From the Jacket:
The Bhagavadgita is considered one of the core texts of Hindu philosophy and religion. Ever since the poem was composed, innumerable commentaries have been written which seek to explain the poem from the standpoint of philosophical idealism. Surprisingly, there has been little study of the poem from the materialist standpoint. The Warrior and the Charioteer seeks to fill this void.
This erudite study argues that we need to cut through the thick religio-philosophical crust of the poem to reach its ethical core. This exercise will enable us to unravel the socio-economic structure of contemporary society as revealed by the ethics expounded in the poem.
The author looks at the central characters of the poem, Krishna and Arjuna, and pulls down the mythical veil that conceals their historical faces: the former, a Yadava Chief, and the latter, the House of Bharatas. The author strips the terms Brahma and yajna of their symbolism and argues that the poem reflects the period of transition of Indo-Aryan society from the Barbaric Status to the Status of Civilization. The book also contains a fresh translation of the poem, the first from a materialist standpoint.
In simple and lucid prose, book offers a challenging and original interpretation of the Bhagavadgita, and is sure to be of immense value to scholars, believers, as well as lay readers.
About the Author:
V. M. Mohanraj (born 1928) is one of the most respected librarians in India, having worked at Madras University, Law College (Chennai), and The Lawrence School (Lovedale). He has six books and many articles to his credit and has contributed articles to the first ten-volume encyclopaedia in Malayalam. He is a recipient of H.H. The Maharaja of Travancore Gold Medal for proficiency in Malyalam.
A short poem encapsulating ideas drawn from different schools of
philosophy- mainly the Upanishadic, the Sankhya and the Buddhist
- in a simplified form to make it easily comprehensible to the common
man, the Bhagavadgita, contrary to the generally held notion, is not a
fundamental philosophical treatise. Nevertheless, there is a sizeable
body of literature on the poem as myriad scholars, classical and modern,
have written commentaries on it, most from the standpoint of
philosophical idealism. Surprisingly, however, there is virtually no
study of the poem from a materialist point of view. I have attempted to
fill that gap.
It passes my comprehension why modern progressive thinkers
have been apathetic towards this poem. Maybe, being a simple eclectic
poem, it is seen as a propaedeutic work of philosophy and as such, is
considered socially insignificant. However, it is a work wherein
monotheism was put forward and king was equated with god to buttress
the emerging monarchical slave States which were slowly but steadily
supplanting the egalitarian tribal communes in the Indian
subcontinent. As such, the social significance of this ostensibly
philosophic and didactic poem cannot be missed or overlooked.
In modern times, the poem has been used to serve diverse
political ends. Lokmanya Tilak invoked the poem to argue his case
for a more militant nationalist programme than the Congress had
hitherto adopted, while Mahatma Gandhi used the poem to propagate
religious tolerance in the struggle against colonialism. More recently,
as aggressive Hindu nationalism has asserted itself, the poem has
been used for more ferocious ends. Progressive thinkers and leaders
have, however, more or less ignored the poem.
More than half a century ago, in 1953, I published an article in a
progressive Malayalam weekly, analysing the poem from a materialistic
point of view. After a gap of more than four decades, in 1997, I
published a paper, 'The Bhagavadgita - A Materialist Interpretation'
in New Quest, the journal of the Indian Association for Cultural
Freedom. The feedback to this, in general, was very positive, though
there was one point of criticism. This was regarding my assumption
that the Mahabharata War was not a figment of the poet's imagination
but a historical fact, and that Krishna and Arjuna were not mere
mythological characters, but historical personages. In the space of
that paper, I had not been able to present my complete argument
regarding this issue of the historicity of the war and the two
protagonists of the poem. I have done this in Chapter 4 of the present
book, 'The Personae'. I have viewed Krishna, as I had done in both
the articles, not as a god of the Hindu pantheon, but as a human
being on whom godhead had been thrust and who was looked upon
as one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. However, in my opinion, the
Yadava Chief whom we meet as the charioteer of Arjuna was not the
deified Krishna and I have put forward arguments to substantiate my
In my first article of 1953, I had characterized Krishna as a
reactionary brahman chauvinist. When I began working on my later
article, however, I realised that I was blatantly wrong. Looking at
Krishna in the background of the period in which he flourished, I
realised that he was neither a reactionary nor a brahman chauvinist
but was, indubitably, a progressive thinker who supported the
hierarchical pattern of the Indo-Aryan society in the interest of the
stability and integrity of the then emerging social order in the form of
monarchical slave States. To put it succinctly, he spearheaded the
progressive forces of the Indo-Aryan society of his times and acted as
their spokesman, just as Sun Yat-sen and Kemal Ataturk did at the
turn of the nineteenth century for the then progressive forces, the
national bourgeoisie, in China and Turkey respectively. It is on account
of the progressive role played by Krishna then that even now he has a
great appeal for the Hindus.
However I must confess.lest it gives a wrong impression, that it is
not as if I have devoted halfa century to reading and researching for
this book. My profession as a librarian kept me busy, as did various
other commitments, and even though I have wanted to write this
book for a while, I never quite got down to doing it till about four years
ago. I retrieved and dusted the old folders in which I had kept my
notes and delved deeper into the subject. The result is this little
When I finally began work on this book, I did not intend to
translate the poem itself into English, since a large number of
translations, bywestern Indologists as well as Indian scholars, already
exist and are easily available. However, as I proceeded with the work
on the book I had occasions to refer to some of the English versions,
none of which, I felt, would serve my purpose. All the translations
were by speculative philosophers of various hues and are palpably
biased in the case of certain verses. I realised that translations of
works like the Bhagavadgita tended to be in terpretative and if a reader
of my book happened to refer to a translation of the poem by an
idealist, she would undoubtedly get confused. So I thought it would
be desirable to translate the poem myself presenting the sociological
import of some of the verses, to which earlier translators have, naturally,
given the idealistic slant.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend