Gita means a song or a hymn.  It is usually a dialogue or a conversation between a guru, preceptor, or a jivan mukta and a sishya, student, or an earnest seeker.  Sometimes the song will be in the form of an advice.  Gita is usually filled with many questions and answers.  Gitas are very important in Hinduism, because it is ripe with spiritual knowledge.  There are many gitas in Hinduism.  To my knowledge there are more than sixty gitas in Hinduism.  The source of these gitas is from the epics, puranas, upapuranas and other Hindu scriptures.  The most famous among all these gitas is Sri Baghavad gita.  Everyone knows about this gita.  In this article let us see the different gitas from mahabharata. 

Mahabharata has eighteen parvas, chapters, or books.  The longest among them is the shanti parva.  It has 365 chapters.  Shanti parva has three sections.  They are the Raja dharma parva, apad dharma parva and moksha dharma parva.  The source of majority of the mahabharata gitas is from the moksha dharma parva or raja dharma parva of shanti parva of mahabharata.

The background of shanti parva is, after the great mahabharata war was over, King Yudhishtira was in a dejected state of mind.  Nobody could console him.  After the coronation ceremony was over the five Pandava brothers went to see Lord Krishna.  Lord Krishna took them to see Bheeshmaacharya, who was lying on the bed of arrows, still alive.  When Bheeshmaacharya saluted Lord Krishna, He took away the pain of Bheeshmaacharya, and made his mind peaceful.  By the direction of Lord Krishna King Yudhishtira asked many questions to Bheeshmaacharya.  Bheeshmaacharya gave deep philosophical answers to each of King Yudhishtira questions.  Each one of his profound answers is traditionally considered as gita.  Majority of them are a dialogue between a Rishi and a king, which he refers to king Yudhishtira. 

Another parva which is the source of many gitas in mahabharata is the vana parva.  During the period of exile, the Pandavas especially Yudhishtira meets many sages.  He asks many questions to these sages regarding all important topics in life.  The answer by the sages to these questions is traditionally considered as gita.  This parva is about the moral ethics and values the Pandavas learnt during their period of exile in the forest. 

Now let us see the different gitas from mahabharata. There are 25 gitas in mahabharata.

1. Sri Baghavad gita – It is also said as Hari gita by Sage Narada.  It comes in the Bheeshma parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. It has 700 verses.  It discusses various aspects of life. 

2. Anu gita – After the mahabharata war was over, Arjuna completely forgot the gita.  Therefore, he approached Lord Krishna and requested him to repeat the gita.  Lord Krishna said what is said in a particular situation, at a particular time cannot be repeated again; and he said the essence of Baghavad gita, which is known as Anu gita.

3. Uttara gita – After ruling the kingdom for many years, again in the old age Arjuna approached Lord Krishna and requested him to advice Brahma vidya.  Lord Krishna advised many yogic practices and this collection is called uttara gita.   

These three gitas are known as Krishna gitas.  They are said by Lord Krishna to Arjuna.

3. Ashtavakra gita – This gita is the conversation between sage Ashtavakra and king Janaka of Mythila.  Sage Ashtavakra is the guru of king Janaka.  It comes in the vana parva of mahabharata.  It is about the core advaita vedanta philosophy.  During the period of vanavasa to one of the questions of Yudhishtira, sage Lomash recites the story of Ashtavakra.

4. Baka gita – It is a conversation between sage Baka and lord Indira. It is about dharma and renunciation.

5. Bheeshma gita – This gita has three hymns sung in praise of Lord Vishnu, Lord Narayana and Lord Mahadev by Bheeshma. 

6. Bodhya gita – This gita comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between sage Bodhya and king Yayati.

7. Brahmana gita – It comes in the ashvamedha parva of mahabharata.  It is conversation between a learned brahmin and his wife about ways to escape from the bondage of maya.

8. Harita gita – It comes in the shanti parva of mahabharta.  This gita is the teachings of sage Harita on sanyasa dharma.  Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita as an answer to one of the questions by king Yudishtira.

9. Kama gita – It is very short gita with only eleven verses.  It comes in the ashvamedha parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Yudishtira on the importance of suppression of desires, and the ways to deal with desires.

10. Manki gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  It is the story of sage Manki on his enlightenment, which Bheeshmaacharya recites to one of the questions of king Yudhishtira.

11. Nahusha gita – It is a dialogue between king Yudhishtira and Nahusha in the form of a serpent.

12. Parasara gita – It comes in the shanti parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Rishi Parasara, who is the father of Ved Vyasa, and king Janaka.  Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita, which is about good values, to a question asked by king Yudhishtira.

13. Pandava gita – This gita is a hymn dedicated to Lord Krishna.  It has 76 verses.  This gita is about the saranagathi tattwa.  Many people including the five pandavas, Draupati, Kunti, Narada, Bhishma, Dronacharya etc tell about their saranagati to Lord Krishna and how they were protected by Lord Krishna.  This gita is also known as Prapanna gita.

14. Pingala gita – It comes in the santi parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  When king Yudhishtira asks Bheeshmaacharya about knowledge and renunciation, Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita.  Actually it is a story of a dancing girl named Pingala, who realizes that the cause for her sorrow are her desires and she gave up her desires and attained enlightenment.  It also comes in the Uddhava gita. 

15. Sampaka gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva in mahabharata.  Sampaka was a learned and pious brahmin who realized that only renunciation can give everlasting happiness.  When king Yudhishtira questions Bheeshmaacharya the reason for the same kind of sorrow and happiness affecting both the rich and the poor, Bheeshmaacharya recited this gita.

16. Sanatsujata gita – This gita comes in the udyoga parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between king Dhritharashtira and Rishi Sanatsujata.  King Dhritharastira was disturbed by the exile of the Pandava brothers.  Vidhura invites Rishi Sanatsujata to advise the king.  The advice given by Rishi Sanatsujata based on brahma vidya is Sanatsujata gita.

17. Shaunaka gita – This gita comes in the aranya (vana) parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between sage Shaunaka and Yudhishtira based on the secrets of life. 

18. Vamadeva gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section raja dharma parva of mahabharata.  To a question by king Yudhishtira on raja dharma, Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita.  It is a dialogue between Rishi Vamadeva and king Vasumana of Kosala kingdom.

19. Shadaja gita – This gita comes in the shanti parva, sub-section apad dharma parva of mahabharata.  Shadaja means originating from six; this gita has individual views about dharma from the five Pandava brothers and Vidhura.

20. Utathya gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section raja dharma parva of mahabharata.  King Yudhishtira asks about raja dharma and Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita which is originally said by Utathya (son of Angiras) to king Mandhata.

21. Vicakhnu gita – This gita is from the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  It is a small gita with eleven versus.  Bheeshmaacharya tells king Yudhishtira about the views of king Vicakhnu on non-violence.  King Vicakhnu says that the animal nature in man must be sacrificed rather than sacrificing the real animals in the yagna (sacrifice). 

22. Vidhura gita – It is also famously said as Vidhura neeti.  It comes in the udyoga parva of mahabharata.  It has 500 versus.  This gita is the advice given by Vidhura on raja dharma, dharma, individual and social morality, politics and the art of governing to king Dhritharashtira.

23. Vritra gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva in mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Vritrasura and Sukracharya, which Bheeshmaacharya refers to king Yudhishtira to a question based on detachment and moksha.

24. Vyadha gita – This gita comes in the vana parva of mahabharata.  It is the advice given by sage Markandeya to Yudhishtira in the vanavasa period of the pandavas.  It is a story of a butcher (vyadha) who does nishkama karma (selfless act) and dharma (righteous act).

25. Yudhishtira – This gita is also known as yaksha prashna.  It comes in the vana parva of mahabharata.  It is a conversation between a yaksha and Yudhishtira.  A yaksha in the form of a crane asks many questions to Yudhishtira for which Yudhishtira answers brilliantly.

These are the gitas from the greatest epic mahabharata. 

In my next article I’ll write about the different gitas from Srimad Baghavata purana.