Wednesday, December 28, 2011





Geetaa Jayanti conventionally heralds the birth of Bhagavdgeetaa, most sacred scripture among Smritis. It is the day when Sanjaya narrated the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna to the blind King Dhritaraashtra and made the glorious teachings available to humanity. It is Vedavyaasa, another Avataara of Vishnu who recorded it, edited it and presented it to us. It is essentially a non-stop Geetaa Paaraayana (Chanting) Day.


Our ancient sages gave mankind a system of time measurement, by which correct times of observance of religious rites, rituals and festivals can be ascertained in accordance with Saastric injunction. These were the origin of Panchangam. We have complicated and confused this sufficiently. Lord Krishna exhorts to mankind through his advice to Arjuna, "Tasmaat saastram pramaanam te kaaryaakaarya Vyavasthithow"—therefore consider Saastras as the authority in determining what action should or should not be performed. Unfortunately no two Panchangams agree even on events like Birthday of divinities and great events like the Birth of Geetaa and defeats the very purpose. We also consequently violate the guideline given by Lord Krishna. Some say Lord Kartikkeya is born on Kaartik Poornima Day; some say Lord Subramniyan is born on Panguni Uttiram Day; and some others say Lord Murugan is born on Visaakha Nakshatra (asterism) Day in the month of Vaisakahm which is also the Birth Day of Lord Narasimha. All the three represent the one and the same, the son of Lord Siva (Ayonija). Only Makara Sankranti is celebrated undisputed so also Tamil New Years Day, both of which match more or less with the Gregorian calendar.


Vaikuntha Ekadasi this year is pushed to next year on January 5, 2012. Makarasankranti will be on January 15. Swami Sivananda says Geetaa Jayanti (Revelation of Geetaa) is to be celebrated on Maarghaseersha Sukla Ekaadasi Day which is the same as Vaikuntha Ekaadasi or Mukkota Ekaadasi. Sivaananda Ashram living side by side with Geetaa Bhavan should have adopted this date as Geetaaa Bhavan is the authority as for as Geetaa is concerned.


This gives a time lapse of 10 days between the revelation of Geetaa and the fall of Bhishma this year. Bhishma fought for 10 days and at the end of the day was almost mortally wounded by Arjuna. But we all know Geetaa was delivered on the first day of Mahabharata War. Because of the blessings of his father Santanu Bhishma could decide on his final departure from this mortal world and he chose that day as Makara Sankranti Day on which day Sun changes his travel direction to North. In this context Geetaa Jayanti can't be on Vaikuntha Ekadasi Day this year.


There are conflicting opinions as to the Geetaa Jayanti each religious source claiming to be correct and authoritative which is closely tied up with the life of Bhishma. Some claim Bhishma was lying on the bed of arrows for six months and on the day of his fall Sun started his Southern Direction (Dakhshina- ayana) travel. Some others say he was lying on the bed of arrows for 56 days and his age at the time of death was 126 years, while Krishna lived up to 120 years. Some say even 47 days. If we carefully read Kamala Subramanyam's English rendering of Mahbharata published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (it is believed to be true rendering of facts from Vyaasa Bhaarata) the following facts come to lime light; Bheeshma fought the war for ten days; the battle continued for 8 more days. Pandavas stayed at Kurukshetra for a month to finish all cremations; Krishna meets Bhishma and persuades him to impart talks on Dharma of a King to Yudhishtira; Krishna indicates at that time to Bhishma that he has still 65 days for his day of deliverance; when the long awaited holy day came Bhishma says, "It seems as though a hundred years have passed by since I lay me down on this bed of arrows. The month of Maagha has come. It is time for me to leave this earth". This implies Sun in those days too should have started his Northern solstice when the month of Maaagha began. In Andhra people call the succeeding Shuklapaksha Ekaadasi as Bhishma Ekadasi on which day Vishnusahasranama was supposed to have been delivered to Yudhishthira by Bheeshma. Some believe Bheeshma gave up his ghost on Ashtami day, three days prior to Bheeshma Ekadasi. Therefore it is all confusing and so it is reasonable to conclude that Geetaa Jayanti Day has been arbitrarily fixed and not based on facts stated in Mahabharata.


In the light of the above one can observe Geetaa Day and not necessarily Geetaa Jayanti Day on any day he likes. It also raises doubt whether Geetaa was delivered on the field at all instantly when the two armies were facing each other for a severe battle. At the same time we cannot ignore all the facts. It is true that Arjuna showed a cold feet as not to fight his own kinsmen some of whom were no less a warrior than him. As we all know Krishna often revealed his identity as the Supreme Principle unlike Rama, his previous incarnation. Krishna should have used his stunning technique describing himself as Narayana and Arjuna as Nara, which description lies scattered all over the Geetaa and not necessarily in the chapter of Viswaroopa Darsana, and their mission was to fight evil and establish Dharma. This guess is confirmed as you could see later in Krishna's own statement in Geetaa and also the popular Krishna-Vasudeva of Yadu clan, a forerunner of Krishna, the founder of the devotional school of Bhagavata who was also popularly called Bhagawan, as well as other facts. In all probability Vedavysa has spun around Viswaroopa-darsana episode Sankhyavada and Brahmavaada as well as his own Brahmasootra to bring out the most compromising and enlightening practical philosophy to suit all and that too in an unsurpassable poetic master-piece as a guide to serve humanity in its intriguing and difficult situations. Poetic form is easy to memorize and recall as and when needed. Krishna Dvaipaayana also made Krishna the spokesman so that any reference to Krishna would also hint at him as its author. By nature he was shy and never revealed his name. People also recognized him in his assumed name Baadaraayana. In whole Geetaa of 700 verses there are hardly three or four verses in which name Krishna appears. Rest is all Bhagavan and Arjuna.


Geetaa is unquestionably greatest among world scriptures and needs to be venerated and glorified paying our tributes just as we do to Ramayana, the Adi Kavya. In India strongly influenced by Srutis of Vaishnavism and Saivism probably majority have compromised on Margasheersha Ekadasi Day ignoring all other Puraanic references. If Saastric injunctions are to be over-ruled why not dedicate this day to Vedavyaasa's Birthday or Vyaasa Poornima which should be reasonable and acceptable to all Sampradayas and callit G just Geetaa Day?


In USA Hindu-Americans can dedicate January 1, the official New Years Day as Geetaa Day as they all seek happiness and prosperity on this day. This happiness could be Sreyas (eternal Bliss) or Preyas (temporary happiness about which Geetaa speaks at length about the difference and merits. But that would make this Day a Spiritually oriented festival which usually Hindus would like to reserve for their own individual Sampradaya New Years days like Vishu, Yugadi etc. Therefore it would be fitting and proper to dedicate Gregorian New Year's Day to Lord Kubera, the Lord of Wealth and Prosperity, seeking happiness and prosperity throughout the year. That would make it a religious holiday which would fit into our present practices of temple worship like Lakshmi Pooja. As you all know Lord Kubera is always invoked in our Shodasa Upachaara Pooja (16-step worship). We all undertake the strenuous pilgrimage to Badrinath to perform Kubera Pooja. Lord Kubera sits on the right hand side of Badrinaarayana with two treasures on his either side eagerly waiting to distribute to his devotees. Therefore the most logical day seems to Vyasa Poornima Day and to celebrate it as Geetaa Day and not as Geetaa Jayanti Day in USA. In India people will always go by the decisions of Geetaa Bhavan whether it is right or wrong, whether logical or not. Here our founding fathers can decide on a day suited to all Sampradayas like they do for Mother's Day, Father's Day etc. Then Dattatreya's Birth Day could be dedicated to Teachers as Teacher's Day.


It is also reasonable being a highly educated society in USA after initial worship of Sadguna Brahman (Moorti or iconic form of worship) we should concentrate on Nirguna Brahman to seek Eternal Bliss (Sreyas), which is Brahmopaasana. This will also fit into the celebration of Geetaa Jayanti Day on Vyaasa Poornima Day, as Vyaasa is an Avataara of Vishnu and therefore a Vyahriti of Brahman, as we are told in our temple worship of icons.


Geetaa as is known to Westerners as "The Song of the Celestial" is a literary masterpiece conveying vividly the highest philosophy in the form of a poem which has acquired honored place in the scriptural literature of the humanity along with Brahmasootra and the Upanishads--Prasthaana Trayee. It is philosophical in outlook and very practical in intent. Bhagavdgeetaa is otherwise known as Geetopanishad. 


Bhagvadgeetaa is our guide for day-to-day living, well being and salvation. Our body is our battle-field and Lord Krishna is the Jeevaatman (Self) residing in our hearts.  Krishna means dark meaning that which is lying hidden in the innermost of our hearts.  Geetaa is compared to the Universal Mother who is always concerned about the welfare of her children by leading them on the right path of life. Incidentally the word Geetaa is feminine in Sanskrit. It is applicable to all irrespective of their race, creed, caste, sex or age. Mahatma Gandhi wrote: "I lost my mother who got me birth long ago. But this Eternal Mother has completely filled her place for ever. She has never changed; she has never failed me. Whether I am in difficulty or distress I seek e refuge in her bosom." Lord Krishna reveals himself to those who study Geeta and digest the divine Gospel. One such lucky person was the great Muslim poet-saint Kabir. He writes: "The moment my mind became as pure as the holy waters of Ganga, Krishna himself started following me, calling out, Oh Kabir! Where are you going? I am left behind, following you. Please pause and look back into my face!" India's scholarly Ex-President Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad was a voracious reader and lover of Geetaa nthoug a m Muslim by birth.


Geetaa contains discussions between a highly learned Guru who attained realization and a seeker who is eager to know the path to Eternal Bliss. Lord Krishna claims in the Varaahapuraana: "I take my stand on the Geetaa. It is my supreme abode and I nourish and regulate Bhooh, Bhuvah and Suvah (three worlds) on the strength of the wisdom enshrined in Geetaa". The advice given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the battle-field is meant for the whole humanity. Recent researches by Dr. Narahari of Memphis using planetarium software reveals the date of Mahabharata War as 3139 or 3067 B.C.E. The wisdom contained in Geetaa is very relevant even today in this modern age though it is around 6000 years old.


The first six chapters of this divine gospel dwell on Tvam--the soul. The next six chapters explain Tat--the Supreme Principle and the last six Union of soul and God (Jeevatman with Parmaatman). Together they reveal the deep meaning contained in Upanishad's Mahaavaakya Tat-Tavm-Aci  (That Thou Art). Geetaa stresses the importance of Sreyas (Eternmal Bliss-Permanent happiness) over Preyas(temporary worldly pleasures). Geetaa leads one to happiness with a doctrine that is beyond national and religious boundaries in a language that surpasses all human imagination and admiration! As an unenlightened soul I understand this as "I am His! He is mine and He and I are together".


The study of Geetaa alone is sufficient for the purpose of Scriptural study like Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad for the study of Vedas. From sunrise to sunset ardent devotees recite Geetaa with no interruption on this memorable day. In the Samputa Method they recite in between two slokas the famous sloka: " Sarva Dharmaan parityajya maamekam saranam vraja | Aham tvaam sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa suchah". This is one of three secret mantras that Ramanuja administered (upadesam) to his disciples.   As it is also a celebrated Ekaadasi Day, Upavaasa Vrata (fasting ritual) is observed. It is a ritual because while fasting from sunrise to sunset we chant Geetaa.


Geetaa is an amazing collection of hymns of wisdom. Every time you look at it you come with a new idea. Kalpataru Research Academy of Sringeri Sarada Peetham of Sankara Math has condensed it to 300 slokas and says that it contains the essence of Geetaa. International Geetaa has said that the main teachings of Geeta are contained in 40 slokas which is also good for chanting or Daily Paaraayana. Someone has gone through the entire Geetaa of 18 chapters with a microscopic eye to find out one key sloka for each chapter. I made an attempt to pick out 100 slokas easy to chant by young scholars, grouped them under different themes and called them Sataslokee Geetaa. Probably a knowledgeable scholar who goes through these may come up with another idea. But the fact of the matter is Geeta is interpreted all over the world in never ending manner.


Mystery even surrounds about the real author of this amazing collection of Hymns. Krishna says in Bhagavdgeetaa among Vrishnis I am Vasudeva. "Bhagvadgeeta is doubtless a text, perhaps belonging to the devotional school of Hindu religion, the Bhaagavata. This monotheistic school was founded by Krishna-Vasudeva, belonging to Saatvata sect of the Yadu class; and he was reverently called as Bhagavaan (the Lord)" says Gita-Kosha of Sankar Math of Sringeri. You have also seen the remarks of Lord Krishna in the Varaaha Puraana above. The Geetaa unmistakably bears the influence of Upanishads, especially the Katha and Svetavataara. There is also a suggestion that the song Celestial was originally a Yoga-Upanishad which was later Vaishnavized. "Krishna was in the habit of meditating in the early hours as we read in Mahabharata. Krishna in all probability was a historical figure and was philosopher who harmonized Sankhya-Yoga with the Brahmavaada of Upanishads " say the research findings of Kalpataru Research Academy. It sounds logical as the high philosophic content of Geetaa could not have come out in the midst of a battle-field or was a serious subject of discussion while engaged in a war-fare. Further Lord Krioshna who says among Vedas I am Sama Veda, needs no support from Upanishads. In Geetaa you will find actual mantras Upanishads being repeated.


Swami Sivananda says that Geetaa can be summarized in the following seven verses. These are:


Om ity-ekaaksharam brahma vyaaharan maam anusmaran |

Yah praayaati tyajan deham sa paati paramaam gatim || (8-13)


Uttering the one-syllable Om, the Brahman, and remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body, attains the Supreme Goal.


Sthaane hrisheekesa tava prakrityaa-jagat prahrishyaty-anurajyate cha |

Rakshaamsi bheetaani diso dravanti sarve namsyanti cha siddha-sanghaah || (11-36)


O Krishna, the world delights and rejoices in glorification of you. Demons flee in all directions and all the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee in adoration.


Sarvatah paani-paadam tat sarvato-akshi-siro-mukham |

sarvatah srutimal-loke sarvam aavritya tishthati ||


With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, head and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, the Supreme Principle exists in the world, enveloping all.


Kavim puraanam anusaasi-taaram anor aneeyaamsam anusmared yah |

Sarvasya dhaataaram achinytya-roopam aaditya-varnam tamasah parastaat || (8-9)


Whosoever meditates on the omniscient, ancient ruler of the whole world, tinier than the atom, the supporter of all, of inconceivable form, effulgent like the Sun, he goes beyond the darkness of ignorance.


Oordhwa-moolam adhah-saakham asvattham praahur-avyayam |

Chandaamci yasya parnaani yas tam veda sa vedavit || (15-1)


The wise speak of the indestructible Asvattha (eternal banyan tree) having its roots above and branches below in the cosmos, whose leaves are the meters or hymns (Vedic hymns); he who knows it is the knower of the Vedas.


Sarvasya cha-aham hridi samnivishto mattah smritir-jnaanam apohanam cha |

Vedais-cha sarvair-aham eva vedyo vedaaantakrid vedavid eva cha-aham || (15-15)


I am seated in the hearts of all; from me comes memory, knowledge, as well as their absence (wrong notions). I am verily that which has to be known by all the Vedas; and I am indeed the author of the Vedanta and the knower of Vedas too.


Manmanaa bhava mad-bhakto madyaajee maam namaskuru |

Maam evaishyaci yuktvaivam aatmaanam mat-paraayanah || (9-34)


Fix your mind on me; be devoted to me; sacrifice to me; having thus united your whole Self to me, taking me as the Supreme Principle (supreme goal and refuge) you shall verily come to me.


Geeta aims at tranquility and happiness with a doctrine that is beyond national and religious boundaries which is described in a language of unsurpassed beauty. Keeping this in view let us celebrate this Geetaa Jayanti solemnly with devotion and dedication chanting it all the day.


Sarvam Krishnaarpanamastu!





Considerable assistance has been taken from the following publications, which is gratefully acknowledged:


  1. Swami Sivananda, Hindu Fasts and Festivals,The Divine Life Society, Shivananda Nagar, India.
  2. Ramananda Prasad, The Bhagavad Geetaa, American Gita Society, Fremont, California, USA.
  3. Vidya Ravindra, The Bhagavadgita, Goose Publishing, New Delhi, India.
  4. Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Geetaa-Kosha, Kalpataru Research Academy, Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Bangalore, India.
  5. Kamala Subramaniam, Mahabharata, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.