Gita: Duryodhana’s worry

Update: Do check Hari’s comments to this post. They correct the misinterpretations of quite a few things mentioned in this post.

Having finished reading Sri Shankaracharya’s Bhagavad Gita Bhasya, I am motivated to learn the Bhagavad Gita by heart. I intend to read the other commentaries, especially by Sri Madhvacharya,  and also intend to learn the Sanskrit language in the coming months. I have been practicing reciting the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita for the past couple of weeks now. As of today, I am able to recite the first 35 verses. I am following the South Indian style of Sanskrit recitation, which is available here.

Anyway, Hari has this very interesting post on the humongous number of resources in each Akshouni, and the significance of the number 18 in the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata. In the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita starting from verse 3 to verse 10, Duryodhana discusses the relative strenghts of the two armies with Guru Dronacharya. He mentions the names of specific warriors in the two camps (other than Bhima and Arjuna). This morning, it struck me, does the number of warriors that Duryodhana mentions happens to be 18 as well ?!

So, let us start counting:

The Pandava Warriors
Verse 3: Drupadaputra (Drushtadhyumna) (1)
Verse 4: Yuyudhana (Satyaki), Virata, Drupadha (3)
Verse 5: Dhrushtaketu, Chekitana, Kashiraja, Purujit, Kuntibhoja, Shaibhya ( 6)
Verse 6: Yudhamanyu, Uttamauja, Saubhadra (Abhimanyu), Draupadeyascha (5 Sons of Draupadi) (3 + 5 =8)

Number of warriors mentioned from the Pandava camp, other than the Pandavas themselves = 18. As Hari mentions, this is an auspicious number in the Mahabharata!

The Kaurava Warriors:
Verse 8: Drona, Bhishma, Karna, Kripacharya (4)
Verse 9: Ashwatthama, Vikarna, Bhurishrava (3)

Number of warriors from the Kaurava camp mentioned = 7. Does anyone know the significance of the number 7 in this context? The only thing I know is that it is considered to be a lucky number by most people 🙂

As you can see from Hari’s post, the strength of the Kaurava camp in terms of numbers, was far greater than that of the Pandava camp. And probably based on this fact, Duryodhana, in verse 10 says that the Kaurava army protected by Bhisma is unconquerable, while the Pandava army protected by Bhima is easy to conquer.

However, the number of Pandava Maharathis mentioned by Duryodhana to his Acharya, is more than twice the number of Maharathis he mentions from his own camp. By doing so, does he betray his true fears ? Was he expecting Dronacharya to allay his fears by reinforcing that despite the Pandava army having larger number of Maharathis, the Kauravas are going to win the battle ? It’ll be an interesting exercize to mull over the psychological conditions of the characters at beginning of the the battle.


About gautshen

A jack of many trades of which , Linux Kernel Programming puts food on the table. Also pursuing his PhD in the area Theoretical Computer Science at the Chennai Mathematical Institute. Is an avid reader interested in the Hindu traditions and philosophy. Loves Bicycling and Good Music. Name is Ranjal Gautham Shenoy.
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12 Responses to Gita: Duryodhana’s worry

  1. Hi Gautham,

    Your post is on my favorite topic, or rather epic 🙂

    Regarding the number of warriors, Duryodhana starts describing warriors only from verse 4 onwards..

    “Atra shoora maheshwasa….”

    Therefore, Drishtadyumna is not counted. And he doesn’t name the individual sons of Draupadi, so those 5 are to be excluded, bringing the total to 12. Note that Soubhadra is indeed the name of Abhimanyu and hence he is counted.

    Amongst Kauravas, he doesn’t name Drona but is just including, saying Bhavaan. He actually takes only 6 names.

    The total, once again, is 18!

    With regard to verse 10, Sri Madhvacharya has a completely opposite view.

    “Aparyaptam tadasmakam balam bhishmabhi rakshitam
    Paryaaptam tvidameteshaam balam bhimabhi rakshitam”

    Since Paryaaptam can never mean “limited”, Aparyaaptam here cannot be taken to mean unlimited. Hence they stand for adequate and inadequate.

    Therefore, Duryodhana is actually saying that though there are so many along with Bhishma, our army is inadequate while their army, protected by Bhima, is adequate!

    In fact, Sri Madhva says that after listening to this, Bhishma gets angry and blows the conch. In fact, throughout the war, Duryodhana never praises Bhishma at all but constantly keeps taunting him.

    Another aspect to notice, Duryodhana while naming members from his side names 2 brahmins – who should not be in wars at all, vikarna who opposed Duryodhana during Draupadi vastrapaharana, Karna who already knows he is a Pandava and Bhishma who is forever on the Pandavas side. Only Bhurishravas truly is an appropriate name!

    Duryodhana, if you ask me, already knows he is losing the war. His hidden fears are coming out this way right in the beginning of the war.

    Regards, Hari

  2. Just to add to my previous post, there are some translations which interpret the word “Abhirakshantu” in verse 11 as “support”. But, abhirakshantu means protect or guard.

    Duryodhana taunts Drona also saying all of you are here just to protect Bhishma, which enrages Bhishma and he blows the conch.

  3. Seems like I just can’t stop..just excuse me….

    Verse 9 – “…..madarthe tyakta jeevitaha ….” He says people are ready to “give up lives for my sake”.

    While talking about Pandava warriors, he says that there are “Maharathas” and “Nara Pungavas”.

    Truly, the psychology of a loser.

  4. ego says:

    Hey Hari,
    Interesting perspective on verse 10. Even VS Apte’s Students Sanskrit – English Dictionary says that “Paryaapta” means sufficient or adequate.

    But I am stuck on how to split up TvidamEtEshaam in the second line of verse 10. Can it be split up as Tu + Idam + Iti + Eshaam or Tu + Idam + EtEShaam ? And how does the meaning change ?

    Nevertheless, based on the meaning of Paryaapta, it makes sense that Duryodhana was only taunting Bhishma. I agree, he displayed the character of a loser.

  5. Hi Gautham,

    I think Tu + Idam + EtEShaam is correct because Idam + Iti would become Idamiti and not IdamEti. Also, If I am not wrong, EShaam is masculine plural while EtEShaam is neuter plural. Since Duryodhana is referring to the army of the Pandavas here, EtEShaam seems more appropriate.

    Regards, Hari

  6. ego says:

    Okay, I looked around a bit, and it seems the sandhi splitting should be as you rightly pointed out. And eTeShAm means of (theirs). Thus from this, it can be deduced that Duryodhana was indeed unsure of his army, despite it’s numbers because he thought that the Army of Pandavas was more adequate since it was being guarded by Bhima.

    Again, I should have mentioned this. I am using two texts currently to read Gita. One is a pocket size Bhagavad Gita published by Gita Press Gorakhpur. The other one is an online copy of “Bhagavad Gita As it is” by Swami Prabhupada. I chose the latter specifically since it provides a word for word Sanskrit to English translation.

    However both the books translated “Aparyaptam” to mean “immeasurable” . Clearly shows how important a thorough knowledge of Sanskrit is to interpret even the simplest of verses 🙂

  7. Pingback: The significance of 18 « Anandatirtha Prathishtana

  8. Hi Gautham,

    While I agree completely on the need for thorough knowledge of Sanskrit, I am still miles away from being so. Of course, I am to blame for that state as well but even after 3 years of Sanskrit in school, I hardly learnt anything there. One additional reason why I think our school education is designed to kill our culture.

    Regards, Hari

  9. Bharata says:


    I learnt Sanskrit for 5 years (school + college) and I wasn’t able to speak a sentence. The flaw is in the way they teach the language. Language can’t be taught like mathematics or science. If I look back, I think it was foolish to start the language by learning a, aa, e, ee first (and specifically raamaH raamau raamaaH in Sanskrit). Also, I don’t think students should be made to write the language at least during the 1st year of their language study. Language study should begin with listening and talking. Reading and writing can follow later.

    BTW, Samskrita Bharati can help you learn Sanskrit in a much better way.


  10. Bharata says:

    Regarding the breaking of words, I have a comment. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    I see that people discuss a lot about the way words are formed and deduce different meanings and thereby support their interpretation or challenge the interpretation of others. I have a question: Are we justified in doing such a fine-grained analysis on the combination of words to deduce meanings like that ? Are we giving more importance to the words than what the author would have given ? Could the author have used a word merely because he wanted to the shloka to conform to a meter (chandas) ?


  11. @Bharata,

    In some ordinary works, I would fully agree that conformance to Chandas may have driven the author to use a particular word. But not so in the Bhaarata or the Gita. Even with the same logic, the author could have used many other words (given the richness of Sanskrit vocabulary).

    You will find the same issue in Vishnu Sahasra Nama also. At the outset, many words appear to be just “fillers”. But then, upon close inspection, one realizes that they are perfectly placed (even if repeated).

    My personal opinion is that the words have been chosen very very carefully. And that is the only reason why some of the great works like Bhaarata, Gita and the Ramayana have never been replicated.

    Sri Madhvacharya has highlighted in his work Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya that the Bhaarata has three levels of languages and three levels of meanings, which reveal itself depending upon the spiritual capacity of the individual. Details can be read in this summary.

    Therefore, I think such works were written purposely with the intention of containing multiple levels of meanings.

    Regards, Hari

  12. vasya10 says:

    I know this was a couple of years ago, but just wanted to post this anyway — TvidamEtEshaam cannot be split as tu + idam + iti + eShaam. First of all, idam + iti = idamiti (not idameti) as Hari siad. Also iti + eShaam would have been ityeShaam (i -> y)

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