With the translation and study of the Bhagavad Gita by Western scholars beginning in the early 18th century, the Bhagavad Gita gained a growing appreciation and popularity.[web 1] According to the well-known Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh, Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If—" is "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."
The Bhagavad Gita has been highly praised, not only by prominent Indians including Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, but also by Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, Herman Hesse,Bulent Ecevit and others. The Gita 's emphasis on selfless service was a prime source of inspiration for Gandhi, who said:
When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of external tragedies and if they have not left any visible or invisible effect on me, I owe it to the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, commented on the Gita:
The Bhagavad-Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, 11th President of India, despite being a Muslim, used to read Bhagavad Gita and recite mantras.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original form, citing it later as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life. Upon witnessing the world's first nuclear test in 1945, he later said he had thought of the quotation "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds", verse 32 from chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita.
Philip Glass retold the story of Gandhi's early development as an activist in South Africa through the text of the Gita in the opera Satyagraha (1979). The entire libretto of the opera consists of sayings from the Gita sung in the original Sanskrit.[web 31] In Douglas Cuomo's Arjuna's dilemma, the philosophical dilemma faced by Arjuna is dramatised in operatic form with a blend of Indian and Western music styles.[web 32] The 1993 Sanskrit film, Bhagavad Gita, directed by G. V. Iyer won the 1993 National Film Award for Best Film.[web 33][web 34]
The 1995 novel and 2000 golf movie The Legend of Bagger Vance are roughly based on the Bhagavad Gita.