Hamro dharma

Epics or Itihas and types

The Epics

1.

Sanskrit Epics

The ancient Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, also termed Itihāsa (History) or Mahākāvya (“Great Compositions”), refer to epic poems that form a canon of Hindu scripture. Indeed, the epic form prevailed and verse was and remained until very recently the preferred form of Hindu literary works. Hero-worship was and is a central aspect of Indian culture, and thus readily lent itself to a literary tradition that abounded in epic poetry and literature. The Puranas, a massive collection of verse-form histories of India’s many Hindu gods and goddesses, followed in this tradition.

The language of these texts, termed “Epic Sanskrit”, constitutes the earliest phase of Classical Sanskrit, following the latest stage of Vedic Sanskrit found in the Shrauta Sutras.

The famous poet and playwright Kālidāsa also wrote two epics: Raghuvamsha (Dynasty of Raghu) and Kumarasambhava (Birth of Kumar Kartikeya), though they were written in Classical Sanskrit rather than Epic Sanskrit.

2. The Mahabharata and Ramayana are the national epics of India. They are probably the longest poems in any language. The Mahabharata, attributed to the sage Vyasa, was written down from 540 to 300 B.C. The Mahabharata tells the legends of the Bharatas, a Vedic Aryan group. The Ramayana, attributed to the poet Valmiki, was written down during the first century A.D., although it is based on oral traditions that go back six or seven centuries earlier. The Ramayana is a moving love story with moral and spiritual themes that has deep appeal in India to this day.

In addition, a key Hindu sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita, is embedded in Book Six of the Mahabharata.

Mahabharata

The Mahābhārata (Devanāgarī: महाभारत), /maɦaːbʱaːrət̪ə/ is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa.

With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is one of the longest epic poems in the world.[1] Including the Harivaṃśa, the Mahabharata has a total length of more than 90,000 verses.

It is of immense importance to the culture of the Indian subcontinent, and is a major text of Hinduism. Its discussion of human goals (artha or purpose, kāma or pleasure, dharma or duty, and moksha or liberation) takes place in a long-standing tradition, attempting to explain the relationship of the individual to society and the world (the nature of the ‘Self’) and the workings of karma.

The title may be translated as “the great tale of the Bhārata Dynasty”, according to the Mahābhārata’s own testimony extended from a shorter version simply called Bhārata of 24,000 verses[2] The epic is part of the Hindu itihāsa, literally “that which happened”, which includes the Ramayana but not the Purāṇas.

Traditionally, Hindus ascribe the authorship of the Mahābhārata to Vyasa. Because of its immense length, its philological study has a long history of attempts to unravel its historical growth and composition layers. Its earliest layers date back to the late Vedic period (ca. 5th c. BCE) and it probably reached its final form in the early Gupta period (ca. 4th c. CE).

In its scope, the Mahabharata is more than simply a story of kings and princes, sages and wise men, demons and gods. Vyasa says that one of its aims is elucidating the four goals of life: dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation). The narrative culminates in moksha, believed by Hindus to be the ultimate goal of human beings. Karma and dharma play an integral role in the Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata includes aspects of Hinduism, stories of the gods and goddesses, and explanations of Hindu philosophy. Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata are the following (often considered isolated as works in their own right):

  • Bhagavad Gita (Krishna advises and teaches Arjuna when he is ridden with doubt. Bhishmaparva.)
  • Damayanti (or Nala and Damayanti, a love story. Aranyakaparva.)
  • Krishnavatara (the story of Krishna, the Krishna Lila, which is woven through many chapters of the story)
  • An abbreviated version of the Ramayana. Aranyakaparva.
  • Rishyasringa (also written as Rshyashrnga, the horned boy and rishi. Aranyakaparva.)
  • Vishnu sahasranama (a hymn to Vishnu, which describes his 1000 names; Anushasanaparva.)

The Mahabharata expresses an epic tendency towards all-inclusiveness at the beginning of its first parva (section): “What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere.”

Textual history and organization

It is usually thought that the full length of the Mahabharata has accreted over a long period. The Mahabharata itself (1.1.61) distinguishes a core portion of 24,000 verses, the Bharata proper, as opposed to additional secondary material, while the Ashvalayana Grhyasutra (3.4.4) makes a similar distinction. According to the Adi-parva of the Mahabharata (shlokas 81, 101-102), the text was originally 8,800 verses when it was composed by Vyasa and was known as the Jaya (Victory), which later became 24,000 verses in the Bharata recited by Vaisampayana, and finally over 90,000 verses in the Mahabharata recited by Ugrasravas.[3]

As with the field of Homeric studies, research on the Mahabharata has put an enormous effort into recognizing and dating various layers within the text. The complex structure had caused some early Western Indologists to refer to it as chaotic.[4]

The earliest known references to the Mahabharata and its core Bharata date back to the 6th5th century BCE, in the Ashtadhyayi (sutra 6.2.38) of Pāṇini (c. 520-460 BCE), and in the Ashvalayana Grhyasutra (3.4.4). This may suggest that the core 24,000 verses, known as the Bharata, as well as an early version of the extended Mahabharata, were composed by the 6th-5th century BCE, with parts of the Jaya‘s original 8,800 verses possibly dating back as far as the 9th-8th century BCE.[5]
The copper-plate inscription of the Maharaja Sharvanatha (533-534) from Khoh (Satna District, Madhya Pradesh) describes the Mahabharata as a “collection of 100,000 verses” (shatasahasri samhita). The redaction of this large body of text was carried out after formal principles, emphasizing the numbers 18[6] and 12. The addition of the latest parts may be dated by the absence of the Anushasana-parvan from MS Spitzer, the oldest surviving Sanskrit philosophical manuscript dated to the first century, that contains among other things a list of the books in the Mahabharata. From this evidence, it is likely that the redaction into 18 books took place in the first century. An alternative division into 20 parvans appears to have co-existed for some time. The division into 100 sub-parvans (mentioned in Mbh. 1.2.70) is older, and most parvans are named after one of their constituent sub-parvans. The Harivamsa consists of the final two of the 100 sub-parvans, and was considered an appendix (khila) to the Mahabharata proper by the redactors of the 18 parvas.

The division into 18 parvans is as follows:

parvan title sub-parvans contents
1 Adi-parvan (The Book of the Beginning) 1-19 Introduction, birth and upbringing of the princes. History of the Bharata race and also traces history of the Bhrigu race. (adi means first)
2 Sabha-parvan (The Book of the Assembly Hall) 20-28 Life at the court, the game of dice, and the exile of the Pandavas. Maya Danava erects the palace and court (sabha), at Indraprastha.
3 Aranyaka-parvan (also Vana-parvan, Aranya-parvan) (The Book of the Forest) 29-44 The twelve years in exile in the forest (aranya).
4 Virata-parvan (The Book of Virata) 45-48 The year in exile spent at the court of Virata.
5 Udyoga-parvan (The Book of the Effort) 49-59 Preparations for war (udyoga means effort or work)
6 Bhishma-parvan (The Book of Bhishma) 60-64 The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma as commander for the Kauravas.
7 Drona-parvan (The Book of Drona) 65-72 The battle continues, with Drona as commander.
8 Karna-parvan (The Book of Karna) 73 The battle again, with Karna as commander.
9 Shalya-parvan (The book of Shalya) 74-77 The last part of the battle, with Shalya as commander.
10 Sauptika-parvan (The Book of the Sleeping Warriors) 78-80 How Ashvattama and the remaining Kauravas killed the Pandava army in their sleep (sauptika).
11 Stri-parvan (The Book of the Women) 81-85 Gandhari and the other women (stri) lament the dead.
12 Shanti-parvan (The Book of Peace) 86-88 The crowning of Yudhisthira, and his instructions from Bhishma. This is the longest book of the Mahabharata (shanti means peace).
13 Anusasana-parvan (The Book of the Instructions) 89-90 The final instructions (anusasana) from Bhishma.
14 Ashvamedhika-parvan (The Book of the Horse Sacrifice) [7] 91-92 The royal ceremony of the ashvamedha conducted by Yudhisthira.
15 Ashramavasika-parvan (The Book of the Hermitage) 93-95 Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti leave for an ashrama, and eventual death in the forest.
16 Mausala-parvan (The Book of the Clubs) 96 The infighting between the Yadavas with maces (mausala).
17 Mahaprasthanika-parvan (The Book of the Great Journey) 97 The first part of the path to death (mahaprasthana “great journey”) of Yudhisthira and his brothers.
18 Svargarohana-parvan (The Book of the Ascent to Heaven) 98 The Pandavas return to the spiritual world (svarga).
khila Harivamsa-parvan (The Book of the Geneology of Hari) 99-100 Life of Krishna.

The Adi-parva includes the snake sacrifice (sarpasattra) of Janamejaya, explaining its motivation, detailing why all snakes in existence were intended to be destroyed, and why in spite of this, there are still snakes in existence. This sarpasattra material was often considered an independent tale added to a version of the Mahabharata by “thematic attraction” (Minkowski 1991), and considered to have particularly close connection to Vedic (Brahmana literature), in particular the Panchavimsha Brahmana which describes the Sarpasattra as originally performed by snakes, among which are snakes named Dhrtarashtra and Janamejaya, two main characters of the Mahabharata’s sarpasattra, and Takshaka, the name of a snake also in the Mahabharata. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives an account of an Ashvamedha performed by Janamejaya Parikshita.

According to what one character says at Mbh. 1.1.50, there were three versions of the epic, beginning with Manu (1.1.27), Astika (1.3, sub-parva 5) or Vasu (1.57), respectively. These versions would correspond to the addition of one and then another ‘frame’ settings of dialogues. The Vasu version would omit the frame settings and begin with the account of the birth of Vyasa. The Astika version would add the Sarpasattra and Ashvamedha material from Brahmanical literature, introduce the name Mahabharata, and identify Vyasa as the work’s author. The redactors of these additions were probably Pancharatrin scholars who according to Oberlies (1998) likely retained control over the text until its final redaction. Mention of the Huna in the Bhishma-parva however appears to imply that this parva may have been edited around the 4th century.

Historicity

Map of “Bharatvarsha” (Kingdom of India) during the time of Mahabharata and Ramayana. (Title and location names are in English.)

The historicity of the Mahabharata war is unclear. The epic’s setting certainly has an historical precedent in Vedic India, where the Kuru kingdom was the center of political power in the late 2nd and early 1st millennia BCE.[8] A dynastic conflict of the period could have been the inspiration for the Jaya, the core on which the Mahabharata corpus was built, with a climactic battle eventually coming to be viewed as an epochal event. Dating this conflict relies almost exclusively on textual materials in the Mahabaharata itself and associated genealogical lists in the later Puranic literature.

The evidence of the Puranas is of two kinds. Of the first kind, there is the direct statement that there were 1015 (or 1050) years between the birth of Parikshita (Arjuna’s grandson) and the accession of Mahapadma Nanda, commonly dated to 382 BCE, which would yield an estimate of about 1400 BCE for the Bharata battle.[9] However, this would imply improbably long reigns on average for the kings listed in the genealogies.[10] Of the second kind are analyses of parallel genealogies in the Puranas between the times of Adhisimakrishna (Parikshita’s great-grandson) and Mahapadma Nanda. Pargiter accordingly estimated 26 generations by averaging 10 different dynastic lists and, assuming 18 years for the average duration of a reign, arrived at an estimate of 850 BCE for Adhisimakrishna, and thus approximately 950 BCE for the Bharata battle.[11] B. B. Lal used the same approach with a more conservative assumption of the average reign to estimate a date of 836 BCE, and correlated this with archaeological evidence from Painted Grey Ware sites, the association being strong between PGW artifacts and places mentioned in the epic.[12]

Attempts to date the events using methods of archaeoastronomy have produced, depending on which passages are chosen and how they are interpreted, estimates ranging from the late 4th to the mid 2nd millennium BCE.[13] The late 4th millennium date has a precedent in the calculation of the Kaliyuga epoch, based on planetary conjunctions, by Aryabhata (6th century). His date of February 18th 3102 BCE has become widespread in Indian tradition (for example, the Aihole inscription of Pulikeshi II, dated to Saka 556 = 634 CE, claims that 3735 years have elapsed since the Bharata battle.[14]) Another traditional school of astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, Varahamihira (author of the Brhatsamhita) and Kalhana (author of the Rajatarangini), place the Bharata war 653 years after the Kaliyuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BCE.[15]

In discussing the dating questions historian A. L. Basham says:

“According to the most popular later tradition the Mahabharata War took place in 3102 B.C., which in the light of all evidence, is quite impossible. More reasonable is another tradition, placing it in the 15th century B.C., but this is also several centuries too early in the light of our archaeological knowledge. Probably the war took place around the beginning of the 9th century B.C.; such a date seems to fit well with the scanty archaeological remains of the period, and there is some evidence in the Brahmana literature itself to show that it cannot have been much earlier.”[16]

Authorship and structure

The epic is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa, who is also one of the major dynastic characters within the epic. The first section of the Mahabharata states that it was Ganesha who, at the request of Vyasa, wrote down the text to Vyasa’s dictation. Ganesha is said to have agreed to write it only on condition that Vyasa never pause in his recitation. Vyasa agreed, providing that Ganesha took the time to understand what was said before writing it down. This also serves as a popular variation on the stories of how Ganesha’s right tusk was broken (a traditional part of Ganesha imagery). This version attributes it to the fact that, in the rush of writing, his pen failed, and he snapped off his tusk as a replacement in order that the transcription not be interrupted.

The epic employs the story within a story structure, otherwise known as frametales, popular in many Indian religious and secular works. It is recited to the King Janamejaya who is the great-grandson of Arjuna, by Vaisampayana, a disciple of Vyasa.

Synopsis

The core story of the work is that of a dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapura, the kingdom ruled by the Kuru clan. The two collateral branches of the family that participate in the struggle are the Kaurava and the Pandava. Although the Kaurava is the senior branch of the family, Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, is younger than Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava. Both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira claim to the first in line to inherit the throne.

The struggle culminates in the great battle of Kurukshetra, in which the Pandavas are ultimately victorious. The battle produces complex conflicts of kinship and friendship, instances of family loyalty and duty taking precedence over what is right, as well as the converse.

The Mahabharata itself ends with the death of Krishna, and the subsequent end of his dynasty, and ascent of the Pandava brothers to heaven. It also marks the beginning of the Hindu age of Kali (Kali Yuga), the fourth and final age of mankind, where the great values and noble ideas have crumbled, and man is heading toward the complete dissolution of right action, morality and virtue.

The Ramayana

Rámáyan Of Válmíki

The Ramayana (Devanāgarī: Rāmāyaṇa, रामायण) is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and an important part of the Hindu canon (smti). The name Rāmāyaṇ is a tatpurusha compound of Rām and ayan “going, advancing”, translating to “Rām‘s Journey“.[1] The Rāmāyaṇ consists of 24,000 verses[2] in seven cantos (kāṇḍas) and tells the story of Rama, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rākshas) king of Lanka, Rāvan. Verses are written in thirty two syllable meter called Anustubh. In its current form, the Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BCE to 100 BCE, or about co-eval to early versions of the Mahabhārata.[3]

Traditionally the epic belongs to the Treta Yuga, one of the four eons(yug) of Hindu chronology. Ram is said to have been born in the Treta Yug to King Daśarath in ikshuaku vansh[4]

The Rāmāyana had an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Indian life and culture, primarily through its establishment of the Slok meter. But, like its epic cousin Mahābhārata, the Rāmāyana is not just an ordinary story. It contains the teachings of the very ancient Hindu sages and presents them through allegory in narrative and the interspersion of the philosophical and the devotional. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharat, Hanumān and Rāvana (the villain of the piece) are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India.

One of the most important literary works on ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The story of Rama also inspired a large amount of latter-day literature in various languages, notable among which are the works of the sixteenth century Hindi poet Tulsidas, Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century Molla ramayanam in Telugu and the 14th century Kannada poet Narahari Kavi`s Torave Ramayan. The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and manifested itself in text, temple architecture and performance.

Timeline

Ramayana is ascribed to a single author, Vālmiki. Its exact date of creation is unknown, and is estimated to lie between 500 BCE and 100 BCE. As per the traditional astronomical back-projection by the Vedic system, the events of the war between Rama and Ravana happened 9299 years ago, as of November 5, 2008[citation needed]. It should be added that attempts to date events or read history or allegory from astronomical descriptions aren’t necessarily exact and tend to be heavily contested. The existence of the Ram Setu (Rama’s Bridge) between India and Sri Lanka has been taken as support to the story of the epic.[citation needed]

[edit] Structure of Valmiki’s Ramayana

Valmiki‘s Ramayana, the oldest version of Ramayana is the basis of all the various versions of the Ramayana that are relevant in the various cultures. The text survives in numerous complete and partial manuscripts, the oldest surviving of which is dated from the eleventh century AD.[5] The current text of Valmiki Ramayana has come down to us in two regional versions from the north and the south of India. Valmiki Ramayana has been traditionally divided into seven books, dealing with the life of Rama from his birth to his death.

  1. Bala Kanda – Book of the young Rama which details the miraculous birth of Rama, his early life in Ayodhya, his slaying of the demons of the forest at the request of Vishvamitra and his wedding with Sita.
  2. Ayodhya Kanda – Book of Ayodhya in which Dasharath comes to grief over his promise to Kaikeyi and the start of Rama’s exile.
  3. Aranya Kanda – Book of the Forest which describes Rama’s life in the forest and the abduction of Sita by Ravana.
  4. Kishkindha Kanda – Book of Kishkindha, the Vanara kingdom in which Rama befriends Sugriva and the Vanara army and begins the search for Sita.
  5. Sundara Kanda – Book of Sundar (Hanuman) in which Hanuman travels to Lanka and finds Sita imprisoned there and brings back the good news to Rama.
  6. Yuddha Kanda Book of the War, which narrates the Rama-Ravana war and the return of the successful Rama to Ayodhya and his coronation.
  7. Uttara Kanda – Epilogue, which details the life of Rama and Sita after their return to Ayodhya, Sita’s banishment and how Sita and Rama pass on to the next world.

There have been speculations on whether the first and the last chapters of Valmiki’s Ramayan were written by the original author. Many experts are of the opinion that they are integral parts of the book in spite of the many differences in style and some contradictions in content between these two chapters and the rest of the book.[6][7] These two chapters contain most of the interpolations found in the Ramayana, such as the miraculous birth of Rama and his divine nature as well as the numerous legends surrounding Ravana.It is also inferred that the story of Rama’s beheading soodra shambuka as well as the one relating to sravana kumara were not written by valmiki.

[edit] Characters

  • Rama is the hero of this epic tale. He is portrayed as an incarnation of the god Vishnu. He is the eldest and the favorite son of the King of Ayodhya, Dasharatha. He is a popular prince loved by one and all. He is the epitome of virtue. Dasaratha, forced by one of his wives Kaikeyi commands Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile by his father. While in exile, Rama kills the demon king Ravana.
  • Sita is the beloved wife of Rama and the daughter of king Janaka. Sita is also known as Janaki. She is the incarnation of Goddess Laxmi (Lord Vishnu’s wife). Sita is the epitome of womanly purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and there gets abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned in the island of Lanka by Ravan. Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana.
  • Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. He is portrayed as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He worships Rama and helps find Sita by going to the kingdom of Lanka crossing the great ocean.
  • Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama. He is deceived by the demon Marichi into believing that Rama was in trouble while Sita is abducted by Ravana.
  • Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. He received a boon from Brahma that he cannot be killed by either gods, demons or by spirits, after performing a severe penance for ten thousand years. He has ten heads and twenty arms, the former of which he began to cut off and throw into the sacrificial fire until Lord Brahma appeared to him. After getting his reward from Brahma, Ravana begins to lay waste the earth and disturbs the deeds of good Rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.
  • Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi, and three other sons; Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha’s favourite queen forces him to make his son Bharata heir apparent and send Rama into exile. Dashratha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.
  • Bharata is the second son of Dasharatha. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die broken hearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama’s sandals and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as a representative of Rama for the next fourteen years.
  • Vishvamitra is the sage who takes Rama into the forest in order to defeat the demons destroying his Yagna ceremonies. On the way back he takes Rama into Mithila where Rama and Sita meet each other for the first time and Rama participates in her swayamvara.

[edit] Synopsis

Rama, the hero of Ramayana, is a popular deity worshiped in the Hindu religion. Each year, many devout pilgrims trace his journey through India, halting at each of the holy sites along the way. The poem is not seen as just a literary monument, it serves as an integral part of Hinduism, and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or hearing of it, or certain passages of it, is believed by the Hindus to free them from sin and shower blessings upon the reader or listener. According to Hindu tradition, Rama is an incarnation (Avatar), of the God Vishnu, who is part of the Hindu Trimurti. The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the righteous path (dharma) for all living creatures on Earth.

 
Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is an epic poem of India which narrates the journey of Virtue to annihilate voice. Sri Rama lived in Treta Yug, millennia BC. Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is composed of verses called Sloka, in Sanskrit language, which is an ancient language from India. Thus the structure of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is arranged into six chapters. Ramayana contains 24,000 verses [sloka] arranged into numerous cantos [sarga] which are contained in six books as mentioned earlier.Characters from the Ramayana even existed. However, Sage Valmiki has recorded the dates if events in detail, albeit by describing the positions of stars and planets.

Abridged Versions

The popular story of Ruru and Priyumvada from the Mahabharata.

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, usually considered part of the sixth book of the Mahabharata (dating from about 400 or 300 B.C.), is a central text of Hinduism, a philosphical dialog between the god Krishna and the warrior Arjuna. This is one of the most popular and accessible of all Hindu scriptures, required reading for anyone interested in Hinduism. The Gita discusses selflessness, duty, devotion, and meditation, integrating many different threads of Hindu philosophy.

The Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita is revered as a sacred text of Hindu philosophy. The name ‘Bhagavad Gita’, when translated into English, literally means ‘Song of God’. Its written format is that of a poem which is 700 verses long.
Commonly referred to as The Gita, it is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna which takes place on a battlefield, just prior to the start of a climactic war. During the conversation, Krishna proclaims that he is God and at the request of Arjuna, displays his divine form, which is described as timeless, that leaves the latter awestruck. The conversation summarizes a number of different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies, explaining the meaning and purpose of life and existence. It is not exactly clear when the Bhagavad Gita was written. Astronomical evidence cited in the Mahabharata place the incidents upon which the Gita is based around the time 3100-3150 BCE, while the Puranas suggest a date of c. 1924 BCE. Scholars place the actual writing of the Gita in the latter half of the 1st millennium BC (roughly 4th century BC), making it a contemporary of the older Upanishads.
The discourse on the Bhagavad Gita begins before the start of the climactic battle at Kurukshetra. It begins with the pandava prince Arjuna, as he becomes filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realising that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guideKrishna counsels Arjuna, beginning with the tenet that the human Soul is immortal, and human death on the battlefield is just the shedding of the body, but the soul is permanent. Krishna goes on to expound on the yogic paths of devotion, action, meditation and knowledge. Fundamentally, the Bhagavad Gita proposes that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identification with the Ego, the little Self, and that one must identify with the Truth of the immortal Self, the ultimate Divine Consciousness. Through detachment from the personal Ego, the Yogi, or follower of a particular path of Yoga, is able to transcend his mortality and attachment from the material world, and see the Infinite.To demonstrate the infinity of the unknowable Brahman, Krishna grants Arjuna the boon of cosmic vision (albeit temporary), and allows the prince to see Him in all his Divine Glory. He reveals that He is fundamentally both the ultimate essence of Being in the universe, and also its material body. This is called the Vishvarupa/Viratrupa.
Gita refers to the war as Dharma Yuddha, meaning just war. In chapter 4, verse 7, it clearly states that God takes incarnation to establish righteousness in the world.
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