Bhagavad Gita Background from the Mahabharata Epic
1. The Kauravas are the blind king Dhritarashtra and his 100 sons.
2. The Pandavas are Dhritarashtra’s younger brother Pandu and his five sons.
3. Seeking to possess all of the ancestral property, formerly shared between them, the Kauravas challenged the Panduvas to a rigged game of dice. The eldest Pandava brother accepted the challenge, not knowing the game was rigged.
4. After losing the Pandavas were exiled to the forest for 12 years and then required to return but remain incognito for an additional year or face another thirteen year period of the same. Only by completing the cycle successfully could they reclaim their inheritance.
5. At the end of the cycle, the Pandavas sent Lord Krishna to the Kauravas to reclaim their birthright.
6. The eldest Kauravas son, Duryodhana, insulted Krishna and declared he would not give up so much as a needle-point of ground unless the Pandavas took it by force.
7. Krishna and Pandava brother Arjuna went to Duryodhana to try and negotiate a peaceful settlement. When it became apparent war was inevitable, Krishna proposed that he would grant one side a superior army and the other would have him as a counselor and observer, but in no way would he fight on either side.
8. Giving both sides time to consider his offer he fell asleep.
9. When he awoke, arrogant Duryodhana had taken a position on his level, standing before the great Lord, so Krishna would see him first, hoping to be given first choice—he wanted the superior army.
10. Arjuna was prostate several steps below Krishna’s resting place in obeisance. Krishna ignored Duryodhana and offered Arjuna the first choice. To Duryodhana’s delight Arjuna immediately asked for Krishna as counselor to the Pandavas, giving the superior army to the Kauravas.
11. The battle was to take place on the holy plain of Kurukshetra. The Pandavas would be led by Dhristaduyumna, brother-in-law of Arjuna (and in a strange incestuous twist, of all five Pandava brothers), a ferocious warrior trained in combat by the leader of the Kauravas, grand sire of the Kuru family, Bhishmacharya.
12. On the eve of the battle, the great sage Vyasa (author of the Vedas and father of Dhritarashtra in some texts) came to blind Dhritarashtra and offered to restore his sight that he might witness the fighting, a war that seemed heavily weighted toward the vastly superior numbers of Kauruvas, including all 100 brothers. Dhritarashtra declined, saying he would prefer to hear news as it progressed.
13. Vyasa gave Dhritarashtra’s charioteer and chief adviser Sanjaya the gift of Divine sight, that he might report events at Kurukshetra to his blind master while the king remained safely in his palace.
14. For ten days the battle raged with the Kauravas killing one hundred thousand Pandava warriors before Bhishmacharya was killed and … I’ll save the outcome for later as it is in the Mahabharata that the actual fighting unfolds.
15. After the tenth day, Dhritarashtra summoned Sanjaya for news from the battlefield. Sanjaya’s report makes up the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita.