Bhagavad Gita is the most popular and sacred book of the Hindus and is widely known and read all over the world. An integral part of the Mahabharata, it stands as an independent work consisting of a dialogue between Krishna, the eighth avatara of Vishnu, and the noble warrior Arjuna. The latter is about to enter into battle against his cousins, an act he considers reprehensible and immoral, and seeks an answer from Krishna.
The Gita, as it is popularly called, is composed of eighteen chapters. The basic core narrates Arjuna’s doubts whether it would be proper for him to fight and thus become guilty of bringing about the ruin of his family and of law and order. Krishna replies that he should carry out his duty, because all human beings are but instruments in the fulfillment of God’s eternal designs. This point he makes by revealing himself as the Supreme in all His glory and power. As the mortal Krishna again, he delivers a philosophical summary concerning pure and impure knowledge, pure and impure wisdom, and the nature of Karma.
The Gita belongs to a long age of changing sociological conditions, from that of the priestly Vedic world, centered upon the sacrificial fire in which the perfect observance of ritual was essential to salvation, to that of the world of kings, courts, warriors, princes armies and battles, and forest sages arid teachers. It is a great exposition of the doctrine of Bhakti, devotion to God, as well as of Gyan, the ultimate knowledge of the Supreme.
Rather than salvation gained through the offices of the priests salvation came by attention to duty and the recognition of past acts upon which the present and the future are based. The individual’s attitudes toward God are given a new direction: in place of knowledge (as exemplified by scholars as ‘the way’), the individual may reach and become merged in God through his loving devotion or Bhakti, a way that was to develop into a widespread movement encompassing people at all levels and eschewing caste rules.
The scene for the working out of the Gita is a battlefield near Delhi where the battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, involving an army of five million, took place and continued for eighteen days. Some Scholars have dismissed a literal war and state it is nothing but an allegory, in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna is man’s highest impulses struggling against evil. Scholars and thinkers from many parts of the world have written commentaries on this Book of Knowledge from ancient times to the present and yet it reveals ever-new dimensions and interpretations.