Arjuna’s Dilemma and Bhagvad Gita


9th Day of Kurukshetra War

A muddled Arjuna used to run into the lap of his grandfather who used to embrace him lovingly. However, the same grandsire slaughtered Arjuna’s army in Kurukshetra. Arjuna could not intervene, not out of incompetence on the battlefield, but because of his inability to shred off his attachment. In order to make up for Arjuna’s weakheartedness, Krishna jumped out of his chariot and marched against Bheeshma with a wheel in his hand.

Krishna attacks Bheeshma

The before-mentioned attachment after witnessing Krishna’s grand Bhagvad Gita is incomprehensible. In fact, the necessity for Krishna to utter the song celestial is moot since Bheeshma was related to other Pandavas in the same measure. Arjuna had sufficient grounds to fight his grandfather. The latter allowed the division of land. He did not utter a word while they heaped indignities upon Krishnaa while she was being disrobed and on Krishna when Duryodhana attempted to capture him. He was the strongest pillar of Duryodhana’s arrogance.

However, in order to understand Arjuna’s despondency, a retrospective analysis of Arjuna’s life is imperative.

The Great Grandfather!

Arjuna was playing joyfully on his 6th birthday when, all of a sudden, he heard the news of the death of his father and stepmother. To add to his woes, his family had to move to the unwelcoming Hastinapura. Imagine the psychosis of a child whose most anticipated day turned into ashes, along with the pain of leaving his home and moving on to a palace, with wicked cousins and uncaring uncle. However, Arjuna had an angel waiting to receive him.

Bheeshma received five grandsons. A 16-year-old Yudhishthira completely in control of his senses, a 14-year-old robust teenager Bheema quick to anger and joy alike. Nakula and Sahadeva were 2-3 years old, sleeping peacefully in Kunti’s lap, unaware of the tragedy that afflicted their life. Yudhishthira’s maturity did not need a father figure and even if it needed one, he was Vidura’s favourite. Bheema’s temperament needed someone like Vyasa and hence he was sent to Kurukshetra with Vyasa. Kunti was busy with Nakula and Sahadeva and they had a father figure ready in Yudhishthira when they grew up. But there was this 6-year-old grandson, whose parents died on his birthday, completely silenced by the tragedy that afflicted his life. What is that a 6-year-old cannot speak unless silenced by a great catastrophe?

Who answered Arjuna’s call for love? It was Bheeshma who embraced this child. He broke through the barrier of pain built around this child. Arjuna ate with him, played with him, and emulated him in every way. It was Bheeshma who brought his speech back. He was the one who taught him to enjoy life. It was Deva-Raja (king of gods) who birthed him, but Deva-Vrata (original name of Bheeshma) resurrected him.

Drona Shishya Arjuna

Nonetheless, Bheeshma’s love wasn’t enough. Pandavas were under constant threat from Kauravas, and they needed the power to face such powerful enemies. Here comes the importance of Drona in Arjuna’s life. It was Drona who taught him to wield the bow, which gave him the confidence to face any foe. He was the inspiration behind the artist who pierced the eyes of birds, fishes and men alike. He was the magnanimous man who trained Arjuna more than his own son; precisely the reason Arjuna preferred to be identified as protégé of Drona over the son of Kunti. We see a glimpse of Arjuna’s love for Drona in the following episode:

14th day of the Kurukshetra war

At the onset of the 14th day of the Kurukshetra war, Arjuna had vowed to slay Jayadratha, king of Sindhu, the husband of Dusshala, the sister of Duryodhana and 100 Kaurava brothers, before sunset. However, at the head of the Kaurava army stood his great teacher, Dronacharya.

The teacher-student duo came face to face after Arjuna prevailed over Kritvarma and Dusshasana. A fierce battle ensued, where both were equally matched. Arjuna broke many chariots of his teacher, yet he kept coming back with reinforcements. Eventually, Krishna and Arjuna decided to bypass the brahmin. Drona tried arresting his bypass with taunting words. At this Arjuna humbly bowed down to his Acharya and said “You are not my enemy acharya. In three worlds only Dronacharya can defeat Dronacharya”. Please note that Arjuna lost his dearest son Abhimanyu on the previous day; the chief murderer of the latter was the ‘venerable’ acharya of his.

Arjuna bypasses Dronacharya

History is replete with examples where an outstanding student has immortalized a skilled teacher. Achrekar owes his fame to Sachin Tendulkar. Swami Vivekananda immortalized Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Similarly, Dronacharya commanded respect because of Arjuna’s widespread fame. The latter gave him fame, veneration, devotion, and his gurudakshina by defeating Drupada. In return, Drona gifted him Abhimanyu’s corpse. Even a predator would be more grateful! Yet, it was Arjuna’s overwhelming love and respect for Dronacharya, which did not permit him to slay his Acharya.

The father figures

We usually ignore father figures. It was Nanda who practised karma yoga to give up his newborn daughter for Krishna. The latter emulated him and turned his back on his own happiness by leaving Radha and Vrindavana. However, Krishna did not face Nanda or his Guru Sandipani. Arjuna’s case was different. He had to face people he worshipped throughout his life. It was Bheeshma and Drona who made Arjuna the greatest warrior humanity has ever seen.

It’s noteworthy that devotion towards an individual has its root in the formidable combination of love and gratitude. While Karna destroyed himself with his devotion to Duryodhana and now Arjuna was moving towards similar destruction due to his devotion towards his elders viz Bhishma, who made him re-learn to talk, so that Arjuna could ask those questions on Kurukshetra and towards Drona for making him competent enough to decimate armies.

A beautiful analogy gives an unobstructed view of Arjuna’s dilemma. There’s a Bollywood movie called Taare Zameen Par, which pictures a 6-year-old boy named Ishaan Awasthi who is harassed by the world. A teacher named professor Nikumbh enters his life and transforms it completely. Here Arjuna can be compared to Ishaan Awasthi and Bhishma and Drona to Prof. Nikumbh. Suppose Ishaan Awasthi grows up and is asked to kill Nikumbh. imagine the soul-sapping pain that boy would go through! Precisely what Arjuna went through, which resulted in the celestial Bhagvad Gita that can transform the very nature of your existence.


  1. We have obtained all the images from Mrinal Rai’s book Kurukshetra Yuddha. Know more about Mrinal Rai here: “The lotus of Saraswati” by Mrinal Rai.
  2. Read this Balarama: The Fourth Pillar of Duryodhana’s arrogance
  3. An article by Pranshu Saxena has inspired this post.

Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.

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