As one reads religious texts, one notices how some words are irreplaceable, and that they are the perfect choices for the situation in which they are used. In a discourse, Valayapet Ramachariar spoke about one such instance in the Bhagavad Gita. In Chapter 2, verse 8, we see Arjuna declaring that he will not be happy even if he were to become Lord of Indra’s kingdom, for his indriyas will still be sorrowful. In verse 9, Sanjaya, recounting the events to Dhritarashtra, says that thus did Arjuna speak to Hrishikesa, and then said to Govinda that he would not fight.
Why have the words Hrishikesa and Govinda been used here? After all, the Lord has thousands of names by which He could be referred to. Why these specific names and why here? The reason lies in Arjuna’s words in the previous verse. He has said that no matter what he attains, his indriyas will still be in a sorrowful state. Hrishikesa means the Lord of the Indriyas. We experience joy or sorrow through our indriyas. Without indriyas we cannot experience anything. Unfortunately, the indriyas keep us under their control. But in the case of the Lord, He is the master of the indriyas. That is why the name Hrishikesa is used here, because Arjuna has spoken about his indriyas troubling him. So to indicate that He is the One who is eventually going to give Arjuna the clarity that he needs, so that he can be free of the torments of his indriyas and carry out his duties, the name ‘Hrishikesa’ is used by Sanjaya here.
As for the use of the name ‘Govinda’, it is to recall the Lord’s act of protecting all the cowherds and their families as well the cows, from the wrath of Indra, who caused it to rain torrentially. None could have saved the people and cattle from such rains, except the Lord Himself. A chastened Indra performed Govinda Pattabhisheka to the Lord. Thus, He who saved everyone and everything during the rains, is the only One capable of giving advice to Arjuna and saving him from the great mistake of shirking of duty. What is to follow in Sanjaya’s account to Dhritarashtra, are the Lord’s words to Arjuna laying out the paths to reach Him. These are the paths that will save everyone. Hence the name Govinda is appropriately used here.