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The world is a hallmark of war and violence, and the Iliad and Bhagavad Gita are excellent illustrations of war. People go to battles and fights for different reasons, whether justified or not. It is part of human nature to want to feel dominant over others, and through the war, they can achieve as much of that gratification as possible. In a deliberate attempt to glorify war, it comes across as a case of heroism; with glamour added to the fighting. In both texts, there is a clear indication of portraying way as the only solution left to the challenges affecting the characters. They somehow result in war as a matter of last resort. Fighting is considered a social evil, but its presence in the Iliad and Bhagavad Gita is a clear indication that war is a matter of fate and destiny; to honor the creed of a people or the intimacy shared between the war participants.
Iliad – Two Reasons Why War Is Justified
Forceful understanding of virtues, turning against vices, and vengeance are the reason behind war in the text. In Iliad, the context of war is a reflection of nature, designed to ensure that people can be forced to understand the virtues of responsibility and honor through war. Further, people can be turned against their vices like cruelty and vengeance through fighting. In the poem, Greek’s best warrior, Achilles, withdraws from the battle at some point, until his comrade, Patroclus, is murdered in the battlefield (Homer). With rage and vengeance, he returns to war and slaughters many Trojans, until he exerts his revenge of the man who killed his comrade (Homer). The death of Hector, Patroclus’ killer, is sweet vengeance for the Greek warrior, and it such revenge that makes sense of war to some people. The personalized attachment between Achilles and Patroclus was a reason good enough for his return to war.
Bhagavad Gita –Two reasons why war is justified.
The reasons are honor for the Supreme Being, and as last resort. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is everyone’s sympathy character. On the other hand, the blame may fall on Krishna, who is the silent agitator in the text. In the Mahabharata war, Arjuna had second thoughts about killing and would have retreated from the war and gone to the forest in search of peace (Eknath). However, he ended up engaging in war. In a big way, the Bhagavad Gita justifies war and fighting as a matter of fate and destiny. Arjuna had to fight and kill whether it was his decision or not. He had to stand up for his army and confront people who were relatives to him. In this war, it was not about family but the Kingdom of Hastinapura. Therefore, his alignments could not stand in place of the desires and needs of the Kingdom at this particular time. The power and might of his charioteer, Krishna, only meant that he had to pick up his bow and arrows and engage the opposition in war (Eknath). He had to surrender to the powers of Krishna. Consequently, war, in this case, is justified as a matter of fate and unavoidability.
How the two texts compare
The characters in both texts abhor and support the war in circumstantially. In Iliad, Achilles had quit the battlefield because he wanted not to be part of the bloodshed. On the other hand, Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita cast down his bow and arrows and was ready to forego the battle for the sake of his close people in the opposing army (Eknath). Those scenarios illustrate characters who abhorred war and fighting. However, Achilles had to return to battle because he could not let the killers of his comrade go unpunished, and Arjuna had foregone his decision and engage in the war to not sin against the powerful Supreme Being in the name of Krishna. As such, they both showed that circumstances dictate whether one should support or abhor the art of war.
Bhagavad-gita. Norton Anthology of World Literature. Shorter 4th, edited by Martin Puchner et al., W.W.Norton & Company, New York, 2019, pp 669-688.
Homer. Iliad. Norton Anthology of World Literature. Shorter 4th, edited by Martin Puchner et al., W.W.Norton & Company, New York, 2019, pp 138-194.
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