The Gita evokes feelings like no other poem.
Sreejit Datta teaches English and Cultural Studies at the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in Mysore. Variously trained in comparative literature, Hindustani music and statistics; Sreejit happens to be an acclaimed vocalist who has been regularly performing across multiple Indian and non-Indian genres. He can be reached at:
The banners were unfurled, the ominous call issued;
Warriors royal and common alike, who approached
The open gateway to their Heaven that seldom unlocks
By a rare chance – as in this the Great War it had –
In their measured, certain paces, and some, on great cars,
Suddenly halted their onward march.
Shining horses, fastened to their stern reigns held by even sterner hands,
Reared up and came neighing down to the ground with agitated hoofs.
The ground shook and the dust unsettled,
And that was all that moved. The rest came to a standstill.
There in that sacred field, the Field of Kuru,
Kins were gathered to heed the summons
Of Avarice and Duty alike.
There then appeared a banner from among the hosts –
Amid the tumultuous sounds of great horns blowing –
Fluttering thro’ the swirls of dust most brilliantly. It looked as though
Hanuman, the Son of Wind, was blazing past a host of clouds,
Carrying the breakaway mountain upon His mighty arms
In service of Sri Ram – such was its gleam.
Under that splendid banner stood Pandav Arjun,
The third to claim such a name, the Lord of Slumber,
Driven on his silver chariot by the Lord of the Senses –
Sri Krishna – his cousin, and most trusted friend.
Surveying the field, and the legions arrayed ’gainst him,
Arjun lifted his bow; and while he was about to strike,
Spoke thus to his Divine Charioteer:
Pull over my chariot, O Unerring One, betwixt these armies
So I may see these warmongers; and take stock
Of who I am about to duel with, in this endeavour of war.
Let me see who all are assembled here
To do wicked Duryodhan’s bidding in warfare.
Hearing this, the Lord of Hearts drew up that Great Car
Right into the clearing in the middle of the armies
Who were prepared to engage in war.
And He said: Behold, Son of Kunti, this host of Kurus.
There Partha saw the patriarchs of his clan, all standing
In battle array; and he saw his preceptors, uncles, brothers,
Sons, grandsons, and playmates as well. There were
His in-laws, and friends too, all ready to strike and be struck.
Thus observing all those kinsmen on the other side,
The Son of Kunti felt flushed with sadness.
Having overcome with sorrow, now he spoke these anxious words:
Seeing my own people gathered here, eager to fight,
O Krishna, my body shudders, my mouth dries,
And my hair stands on their end as my frame falters.
My bow Gandeev slips from my grip, my skin burns,
I cannot stand still, and my mind reels too.
Adverse auguries do I see, O Fine-haired One,
And I see no good in killing my own in this battle.
Krishna, I want neither victory, nor kingdom, nor pleasures –
For, tell me Govind, what use is this kingdom to us?
What utility in pleasures, or in living, when
The very men for whose sake we desire
This kingdom, the joys and the pleasures of earth
Are here, standing ’gainst us in battle array –
Having no regard for their lives or wealth.
I see my sires, grandsires, mentors, sons,
Uncles, brothers, grandsons, in-laws;
I see all these dear ones, beloved souls who I have held
In high reverence and loved with all my heart –
Gurus and friends and colleagues,
For whose sake we wish to live and slaying whom
We do not; those I am now come to slay in battle!
Woe unto me! What vile impulse has taken me over
And brought me dragging to this Field this day?
To kill with unfailing Gandeev my own kindred! Fie, I say!
Even if they find it fit to kill me, O Slayer of Madhu,
I refuse – I care not for rewards as good as the three worlds.
Even the greatest of kingdoms shan’t lure me
O Janardan, what pleasure can there be for us
In killing Dhritarashtra’s sons? ’Twill only beget us sin
If we kill all these who are here to kill us.
Therefore, O Madhav, it isn’t our place to slay
These sons of Dhritarashtra, blood of my blood;
For how could we rejoice at the killing of our own?
Their conscience obscured by greed, if they can’t see evil
In destroying one’s family and betraying one’s friends;
Shall we too, O Janardan, give in to this sin?
Do we not see the error in the destruction of our kin?
Destruction of the clan is destruction of Dharma
Which was hitherto upheld by the clan since eternity;
And if Dharma be gone, Adharma would reign,
Which never brings any weal to one’s family.
You’re aware, Krishna, that Adharma corrupts women;
And corruption of a clan’s womenfolk brings
Disorientation in the order of Varnas –
Of that too, you’re aware, O Scion of Vrishnis!
Such chaos sure leads to hell both family
And those who destroy it; even blameless ancestors fall
For lack of libation and proper offerings.
Those who destroy their clan and disorient the order
Bring families, and even nations, to their ruins;
It is also said, O Janardan, that such men dwell in hell.
Oh, woe is me! Desiring the pleasures of kingship
We were going to kill our own! Oh how could we
Even think of committing such a great sin?
It’d be far better if Dhritarashtra’s sons
Kill me in battle with their arms
While I lay unresisting, unarmed.
Speaking these words, Arjun did sink
Into the back of his chariot in that battlefield;
He then cast aside his bow and his arrows,
And to a great sorrow he did give in.
[This is intended to be a transcreation of the Śrimad Bhagavad Gītā into free English verse, complete in eighteen chapters.]