Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1, Slokas 10 to 12

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath


Greetings from Dr. Nath and Dasha on the auspicious day of Deepavali.

The following sloka is significant because it applies specially to this day and the Gita:


Please lead me from untruth to truth
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from death to immortality
OM Peace Peace Peace

The sacred text is to remove the ignorance / ahamkara which is the worst enemy for each one of us.


Sloka 10


This army of ours defended by Bhishma, is inadequate. Whereas that army of our enemies defended by Bhima is quite adequate.


The two words “Aparyptam and Paryaptam” have been given contradictory meanings by the dictionarians. Therefore, there are two versions of explanations for this verse.

The first meaning is:
Aparyaptam: unlimited
Paryaptam: limited
Accordingly, the verse reads as follows:
This army of ours defended by Bhishma is unlimited and the army of theirs defended by Bhima is limited.

The Kaurava army had 11 battallions and the Pandava army had 7 batallions. It is therefore natural to gloat about the large size of the army and Duryodhana is doing the same.

Second meaning:
Aparyaptam: incomplete, inefficient, insufficient
Paryaptam: complete, efficient, sufficient
This army of ours defended by Bhishma is inefficient and the army of theirs defended by Bhima is efficient.

Mahatma Gandhi has given this second explanation to this sloka.

It is interesting to note that Duryodhana says “Army defended by Bhima.” Drishtadyumna was the commander-in-chief for the Pandavas but still Duryodhana considers that Bhima is in charge. Why?
The most important person Duryodhana was frightened was Bhima. Bhima was his sworn enemy.

During the game of dice that was played which decided the fate of the Pandavas, Duryodhana with the help of cunning Shakuni cheats Dharmaraya (Yudhistira). He makes him gamble one after another of his possessions, then his own brothers and finally his wife Droupadi. Like adding salt to the open wound, he lets his own brother Dushasana derobe Droupadi in the open assembly.

Bhima who was bound by the laws of the game to be subservient to Duryodhana could not bear the insult any longer. In front of the large assembly, he takes a solemn oath to kill all the brothers of Duryodhana and drink the blood of Dushasana.
This oath had made Duryodhana frightened of Bhima.
Hence the importance Duryodhana attaches to the presence of Bhima in the opposite camp.


Sloka 11


Therefore, do you all, standing firmly in your respective positions, in the divisions, guard Bhishma alone.


One can see the tone of a command from Duryodhana to his guru. True, Duryodhana, the heir apparent to the throne had everybody at his command including his own guru. During the battle, he has the highest authority.

Having said that, there is what is called as “humility.” The fact that Drona was fighting for the Kauravas should have been sufficient for him. He did not show “humility and reverence” to his elder statesman and guru.

Why is he asking everyone to guard Bhishma alone?
We should recollect the life of Bhishma in his younger days.
Bhishma’s father Shantanu had fallen madly in love with Satyavati, the fisher woman. Satyavati’s father, a clever person, had realised that Bhishma would be the heir to the throne after Shantanu. The children born out of wedlock of Satyavati to Shantanu would not inherit the throne. He therefore objects to his daughter marrying the king.
Shantanu was torn between the duty to Bhishma, the son of his first wife Ganga and his infatuation towards the fisher woman. He showed signs of depression for a long time.

Bhishma came to know of the dilemma his father was facing. He therefore brings Satyavati to his father and takes a solemn oath that he would not demand the throne. Instead, he would let the child born from Satyavati to ascend the throne and protect the kingdom at any cost. He swears to be a bachelor for life and be subservient to the throne.

For the sacrifice he made, father Shantanu blesses his son and bestows on him a rare boon. The boon was that death will not approach Bhishma, but Bhishma can decide where and when he wanted to leave his mortal body.
The war of righteousness was to be fought to the bitter end. It was victory or death to either armies. By cleverly making Bhishma, the commander-in-chief Duryodhana had already won the tactical battle. Bhishma would not die in the war and so Pandavas could not win.

Even though Bhishma could not be killed, it was possible that he could be mortally wounded and may have to retire from the war. As long as Bhishma was holding the fort, the Pandavas had no chance to win.
It was therefore imperative that Bhishma was not going to be injured. Hence the command, not a request by Duryodhana to Dronacharya to guard “Bhishma alone.”


Sloka 12


In order to embolden Duryodhana, Bhishma, the mighty grandsire, the oldest of the Kurus, now raised a lions’ roar and blew his conche.


It was the policy in ancient times to blow the conche during the war at the beginning of each day. It was the signal to start fighting. The honour of blowing the conche usually went to the eldest statesman on either side. No soldier dared to use his weapon before this ritual.

Bhishma being the eldest of the race of Kurus was therefore given the honour to blow his conche.

It is interesting to note that Dornacharya did not give any reply to Duryodhana. He just went on his duty to fight for the Kauravas. Why did he do so?

He knew that Duryodhana was a spoilt prince and so did not merit a reply.
Drona was on the side of Kauravas not by choice but because of sense of duty to the employer.
He took the option of not replying to the prince.

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