essential ingredient of this synthesis,
which incorporates bhakti into the Brahmanical fold.According to Deutsch and Dalvi, the Bhagavad Gita at-tempts to forge a harmony between dierent strandsof Indian thought: jnana, dharma and bhakti. Deutschand Dalvi note that the authors of the Bhagavad Gitamust have seen the appeal of the soteriologies both ofthe heterodox traditions of Buddhism and Jainism andof the more orthodox ones of Samkhya and Yoga,while the Brahmanic tradition emphasised the signif-icance of dharma as the instrument of goodness.Scheepers mentions the Bhagavat Gita as a Brahmani-cal text which uses the shramanic and Yogic terminologyto spread the Brahmanic idea of living according to onesduty or dharma, in contrast to the yogic ideal of liberationfrom the workings of karma. According to Basham,
The Bhagavadgita combines many dier-ent elements from Samkhya and Vedanta phi-losophy. In matters of religion, its impor-tant contribution was the new emphasis placedon devotion, which has since remained a cen-tral path in Hinduism. In addition, the pop-ular theism expressed elsewhere in the Ma-habharata and the transcendentalism of theUpanishads converge, and a God of personalcharacteristics is identied with the brahmanof the Vedic tradition. The Bhagavadgitathus gives a typology of the three dominanttrends of Indian religion: dharma-based house-holder life, enlightenment-based renunciation,and devotion-based theism.[web 1]
Raju too sees the Bhagavad Gita as a synthesis:
The Bhagavadgita may be treated as a greatsynthesis of the ideas of the impersonal spiri-tual monism with personalistic monotheism, ofthe yoga of action with the yoga of transcen-dence of action, and these again with yogas ofdevotion and knowledge.
The inuence of the Bhagavad Gita was such, that itssynthesis was adapted to and incorporated into specicIndian traditions. Nicholson mentions the Shiva Gita asan adaptation of the Vishnu-oriented Bhagavat Gita intoShiva-oriented terminology, and the Isvara Gita asborrowing entire verses from the Krishna-oriented Bha-gavad Gita and placing them into a new Shiva-orientedcontext.
1.4 StatusThe Bhagavad Gita is part of the Prasthanatrayi, whichalso includes the Upanishads and Brahma sutras. Theseare the key texts for the Vedanta, which in-terprets these texts to give a unied meaning. AdvaitaVedanta sees the non-dualism of Atman and Brahman as
2.2 Characters 3
its essence, whereas Bhedabheda and Vishishtadvaitasee Atman and Brahman as both dierent and non-dierent, and Dvaita sees them as dierent. In recenttimes the Advaita interpretation has gained worldwidepopularity, due to the Neo-Vedanta of Vivekananda andRadhakrishnan, while the Achintya Bheda Abheda inter-pretation has gained worldwide popularity via the HareKrishnas, a branch of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Although early Vedanta gives an interpretation of the srutitexts of the Upanishads, and its main commentary theBrahman Sutras, the popularity of the Bhagavad Gita wassuch that it could not be neglected. It is referred to in theBrahman Sutras, and Shankara, Bhaskara and Ramanujaall three wrote commentaries on it. The Bhagavad Gitais dierent from the Upanishads in format and content,and accessible to all, in contrast to the sruti, which areonly to be read and heard by the higher castes.
Some branches of Hinduism give it the status of anUpanishad, and consider it to be a ruti or revealedtext. According to Pandit, who gives a modern-orthodox interpretation of Hinduism, since the Bha-gavad Gita represents a summary of the Upanishadicteachings, it is sometimes called 'the Upanishad of theUpanishads.
A manuscript illustration of the battle of Kurukshetra, fought be-tween the Kauravas and the Pandavas, recorded in the Mahab-harata.
In the epic Mahabharata, after Sanjayacounsellor ofthe Kuru king Dhritarashtrareturns from the battle-eld to announce the death of Bhisma, he begins recount-ing the details of the Mahabharata war. Bhagavad Gitaforms the content of this recollection. The Gita beginsbefore the start of the climactic Kurukshetra War, wherethe Pandava prince Arjuna is lled with doubt on the bat-tleeld. Realizing that his enemies are his own relatives,
beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his char-ioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice. Responding to Ar-junas confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna explains toArjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, elaborating ona variety of philosophical concepts.
2.2 Characters Arjuna, one of the Pandavas Krishna, Arjunas charioteer and guru Sanjaya, counsellor of the Kuru king Dhritarashtra Dhritarashtra, Kuru king.
2.3 Overview of chaptersBhagavad Gita comprises 18 chapters (section 25 to42)[web 2] in the Bhishma Parva of the epic Mahab-harata and consi