The Bhagavad Gita

Themes and Colors
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Bhagavad Gita, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Bhagavad Gita forms part of the sixth book of the Mahabharata, an ancient Sanskrit epic that recounts a war between two sides of the Bharata family—the Pandavas and Kauravas—over their kingdom of Hastinapura. At the beginning of the Gita, as the Pandava warrior Arjuna prepares for battle, he grows despondent after realizing that he will have to kill his cousins and friends. Fortunately, his charioteer Krishna turns out to…

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Throughout the first half of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna gradually reveals his all-encompassing power to Arjuna. He is a conduit for the supreme god Vishnu, who takes on a human form periodically throughout history in order to maintain moral balance in the universe. Krishna fully demonstrates his universality in the tenth and eleventh discourses, spelling out dozens of his divine forms before stunning Arjuna with a dazzling visual display that seems to swallow…

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In the Bhagavad Gita, human beings—and all worldly creatures—have two components, which are variously described as matter and mind, the body and the eternal self (atman), or the “sacred ground” and that which knows the sacred ground. An eternal self sheds various bodies but in fact remains unchanged, as this absolute component is born from Krishna (as a conduit for Vishnu) and destined to return to him after completing the cycle of…

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Once Arjuna learns that Krishna is an incarnation of the Supreme Being (Vishnu), their discussion turns to how one might properly honor the divine and elevate one’s own self toward it. Although various readers of the Gita have argued that it holds one particular kind of worship supreme above all others, Krishna clearly argues that there are myriad paths to enlightenment, and the crucial three routes are those of knowledge, action, and devotion. These paths…

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