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The History of Kurukshetra

THE HISTORY :

Kurukshetra is probably the most famous, religious site in India and one of the most ancient places of pilgrimage in the world. The name of 'Kurukshetra derives from a tribe, Kuru. By the evidence of its name and of its archaeological remains there can be no doubt that Kurukshetra was occupied by the Aryans. The city is said to be as old as the. Rigveda, and was also called Saryanvat.

According to Mahabharat the land between the Saraswati and Drishdvati was called Kurukshetra, which covered an area of five yojanas in radius. The territory between Tarantuka and Arantuka and between Machkruka and Ramhrada is called Kurukshetra, Samant Panchaka and the Northern Vedi of Brahma. Kurkshetra derives its religious sanctity from more than one source. Its religious importance has been described as the land of righteousness in Rigveda, Sathpath Brahaman, Jabali Upnishad, Puranas, Bhagwat Gita, Mahabharat and other religious books.

Kurukshetra has been declared as the land of Dharma or righteousness in the very first shloka of Srimadbhagwad Gita and it is quite evident that the name Kurukshetra was prevelent even before the great war of Mahabharat. lt was after the name of King Kuru, the ancestor of Kauravas and Pandavas this place was called Kurukshetra. Prior to the name of Kurukshetra this place of pilgrim was known as 'Brahmkshetra', 'Bhrigukshetra', 'Aryavarat' and. 'Samant Panchak' etc. All these names can be found in the holy pages of Mahabharat.

HOLY CIRCUIT :

The ancient Kurukshetra did not comprise of only the sacred tank or the town by this name. It was an extensive area with many cities and villages. This region - the holy circuit - comprises 48 Kosas or about 100 miles with a large number of .temples and tanks of antiquity and traditions. It covered a wide area with the present Panipat and· north­west corner of  Jind district in the south and eastern part of patiala district, in the west Saraswati and Yamuna rivers as its northern and eastern boundaries respectively. According to Manu, it lay between the old sacred rivers Saraswati and Drishadwati and was known as Brahma-Varta.

King Kuru is said to have made this land a great centre of spiritual culture.The Puranic story about this land is very interesting and runs thus:

King Kuru selected this land on the bank of. the sacred river saraswati for spiritual culture and cultivation of eight-fold virtues. The king came here on his golden chariot and utilised its gold for making a plough for cultivation. He took the bull of Shiva and a buffalo of Yama on loan and started ploughing the land. Indra, the king of gods, came and asked Kuru as to what he was doing. The king replied that he was preparing the land for growing the eight-fold virtues of religious austerity (Tapa), Truth, Forgiveness, Kindness, purity, Charity, yoga and continence (Brahmcharya). Indra again:asked the king as to where he would get the seed of these virtues. The king replied that the seed  was in his possession. At this the god Indra laughed at him and went away.

After the king had cultivated the land for several days god vishnu appeared before the king and asked him as to what he was. doing. The king , replied in the same manner as he had done when questioned by Indra. God Vishnu asked the king Kuru to give him the seed and said that he would sow it for him.At this king Kuru put forward. his right arm and the same was cut into thousand pieces with the Chakra of Vishnu and sown in the field. In the, same way king Kuru's left arm, his two legs and then his head were offered-by him to god Vishnu for sowing.

This act of the king pleased god vishnu very much and he blessed him. God Indra also appeared at this stage and told the king that he was very much pleased with his sacrifice and told him to ask for any boon from him. The king there upon begged of him two boons :  One: that this land would forever remain a holy land named after himself, and the other, that anyone dying here would go to Heaven irrespective of his sins or virtues.

The story briefly related above is generally interpreted to mean that king Kuru with the wealth of his state established at Kurukshetra an extensive institution for the moral and spiritual culture of humanity as a whole.

Kurukshetra has been a symbol of sanctity and holiness for centuries. A visit to this hallowed land of high religious and cultural significance is indeed a rewarding experience.

Kurukshetra shot into prominence not only as the battlefield of Mahabharata and birthplace of Gita, but it was the centre of learning and civilisation even earlier. Mythology associates the area with Creation by Brahma. The Aryans inhabited the land at the dawn of civilisation. River Saraswati which flows in it was mentioned in Rig veda like this: "Guide us, Saraswati, to glorious treasure; Refuse us not thy milk or spurn us from there". It was called Uttravedi, Brahmavedi, Dharamkshetra and Kurukshetra at different periods. In the Mahabharata period this holy land was known as Bahu-Dhanyaka (land of plenty).

It has seen the rise and fall of many an empire through centuries. Sons of the soil fought invaders in the battlefield of Kurukshetra Bhumi from time to time and their exploits fill the. pages of history.

When Vardhanas rose to power from Sthanvishvara in sixth century, Kurukshetra regained much of its lost glory. The period Of King Harsha was a golden age when it reached the peak of progress. Huien Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim of that time, writing of the period said: "In that country of gaiety and plenty the people were good natured) hospitable and magnanimous, devoted to their duties and shunning confusion of castes
and cadres".

Bana, the poet, described the capital of Sthanvishvara, (Thanesar) as a splendid city having busy bazars, well-equipped emporia, elegant temples, splendid palaces, artistes, studios, sculptors, work-shops, colleges and schools.

After Harsha, the Kurukshetra region did not enjoy enduring peace. However, the people continued to worship it as a holy land. During the British rule, it remained a district headquarters in the pre-1857 era.




About the Spiritual Author

Debolina Choudhury

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