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Gita Jayanti is the birthday of Bhagvad Gita, the sacred text of the Hindus. It is celebrated on the Shukla Ekadashi, 11th day of the waxing moon of Margashirsha month of the Hindu calendar. It is believed the "Bhagavad Gita" was revealed to Arjuna by Krishna Himself in the battlefield of Kurukshetra (in present-day Haryana, India). The text is written in third person, narrated by Sanjaya to King Dhritarashtra as it transpired between Sri Krishna and Arjuna. Sanjaya, the secretary of the blind King Dhritarashtra, had been blessed by his Guru, Vyasadev, with the power to remotely view the events taking place on the battlefield as they transpired.
The discourse of Bhagavad Gita took place just before the start of the Kurushektra war. This is the brief history prior to that:
After several attempts at reconciliation failed, war was inevitable. Out of pure compassion and sincere love for His devotee and best friend, Arjuna, Lord Krishna decided to become his charioteer during the battle. The day of the war finally came and both armies gathered on the battlefield face to face. Just as the battle was about to start, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna to drive the chariot to the middle of the battlefield in between both armies to have a look at the opposing armies. Seeing his Grandsire Bhishma who raised him with great affection since childhood, and his teacher Dronācārya who had trained him to become the greatest archer, Arjuna's heart began to melt. His body started to tremble and his mind got confused. He became unable to perform his duty as a Kshatriya (warrior). He felt weak and sickened at the thought that he would have to kill his relatives, his friends and revered persons in this confrontation. Being very despondent, he told his friend Krishna of his sudden change of heart, and turned to Him for advice. The conversation that ensued, Lord Krishna's advice and teachings to Arjuna, is what is known now as the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient scripture and non-sectarian philosophical work.
Gita Jayanti is celebrated worldwide by all devotees of Lord Krishna (followers of Sanatana Dharma), who revere Bhagavad Gita as their Divine Mother because she teaches (in a non-sectarian and scientific manner) how to re-establish our lost relationship with God Almighty (The Supreme).
It is generally observed by en-masse recitation of all 700 verses of the Gita chanted throughout the day. Devotees also fast on this day since it is an Ekadashi day (Ekadasi is the eleventh day of the waxing moon and waning moon) – it occurs twice every lunar month and is observed by fasting from grains and lentils (peas, beans, dhals) by those who seek to progress spiritually. Bhajans and Poojas are held on this day. In places where this festival is celebrated grandly, stage play and Gita chanting competitions are held for kids to show their talents as a way to encourage their interest in reading Gita. Yogis, Sanyasins and learned scholar gives talks and held forums of this holy scripture. Leaflets, pamphlets and books containing the essence of Gita are distributed to the public. It is especially auspicious to distribute free copies of the Gita on this holy day.
For this festival, the Swadhyay Parivar encourage youth from 16–30 years of age, of many religions and cultures, to speak on a certain topics about Gita. Last year from around the world 3.5 million youth spoke on the Gita. This year, youth spoke on the topic Bhagvad Gita: The Destroyer of Kali yuga and the divine song of Unity. People have gone from house to house spreading the thoughts of the Gita.
In Singapore, Gita Jayanti celebrations have become a grand, month-long 'mega event' (see their official website in External Links below) It is coordinated by the Singapore Hindu Endowments Board with at least 36 Hindu Temples and Indian social & cultural organisations support. It has become a great platform for 'intra-faith' co-operation and harmony between the followers of various branches and sects of Sanatana Dharma ('hinduism'). Each year, in a very exemplary way, a different organisation takes the leading role supported by all the others.
A unique development in the observance of Gita Jayanti was introduced in 1997 by Dina Anukampana Das [see official GJ Singapore Magazine article on its history by the Hon. Secretary, External Link below], a Singaporean, who is a dedicated preacher of the Bhagavad Gita. He developed a way of very simply singing the Gita with a nursery-rhyme type of tune that anyone can follow, accompanied by kartals and mridanga (drum). He also presented the verses in a format he invented called 'simplified romanised Sanskrit' wherein all the long syllables are marked in red to guide the novice (beginner). All resources for Gita Jayanti resources, such as the verses of the Gita in various formats and languages, audio and text, are available for download from the sites www[dot]gitajayanti[dot]ning[dot]com and www[dot]gitajayanti[dot]org
When these verses are projected on a large screen, and sung to that simple tune, the results have proven to be very amazing, and a stark contrast to the traditional mode of chanting – because everyone is able to join in and sing along by the second or third chapter. (A sample of this new style of singing the Gita is online at www[dot]gitasingalong[dot]on[dot]to Generally it is thought that 'Sanskrit is very hard' so I cannot chant it. This is true for the traditional way of chanting – only those who know Sanskrit to some degree can join in, because the speed of reading is so fast that any beginner will find it very hard to keep up. Furthermore, the tendency is to speed up as the hours go by. But in the new format, which is gaining popularity in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere, the musical instruments control the pace, and the tune is so simple that there is time for the beginner to see and enunciate each and every syllable. The music thus unites the slow (beginners) and the fast (advanced) participants, in harmonious singing, enabling everyone to participate. (The system of romanised Sanskrit used is called IAST and its creation in Athens in 1912 is documented elsewhere on Wikipedia.)
These developments have proved effective for promoting the event to Hindus around the world, especially the younger generation, who are not fluent in reading Indian or Sanskrit scripts (with their hundreds of complex alphabets), but who can easily read the romanised version. Dina Anukampana Das has shared this method of observing the Gita with Hindu leaders in Malaysia, Bali (Indonesia), Cambodia, Auckland (New Zealand), Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Chennai and its popularity has been growing. In this regard, the President of the Divine Life Society in Malaysia, His Holiness Swami Guhabhaktanandaji Maharaj, has written a strong supporting letter xxxxxxx addressed to all Hindu leaders in Chennai, to give strong support to this method of observing Gita Jayanti and to include it in their temple's annual calendar of events.
- Bhagavad Gita Ch 18 Txt 75.
- Hindu Fast and Festivals By Swami Sivananda
- Gita Jayanti International scoial network for promoting Gita Jayanti observances
- Free resources for observing Gita Jayanti – singalong audio, display text
- Gita verses in simplified devanagari, large format for screen display
- Gita verses in simplified romanized sanskrit, large format for screen display
- Gita Jayanti supporting letter to Hindu Leaders by HH Swami Guhabhaktanandaji, President of Divine Life Society, Malaysia
- Gita Jayanti resources – verses in singalong karaoke format with free karaoke software
- Gita Jayanti Singapore official Magazine 1998
- Gita Jayanti Malaysia Web Log
- Gita Jayanti Singapore's official website, under the auspices of the Hindu Endowments Board
- Gita Jayanti Celebration Swadhyay
- Article on how GJ is observed by Swami Sivananda, Divine Life Society founder