Come November and it is time to celebrate the Gita. 22nd November as per the English calendar and Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi day, i.e. the 11th phase of the bright fortnight of the Margashira month as per the Indian calendar, is the day to commemorate the birth of the Gita.
Who or which Gita are we referring to here?
It is the Bhagavad Gita, which has been the literature of this civilization, this land and this nation since we can all remember.
It is the Gita which has been playing many roles in the lives of Indians, since the times of Krishna, who delivered it and left it behind to guide the people for long after His own lifetime.
Gita in Law
In the court one swears by the Gita. This practice has been going on for over 200 years. That makes it the nationally accepted book, both on a personal count and as well as being legally tenable. Not accepting the truth after swearing on the Gita, amounts to perjury.
All these were in practice, much before the words secularism and pseudo secularism came to vogue in India.
The Most Comprehensive Guide
The Bhagavad Gita answers one’s many queries, both from the Sthoola, bodily level and from the Sukshma, the subtle, ethereal level.
Upa means “near” and adesha means “instruction”. Upadesha is the instruction received by a disciple, sitting close to his master.
Krishna while delivering the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna says,
“I taught this to Vivasvan, who in turn passed it on to Vaivasvata Manu, from whom it was passed on to Ikshvaku, after which it was lost in the passage of time. As this knowledge is since lost, I, Krishna, son of Vasudeva am giving it you Arjuna, on this battlefield.”
The teaching of Krishna, was applicable not only to Arjuna and the situation that he was in, but is also applicable to each one of us today even after so many millennia. Through the medium of this dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, mankind, to this day, continues to enjoy and benefit from the most comprehensive guide to right living in this Universe.
This Bhagavad Gita discourse by Krishna shows Him in the light of one of the foremost spiritual teachers of mankind. His teachings through the Gita have remained a universal guide to mankind across many millennia, inspiring and leading many to walk the path of duty and righteousness.
Kurukshetra Battle and Bhagavad Gita
The uniqueness of Bhagavad Gita lies in the fact that it was given on a battle field, at the beginning of the battle between the Pandava and the Kaurava at Kurukshetra.
On the day of the war the armies are lined up, ready to fight, waiting for the signal to start the battle.
At this juncture, standing at the head of the Pandava Army, facing the war giants on the Kaurava side, Arjuna, the archer par excellence and the main warrior for the Pandava forces, is troubled by serious doubts.
He sees that in front of him, the opponents whom he has to engage in battle and kill, are his own Guru – Dronacharya, his Grand Sire – Bheeshma, his own cousins – the Kaurava and other known friends.
Arjuna then questions Krishna, his friend, cousin, confidante and mentor in life, now in the role of his charioteer, of the paradoxical need to shed blood of his near and dear ones, only to establish rights over a kingdom. He asks Krishna as to why he should fight for the kingdom, if all his near and dear were to perish in the same war?
Kurukshetra battle to start
Krishna then takes on the role of a philosopher, a teacher and explains to Arjuna the meaning of life, this creation, this universe and man’s role in it. Krishna dwells exhaustively on the concept of the soul and its relation to the body, the concept of the body and its relation to the acts it performs, the concept of these acts and their relation to their results, the concept of these results and their relation back to the soul and finally the concept of the soul and its relation to the supreme consciousness of the cosmos.
Step by step, with an answer for every question asked by Arjuna, Krishna patiently leads Arjuna into a world of deep spiritual knowledge, where Arjuna sees Krishna’s cosmic form. Arjuna learns of the ways of operation of the cosmos and the cosmic consciousness, which would apply to himself and all the beings around him, irrespective of whether he decides to fight the battle or not and whether he kills his near and dear ones or not.
Krishna elevates Arjuna to the highest echelons of knowledge about the way of life in the Universe.
Arjuna was going through an exhilarating experience of God Himself explaining the nuances of the cosmic laws to him.
Date of Gita
The Bhagavad Gita Upadesha and the start of the battle, occur on the same day. Today, with the aid of the sky configurations described in the Mahabharatha text we can assign a date in the modern calendar to the date of the battle and hence a date for this “Song of the Divine”.
We have been able date the life of Krishna and the various events of the Mahabharata through our series, “Historical Krishna”.
Tradition calls this day when Gita was born as Gita Jayanthi and to this day it is celebrated on Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi, meaning the 11th day in the bright fortnight of the month of Margashira.
On this day, there was a New Moon along with a Solar Eclipse, in Jyeshta star on October 14th, 3067 BCE, followed by a Full Moon on October 28th, 3067 BCE. This lunar cycle marked the lunar month of Karthika, since the full moon occurred near Karthik star.
The month that follows Karthika, is Margashira and the New Moon occurred around 12 Nov 3067 BCE. This makes Nov 22nd, 3067 BCE, which was the start of the battle and the day of Gita, a Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi day, the 11th phase of the bright fortnight of Margashira.
The tradition of celebrating Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi day as Gita Jayanthi matches what the skies showed 5100 years ago.
This means that the year 2016 is the 5083rd year since the Upadesha of Gita.
A Revelation of God Himself
The Bhagavad Gita was revealed to mankind by God Himself. The word Bhagavad means ‘God, the Lord’ and Gita means ‘Song’. The word ‘Bhagavad Gita’ thus literally translates to, ‘Song of God’.
Krishna reveals his Viswaroopa, the Cosmic Form to Arjuna, showing that He is the Supreme Lord of Creation, incarnated in a human form to add credibility to His Gita.
This revelation of God, the Gita Upadesha was witnessed by Arjuna, Sanjaya the commentator, Vyasa the compiler and a host of other fortunate ones.
Arjuna’s grandfather, Krishna Dwaipayana, whom we reverentially call as Veda Vyasa, for he also compiled the Veda, recorded the Gita Upadesa for posterity.
There have been many occasions in many lands, many civilizations, where God has conveyed His message to mankind, through His Son or through a messenger, a Prophet.
Similarly, there have been other times when God has thought it fit to pass on knowledge through different noble and wise persons.
In that sense, this land, the civilisation and nation of India, has experienced a difference, for, it has had the privilege to have an Avatar, an incarnation of God Himself, giving His message to mankind in person. And this was in the form of His song, the Bhagavad Gita.
Bhagavad Gita not a religious text
Bhagavad Gita deals with life, duties, actions, mind, soul, purpose of life and the belief in the divine God. All these aspects are common to human life, civilizations and all religions. From this perspective, Bhagavad Gita is a manual of all these above points and not to be limitedly construed as a religious text, even though it has come down from the mouth of God. The dialogue between the two, Krishna and Arjuna, was more about the purpose of life and actions than a religious discourse.
Gita therefore, should verily and proudly be accorded the status of a knowledge asset, a literary treasure, a godsend counsel for realization of the self, whether one is a citizen of India or the world.