Vishvarupa, universal form of Krishna in Bhagavad Gita
is the pivotal point, from where the story of Mahabharata
takes a dramatic turn, to egg on Arjuna
to fight valiantly against his kin, in Kurukshetra
. Until now, Arjuna
, the third Pandava had fallen down to ground, defeated and lost in thought, as to how could he ever take up arms against his respected elders. Krishna, Arjuna`s charioteer in the climactic war, had then tried successfully to explain to his `companion` the real essence of war, one`s duties and values of after life. Lord Krishna
had then made headway towards revealing to Arjuna his actual Almighty Self, a cosmic vision, free from every human form in earth. To manifest Lord Krishna`s divine nature, Krishna yields to Arjuna the boon of cosmic vision (though transient) and grants the prince to perceive his `Universal Form`, which is mentioned in the eleventh chapter. Krishna reveals that he is at once both the ultimate essence of Being in the universe and also its physical body, referred to as the Vishvarupa (`Universal Form`).
Arjuna pleads to Krishna that if it can be made possible for him to see it, he would earnestly request his Lord of Lords to demonstrate His own Universal form, the Vishvarupa. Shri Krishna replied to Arjuna with immersed emotion to behold His celestial forms, "by hundreds and thousands, various in kind, in colour and in shape." Krishna wished Arjuna to behold the Powers of Nature: fire, earth, wind and sky; the sun, the heavens, the moon, the stars; all the forces of vigour and of healing, together with the swanning winds. Krishna wished also to manifest to Arjuna the innumerable wonders revealed to none but his beloved. Vishvarupa, universal form of Lord Krishna complied myriad aspects in one physical body, comprising the whole universe, movable and immovable and anything else that Arjuna desired to witness.
However, since Arjuna was a mortal being, he could never perceive his Lord`s Vishvarupa with mortal eyes. Hence, Krishna gifted him with the Divine Sight, just to view Krishna`s Universal Form and the glory of His Sovereignty. Having spoken thus, Lord Shri Krishna, the Almighty Prince of Wisdom, demonstrated to Arjuna the Supreme Form of the Great God, the Universal Form, Vishvarupa. The colossal and unimaginable form of the Lord was a true vision, comprising countless eyes and mouths and mystic forms innumerable, with glistening ornaments and blazing celestial weapons. The visionary form was crowned with divine garlands, clothed in shining garments, anointed with divine unction; Krishna demonstrated Himself as the Resplendent One, Marvellous, Unbounded and Omnipresent. "Could a thousand suns blaze forth together it would be but a faint reflection of the radiance of the Lord-God." In that lifetime vision Arjuna witnessed the universe, with its manifold shapes, all encompassed within One, its Supreme Lord.
The universal form of Krishna, Vishvarupa was without beginning, without middle and without an end; He was infinite in His prowess, His arms all-embracing like the sun and moon and His eyes, His face was as if radiating with the fire of sacrifice, inundating the whole universe with light. Krishna alone had filled all the quarters of the sky, earth and heaven and the regions within
After such an experience Arjuna went speechless with veneration, his hair on end, his head stooped, his hands clasped in salutation. He addressed his Lord as the Almighty God, in whom he had witnessed the powers of Nature, the various creatures of the world, the Progenitor on his lotus-throne, the Sages and the lustrous angels. Arjuna had, quite obviously, been overwhelmed with emotion.
Arjuna felt after witnessing Krishna`s Vishvarupa that Krishna was truly and honestly Imperishable, the Sole One worthy to be acknowledged, the priceless Treasure house of the universe, the immortal Guardian of the Life Eternal and the Spirit Everlasting. Witnessing His improbable and awe-inspiring Form, the spheres were in truth, trembling with fear. The parade of celestial Beings always enter into Lord Krishna, some invoking Him with fear, others with folded palms; the Great Seers and Adepts extol hymns to Him in Glory, speaking out "All Hail". The Vital Forces, the Major stars, Fire, Earth, Air, Sky, Sun, Heaven, Moon and Planets; the Angels, the Guardians of the Universe, the divine Healers, the Winds, the Fathers, the Heavenly Singers; and hosts of Mammon-worshippers, demons as well as saints, were all thunder-struck in unison after knowing Krishna the Universal, the Cosmic, in the Vishvarupa.
Viewing Krishna`s breathtaking Universal Form, the Cosmic Vishvarupa, coupled with its myriad faces, its innumerable eyes and limbs and fearsome jaws, Arjuna himself and all the worlds were overwhelmed and numbed with awe. Whenever he saw Krishna, touching the Heavens, glowing with colour, with open mouth and wide-open fiery eyes, he was terrified to some extent. Arjuna exclaimed to his Lord that his supreme courage and peace of mind was failing him this time. Whenever he viewed His mouths with those horrific jaws like glowing fires at the termination of creation, Arjuna was losing all sense of place; he could not find any cause to rest in tranquillity. Arjuna begged his Lord to be merciful upon him, and to be a bit more considerate on his children, who abide within Him. All the sons of Dhritarashtra
, with the host of princes, Bhishma
, as well as the other warrior chieftains belonging to the Pandavas` side has truly been browbeaten by such visions, as they were devoid of the cosmic eye. Arjuna expressed his worry that he could see them all rushing headlong into the Lord`s mouths, with appalling tusks, horrifying to behold. Some of them were even mangled within Krishna`s jaws, with their heads crushed to atoms. As rivers in flood gush frantically towards the ocean, so were these heroes gushing towards the Procreator; the greatest among men, were as if flinging themselves into the flaming mouths of the Universal Almighty.
Just as moths fly impulsively towards the incinerating flame only to be obliterated, so were these men rushing into Krishna`s mouths to invite their own devastation. Lord Krishna`s incredible Vishvarupa, the Universal Form seemed as if to swallow up the worlds, to lap them up in flame. In His serene form, the universe is filled with glory, but Krishna`s vicious rays were beating down upon the universe and its population irresistibly. Arjuna thus, with considerable trepidation enquired from his Lord then who actually was his much-known and loved Lord, who had been transformed into a dreadful form; with veneration he bowed before the Mighty One.
Krishna is personified by Arjuna, making hyperbolic expressions and calling the Lord as the Father of all things movable and immovable, the Worshipful and the Master of Masters. The Almighty is addressed that there exists none who could ever equal Him; Krishna stood superior amongst all the Supremes, standing alone in his position. Thus, Arjuna wanted to prostrate himself before his Lord, "Most Adorable! I salute Thee, I ask Thy blessing. Only Thou canst be trusted to bear with me, as father to son, as friend to friend, as lover to his beloved." Arjuna wanted to rejoice that he had seen what never man had ever witnessed before; Krishna`s Vishvarupa, the Universal Form, the Cosmic Vision had endowed Arjuna with much knowledge and enlightenment. Yet, he still felt overwhelmed with fear and pleaded with Krishna, his companion, to again take the Form he had been so familiar with. Arjuna begged Krishna to be merciful, to show clemency, who was after all the true Home of the entire universe. After a prolonged hiatus of the ever-smiling Krishna, Arjuna longed to see him just like he was before, with the crown, the sceptre and the discus in His hands; in His other Form, containing four hands. Though His arms were countless and forms infinite, yet, Krishna was preferred by Arjuna as his beloved charioteer.
Shri Krishna replied then, "My beloved friend! It is only through My grace and power that thou hast been able to see this vision of splendour, the Universal, the Infinite, the Original. Never has it been seen by any but thee." Not by study of the scriptures, not by sacrifice or gift, not by ritual or rigorous austerity, is it possible for man on earth to see what Arjuna had seen, being the hero of the Hastinapur
clan. For that matter, Arjuna had been historically lucky and blessed to have witnessed Vishvarupa, Krishna`s Universal Form, that too with such grace and coolness. Krishna assured Arjuna to not become terrified, or bewildered, by the appalling vision. The Almighty wanted Arjuna to put away his fear and with joyful mind, wanted his beloved to see Him once again in His everyday form. Having thus spoken to Arjuna, Lord Shri Krishna manifested Himself again in His accustomed form; and the Mighty Lord, in tender tones, lightly consoled Arjuna, who had lately been trepid with fear. Arjuna then spoke, "Seeing Thee in Thy gentle human form, my Lord, I am myself again, calm once more."
Shri Krishna then answered back to his companion that it is indeed hard to witness such vision of Himself that Arjuna had just been a part of. Even the most commanding had pined for the Vishvarupa, the Mighty Universal Form, however with futile attempts. It is indeed impossible to have a vision of Krishna`s Vishvarupa; however an individual may be; not by study of the scriptures, or by austerities, not by gifts or sacrifices, is it ever possible to witness Krishna, as Arjuna had done once. Only by unstinting devotion can He ever be seen and known; only thus can a man become one with Him. He whose every action is performed keeping in mind Lord Krishna, to whom he is the final and sole goal, who loves Him only and hates none, only he can ever realise the Vishvarupa