What is a Gita?
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.
About the Author
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.