paanchajanyam hrishikeesho devadattam dhananjayaha |
paundryam dadhamau mahaashankam bheemekarmaa vrikodaraha || 15 ||
 
anantavijayam raaja kuntiputrau yudhistiraha |
nakulaha sahadevashcha sughoshamanipushpakau || 16 ||
 
kashyashcha parameshvasaaha shikhandi cha mahaarathaha |
dhristhadyumno viraatashcha saatyakischaparaajiataha ||17||
 
drupado draupadeyascha sarvashaha pruthiveepate |
saubhadrashcha mahaabaahuh shankhaandadhmuh prithakprithak || 18 ||

 
Hrishikesha blew his conch named Paanchajanya, Arjuna blew his conch Devadatta, and the fearsome Bheema blew his mighty conch named Paundra.
 
King Yudhishtira, son of Kuntu, blew his conch named Anantavijayam, Nakula and Sahadeva blew their conches named Sughosha and Manipushpaka.
 
The King of Kashi, a supreme archer, the mighty warriors Shikhandi, Dhristadyumna, King Viraata and Satyaki ..
 
King Drupada, the sons of Draupadi and Abhimanyu, the mighty armed son of Subhadraa, all blew their respective conches, O King.

 
paanchajanyam : conch named Paanchajanya
hrishikeeshaha : one who has conquered the senses (Krishna)
devadattam : conch named Devadatta
dhananjayaha : one who has achieved victory over wealth (Arjuna)
paundryam : conch named Paundra
dadhamau : blew
mahaashankam : mighty conch
bheemekarmaa : Bheema
vrikodaraha : one who has extraordinary capacity to imbibe food
 
ananta-vijayam : conch named ananta-vijayam
raaja : king
kuntiputrau : son of Kunti
yudhistiraha : Yudhishtira
nakulaha : Nakula
sahadevashcha : and Sahadeva
sughosha-manipushpakau : conches named Sughosha and Manipushpaka
 
kashyashcha : King of Kashi
parameshvasaaha : supreme archer
shikhandi : Shikhandi
 
mahaarathaha: mighty warrior
dhristhadyumno : Dhrishtadyumna
viraatashcha : King Viraata
saatyaki : Saatyaki
aparaajiataha : indefeatable
 
drupado : King Drupada
draupadeyascha : Draupadi’s sons
sarvashaha : all
pruthiveepate : O king
saubhadra : Abhimanyu
mahaabaahu : mighty armed
shankha: conches
dadhmuh : sounded
prithak-prithak : their respective
 
Blowing of the conches was a tradition that signified the start of a war. In other words, once that sound was heard, there was no room for compromise, there was no more vacillation on whether or not to fight, everyone was committed to start the war.
 
We should remind ourselves again and again that the Gita is first and foremost a practical text on how to lead a balanced life, a life that is in harmony with the world. Therefore, we should try to connect what we read in this text to our own life and experiences.
 
Arjuna was face to face with the Kaurava army, and the sound of the conches indicated that he was about to deal with an extremely difficult situation – that of war. Most of us also have to deal with extremely difficult situations every day, though usually not that of life or death, but ones with high stakes nevertheless. If you are a student, then a tough exam is an example. If you have a job, then a upcoming meeting with your boss is is another example.
 
When I read the blowing of the conches, I recalled a sound from my childhood which for me had similar implications. Early in the morning, at the same time everyday, I would hear the sound of a air raid warning alarm, coming in from the distance. There was no imminent threat of an air raid, that sound was used only to test the warning system. But for me personally, it reminded me that in a few minutes I would have to face the most difficult situation a shy, nerdy kid has to face everyday – school!
 
Footnotes
 
1. While the Pandava army has well-known conches, the Kaurava army’s conches are nameless

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