dhṛtarāṣṭra uvāca
dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre
samavetā yuyutsavaḥ
māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva
kim akurvata sañjaya

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 1.1

Dhritarashtra said: O Sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Pandu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kurukshetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Bhagavad-gita is the widely read theistic science summarized in the Gita-mahatmya (Glorification of the Gita). There it says that one should read Bhagavad-gita very scrutinizingly with the help of a person who is a devotee of Sri Krishna and try to understand it without personally motivated interpretations. The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gita itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gita directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gita in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world. One will find in the Bhagavad-gita all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of the Gita. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.

The topics discussed by Dhritarashtra and Sanjaya, as described in the Mahabharata, form the basic principle for this great philosophy. It is understood that this philosophy evolved on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, which is a sacred place of pilgrimage from the immemorial time of the Vedic age. It was spoken by the Lord when He was present personally on this planet for the guidance of mankind.

The word dharma-kshetra (a place where religious rituals are performed) is significant because, on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present on the side of Arjuna. Dhritarashtra, the father of the Kurus, was highly doubtful about the possibility of his sons’ ultimate victory. In his doubt, he inquired from his secretary Sanjaya, “What did they do?” He was confident that both his sons and the sons of his younger brother Pandu were assembled in that Field of Kurukshetra for a determined engagement of the war. Still, his inquiry is significant. He did not want a compromise between the cousins and brothers, and he wanted to be sure of the fate of his sons on the battlefield. Because the battle was arranged to be fought at Kurukshetra, which is mentioned elsewhere in the Vedas as a place of worship – even for the denizens of heaven – Dhritarashtra became very fearful about the influence of the holy place on the outcome of the battle. He knew very well that this would influence Arjuna and the sons of Pandu favorably, because by nature they were all virtuous. Sanjaya was a student of Vyasa, and therefore, by the mercy of Vyasa, Sanjaya was able to envision the Battlefield of Kurukshetra even while he was in the room of Dhritarashtra. And so, Dhritarashtra asked him about the situation on the battlefield.

Both the Pandavas and the sons of Dhritarashtra belong to the same family, but Dhritarashtra’s mind is disclosed herein. He deliberately claimed only his sons as Kurus, and he separated the sons of Pandu from the family heritage. One can thus understand the specific position of Dhritarashtra in his relationship with his nephews, the sons of Pandu. As in the paddy field the unnecessary plants are taken out, so it is expected from the very beginning of these topics that in the religious field of Kurukshetra, where the father of religion, Sri Krishna, was present, the unwanted plants like Dhritarashtra’s son Duryodhana and others would be wiped out and the thoroughly religious persons, headed by Yudhishthira, would be established by the Lord. This is the significance of the words dharma-kshetre and kuru-kshetre, apart from their historical and Vedic importance.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

How did Arjuna become bewildered and fall into ignorance? The speaker of the Mahabharata, Vaisampayana, started explaining the topic to Janmejaya in the Bhisma Parva, with the following words.

Dhritarashtra said, “Please tell me what my sons, headed by Duryodhana, and the sons of Pandu, headed by Yudhisthra were doing, having gathered together for fighting at Kuruksetra?”

“But you yourself have said that they were desirous of fighting, so why are you asking what they did?”

This place is a holy place (dharma ksetra). Sruti says:

kuruksetram deva yajanam

Kuruksetra is a place for worshipping the Lord.   Satapatha Brahmana, Madhyandinlya

“It is famous as a place which produces dharma. Due to association with this great place, the evil Duryodhana and company could give up their anger and take to the path of dharma. The Pandavas are naturally following dharma. Then both sides would have intelligence to see that they should not kill their own relatives and friends, and would negotiate peace.”

Externally, he desired to show Sanjaya that he would be relieved if this were so. Internally, however, he found it hard to restrain his depression, for if there was conciliation, then, it would be difficult for his sons to claim the kingdom. “As Bhisma, who is on our side cannot be defeated by Arjuna, it is better that we fight. Let that happen!” It was not suitable however to show such desires externally.

There is a hidden meaning in the word ksetra (field) in the phrase dharma-ksetra. The field was a place for growing the grains of dharma, in the form of pious Yudhisthira along with his group, who was the very incarnation of dharma.1 The field, a place for exerting oneself in the work of cultivating, was the place in which Krishna, the nourisher of dharma, would encourage Yudhisthira. The field, a place for many projects like blocking irrigation dykes and watering, was the place where Krishna would assist Yudhisthira in many ways to establish the grains of dharma. The same field is also a place for weeds to grow. The weeds, enemies of the grains, in the form of Duryodhana and others, also grew there, but would be destroyed by Krishna.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

1.1 – 1.19 Dhrtarastra said — Sanjaya said — Duryodhana, after viewing the forces of Pandavas protected by Bhima, and his own forces protected by Bhisma conveyed his views thus to Drona, his teacher, about the adequacy of Bhima’s forces for conquering the Kaurava forces and the inadequacy of his own forces for victory against the Pandava forces. He was grief-stricken within. Observing his (Duryodhana’s) despondecny, Bhisma, in order to cheer him, roared like a lion, and then blowing his conch, made his side sound their conchs and kettle-drums, which made an uproar as a sign of victory. Then, having heard that great tumult, Arjuna and Sri Krsna the Lord of all lords, who was acting as the charioteer of Arjuna, sitting in their great chariot which was powerful enough to conquer the three worlds; blew their divine conchs Srimad Pancajanya and Devadatta. Then, both Yudhisthira and Bhima blew their respective conchs separately. That tumult rent asunder the hearts of your sons, led by Duryodhana. The sons of Dhrtarastra then thought, ‘Our cause is almost lost now itself.’ So said Sanjaya to Dhrtarastra who was longing for their victory. Sanjaya said to Dhrtarastra: Then, seeing the Kauravas, who were ready for battle, Arjuna, who had Hanuman, noted for his exploit of burning Lanka, as the emblem on his flag on his chariot, directed his charioteer Sri Krsna, the Supreme Lord-who is overcome by parental love for those who take shelter in Him who is the treasure-house of knowledge, power, lordship, energy, potency and splendour, whose sportive delight brings about the origin, sustentation and dissolution of the entire cosmos at His will, who is the Lord of the senses, who controls in all ways the senses inner and outer of all, superior and inferior — by saying, ‘Station my chariot in an appropriate place in order that I may see exactly my enemies who are eager for battle.’

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

In this very first verse of Srimad Bhagavad-Gita beginning with dharma- ksetra-kuru-ksetra, avatar Krsna Dwaipayana Vyasadeva has used this narrative form: assembled in the place of righteousness Kuruksetra etc.; to properly introduce the location, the action and the theme. Thereafter when King Dhritarastra in Hastinapura asks his minister, Sanjaya who had received clairvoyance by the grace of Vyasadeva as to what happened on the battlefield, Sanjaya related all the events exactly as they happened by having the clairvoyant ability to witness them directly within his mind as if he was there present. Srila Vyasadeva to properly introduce their dialogue begins with the narrative form with: having seen the army of the sons of Pandu etc. After this until the end of the chapter the subtle intricacies of duty are delineated.

As has been stated in the ancient Vedic scriptures concerning the greatness of Srimad Bhagavad-Gita and that is the words that emanate from the transcendental mouth of the Supreme Lord Krishna when well assimilated precludes the necessity of various other scriptures.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

The Supreme Lord Krishna in order to mitigate Arjuna’s lamentation tells him that he grieves for that which is not worthy of sorrow in answer to the cause of Arjuna woes as has been described in the first chapter which began by the blind Dhrtarastra inquiring about his hoped for sons victory; yet internally in doubt due to Arjunas unsurpassable valour revealed in his aquisition of divine weapons by satisfying Shiva, also this was proved when Arjuna defeated the Gandharvas and released Duryodhana even though the latter had come to cause he and his brothers mischief, also by Arjunas removing of the Kauravas crowns and ornaments when he defeated them recapturing the cowherd of the king at the city of Virata. All these events flashed through Dhritarastra’s mind and with a heavy heart he asked Sanjaya who had been bequeathed with clairvoyance byVedavyasa giving him the capacity to envision everything that was happenning on the battlefield of Kuruksetra between the army of his sons the Kauravas and the army of the Pandavas.

The Mahabharata records these events from a conversation between the holy sage Vaisampayana and Arjunas great-grandson Janamejaya and begins the Bhagavad-Gita with Dhritarastra spoke. In this very first verse the question is placed within the sentence thus: In the holy land of Kuruksetra what did my sons and the sons of Pandu desiring battle do? Kuruksetra is the place of the origin of dharma or righteousness. The Vedic scriptures declare that Kuruksetra is a place for performing sacrifice. Its signifigance is well known and recorded. All through the ages Kuruksetra has been a place for performing sacrifice, sacred and holy, resided at by the Brahma-rishis. Those who depart this world at Kuruksetra should not be grieved for under any circumstances. The suggested question that Dhritarastra is inwardly posing is whether or not his sons observing the powerful warriors in the enemy ranks such as the mighty Bhima and the intrepid Arjuna who is a perfect master in the use of celestial weapons, were still determined to fight or reconsidering did they give up all thoughts of warfare and instead call a truce and make a peace settlement.

The phrase dharma-ksetra kuru-ksetra used by Dhritarastra signifies two things. The first is that he is inwardly thinking that his sons who are not righteous might give back the kingdom to the Pandavas which they appropriated by fraudulent means, due to being influenced by the righteousness and holy acts of sanctity performed in sacred sacrifice for the satisfaction of Bhrigu Muni and as well as the potent act of atonement performed by avatar Parasurama which He offered on five altars as expiation for his fathers death. The second is that Dhritarastra was contemplating that Kuruksetra being the the place where dharma originated is inherently powerfully potent in virtue and righteousness. If the Pandavas who are virtuous by nature, increase in righteousness due to contact with the holiness of Kuruksetra and thereby lose all desire in regaining the kingdom after duly weighing the sinful consequences of slaying their kinsman and relatives then I would be very pleased with them.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

Sri Sankaracharya did not comment on this sloka. The commentary starts from 2.10.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

Dharmaksetre etc. Here some [authors] offer a different explanation as : Kuruksetra : the man’s body is the ksetra i.e., the facilitator, of the kurus, i.e., the sense-organs. The same is the field of all wordly duties, since it is the cuse of their birth; which is also the field of the righteous act that has been described as : ‘This is the highest righteous act viz., to realise the Self by means of the Yogas’; and which is the protector [of the embodied Self] by achieving emancipation [by means of this], through the destruction of all duties. It is the location where there is the confrontation among all ksatras, the murderous ones-because the root ksad means ‘to kill’ – viz, passion and asceticism, wrath and forbearance, and others that stand in the mutual relationship of the slayer and the slain. Those that exist in it are the mamakas,-i.e., the intentions that are worthy of man of ignorance and are the products of ignorance-and those that are born of Pandu: i.e., the intentions, of which the soul is the very knowledge itself and which are worthy of persons of pure knowledge. What did they do? In other words, which were vanquished by what? Mamaka : a man of ignorance as he utters [always] ‘mine’. Pandu : the pure one.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

dhrtarastra uvaca
dharma-ksetre kuru-ksetre
samaveta yuyutsavah
mamakah pandavas caiva
kim akurvata sanjaya

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

dhṛtarāṣṭraḥ uvāca — King Dhṛtarāṣṭra said; dharma-kṣetre — in the place of pilgrimage; kuru-kṣetre — in the place named Kurukṣetra; samavetāḥ — assembled; yuyutsavaḥ — desiring to fight; māmakāḥ — my party (sons); pāṇḍavāḥ — the sons of Pāṇḍu; ca — and; eva — certainly; kim — what; akurvata — did they do; sañjaya — O Sañjaya.