Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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The Bhagavad Gita
Chapter 1

Dhritarashtra said

Having gathered, battle-hungry 1
on virtue’s field, the field of Kuru,
what did they do then, Sanjaya,
my sons and the sons of Pandu?

Sanjaya said,

King Duryodhana, witnessing  2
the army of the Pandavas
drawn up in battle lines, approached
his teacher and said this to him:

“Master, observe this enormous 3
army of the sons of Pandu
deployed for battle by your wise
pupil, the son of Drupada!

“Here are heroes, mighty archers, 4
Bhima’s equal, Arjuna’s too,
Yuyudhana and Virata,
with mighty Drupada himself;

“Dhrishtaketu, Chekitana, 5
and the noble king of Kashis,
Purujit and Kuntibhoga,
and Shaibya, that human bull;

“Great-spirited Yudhamanyu 6
and valorous Uttamauja;
Subhadra’s son, Draupadi’s sons;
all are great warriors indeed!

“O best of all who are twice-born, 7
I shall now list the names for you
of our most distinguished men,
the leaders by whom we are led:

“Your Lordship first, and then Bhishma, 8
Karna and triumphant Kripa;
Ashvatthaman and Vikarna,
and Somadatta’s son as well,

“and many other heroes who 9
are here prepared to die for me;
all battle-hardened warriors,
and all of them diversely armed.

“Our army, under Bhishma, 10
is the equal of their forces;
the enemy, protected by
Bhima, is not a match for us.

“So, wherever you are stationed 11
in your true place along the line,
your Lordships all must remember
Bhishma is to be protected!”

Like a lion, Bhishma bellowed, 12
that wise old man of the Kurus,
and blew his conch, full of power,
bringing joy to Duryodhana!

Then conches and the kettledrums, 13
the cymbals, drums and trumpets too,
all at once indeed were sounded
in a tumultuous uproar!

Standing in their great chariot 14
drawn by a yoked pair of white steeds,
Krishna and the Son of Pandu
blew upon their sacred conches:

Lord Krishna blew ‘The Demon’s Horn,’ 15
and Arjuna blew ‘Heaven’s Gift’;
wolf-bellied Bhima, fierce in war,
blew upon the great conch ‘Paundra.’

Kunti’s son, King Yudhishthira, 16
blew the conch ‘Endless Victory’;
Nakula and Sahadeva blew
‘Sweet of Tone’ and ‘Jewel-Flowered.’

The Kashis’ king, best of archers, 17
Shikandi, that great warrior,
Dhrishtadyumna and Virata,
Satyaki, the invincible,

in unison, O Dhritarashtra, 18
with the fierce son of Subhadra,
Drupada and Draupadi’s sons
blew their conches respectively:

rolling as it did like thunder 19
between the earth and firmament,
that great commotion caused the hearts
of Dhritarashtra’s sons to burst!

Now Monkey-Bannered Arjuna, 20
seeing his foes drawn up for war,
raised his bow, that Son of Pandu,
as the weapons began to clash.

Then he said these words to Krishna: 21
“Lord of the Earth, Ushaken One,
bring my chariot to a halt
between the two adverse armies,

“so I may see these men, arrayed 22
here for the battle they desire,
whom I am soon to undertake
a warrior’s delight in fighting!

“I see those who have assembled, 23
the warriors prepared to fight,
eager to perform in battle
for Dhritarashtra’s evil son!”

When Arjuna had spoken so 24
to Krishna, O Bharata,
he, having brought their chariot
to a halt between the armies,

in the face of Bhishna, Drona, 25
and the other Lords of the Earth,
said, “Behold, O Son of Pritha,
how these Kurus have assembled!”

And there the Son of Pritha saw 26
rows of grandfathers and grandsons;
sons and fathers, uncles, in-laws;
teachers, brothers and companions,

all relatives and friends of his 27
in both of the assembled armies.
And seeing them arrayed for war,
Arjuna, the Son of Kunti,

felt for them a great compassion, 28
as well as great despair, and said,
“O Krishna, now that I have seen
my relatives so keen for war,

“I am unstrung: my limbs collapse 29
beneath me, and my mouth is dry,
there is a trembling in my body,
and my hair rises, bristling;

“Gandiva, my immortal bow, 30
drops from my hand and my skin burns,
I cannot stand upon my feet,
my mind rambles in confusion—

“All inauspicious are the signs 31
that I see, O Handsome-Haired One!
I foresee no good resulting
from slaughtering my kin in war!

“I have no wish for victory, 32
nor for kingship and its pleasures!
O Krishna, what good is kingship?
What good even life and pleasure?

“Those for whose sake we desire 33
kingship, pleasures and enjoyments,
are now drawn up in battle lines,
their lives now abandoned:

“fathers, grandfathers; sons, grandsons; 34
my mother’s brothers and the men
who taught me in my youth; brothers-
and fathers-in-law: kinsmen all!

“Though they are prepared to slay us, 35
I do not wish to murder them,
not even to rule the three worlds—
how much less one earthly kingdom?

“What joy for us in murdering 36
Dhritarashtra’s sons, O Krishna?
for if we killed these murderers,
evil like theirs would cling to us!

“So we cannot in justice slay 37
Our kinsmen, Dhritarashtra’s sons,
for, having killed our people, how
could we be pleased, O Madhava?

“Even if they, mastered by greed, 38
are blind to the consequences
of the family’s destruction,
of friendships lost to treachery,

“how are we not to comprehend 39
that we must turn back from evil?
The wrong done by this destruction
is evident, O Shaker of Men.

“For with the family destroyed, 40
its eternal laws must perish;
and when they perish, lawlessness
overwhelms the whole family.

“Whelmed by lawlessness, the women 41
of the family are corrupted;
from corrupted women comes
the intermingling of classes.

“Such intermingling sends to hell 42
the family and its destroyers:
their ancestors fall then, deprived
of rice and water offerings.

“Those who destroy the family, 43
who institute class-mingling,
cause the laws of the family
and laws of caste to be abolished.

“Men whose familial laws have been 44
obliterated, O Krishna,
are damned to dwell eternally
in hell, as we have often heard.

“It grieves me that as we intend 45
to murder our relatives
in our greed for pleasures, kingdoms,
we are fixed on doing evil!

“If the sons of Dhritarashtra, 46
armed as they are, should murder me
weaponless and unresisting,
I would know greater happiness!”

And having spoken, Arjuna 47
collapsed into his chariot,
his bow and arrows clattering,
and his mind overcome with grief.    

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