Bhagavad Gita

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Bhagavad Gita
BhagavadGita-19th-century-Illustrated-Sanskrit-Chapter 1.20.21.jpg
Bhagavad-Gita's revelation: Krishna tells the Gita to Arjuna
AuthorTraditionally attributed to Vyasa
Period1st-millennium BCE
SutrasYoga Sutras
Verses700 (approx.)

The Shrimad Bhagavad Gita (/ˌbʌɡəvəd ˈɡtɑː, -tə/; Sanskrit: श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता, lit. 'The Song by God';[lower-alpha 1] IAST: bhagavadgītā),[1] often referred to as the Gita (IAST: gītā), is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata (chapters 23–40 of Bhishma Parva), dated to the second half of the first millennium BCE and exemplary for the emerging Hindu synthesis. It is considered to be one of the holy scriptures for Hinduism.

The Gita is set in a narrative framework of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. At the start of the Dharma Yuddha (righteous war) between Pandavas and Kauravas, Arjuna is filled with moral dilemma and despair about the violence and death the war will cause in the battle against his own kin.[2] He wonders if he should renounce and seeks Krishna's counsel, whose answers and discourse constitute the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna counsels Arjuna to "fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty to uphold the Dharma" through "selfless action".[web 1][3][note 1] The Krishna–Arjuna dialogues cover a broad range of spiritual topics, touching upon ethical dilemmas and philosophical issues that go far beyond the war Arjuna faces.[1][4][5]

Numerous commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita with widely differing views on the essentials. According to some, Bhagavad Gita is written by the god Ganesha which was told to him by Vyasa. Vedanta commentators read varying relations between Self and Brahman in the text: Advaita Vedanta sees the non-dualism of Atman (soul) and Brahman (universal soul) as its essence,[6] whereas Bhedabheda and Vishishtadvaita see Atman and Brahman as both different and non-different, while Dvaita Vedanta sees dualism of Atman (soul) and Brahman as its essence. The setting of the Gita in a battlefield has been interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of human life.[5][7][8]

The Bhagavad Gita presents a synthesis[9][10] of Hindu ideas about dharma,[9][10][11] theistic bhakti,[11][12] and the yogic ideals[10] of moksha.[10] The text covers jñāna, bhakti, karma, and rāj yogas (spoken of in the 6th chapter)[12] incorporating ideas from the Samkhya-Yoga philosophy.[web 1][note 2]

The Bhagavad Gita is the best known and most famous of Hindu texts,[13] with a unique pan-Hindu influence.[14][15] The Gita's call for selfless action inspired many leaders of the Indian independence movement including Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi; the latter referred to it as his "spiritual dictionary".[16]


The Gita in the title of the Bhagavad Gita means "song". Religious leaders and scholars interpret the word Bhagavad in a number of ways. Accordingly, the title has been interpreted as "the word of God" by the theistic schools,[17] "the words of the Lord",[18] "the Divine Song",[19][20] and "Celestial Song" by others.[21] In India, its Sanskrit name is often written as Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, श्रीमद् भगवद् गीता (the latter two words often written as a single word भगवद्गीता), where the Shrimad prefix is used to denote a high degree of respect. This is not to be confused with the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is a Purana dealing with the life of the Hindu God Krishna and various avatars of Vishnu.

The work is also known as the Iswara Gita, the Ananta Gita, the Hari Gita, the Vyasa Gita, or simply the Gita.[22]


The Bhagavata Gita is attributed to the sage Vyasa.

In the Indian tradition, the Bhagavad Gita, as well as the epic Mahabharata of which it is a part, is attributed to the sage Vyasa,[23] whose full name was Krishna Dvaipayana, also called Veda-Vyasa.[24] Another Hindu legend states that Vyasa narrated it while the elephant-headed deity Ganesha broke one of his tusks and wrote down the Mahabharata along with the Bhagavad Gita.[25][26][note 3]

Scholars consider Vyasa to be a mythical or symbolic author, in part because Vyasa is also the traditional compiler of the Vedas and the Puranas, texts dated to be from different millennia.[25][29][30] The word Vyasa literally means "arranger, compiler", and is a surname in India. According to Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, a Gita scholar, it is possible that a number of different individuals with the same name compiled different texts.[31]

Swami Vivekananda, the 19th-century Hindu monk and Vedantist, stated that the Bhagavad Gita may be old but it was mostly unknown in the Indian history till early 8th century when Adi Shankara (Shankaracharya) made it famous by writing his much-followed commentary on it.[32][33] Some infer, states Vivekananda, that "Shankaracharya was the author of Gita, and that it was he who foisted it into the body of the Mahabharata."[32] This attribution to Adi Shankara is unlikely in part because Shankara himself refers to the earlier commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, and because other Hindu texts and traditions that compete with the ideas of Shankara refer to much older literature referencing the Bhagavad Gita, though much of this ancient secondary literature has not survived into the modern era.[32]

According to J. A. B. van Buitenen, an Indologist known for his translations and scholarship on Mahabharata, the Gita is so contextually and philosophically well knit with the Mahabharata that it was not an independent text that "somehow wandered into the epic".[34] The Gita, states van Buitenen, was conceived and developed by the Mahabharata authors to "bring to a climax and solution the dharmic dilemma of a war".[34][note 4]

According to Alexus McLeod, a scholar of Philosophy and Asian Studies, it is "impossible to link the Bhagavad Gita to a single author", and it may be the work of many authors.[25][37] This view is shared by the Indologist Arthur Basham, who states that there were three or more authors or compilers of Bhagavad Gita. This is evidenced by the discontinuous intermixing of philosophical verses with theistic or passionately theistic verses, according to Basham.[38][note 5]


Theories on the date of the composition of the Gita vary considerably. Some scholars accept dates from the fifth century to the second century BCE as the probable range, the latter likely. The Hinduism scholar Jeaneane Fowler, in her commentary on the Gita, considers second century BCE to be the probable date of composition. [39] J. A. B. van Buitenen too states that the Gita was likely composed about 200 BCE.[40] According to the Indologist Arvind Sharma, the Gita is generally accepted to be a 2nd-century-BCE text.[41]

An old torn paper with a painting depicting the Mahabharata war, with some verses recorded in Sanskrit.
A manuscript illustration of the battle of Kurukshetra, fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, recorded in the Mahabharata.

Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, in contrast, dates it a bit earlier. He states that the Gita was always a part of the Mahabharata, and dating the latter suffices in dating the Gita.[42] On the basis of the estimated dates of Mahabharata as evidenced by exact quotes of it in the Buddhist literature by Asvaghosa (c. 100 CE), Upadhyaya states that the Mahabharata, and therefore Gita, must have been well known by then for a Buddhist to be quoting it.[42][note 6] This suggests a terminus ante quem (latest date) of the Gita to be sometime prior to the 1st century CE.[42] He cites similar quotes in the Dharmasutra texts, the Brahma sutras, and other literature to conclude that the Bhagavad Gita was composed in the fifth or fourth century BCE.[44][note 7]

According to Arthur Basham, the context of the Bhagavad Gita suggests that it was composed in an era when the ethics of war were being questioned and renunciation to monastic life was becoming popular.[46] Such an era emerged after the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in the 5th century BCE, and particularly after the semi-legendary life of Ashoka in 3rd century BCE. Thus, the first version of the Bhagavad Gita may have been composed in or after the 3rd century BCE.[46]

Linguistically, the Bhagavad Gita is in classical Sanskrit of the early variety, states the Gita scholar Winthrop Sargeant.[47] The text has occasional pre-classical elements of the Sanskrit language, such as the aorist and the prohibitive instead of the expected na (not) of classical Sanskrit.[47] This suggests that the text was composed after the Pāṇini era, but before the long compounds of classical Sanskrit became the norm. This would date the text as transmitted by the oral tradition to the later centuries of the 1st-millennium BCE, and the first written version probably to the 2nd or 3rd century CE.[47][48]

According to Jeaneane Fowler, "the dating of the Gita varies considerably" and depends in part on whether one accepts it to be a part of the early versions of the Mahabharata, or a text that was inserted into the epic at a later date.[49] The earliest "surviving" components therefore are believed to be no older than the earliest "external" references we have to the Mahabharata epic. The Mahabharata – the world's longest poem – is itself a text that was likely written and compiled over several hundred years, one dated between "400 BCE or little earlier, and 2nd century CE, though some claim a few parts can be put as late as 400 CE", states Fowler. The dating of the Gita is thus dependent on the uncertain dating of the Mahabharata. The actual dates of composition of the Gita remain unresolved.[49] While the year and century is uncertain, states Richard Davis,[50] the internal evidence in the text dates the origin of the Gita discourse to the Hindu lunar month of Margashirsha (also called Agrahayana, generally December or January of the Gregorian calendar).[51]

Composition and significance[edit]

The Bhagavad Gita is the best known,[52] and most influential of Hindu scriptures.[13] While Hinduism is known for its diversity and its synthesis therefrom, the Bhagavad Gita has a unique pan-Hindu influence.[14][53] Gerald James Larson – an Indologist and classical Hindu Philosophies scholar, states "if there is any one text that comes near to embodying the totality of what it is to be a Hindu, it would be the Bhagavad Gita."[13][15]

The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Prasthanatrayi, which also includes the Upanishads and Brahma sutras. These are the three starting points for the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy.[54] The Brahma sutras constitute the Nyāya prasthāna or the "starting point of reasoning canonical base", while the principal Upanishads constitute the Sruti prasthāna or the "starting point of heard scriptures", and the Bhagavad Gita constitutes the Smriti prasthāna or the "starting point of remembered canonical base".[54] The Bhagavad Gita is a "summation of the Vedanta", states Sargeant.[55] It is thus one of the key texts for the Vedanta,[56][57] a school that provides one of the theoretical foundations for Hinduism,[58] and one that has had an enormous influence over time, becoming the central ideology of the Hindu renaissance in the 19th century, according to Gavin Flood – a scholar of Hinduism.[59]

Krishna recounts Gita to Arjuna during Kurukshetra War, in Mahabharata; c.1820 painting.

Some Hindus give it the status of an Upanishad, and some consider it to be a "revealed text".[60][61][62] Others consider the Bhagavad Gita as an important Smriti,[63] or secondary text that exist in alternate versions such as one found in Kashmir though it does not affect the basic message of the text.[64][65][66]

Hindu synthesis[edit]

A didactic print from the 1960s that uses the Gita scene as a focal point for general religious instruction

The Bhagavad Gita is the sealing achievement of the Hindu synthesis, incorporating its various religious traditions.[10][11][12] The synthesis is at both philosophical and socio-religious levels, states the Gita scholar Keya Maitra.[67] The text refrains from insisting on one right marg (path) to spirituality. It openly synthesizes and inclusively accepts multiple ways of life, harmonizing spiritual pursuits through action (karma), knowledge (gyaana), and devotion (bhakti).[68] According to the Gita translator Radhakrishnan, quoted in a review by Robinson, Krishna's discourse is a "comprehensive synthesis" that inclusively unifies the competing strands of Hindu thought such as "Vedic ritual, Upanishadic wisdom, devotional theism and philosophical insight".[69] Aurobindo described the text as a synthesis of various Yogas. The Indologist Robert Minor, and others,[web 1] in contrast, state the Gita is "more clearly defined as a synthesis of Vedanta, Yoga and Samkhya" philosophies of Hinduism.[70]

The synthesis in Bhagavad Gita addresses the question as to what constitutes the virtuous path and one necessary for the spiritual liberation and a release from the cycles of rebirth (moksha).[71][72] It discusses whether one should renounce a householder lifestyle for a life as an ascetic, or lead a householder life dedicated to one's duty and profession, or pursue a householder life devoted to a personalized god in the revealed form of Krishna. Thus Gita discusses and synthesizes the three dominant trends in Hinduism: enlightenment-based renunciation, dharma-based householder life, and devotion-based theism. According to Deutsch and Dalvi, the Bhagavad Gita attempts "to forge a harmony" between these three paths.[12][note 8]

The Bhagavad Gita's synthetic answer recommends that one must resist the "either-or" view, and consider a "both-and" view.[73][74][75] It states the dharmic householder can achieve the same goals as the renouncing monk through "inner renunciation", that is "motiveless action".[71][note 9] One must do the right thing because one has determined that it is right, states Gita, without craving for its fruits, without worrying about the results, loss or gain.[77][78][79] Desires, selfishness and the craving for fruits can distort one from the dharmic action and spiritual living.[78] The Gita synthesis goes further, according to its interpreters such as Swami Vivekananda, and the text states that there is Living God in every human being and the devoted service to this Living God in everyone – without craving for personal rewards – is a means to spiritual development and liberation.[80][81][82] According to Galvin Flood, the teachings in Gita differ from other Indian religions that encouraged extreme austerity and self-torture of various forms (karsayanta). The Gita disapproves of these, stating that not only is it against the tradition but against Krishna himself, because "Krishna dwells within all beings, in torturing the body the ascetic would be torturing him", states Flood. Even a monk should strive for the "inner renunciation", rather than external pretensions.[83]

The Gita synthesizes several paths to spiritual realization based on the premise that people are born with different temperaments and tendencies (guna).[84] According to Winthrop Sargeant, the text acknowledges that some individuals are more reflective and intellectual, some affective and engaged by their emotions, some are action driven, yet others favor experimenting and exploring what works.[84] It then presents different spiritual paths for each personality type respectively: the path of knowledge (jnana yoga), the path of devotion (bhakti yoga), the path of action (karma yoga), and the path of meditation (raja yoga).[84][85] The guna premise is a synthesis of the ideas from the Samkhya school of Hinduism. According to Upadhyaya, the Gita states that none of these paths to spiritual realization are "intrinsically superior or inferior", rather they "converge in one and lead to the same goal".[86]

According to Hiltebeitel, Bhakti forms an essential ingredient of this synthesis, and the text incorporates Bhakti into Vedanta.[87] According to Scheepers, The Bhagavad Gita is a Brahmanical text which uses the shramanic and Yogic terminology to spread the Brahmanic idea of living according to one's duty or dharma, in contrast to the ascetic ideal of liberation by avoiding all karma.[88] According to Galvin Flood and Charles Martin, the Gita rejects the shramanic path of non-action, emphasizing instead "the renunciation of the fruits of action".[89] The Bhagavad Gita, states Raju, is a great synthesis of the ideas of the impersonal spiritual monism with personal God, of "the yoga of action with the yoga of transcendence of action, and these again with yogas of devotion and knowledge".[11]


Photograph of four pieces of paper with verses in Sanskrit.
A 19th-century Sanskrit manuscript of the Bhagavad Gita, Devanagari script

The Bhagavad Gita manuscript is found in the sixth book of the Mahabharata manuscripts – the Bhisma-parvan. Therein, in the third section, the Gita forms chapters 23–40, that is 6.3.23 to 6.3.40.[90] The Bhagavad Gita is often preserved and studied on its own, as an independent text with its chapters renumbered from 1 to 18.[90]

The Bhagavad Gita manuscripts exist in numerous Indic scripts.[91] These include writing systems that are currently in use, as well as early scripts such as the Sharada script, now dormant.[91][92] Variant manuscripts of the Gita have been found on the Indian subcontinent[64][93] Unlike the enormous variations in the remaining sections of the surviving Mahabharata manuscripts, the Gita manuscripts show only minor variations and the meaning is the same.[64][93]

According to Gambhirananda, the old manuscripts may have had 745 verses, though he agrees that 700 verses is the generally accepted historic standard.[94] Gambhirananda's view is supported by a few versions of chapter 6.43 of the Mahabharata. These versions state the Gita is a text where "Kesava [Krishna] spoke 620 slokas, Arjuna 57, Samjaya 67, and Dhritarashtra 1", states the Religious Studies and Gita exegesis scholar Robert Minor.[95] This adds to 745 verses. An authentic manuscript of the Gita with 745 verses has not been found.[96] Of all known extant historic manuscripts, the largest version contains 715 verses.[95] Adi Shankara, in his 8th-century commentary, explicitly states that the Gita has 700 verses, which was likely a deliberate declaration to prevent further insertions and changes to the Gita. Since Shankara's time, the "700 verses" has been the standard benchmark for the critical edition of the Bhagavad Gita.[96]




The first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita was published by Charles Wilkins in 1785.[97] The Wilkins translation had an introduction to the Gita by Warren Hastings. Soon the work was translated into other European languages such as French (1787), German, and Russian. In 1849, the Weleyan Mission Press, Bangalore published The Bhagavat-Geeta, Or, Dialogues of Krishna and Arjoon in Eighteen Lectures, with Sanskrit, Canarese and English in parallel columns, edited by Rev. John Garrett, and the efforts being supported by Sir. Mark Cubbon.[98]

Cover pages of early Gita translations. Left: Charles Wilkins (1785); Center: Parraud re-translation of Wilkins (1787); Right: Wesleyan Mission Press (1849).

In 1981, Larson stated that "a complete listing of Gita translations and a related secondary bibliography would be nearly endless".[99]:514 According to Larson, there is "a massive translational tradition in English, pioneered by the British, solidly grounded philologically by the French and Germans, provided with its indigenous roots by a rich heritage of modern Indian comment and reflection, extended into various disciplinary areas by Americans, and having generated in our time a broadly based cross-cultural awareness of the importance of the Bhagavad Gita both as an expression of a specifically Indian spirituality and as one of the great religious "classics" of all time."[99]:518

According to Sargeant, the Gita is "said to have been translated at least 200 times, in both poetic and prose forms".[100] Richard Davis cites a count by Callewaert & Hemraj in 1982 of 1,891 translations of the Bhagavad Gita in 75 languages, including 273 in English.[101] These translations vary,[102] and are in part an interpretative reconstruction of the original Sanskrit text that differ in their "friendliness to the reader",[103] and in the amount of "violence to the original Gita text" that the translation does.[104][note 10]

The translations and interpretations of the Gita have been so diverse that these have been used to support apparently contradictory political and philosophical values. For example, state Galvin Flood and Charles Martin, these interpretations have been used to support "pacifism to aggressive nationalism" in politics, from "monism to theism" in philosophy.[109] According to William Johnson, the synthesis of ideas in the Gita is such that it can bear almost any shade of interpretation.[110] A translation "can never fully reproduce an original and no translation is transparent", states Richard Davis, but in the case of Gita the linguistic and cultural distance for many translators is large and steep which adds to the challenge and affects the translation.[111] For some native translators, their personal beliefs, motivations, and subjectivity affect their understanding, their choice of words and interpretation.[112][113][114] Some translations by Indians, with or without Western co-translators, have "orientalist", "apologetic", "Neo-Vedantin" or "guru phenomenon" bias.[99]:525–530

A sample of English translations of the Bhagavad Gita[99]
Title Translator Year
The Bhagavat geeta, or Dialogue of Kreeshna and Arjoon in Eighteen Lectures with Notes Charles Wilkins 1785
Bhagavad-Gita August Wilhelm Schlegel 1823
The Bhagavadgita J.C. Thomson 1856
La Bhagavad-Gita Eugene Burnouf 1861
The Bhagavad Gita[note 11] Kashninath T. Telang 1882
The Song Celestial[note 12] Sir Edwin Arnold 1885
The Bhagavad Gita[note 13] William Quan Judge 1890
The Bhagavad-Gita with the Commentary of Sri Sankaracarya A. Mahadeva Sastry 1897
Young Men’s Gita Jagindranath Mukharji 1900
Bhagavadgita: The Lord's Song L.D. Barnett 1905
Bhagavad Gita[note 14] Anne Besant and Bhagavan Das 1905
Die Bhagavadgita Richard Garbe 1905
Srimad Bhagavad-Gita Swami Swarupananda 1909
Der Gesang des Heiligen Paul Deussen 1911
Srimad Bhagavad-Gita Swami Paramananda 1913
La Bhagavad-Gîtâ Emile Sénart 1922
The Bhagavad Gita according to Gandhi[note 15] Mohandas K. Gandhi 1926
The Bhagavad Gita W. Douglas P. Hill 1928
The Bhagavad-Gita Arthur W. Ryder 1929
The Song of the Lord, Bhagavad-Gita E.J. Thomas 1931
The Geeta Shri Purohit Swami 1935
The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita Sri Krishna Prem 1938
The Message of the Gita (or Essays on the Gita) Sri Aurobindo, edited by Anilbaran Roy 1938
Bhagavadgita[note 16] Swami Sivananda 1942
Bhagavad Gita[note 17] Swami Nikhilananda 1943
The Bhagavad Gita Franklin Edgerton 1944
The Song of God: Bhagavad Gita Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood 1944
The Bhagavad Gita Swami Nikhilananda 1944
The Bhagavadgita S. Radhakrishnan 1948
God Talks with Arjuna Paramhamsa Yogananda 1955
The Bhagavadgita Shakuntala Rao Sastri 1959
The Bhagavad Gita Juan Mascaro 1962
Bhagavad Gita C. Rajagopalachari 1963
The Bhagavadgita Swami Chidbhavananda 1965
The Bhagavad Gita[note 18] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1967
The Bhagavadgita: Translated with Introduction and Critical Essays Eliot Deutsch 1968
Bhagavad-gita As It Is A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada 1968
The Bhagavad Gita R.C. Zaehner 1969
The Bhagavad Gita: A New Verse Translation Ann Stanford 1970
The Holy Gita, Translation & Commentary Swami Chinmayananda 1972
Srimad Bhagavad Gita Swami Vireswarananda 1974
Bhagavad Gita: A Verse Translation[note 19] Geoffrey Parrinder 1974
The Bhagavad Gita Kees. W. Bolle 1979
The Bhagavad Gita Winthrop Sargeant (Editor: Christopher K Chapple) 1979
The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata J.A.B. van Buitenen 1981
The Bhagavad-Gita Winthrop Sargeant 1984
Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya of Sri Samkaracharya A.G. Krishna Warrier 1984
The Bhagavadgita Eknath Easwaran 1985
Srimad Bhagavad Gita Swami Tapasyananda 1985
Bhagavad Gita Srinivasa Murthy 1985
The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War Barbara Stoler Miller 1986
Bhagavad-Gita Raghavan Iyer 1986
The Bhagavad-Gita Ramananda Prasad 1988
Bhagavad-Gita for You & Me M.S. Patwardhan 1990
Bhagavad Gita Antonio T. De Nicholas 1991
Bhagavad Gita Sachindra K. Majumdar 1991
Bhagavad Gita O.P. Ghai 1992
Ramanuja Gita Bhashya Swami Adidevananda 1992
Gita Bhashya Jagannatha Prakasha 1993
Bhagavad Gita: Translation & Commentary Richard Gotshalk 1993
The Bhagavad Gita[note 20] P. Lal 1994
The Bhagavad-Gita W.J. Johnson 1994
Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God) Ramananda Prasad 1996
Bhagavad Gita[note 21] Vrinda Nabar and Shanta Tumkur 1997
The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavat Gita: A Commentary for Modern Readers Swami Satchidananda 1997
Bhagavad-Gita Satyananda Saraswati 1997
Bhagavad-Gita with the Commentary of Sankaracarya Swami Gambhirananda 1998
Bhagavad Gita, With Commentary of Sankara Alladi M. Sastry 1998
Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita Ashok K. Malhotra 1998
You Know Me: The Gita Irina Gajjar 1999
The Bhagavad Gita, Your Charioteer in the Battlefield of Life R.K. Piparaiya 1999
The Bhagavad Gita, an Original Translation V. Jayaram 2000
Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners Jack Hawley 2001
Bhagavad Gita[note 22] Rosetta Williams 2001
The Bhagavad Gita of Order Anand Aadhar Prabhu 2001
Bhagavad Gita: The Song Divine Carl E. Woodham 2001
The Bhagavat Gita (as part of the Wisdom Bible) Sanderson Beck 2001
Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation Stephen Mitchell 2002
Bhagavad Gita As a Living Experience Wilfried Huchzermeyer and Jutta Zimmermann 2002
Bhagvad Gita Alan Jacobs 2002
Bhagavad Gita: Translation and Commentary Veeraswamy Krishnaraj 2002
The Bhagavad Gita Richard Prime 2003
The Sacred Song: A New Translation of the Bhagavad Gita for the Third Millennium McComas Taylor and Richard Stanley 2004
The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation George Thompson 2008
The Bhagavad Gita, A New Translation Georg Feuerstein 2011
The Bhagavad Gita: A Text and Commentary for Students Jeaneane D. Fowler 2012
The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation Gavin Flood, Charles Martin 2012
Bhagavad Gita: Rhythm of Krishna (Gita in Rhymes) Sushrut Badhe 2015
Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita Keya Maitra 2018
The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1 to 13 – English ISBN 978-93-87578-96-8 Ravi Shankar 2018
The Bhagavad Gita[note 23] Bibek Debroy 2019
The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita: Timeless Wisdom for the Modern Age[115] Richa Tilokani 2021

According to the exegesis scholar Robert Minor, the Gita is "probably the most translated of any Asian text", but many modern versions heavily reflect the views of the organization or person who does the translating and distribution. In Minor's view, the Harvard scholar Franklin Edgerton's English translation and Richard Garbe's German translation are closer to the text than many others.[116] According to Larson, the Edgerton translation is remarkably faithful, but it is "harsh, stilted, and syntactically awkward" with an "orientalist" bias and lacks "appreciation of the text's contemporary religious significance".[99]:524

The Gita in other languages[edit]

The Gita has also been translated into European languages other than English. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the Mughal Empire, multiple discrete Persian translations of the Gita were completed.[117] In 1808, passages from the Gita were part of the first direct translation of Sanskrit into German, appearing in a book through which Friedrich Schlegel became known as the founder of Indian philology in Germany.[118] The most significant French translation of the Gita, according to J. A. B. van Buitenen, was published by Emile Senart in 1922.[119] Swami Rambhadracharya released the first Braille version of the scripture, with the original Sanskrit text and a Hindi commentary, on 30 November 2007.[web 2]

The Gita Press has published the Gita in multiple Indian languages.[120] R. Raghava Iyengar translated the Gita into Tamil in sandam metre poetic form.[121] The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust associated with ISKCON has re-translated and published A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's 1972 English translation of the Gita in 56 non-Indian languages.[122][123][note 24] Vinoba Bhave has written the Geeta in Marathi language as Geetai i.e. Mother Geeta in the similar shloka form.

Paramahansa Yogananda's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita called God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita has been translated into Spanish, German, Thai and Hindi so far. The book is significant in that unlike other commentaries of the Bhagavad Gita, which focus on karma yoga, jnana yoga, and bhakti yoga in relation to the Gita, Yogananda's work stresses the training of one's mind, or raja yoga.[126]

Bhashya (commentaries)[edit]

Bhagavad Gita integrates various schools of thought, notably Vedanta, Samkhya and Yoga, and other theistic ideas. It remains a popular text for commentators belonging to various philosophical schools. However, its composite nature also leads to varying interpretations of the text and historic scholars have written bhashya (commentaries) on it.[127] According to Mysore Hiriyanna, the Gita is "one of the hardest books to interpret, which accounts for the numerous commentaries on it–each differing from the rest in one essential point or the other".[128]

According to Richard Davis, the Gita has attracted much scholarly interest in Indian history and some 227 commentaries have survived in the Sanskrit language alone.[129] It has also attracted commentaries in regional vernacular languages for centuries, such as the one by Sant (Saint) Dnyaneshwar in Marathi language (13th century).[130]

Classical commentaries[edit]

The Bhagavad Gita is referred to in the Brahma Sutras, and numerous scholars including Shankara, Bhaskara, Abhinavagupta of Shaivism tradition, Ramanuja and Madhvacharya wrote commentaries on it.[131][132] Many of these commentators state that the Gita is "meant to be a moksa-shastra (moksasatra), and not a dharmasastra, an arthasastra or a kamasastra", states Sharma.[133]

Śaṅkara (c. 800 CE)[edit]

The oldest and most influential surviving commentary was published by Adi Shankara (Śaṅkarācārya).[134][135] Shankara interprets the Gita in a monist, nondualistic tradition (Advaita Vedanta).[136] Shankara prefaces his comments by stating that the Gita is popular among the laity, that the text has been studied and commented upon by earlier scholars (these texts have not survived), but "I have found that to the laity it appears to teach diverse and quite contradictory doctrines". He calls the Gita as "an epitome of the essentials of the whole Vedic teaching".[137] To Shankara, the teaching of the Gita is to shift an individual's focus from the outer, impermanent, fleeting objects of desire and senses to the inner, permanent, eternal atman-Brahman-Vasudeva that is identical, in everything and in every being.[138]

Abhinavagupta (c. 1000 CE)[edit]

Abhinavagupta was a theologian and philosopher of the Kashmir Shaivism (Shiva) tradition.[135] He wrote a commentary on the Gita as Gitartha-Samgraha, which has survived into the modern era. The Gita text he commented on, is slightly different recension than the one of Adi Shankara. He interprets its teachings in the Shaiva Advaita (monism) tradition quite similar to Adi Shankara, but with the difference that he considers both soul and matter to be metaphysically real and eternal. Their respective interpretations of jnana yoga are also somewhat different, and Abhinavagupta uses Atman, Brahman, Shiva, and Krishna interchangeably. Abhinavagupta's commentary is notable for its citations of more ancient scholars, in a style similar to Adi Shankara. However, the texts he quotes have not survived into the modern era.[139]

Rāmānuja (c. 1100 CE)[edit]

Ramanuja was a Hindu theologian, philosopher, and an exponent of the Sri Vaishnavism (Vishnu) tradition in 11th and early 12th century. Like his Vedanta peers, Ramanuja wrote a bhashya (commentary) on the Gita.[140] Ramanuja's disagreed with Adi Shankara's interpretation of the Gita as a text on nondualism (Self and Brahman are identical), and instead interpreted it as a form of dualistic and qualified monism philosophy (Vishishtadvaita).[141][142]

Madhva (c. 1250 CE)[edit]

Madhva, a commentator of the Dvaita (modern taxonomy) Tatvavada (actually quoted by Madhva) Vedanta school,[135] wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, which exemplifies the thinking of the Tatvavada school (Dvaita Vedanta).[134] According to Christopher Chapelle, in the Madhva's school there is "an eternal and complete distinction between the Supreme, the many souls, and matter and its divisions".[143] His commentary on the Gita is called Gita Bhāshya. Madhva's commentary has attracted secondary works by pontiffs of the Dvaita Vedanta monasteries such as Padmanabha Tirtha, Jayatirtha, and Raghavendra Tirtha.[144]

Keśava Kāśmīri (c. 1479 CE)[edit]

Keśava Kāśmīri Bhaṭṭa, a commentator of Dvaitādvaita Vedanta school, wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by the name Tattva-prakāśikā. The text states that Dasasloki – possibly authored by Nimbarka – teaches the essence of the Gita; the Gita tattva prakashika interprets the Gita also in a hybrid monist-dualist manner.[145][146]

Vallabha (1481–1533 CE)[edit]

Vallabha the proponent of "Suddhadvaita" or pure non-dualism, wrote a commentary on the Gita, the "Sattvadipika". According to him, the true Self is the Supreme Brahman. Bhakti is the most important means of attaining liberation.

Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Commentaries[edit]

  • Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (b. 1486 CE) commentaries on various parts of the Gita are in the Gaudiya Vaishnavism Bhakti (acintya bhedabheda)[note 25] Vedanta tradition; in part a foundation of the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) interpretation of the Gita[148][147]


Other classical commentators include

  • Bhāskara (c. 900 CE) disagreed with Adi Shankara, wrote his own commentary on both Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras in the Bhedābheda tradition.[145] According to Bhaskara, the Gita is essentially Advaita, but not quite exactly, suggesting that "the Atman (soul) of all beings are like waves in the ocean that is Brahman". Bhaskara also disagreed with Shankara's formulation of the Maya doctrine, stating that prakriti, atman and Brahman are all metaphysically real.[145]
  • Yamunacharya, Ramanuja's teacher summarised the teachings of the Bhagavadgita in his Gitartha sangraham.
  • Nimbarka (1162 CE) followed Bhaskara, but it is unclear if he ever wrote the commentary; the commentary Gitatattvaprakashika is generally attributed to a student named Kesava Bhatta in his tradition; the text states that Dasasloki – possibly authored by Nimbarka – teaches the essence of the Gita; the Gita tattva prakashika interprets the Gita also in a hybrid monist-dualist manner.[145][146]
  • Dnyaneshwar (1290 CE),[130][149] the commentary is titled Dnyaneshwari also called Jnaneshwari or Bhavarthadipika;[150] it is the oldest surviving literary work in the Marathi language,[151] one of the foundations of the Varkari tradition in Maharashtra (Bhakti movement, Eknath, Tukaram);[151][152][153] the commentary interprets the Gita in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[154] Dnyaneshwar belonged to the Nath yogi tradition. His commentary on the Gita is notable for stating that it is the devotional commitment and love with inner renunciation that matters, not the name Krishna or Shiva, either can be used interchangeably.[155][156]
  • Vallabha II, descendant of Vallabha (1479 CE) commentary Tattvadeepika is in the Suddha-Advaita tradition[127]
  • Madhusudana Saraswati commentary Gudhartha Deepika is in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Hanumat's commentary Paishacha-bhasya is in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Anandagiri's commentary Bhashya-vyakhyanam is in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Nilkantha's commentary Bhava-pradeeps is in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Shreedhara's (1400 CE) commentary Avi gita is in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Dhupakara Shastri's commentary Subodhini is in the Advaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Raghuttama Tirtha (1548-1596), commentary Prameyadīpikā Bhavabodha is in the Dvaita Vedanta tradition[157]
  • Raghavendra Tirtha (1595-1671), commentary Artha samgraha is in the Dvaita Vedanta tradition[127]
  • Vanamali Mishra (1650-1720), Gitagudharthacandrika is quite similar to Madhvacharya's commentary and is in the Dvaita Vedanta tradition[158]
  • Purushottama (1668–1781 CE), Vallabha's follower, also wrote a commentary on Bhagavadgita

Modern-era commentaries[edit]

  • Among notable modern commentators of the Bhagavad Gita are Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vinoba Bhave, Mahatma Gandhi (who called its philosophy Anasakti Yoga), Sri Aurobindo, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, B. N. K. Sharma, Osho, and Chinmayananda. Chinmayananda took a syncretistic approach to interpret the text of the Gita.[159][160]
  • Tilak wrote his commentary Shrimadh Bhagavad Gita Rahasya while in jail during the period 1910–1911 serving a six-year sentence imposed by the colonial government in India for sedition.[161] While noting that the Gita teaches possible paths to liberation, his commentary places most emphasis on Karma yoga.[162]
  • No book was more central to Gandhi's life and thought than the Bhagavad Gita', which he referred to as his "spiritual dictionary".[163] During his stay in Yeravda jail in 1929,[163] Gandhi wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita in Gujarati. The Gujarati manuscript was translated into English by Mahadev Desai, who provided an additional introduction and commentary. It was published with a foreword by Gandhi in 1946.[164][165]
  • The version by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, entitled Bhagavad-Gita as It Is, is "by far the most widely distributed of all English Gīta translations" due to the efforts of ISKCON.[123] Its publisher, the Bhaktivēdānta Book Trust, estimates sales at twenty-three million copies, a figure which includes the original English edition and secondary translations into fifty-six other languages.[123] The Prabhupada commentary interprets the Gita in the Gaudiya Vaishnavism tradition of Chaitanya,[123] quite similar to Madhvacharya's Dvaita Vēdanta ideology.[166] It presents Krishna as the Supreme, a means of saving mankind from the anxiety of material existence through loving devotion. Unlike in Bengal and nearby regions of India where the Bhagavata Purana is the primary text for this tradition, the devotees of Prabhupada's ISKCON tradition have found better reception for their ideas by those curious in the West through the Gita, according to Richard Davis.[123]
  • In 1966, Mahārishi Mahesh Yogi published a partial translation.[123]
  • An abridged version with 42 verses and commentary was published by Ramana Maharishi.[167]
  • Bhagavad Gita – The song of God, is a commentary by Swami Mukundananda.[168]
  • Paramahansa Yogananda's two-volume commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, called God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, was released 1995 and is available in 5 language.[169] The book is significant in that unlike other commentaries of the Bhagavad Gita, which focus on karma yoga, jnana yoga, and bhakti yoga in relation to the Gita, Yogananda's work stresses the training of one's mind, or raja yoga.[126] It is published by Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.
  • Eknath Easwaran's commentary interprets the Gita for his collection of problems of daily modern life.[170]
  • Other modern writers such as Swami Parthasarathy and Sādhu Vāsvāni have published their own commentaries.[171]
  • Academic commentaries include those by Jeaneane Fowler,[172] Ithamar Theodor,[173] and Robert Zaehner.[174]
  • A collection of Christian commentaries on the Gita has been edited by Catherine Cornille, comparing and contrasting a wide range of views on the text by theologians and religion scholars.[175]


Narendra Modi, the 14th prime minister of India, called the Bhagavad Gita "India's biggest gift to the world".[176] Modi gave a copy of it to the then President of the United States of America, Barack Obama in 2014 during his U.S. visit.[177]

With its translation and study by Western scholars beginning in the early 18th century, the Bhagavad Gita gained a growing appreciation and popularity.[web 1] According to the Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh, Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If—" is "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."[178]

Praise and popularity[edit]

The Bhagavad Gita has been highly praised, not only by prominent Indians including Mahatma Gandhi and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan,[179] but also by Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, J. Robert Oppenheimer,[180] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, Herman Hesse,[181][182] and Bülent Ecevit.[183]

At a time when Indian nationalists were seeking an indigenous basis for social and political action against colonial rule, Bhagavad Gita provided them with a rationale for their activism and fight against injustice.[184] Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi used the text to help inspire the Indian independence movement.[note 26][note 27] Mahatma Gandhi expressed his love for the Gita in these words:

I find a solace in the Bhagavadgītā that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavadgītā. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies – and my life has been full of external tragedies – and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavadgītā.[185][186]

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, commented on the Gita:

The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.[187]

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, 11th President of India, despite being a Muslim, used to read Bhagavad Gita and recite mantras.[188][189][190][191][192]

The Trinity test of the Manhattan Project was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, which led Oppenheimer to recall verses from the Bhagavad Gita, notably being: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds".

J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original form, citing it later as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life. Oppenheimer later recalled that, while witnessing the explosion of the Trinity nuclear test, he thought of verses from the Bhagavad Gita (XI,12):

दिवि सूर्यसहस्रस्य भवेद्युगपदुत्थिता यदि भाः सदृशी सा स्याद्भासस्तस्य महात्मनः ॥११- १२॥ If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one ...[193]

Years later he would explain that another verse had also entered his head at that time:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.[194][note 28]

Ralph Waldo Emerson, remarked the following after his first study of the Gita, and thereafter frequently quoted the text in his journals and letters, particularly the "work with inner renunciation" idea in his writings on man's quest for spiritual energy:[197]

I owed – my friend and I owed – a magnificent day to the Bhagavad Geeta. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.[197]

The world's largest Bhagavad Gita is in the ISKCON Temple Delhi, which is the world's largest sacred book of any religion. It weighs 800 kg and measures over 2.8 metres. It was unveiled by Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India on 26 February 2019.[198][199] On 27 February 2021, the Bhagavad Gita, was launched into outer space in a SD card, on a PSLV-C51 rocket launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.[200]

Criticisms and apologetics[edit]

War with self[edit]

The Gita presents its teaching in the context of a war where the warrior Arjuna is in inner crisis about whether he should renounce and abandon the battlefield, or fight and kill. He is advised by Krishna to do his sva-dharma, a term that has been variously interpreted. According to the Indologist Paul Hacker, the contextual meaning in the Gita is the "dharma of a particular varna".[201] Neo-Hindus such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, states Hacker, have preferred to not translate it in those terms, or "dharma" as religion, but leave Gita's message as "everyone must follow his sva-dharma".[202] According to Chatterjee, the Hindus already understand the meaning of that term. To render it in English for non-Hindus for its better understanding, one must ask what is the sva-dharma for the non-Hindus? The Lord, states Chatterjee, created millions and millions of people, and he did not ordain dharma only for Indians [Hindus] and "make all the others dharma-less", for "are not the non-Hindus also his children"? According to Chatterjee, the Krishna's religion of Gita is "not so narrow-minded".[202] This argument, states Hacker, is an attempt to "universalize Hinduism".[202]

The Gita has been cited and criticized as a Hindu text that supports varna-dharma and the caste system.[203][204][205] B. R. Ambedkar, born in a Dalit family and the principal architect of the Constitution of India, criticized the text for its stance on caste and for "defending certain dogmas of religion on philosophical grounds".[205] According to Jimmy Klausen, Ambedkar in his essay Krishna and his Gita stated that the Gita was a "tool" of Brahmanical Hinduism and for its latter-day saints such as Mahatma Gandhi and Lokmanya Tilak. To Ambedkar, states Klausen, it is a text of "mostly barbaric, religious particularisms" offering "a defence of the kshatriya duty to make war and kill, the assertion that varna derives from birth rather than worth or aptitude, and the injunction to perform karma" neither perfunctorily nor egotistically.[206] Similar criticism of the Gita has been published by Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi, another Marxist historian.[207]

The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]

— Bhagavad Gita,Chapter 5, Verse 18[208]

Nadkarni and Zelliot present the opposite view, citing early Bhakti saints of the Krishna-tradition such as the 13th-century Dnyaneshwar.[209] According to Dnyaneshwar, the Gita starts off with the discussion of sva-dharma in Arjuna's context but ultimately shows that caste differences are not important. For Dnyaneshwar, people err when they see themselves distinct from each other and Krishna, and these distinctions vanish as soon as they accept, understand and enter with love unto Krishna.[210][211]

According to Swami Vivekananda, sva-dharma in the Gita does not mean "caste duty", rather it means the duty that comes with one's life situation (mother, father, husband, wife) or profession (soldier, judge, teacher, doctor). For Vivekananda, the Gita was an egalitarian scripture that rejected caste and other hierarchies because of its verses such as 13.27—28, which states "He who sees the Supreme Lord dwelling equally in all beings, the Imperishable in things that perish, he sees verily. For seeing the Lord as the same everywhere present, he does not destroy the Self by the Self, and thus he goes to the highest goal."[212][note 29]

Aurobindo modernises the concept of dharma and svabhava by internalising it, away from the social order and its duties towards one's personal capacities, which leads to a radical individualism,[215] "finding the fulfilment of the purpose of existence in the individual alone."[215] He deduced from the Gita the doctrine that "the functions of a man ought to be determined by his natural turn, gift, and capacities",[215] that the individual should "develop freely"[215] and thereby would be best able to serve society.[215]

Gandhi's view differed from Aurobindo's view.[216] He recognised in the concept of sva-dharma his idea of svadeshi (sometimes spelled swadeshi), the idea that "man owes his service above all to those who are nearest to him by birth and situation."[216] To him, svadeshi was "sva-dharma applied to one's immediate environment."[217]

According to Jacqueline Hirst, the universalist neo-Hindu interpretations of dharma in the Gita is modernism, though any study of pre-modern distant foreign cultures is inherently subject to suspicions about "control of knowledge" and bias on the various sides.[218] Hindus have their own understanding of dharma that goes much beyond the Gita or any particular Hindu text.[218] Further, states Hirst, the Gita should be seen as a "unitary text" in its entirety rather than a particular verse analyzed separately or out of context. Krishna is presented as a teacher who "drives Arjuna and the reader beyond initial preconceptions". The Gita is a cohesively knit pedagogic text, not a list of norms.[219]


Novel interpretations of the Gita, along with apologetics on it, have been a part of the modern era revisionism and renewal movements within Hinduism.[220] Bankim Chandra Chatterji, the author of Vande Mataram – the national song of India, challenged orientalist literature on Hinduism and offered his interpretations of the Gita, states Ajit Ray.[221][222] Bal Gangadhar Tilak interpreted the karma yoga teachings in Gita as a "doctrine of liberation" taught by Hinduism,[223] while S Radhakrishnan stated that the Bhagavad Gita teaches a universalist religion and the "essence of Hinduism" along with the "essence of all religions", rather than a private religion.[224]

Vivekananda's works contained numerous references to the Gita, such as his lectures on the four yogas – Bhakti, Jnana, Karma, and Raja.[225] Through the message of the Gita, Vivekananda sought to energise the people of India to reclaim their dormant but strong identity.[226] Aurobindo saw Bhagavad Gita as a "scripture of the future religion" and suggested that Hinduism had acquired a much wider relevance through the Gita.[227] Sivananda called Bhagavad Gita "the most precious jewel of Hindu literature" and suggested its introduction into the curriculum of Indian schools and colleges.[228]

According to Ronald Neufeldt, it was the Theosophical Society that dedicated much attention and energy to the allegorical interpretation of the Gita, along with religious texts from around the world, after 1885 and given H. P. Blavatsky, Subba Rao and Anne Besant writings.[229] Their attempt was to present their "universalist religion". These late 19th-century theosophical writings called the Gita as a "path of true spirituality" and "teaching nothing more than the basis of every system of philosophy and scientific endeavor", triumphing over other "Samkhya paths" of Hinduism that "have degenerated into superstition and demoralized India by leading people away from practical action".[229]

Political violence[edit]

In the Gita, Krishna persuades Arjuna to wage war where the enemy includes some of his own relatives and friends. In light of the Ahimsa (non-violence) teachings in Hindu scriptures, the Gita has been criticized as violating the Ahimsa value, or alternatively, as supporting political violence.[230] The justification of political violence when peaceful protests and all else fails, states Varma, has been a "fairly common feature of modern Indian political thought" along with the "mighty antithesis of Gandhian thought on non-violence". During the independence movement in India, Hindus considered active "burning and drowning of British goods" while technically illegal under colonial legislation, were viewed as a moral and just war for the sake of liberty and righteous values of the type Gita discusses.[231] According to Paul Schaffel the influential Hindu nationalist V.D. Savarkar "often turned to Hindu scripture such as the Bhagavad Gita, arguing that the text justified violence against those who would harm Mother India."[232]

Mahatma Gandhi credited his commitment for ahimsa to the Gita. For Gandhi, the Gita is teaching that people should fight for justice and righteous values, that they should never meekly suffer injustice to avoid a war. According to the Indologist Ananya Vajpeyi, the Gita does not elaborate on the means or stages of war, nor on ahimsa, except for stating that "ahimsa is virtuous and characterizes an awakened, steadfast, ethical man" in verses such as 13.7–10 and 16.1–5.[233] For Gandhi, states Vajpeyi, ahimsa is the "relationship between self and other" while he and his fellow Indians battled against the colonial rule. Gandhian ahimsa is in fact "the essence of the entire Gita", according to Vajpeyi.[233] The teachings of the Gita on ahimsa are ambiguous, states Arvind Sharma, and this is best exemplified by the fact that Nathuram Godse stated the Gita as his inspiration to do his dharma after he assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.[234] Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and author of books on Zen Buddhism, concurs with Gandhi and states that the Gita is not teaching violence nor propounding a "make war" ideology. Instead, it is teaching peace and discussing one's duty to examine what is right and then act with pure intentions, when one's faces difficult and repugnant choices.[235]


Philip Glass retold the story of Gandhi's early development as an activist in South Africa through the text of the Gita in the opera Satyagraha (1979). The entire libretto of the opera consists of sayings from the Gita sung in the original Sanskrit.[web 3]

In Douglas Cuomo's Arjuna's dilemma, the philosophical dilemma faced by Arjuna is dramatised in operatic form with a blend of Indian and Western music styles.[web 4]

The 1993 Sanskrit film, Bhagavad Gita, directed by G. V. Iyer won the 1993 National Film Award for Best Film.[web 5][web 6]

The 1995 novel by Steven Pressfield, and its adaptation as the 2000 golf movie The Legend of Bagger Vance by Robert Redford has parallels to the Bhagavad Gita, according to Steven J. Rosen. Steven Pressfield acknowledges that the Gita was his inspiration, the golfer character in his novel is Arjuna, the caddie is Krishna, states Rosen. The movie, however, uses the plot but glosses over the teachings unlike in the novel.[236]

See also[edit]


  1. "God" here denotes Bhagavan i.e, Krishna
  1. Krishna states that the body is impermanent and dies, never the immortal soul, the latter is either reborn or achieves moksha for those who have understood the true spiritual path he teaches in the Gita.[web 1]
  2. The Bhagavad Gita also integrates theism and transcendentalism[web 1] or spiritualmonism,[11] and identifies a God of personal characteristics with the Brahman of the Vedic tradition.[web 1]
  3. This legend is depicted with Ganesha (Vinayaka) iconography in Hindu temples where he is shown with a broken right tusk and his right arm holds the broken tusk as if it was a stylus.[27][28]
  4. The debate about the relationship between the Gita and the Mahabharata is historic, in part the basis for chronologically placing the Gita and its authorship. The Indologist Franklin Edgerton was among the early scholars and a translator of the Gita who believed that the Gita was a later composition that was inserted into the epic, at a much later date, by a creative poet of great intellectual power intimately aware of emotional and spiritual aspects of human existence.[35] Edgerton's primary argument was that it makes no sense that two massive armies facing each other on a battlefield will wait for two individuals to have a lengthy dialogue. Further, he states that the Mahabharata has numerous such interpolations and inserting the Gita would not be unusual.[35] In contrast, the Indologist James Fitzgerald states, in a manner similar to van Buitenen, that the Bhagavad Gita is the centerpiece and essential to the ideological continuity in the Mahabharata, and the entire epic builds up to the fundamental dharma questions in the Gita. This text, states Fitzgerald, must have been integral to the earliest version of the epic.[36]
  5. According to Basham, passionately theistic verses are found, for example, in chapters 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14.1–6 with 14.29, 15, 18.54–78; while more philosophical verses with one or two verses where Krishna identifies himself as the highest god are found, for example, in chapters 2.38–72, 3, 5, 6, 8, 13 and 14.7–25, 16, 17 and 18.1–53. Further, states Basham, the verses that discuss Gita's "motiveless action" doctrine was probably authored by someone else and these constitute the most important ethical teaching of the text.[38]
  6. According to the Indologist and Sanskrit literature scholar Moriz Winternitz, the founder of the early Buddhist Sautrāntika school named Kumaralata (1st century CE) mentions both Mahabharata and Ramayana, along with early Indian history on writing, art and painting, in his Kalpanamanditika text. Fragments of this early text have survived into the modern era.[43]
  7. The Indologist Étienne Lamotte used a similar analysis to conclude that the Gita in its current form likely underwent one redaction that occurred in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.[45]
  8. They state that the authors of the Bhagavad Gita must have seen the appeal of the soteriologies found in "the heterodox traditions of Buddhism and Jainism" as well as those found in " the orthodox Hindu traditions of Samkhya and Yoga". The Gita attempts to present a harmonious, universalist answer, state Deutsch and Dalvi.[12]
  9. This is called the doctrine of nishakama karma in Hinduism.[76][77]
  10. Sanskrit scholar Barbara Stoler Miller produced a translation in 1986 intended to emphasise the poem's influence and current context within English Literature, especially the works of T.S. Eliot, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.[105] The translation was praised by scholars as well as literary critics.[106][107] Similarly, the Hinduism scholar Jeaneane Fowler's translation and student text has been praised for its comprehensive introduction, quality of translation, and commentary.[108]
  11. Second edition in 1898
  12. Or Bhagavat-Gita, Edwin Arnold, reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1900
  13. Reprinted by Theosophical University Press, Los Angeles, California, 1967
  14. Reprinted by Theosophical Publishing House, Los Angeles, California, 1987
  15. Eventually published by Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1946.
  16. Reprint 1995
  17. Reprint 1974
  18. Only the first six chapters were translated
  19. Reprint 1996
  20. A trans-creation rather than translation
  21. Originally translated in 1933
  22. Implicitly targeted at children, or young adults
  23. Originally translated in 2005 and also based on Critical Edition by BORI
  24. Teachings of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organisation which spread rapidly in North America in the 1970s and 1980s, are based on a translation of the Gita called Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.[124] These teachings are also illustrated in the dioramas of Bhagavad-gita Museum in Los Angeles, California.[125]
  25. According to Edwin Bryant and Maria Ekstrand, this school incorporates and integrates aspects of "qualified monism, dualism, monistic dualism, and pure nondualism".[147]
  26. For B.G. Tilak and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as notable commentators see: Gambhirananda 1997, p. xix
  27. For notability of the commentaries by B.G. Tilak and Gandhi and their use to inspire the independence movement see: Sargeant 2009, p. xix
  28. Oppenheimer spoke these words in the television documentary The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965).[194] Oppenheimer read the original text in Sanskrit, "kālo'smi lokakṣayakṛtpravṛddho lokānsamāhartumiha pravṛttaḥ" (XI,32), which he translated as "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds". In the literature, the quote usually appears in the form shatterer of worlds, because this was the form in which it first appeared in print, in Time magazine on 8 November 1948.[195] It later appeared in Robert Jungk's Brighter than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists (1958),[193] which was based on an interview with Oppenheimer. See Hijiya, The Gita of Robert Oppenheimer[196]
  29. This view in the Gita of the unity and equality in the essence of all individual beings as the hallmark of a spiritually liberated, wise person is also found in the classical and modern commentaries on Gita verses 5.18, 6.29, and others.[213][214] Scholars have contested Kosambi's criticism of the Gita based on its various sections on karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga.[207]



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Online sources[edit]

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External links[edit]

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