akhyahi me ko bhavan ugra-rupo
namo ’stu te deva-vara prasida
vijnatum icchami bhavantam adyam
na hi prajanami tava pravrttim

"O Lord of lords, so fierce of form, please tell me who You are. I offer my obeisances unto You; please be gracious to me. You are the primal Lord. I want to know about You, for I do not know what Your mission is."

Me = to me [Arjuna], akhyahi = tell, ko =who, bhavan = You [Sri Krishna] are, ugra-rupa = with frightening appearance?, deva-vara = Eminent among Devas, prasida = be gracious [to me, Arjuna], te = to You [Sri Krishna], namostu = offer salutes. Arjuna offers his respects and obeisance and prays that the Lord be gracious to tell him, the purpose of this frightening appearance of the Lord. Adyam = [from] primordial [time], bhavantam = existing [oh! Lord], vijnathum = to understand, icchami = I [Arjuna] am desirous. The Lord is existing from beginning and so Arjuna desires to know why He has put up this fierce appearance. Na = not, prajanami = understanding, tava = Your [Sri Krishna's], pravrittim = action. Arjuna says that he is ignorant of the Lord's frightening appearance and he is unaware of His actions. He wants to know about the Lord, existing from primordial time; that is from the start of creations. Swami Ramanuja clarifies some important things to us as introduction to this sloka. When Arjuna asks the Lord who He was, does not Arjuna know Sri Krishna? Arjuna knew that Sri Krishna only had taken the Viswaroopam. But here what is implied in the question is what was the purpose of putting up such a frightening appearance. Arjuna knows the Lord well, is evident from his addressing the Lord as adyam bhavantam or existing from the beginning of creations. Though in this birth Arjuna knew Sri Krishna for 62 years [age of Sri Krishna at the time of Mahabharata war]; he did not mean that, as after listening to Sri Krishna's sermon in the past Chapters, Arjuna became aware that the Lord was the Prime Cause for everything, for every creation. So, knowing all these Arjuna was not fool to ask Who the Lord was. He desired to know the frightening appearance of the Lord. Sri Krishna in Chapter 10, had, in detail, told that all were His property. He owned everything. And, Arjuna requested the Lord to show him His property and auspicious qualities. Accordingly, the Lord is showing His Viswaroopam. Thus Arjuna has no doubt in all these; but his doubt is about the purpose of the Lord showing the fierce image and how that was going to affect him. What message was going to be conveyed by the Lord through this Viswaroopam, is the question of Arjuna. This, perhaps, is the question in our minds also. What are we to understand from the Viswaroopam? Arjuna by asking this represents all of us. Does the Lord want to frighten Arjuna? Does He want to show that entire Universe merges in Him at the end? Does He want to show that He is finishing Duryodana and others? Does He want to show that He was going to kill Bhishma and Drona? Thus the purpose of Viswaroopam could be anything. Alwar says in one pasuram that he saw the Lord with the bow sarngam [not sarangam, which means deer]; yet, he did not know who He was? Like in Sri Pavalavannan temple, the Alwar said 'Pavalavanna! Engutthai? Where are You?' What Alwar meant there was that though he knew Sri Pavalavannan, he did not know where to search for Him. He knew the Lord as Sri Rama holding the bow, but he did not know any further. Arjuna, similarly says that conceding to his prayer the Lord showed the Viswaroopam; nothing more! What grace [அருள்] Arjuna expected from the Lord? Firstly, why He had shown this Viswaroopam? Next, Arjuna is requesting the Lord to come back to His earlier form as Sri Krishna, and grace him. Arjuna could not further see the frighteneing image; and, he wanted to know the purpose, that is all. Here also we see in one sannidhi, the Lord as the gigantic Sri Ulagalanathan; and, in this sannidhi He appears in the normal way.