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Who was Robert Oppenheimer, and what was his connection to the Bhagavad Gita?

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was a renowned American theoretical physicist also known as “the father of the atomic bomb.” He was also the director of the Los Almos Laboratory, which designed the first atomic bomb in the history of mankind.

Robert Oppenheimer Manhattan Project

During World War II, the United States, along with its allies, the United Kingdom and Canada, started the “Manhattan Project,” which developed the first atom bomb in 1945. Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was the project director, and nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the man behind the creation of the destructive weapon.

On July 16, 1945, the first ever bomb was detonated (also known as the Trinity Test) at New Mexico’s Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range.

According to media reports, after the first successful detonation of the bomb, Oppenheimer directly quoted the Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One… I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Robert Oppenheimer and his connection to the Bhagavad Gita

Other than science, Oppenheimer had diverse interests in various other subjects, which also included Hinduism and its sacred texts. During his time at Harvard (1922–1925), he acquainted himself with Hinduism and read its several sacred texts, including the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, and Vedas.

Reportedly, he first read the English translation of these texts and found solace in them. He later learned Sanskrit under the guidance of Professor Arthur W. Ryder, read the original text, and deeply pondered over the philosophy. In several interviews, he said that the Bhagavad Gita has changed his philosophy and life.

In a letter to his brother, Oppenheimer said that the Gita was “Very easy and quite marvelous” and also said, “It is the most beautiful philosophical song existing in any known tongue.” In 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of the first atomic bomb, he quoted the Bhagavad Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One… I am becoming death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Apart from the Gita, Opphehimer is said to have read the famous Indian literary work “Meghaduta,” written by Kalidasa, and other Greek philosophies.

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