There is a Banyan Tree in the Indian state of Haryana, located in Kurukshetra, which might look like an ordinary tree but is considered a cultural relic and an important part of Indian civilization.
The tree is supposedly believed to have witnessed one of the historical and monumental moments in ancient Indian history, the reciting of Bhagwad Gita.
Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Indian scripture part of the grand epic Mahabharata. Both these ancient texts have played and continue to influence millions of people in India and many parts of the world.
Before explaining the Bhagwad Gita tree to the uninitiated, let us take you back into history and tell you about Mahabharat.
(If you know it already, you can skip it).
The Mahabharata is a vast epic with many characters, families, complex relationships, ideas, and plots.
In a nutshell, there are two factions of a royal family, the Pandavas, and the Kauravas. The Pandavas are five brothers, while Kauravas are led by their eldest brother Duryodhana. As they grow up, a rivalry brews between the two sides, and it continues to intensify.
The conflict between the Pandavas and Kauravas escalates when Duryodhana engineers a rigged game of dice, leading to the Pandavas’ exile to the forest for 13 years and one year in incognito. After the exile period, the Pandavas returned to claim their kingdom, but Duryodhana refused to surrender even a small part of it. There are attempts made to mediate a peaceful resolution, by even Lord Krishna, but Duryodhana remains adamant, leading them to decide through a war at Kurukshetra.
The Kurukshetra War between the Pandavas and Kauravas is one of the most fearsome and longest-recorded battles in ancient Indian history. The war lasted 18 days and involved numerous kings, celestial beings, and warriors.
When it ended, the Pandavas had won the battle but lost almost everyone they held dear. Since then, this story has been retold countless times, expanded upon, and retold again. We will not get into the other notable events of the Mahabharata and its story afterward.
With this context, let us learn about one of the most famous and revered sections of the Mahabharata, i.e., Bhagavad Gita.
About Bhagwad Gita
Minutes before the epic and monumental Kurukshetra War between the Pandavas and Kauravas was to begin, one of the Pandavas brothers, Prince Arjuna, one of their best warriors, faced ethical and moral dilemmas.
Looking at the prospect of fighting against an adversary comprised of his family elders, cousins, and teachers, he wanted to give up. Lord Krishna, an avatar of God Vishnu, who served as Arjuna’s charioteer and the divine guide, addresses Arjuna’s confusion through spiritual and philosophical concepts in the middle of the battlefield.
Lord Krishna presents Prince Arjuna aspects of dharma (duty), karma (action and consequence), and yoga (spiritual discipline). Krishna emphasizes the significance of performing one’s duty without attachment to the results, and seeking success should not be the sole motivation for action. He ultimately encourages Arjuna to fulfill his duty as a warrior and to engage in the battle with a sense of detachment, devotion to the divine, and awareness of his spiritual self.
This 700-verse dialogue is encapsulated in the 18-chapter book Bhagavad Gita, one of Hindu philosophy and spirituality’s most important and revered texts. In one of the chapters, Lord Krishna reveals his divine universal form (Vishvarupa) to Arjuna, demonstrating his omnipresence and divine nature, which adds to Bhagwad Gita’s spiritual significance.
However, the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are not limited to Prince Arjuna, individuals in conflict, or people following Hinduism. The Gita addresses universal themes of ethics, duty, the nature of the self, and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. The profound epic explores our inner complexities and the struggle between right and wrong.
This book has been studied, translated, and commented upon by gurus, scholars, and spiritual leaders across the globe. The Bhagavad Gita teachings inspire and guide people on their spiritual journeys, including many celebrities and influential figures.
Nelson Mandela took inspiration from the teachings of the Bhagwad Gita during his time in prison; Mahatma Gandhi mentioned that “Gita is not only my Bible or my Koran, it is my mother…my ETERNAL MOTHER”. Then there are famous personalities like the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, former US President Barack Obama, and film actor Will Smith – all of them have been influenced by this ancient text.
Now that you would understand the significance of the Bhagwad Gita let us move to something which would have witnessed this celestial event.
About Bhagwad Gita Tree
A sacred Banyan Tree at Kurukshetra is believed to be a direct link to the historical event of the Bhagavad Gita discourse. As per the legend, this tree is an offshoot or descendant of the original Banyan tree under which Lord Krishna delivered the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna during the Kurukshetra War.
To put a dampener, scientifically, it is not yet proven if this tree is the offshoot of an ancient tree, but that does not deter and dissuade people’s faith.
Many pilgrims and visitors gather around the Banyan tree to observe, meditate, reflect, and seek spiritual solace. Some offer prayers, light incense sticks, tie holy threads and perform circumambulation around the tree as part of their religious rituals.
The chirping birds, the playful squirrels, and the occasional tingling of temple bells surrounding the Bhagwad Gita Tree add to the mystic aura of the holy place.
The Banyan Tree is considered sacred in Indian and Hindu practices; this tree in Kurukshetra becomes special because of its connection with Bhagwad Gita.
Ultimately, it is fascinating to know that a Tree is reportedly the only remaining physical relic linking us to ancient wisdom. It is probably appropriate that a piece of nature (tree) connects with the complexities of human nature.
If you want to buy the ‘Bhagvad Gita As It Is’ book, you can use this link.
You can watch the Bhagwad Gita tree and the visual aspects discussed in this article.