Chapter 1: Observing the Armies on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra
mamakah pandavas caiva
kim akurvata sanjaya
dhåtaräñöraù—King Dhåtaräñöra; uväca—said; dharma-kñetre—in the place of pilgrimage; kuru-kñetre—in the place named Kurukñetra; samavetäù—assembled; yuyatsavaù—desiring to fight; mämakäù—my party (sons); päëòaväù—the sons of Päëòu; ca—and; eva-certainly; kim—what; akurvata—did they do; saïjaya—O Saïjaya.
Dhåtaräñöra said: O Saïjaya, after assembling in the place of pilgrimage at Kurukñetra, what did my sons and the sons of Päëòu do, being desirous to fight?
Bhagavad-gétä is the widely read theistic science summarized in the Gétä-mähätmya (Glorification of the Gétä). There it says that one should read Bhagavad-gétä very scrutinizingly with the help of a person who is a devotee of Çré Kåñëa and try to understand it without personally motivated interpretations. The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gétä itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gétä directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gétä in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world. One will find in the Bhagavad-gétä all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of the Gétä. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Çré Kåñëa.
The topics discussed by Dhåtaräñöra and Saïjaya, as described in the Mahäbhärata, form the basic principle for this great philosophy. It is understood that this philosophy evolved on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, which is a sacred place of pilgrimage from the immemorial time of the Vedic age. It was spoken by the Lord when He was present personally on this planet for the guidance of mankind.
The word dharma-kñetra (a place where religious rituals are performed) is significant because, on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present on the side of Arjuna. Dhåtaräñöra, the father of the Kurus, was highly doubtful about the possibility of his sons' ultimate victory. In his doubt, he inquired from his secretary Saïjaya, "What did my sons and the sons of Päëòu do?" He was confident that both his sons and the sons of his younger brother Päëòu were assembled in that Field of Kurukñetra for a determined engagement of the war. Still, his inquiry is significant. He did not want a compromise between the cousins and brothers, and he wanted to be sure of the fate of his sons on the battlefield. Because the battle was arranged to be fought at Kurukñetra, which is mentioned elsewhere in the Vedas as a place of worship—even for the denizens of heaven—Dhåtaräñöra became very fearful about the influence of the holy place on the outcome of the battle. He knew very well that this would influence Arjuna and the sons of Päëòu favorably, because by nature they were all virtuous. Saïjaya was a student of Vyäsa, and therefore, by the mercy of Vyäsa, Saïjaya was able to envision the Battlefield of Kurukñetra even while he was in the room of Dhåtaräñöra. And so, Dhåtaräñöra asked him about the situation on the battlefield.
Both the Päëòavas and the sons of Dhåtaräñöra belong to the same family, but Dhåtaräñöra's mind is disclosed herein. He deliberately claimed only his sons as Kurus, and he separated the sons of Päëòu from the family heritage. One can thus understand the specific position of Dhåtaräñöra in his relationship with his nephews, the sons of Päëòu. As in the paddy field the unnecessary plants are taken out, so it is expected from the very beginning of these topics that in the religious field of Kurukñetra where the father of religion, Çré Kåñëa, was present, the unwanted plants like Dhåtaräñöra's son Duryodhana and others would be wiped out and the thoroughly religious persons, headed by Yudhiñöhira, would be established by the Lord. This is the significance of the words dharma-kñetre and kuru-kñetre, apart from their historical and Vedic importance.