Ślōka no. 1 : Dhr̥tarāṣṭra’s Psychology

The war between Kauravās – Pāndavās is on, several days have passed by. How would Dhr̥tarāṣṭra, seated in Hastinapura[39], get information about the war in Kurukṣetra? This war is all about the future of his children and he is eager to be informed of it. Saṅjaya had just returned from the battlefield. Saṅjaya, was the one selected by Sage Vēdavyāsa, to carry the calamitous saga of his sons to Dhr̥tarāṣṭra. And for this, he was not required to visit the battlefield and return. Sage Vēdavyāsa had blessed him with the powers of clairaudience and clairvoyance for this very purpose. Seated next to Dhr̥tarāṣṭra in the palace itself, in his inner eyes he was capable of visualizing everything that happened in Kurukṣetra and also hear everything. Dhr̥tarāṣṭra was aware of this too.

It is thus that when his childhood buddy Saṅjaya returned from the battlefield, he beckoned him, driven by excitement and curiosity.

Ślōka no. 1

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच

धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः

मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय

Dhr̥tarāṣṭra uvāca –

dharmakṣētrē kurukṣētrē samavētā yuyutsavaḥ

māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāścaiva kimakurvata sañjaya 1

[Dhritarashtra said: Assembled in Kurukṣetra, the realm of dharma, what did they do, the learned desirous of war, my sons and those of Pāndu, Saṅjaya?] 

The region of Kurukṣetra was established by the great King Kuru of this clan. Kuru dynasty got its name from him.

It was an auspicious region even prior to him, right from the times of Paraśurāma. The five lakes established by him around it, made it legendary, across yugās. Those lakes were propitious waterbodies. That is how, in ancient times, it was called samaṅta pancaka. Once energised by King Kuru, it began to be called Kurukṣetra.

Latent in Dhr̥tarāṣṭra’s query to Saṅjaya, perplexingly oscillated these two historic aspects.

This is a righteous region established by Paraśurāma. My children, riding on the back of adharma, have entered into conflict with deceptive intent. Will their adharma prevail in this righteous region?

At the same time, within himself, there is an aspect that assuages him. It reminds him that yes, this is Kurukṣetra. Your children who are of Kuru descent, are the rightful heirs. This is why, it is only they that are called as Kauravās by the people. Though Pāndavās belong to the Kuru dynasty, they are not Kauravās. Their lineage is not from sperms of the Kuru family. Basically they are not Pāndu’s sons; they are sons of dēvatas. Therefore, Kurukṣetra is the kṣetra(region) of Kauravās. Here, Kauravās should be victors. [In the real sense, even Dhr̥tarāṣṭra is not a pure-bred Kaurava. His birth is from Sage Vedavyāsa. The society however has come to accept him as well as his children as Kauravās. As such, there is no reason why this should bother him at all].

He wanted his sons to prevail, at all costs. He was blinded from within from the obsessive love for his children. This becomes evident in the next statement – मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव (māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāścaiva) – mine and Pāndavas.

Kauravās are my children. The ‘my’ in his statement strikingly reeks of bias. He could never see the sons of his own brother, the Pāndavās, as his children. They look like rank outsiders. In reality his query should just have been, ‘What did my sons who went in to fight do?’ Instead, when he stated, ‘My sons and Pāndavās,’ what got expressed was his un-concealable selfishness. Hence instead of saying ‘he ended up saying ‘मामकाः किमकुर्वत (māmakāḥ kimakurvata)’ he ended up sayingमामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत (māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāścaiva kimakurvata)! There is no medicine for the compulsive attachment to his children.

Along with that ‘पाण्डवा (pāṇḍavā ēva)’ – only Pāṇḍavās; they did not have many brave ones on their side; blind self-confidence that prompted they were merely a group of relatives.

What sort of Kauravās? What sort of Pāndavās?  ‘समवेता युयुत्सवः (samavētā yuyutsavaḥ).’ Both sides have assembled in the same place – समवेताः (samavētāḥ).

Adamant on war they have engaged in the conflict – युयुत्सवः (yuyutsavaḥ).

What was the consequence – किमकुर्वत (kimakurvata). Among the two, what did each do? Who won? Who lost? State everything elaborately.

Backdrop of the question

Bhagavadgītā opens with the question of Dhr̥tarāṣṭra.  किमकुर्वत सञ्जय (kimakurvata Sañjaya) – ‘What did my sons and Pāndavās, in readiness for war, facing off each other do?’ To understand clearly, the purport of this question of Dhr̥tarāṣṭra, one would have to delve into the part that leads up to Bhagavadgītā, in the Bhārata.

Bhagavadgītā occurs in the Bhīṣmaparva of Bhārata. There are twenty-four chapters prior to Gītā; from chapters twenty-five through forty-two, is the part that contains the Bhagavadgītā.

If one pays attention to what is contained in the twenty-four chapters that precede the Gītā, the intent of Dhr̥tarāṣṭra’s query, becomes clear.

The relevant content, in the beginning of Bhīṣmaparva, is as follows. Both sides have assembled their armies. On one side is eleven akṣōhiṇis; on the other, seven akṣōhiṇis. At this juncture, Sage Vēdavyāsa approaches Dhr̥tarāṣṭra to caution him, ‘A deadly war is on the anvil. The consequence would be total devastation. I shall be able to grant you sight, should you desire to see the total destruction that your sons would be subjected to. See through your own eyes, the consequences of your indiscretion.’

Dhr̥tarāṣṭra did not wish to see but he longed to hear. Sage Vēdavyāsa, facilitated divine vision to Saṅjaya in lieu of Dhr̥tarāṣṭra. Resultantly, he was blessed with gifts clairvoyance and clairaudience. He described what he saw through clairvoyance to Dhr̥tarāṣṭra.

Sage Vēdavyāsa once again cautioned Dhr̥tarāṣṭra, ‘It is your bounden duty as the King to prevent this war. Counsel your children. Thwart the killing of people.’

The blind Dhr̥tarāṣṭra also turned deaf to this piece of advice. His selfishness and the obsessive love for his sons, transcended everything. ‘Let anything happen, I shall not stop my children,’ he said.

Sage Vyāsa returned to his grove of penance. Saṅjaya explained the geographical expanse of the earth. He then explained to Dhr̥tarāṣṭra, the geographic origin as also the size of the armies, that had assembled there for the war. When the war commenced, out of curiosity, he too went over to Kurukṣetra. At this end, Dhr̥tarāṣṭra was all ears and waited eagerly for news of the war. Saṅjaya did not turn back even after ten days of the commencement of the war. On the tenth day, the fall of Bhīṣma happened. The first leader the Kauravā army, the senior most veteran of the Kuru dynasty, the venerable Bhīṣmacarya was lying sprawled on a bed of arrows. Seeing this, Saṅjaya turned back towards Hastinapura; he conveyed the news of the tragedy. Then, desirous of learning of the turn of events, धृतराष्ट्र उवाच (Dhr̥tarāṣṭra uvāca) = Dhritarastra said

सञ्जय(sañjaya) = O’ Saṅjaya, धर्मक्षेत्रे (dharmakṣētrē) = in the sanctuary of dharma, कुरुक्षेत्रे (kurukṣētrē) = in the land of Kurus, युयुत्सवः (yuyutsavaḥ) = desiring to fight, समवेताः(samavētāḥ) = assembled, मामकाः (māmakāḥ) = my kin, (ca) = and, पाण्डवा ऐव (pāṇḍavā aiva) = just pāṇḍavās, किम् कुर्वत (kim akurvata) = What did they do?

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[39] Hastinapura is the ancient name; the modern version is Hastināpura

About Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya