The Bhagavad Gita: Introduction

Reference: Course on The Bhagavad Gita

The background of Bhagavad Gita is the great Hindu epic Mahabharata. The descendants of the maha (great) Bharata are the clans of Kauravas and Pandavas. Yudhisthira, the oldest of five Pandava brothers, gambles away his wealth, his army, and his kingdom in a game which his Kaurava cousin, Duryodhana, plays with a loaded dice. By agreement Pandavas are to receive their kingdom back after enduring a twelve-year banishment from their native soil. The twelve years pass; the Pandavas call upon the Kauravas to restore their land; they receive no answer, and declare war. Allies are brought in on either side, until almost all Northern India is engaged.

The Bhagavad Gita is written in the form of a dialogue between the incarnate god Krishna and a human hero, Prince Arjuna, on the holy field of Kurushetra, before the great Mahabharata battle. Facing each other are the forces of royal cousins, Pandavas and Kauravas. Just before the battle is to begin, Arjuna expresses his unwillingness to engage in a war against friends and relatives. He is bewildered and torn apart between the duty to fight against suppression and at the prospects of killing his cousins, uncles, relatives, and teachers. To help resolve the confusion as to what is right and what is wrong, what is one’s duty and what is sinful, Lord Krishna summarizes the Hindu philosophy to Arjuna.



Arjuna: Third of the Pandava brothers and the greatest archer of his time. On his participation depended, to a great degree, the outcome of the Mahabharata war.

Dhritarashtra: Father of the hundred Kaurava brothers. He was the next in succession to the Bharata kingdom but could not inherit it because he was born blind. He was partial to the injustices committed by his son, Duryodhana, against the children of his younger brother, Pandu.

Drona: Though a Brahmin, he was one of the greatest teacher of his time in the science of war. He instructed all the sons of Pandu and Dhritarashtra in the science of war.

Duryodhana: Eldest of the brood of Kaurava hundred. He was malicious, treacherous, cruel, scheming, and ever willing to stoop to any crookedness to gain his mean ends. He finally cheated Yudhisthira in a game of dice, thus banishing the Pandava brothers to a twelve-year exile, and usurping their kingdom.

Kaurava: The hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, the eldest of whom was Duryodhana.

Krishna: A royal personage of Vrishni Yadava clan and a close friend of Arjuna. He was a practical philosopher who lived his life to the full. Revered for his exploits against oppression and for his wisdom, he is considered a god incarnate by all Hindus.

Pandava: The five sons of Pandu, the eldest of whom was Yudhisthira. Others were Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva. All the Pandava brothers were throughout noted for the nobility of their character.

Pandu: Father of the five Pandava brothers. He was the younger brother of Dhritarashtra, but because Dhritarashtra was born blind, he inherited the Bharata kingdom. Later, having killed a Brahmin accidentally, he retired to the forests to atone for his sin, leaving the children in the care of his blind brother.

Sanjaya: Counselor to King Dhritarashtra.

Yudhishthira: Eldest of the five Pandava brothers. He grew to be an embodiment of Dharma, wedded to truth and was always straightforward and noble. For all his goodness, he had one great weakness: playing dice. Once he entered the game, his chivalrous nature prompted him to be reckless in his stakes.



Brahmin: A member of the highest order (caste) in the Hindu society, whose Dharma is to preserve and impart knowledge.

Dharma: Dharma means, literally, “the Law of Being.”  It refers to the natural purpose of something. For example, the “Dharma” of the sun is to shine and give warmth.


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  • Chris Thompson  On August 15, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    “Thus Krishna On The Battlefield”


    • vinaire  On August 16, 2012 at 6:15 AM

      Nice music!



      • Chris Thompson  On August 16, 2012 at 8:13 AM

        Thanks Vinaire, I’m glad you like it. His work is a favorite of mine. I had meant to share another piece for your OP called Thus Krishna On The Battlefield, but alas I failed. However, if anyone enjoys this and wants to rummage, there is a bounty of his original music on YouTube. John Fahey was a true genius and innovator taking from his love of bluegrass and delta blues and crafting this peculiar style that he coined “American Primitive.”


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