Our usual understanding of the word revolves around the Bhagavat Gita, which is embedded in the Mahabharata. Among Sanskrit texts that capture the essence of Hinduism, it is probably one that has been translated the most. The qualifier 'Bhagavat' indicates that it was taught by Bhagavan Krishna to Arjuna.
However, there are other Gitas too. The term 'Gita' indicates anything that can be sung and chanted. For example, there are more than 20 Gitas in the Mahabharata and many more in the Puranas; yet others exist as independent texts. Most of us are not that familiar with these other Gitas. For example, the Anu Gita was also taught by Bhagavan Krishna to Arjuna. The Dharma Vyadha Gita cogently states dharma for householders. The Yaksha Prashna and the Sanatsujata, fundamental to understanding the overall dharma of the Bhagavat Gita, are not explicitly described as Gitas but definitely hold the wisdom and relevance of a Gita.
This volume brings together the unabridged English translations of 24 such Gitas from the Mahabharata, along with that of the Pandava Gita (which is not part of the Mahabharata). It includes the original Sanskrit text for easy reference and avoids interpretations of the text, focussing on translation alone.
This collection reveals the wealth of wisdom in the epic that remains largely unexplored.
BIBEK DEBROY has an interest in Indology and Sanskrit. He is known for his unabridged translations of Itihasa-Purana texts from Sanskrit to English-the Bhagavat Gita, the Mahabharata, the Hari Vamsha, the Valmiki Ramayana, the Bhagavata Purana, the Markandeya Purana, the Brahma Purana, the Vishnu Purana and the Shiva Purana. A translation of the Brahmanda Purana is awaiting publication. The word count of translations already completed amounts to five million and in 2019, he featured in the Limca Book of Records as the 'most prolific translator'. He has been conferred with the Padmashri and the title of 'Vachaspati'. Other than translations, he is the author of the much-acclaimed The Bhagavad Gita for Millennials and Devi for Millennials, and has edited, along with Anuradha Goyal, the book Navaratri: When Devi Comes Home.
The Bhagavat Gita, one of Hinduism's most important texts, encapsulates the essence of the vedanta tradition of Hinduism, along with the Upanishads and the Brahmasutra.' It has been translated innumerable times into English, the first being Charles Wilkins's translation in 1785. 'Gita', as the Bhagavat Gita is popularly known, simply means 'something that was sung'. Therefore, though most people identify the usage of this word with the Bhagavat Gita, it should not be surprising that there are other texts that also bear the name 'Gita'. In fact, there is an entire corpus of Gita literature. Admittedly, the Bhagavat Gita is the most important in this corpus, but it is not the only one.
The number of texts in this corpus of Gita literature is somewhere between fifty and sixty. These other Gita texts are from the Mahabharata, the Puranas' and the Ramayana, and some are stand-alone. How does one arrive at this number between fifty and sixty? A listing of such Gitas is available on a website of Sanskrit documents. A few additional Gitas and their texts are present in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur Gita supersite. This volume is only about the Mahabharata Gitas, not the others.
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