Battlefields of Kurukshetra

Panipat was different where three battles were fought at three separate and clearly identifiable locations. Distinctively, in case of present day Kurukshetra the entire city can be said to be the location of the epic war of Mahabharata. In fact, its very name is synonymous with the battle. Nowadays, the entire 40-kos area is considered as holy and is dotted with many places and points with the religious and historical significance that they still carry. But my purpose was not to see this city entirely from its religious significance but to describe its devolvement from a battle-prone settlement to its present state. I wanted to see how the city is preserving its heritage. The government role to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Kurukshetra, however, was visible on the websites of Haryana Tourism and Haryana District profile. Interestingly, the district website quotes a Sanskrit verse, saying that, “The planets constellations and starts are subject to the danger of falling down from the sky, but those who die in Kurukshetra have no fall on earth, that is they would not be born again.

The board showing the 40-kos area

The board showing the 40-kos area


From Delhi, the city can be approached via Sonipat, Panipat and Karnal, on all-weather fast-driving NH1. The only care one should take is to remember the exit on the left (if going from Delhi) to enter the city. Anyway, after a few turns and twists, we arrived at the famous “Brahma Sarovar”, which is said to be created by Lord Brahma at the time when he was creating the universe. The lord had also established a Shiva Temple in the middle of this vast pond, which is presently known as Sarveshwar Mahadev. From the times of Emperor Akbar to the present society, to take a bath in this sarovar during eclipses and circumambulating around its periphery are considered as holy acts.

Brahma Sarovar

Brahma Sarovar


However, from the perspective of the battle, it was obvious that presence of such a huge water reservoir might be one of the reasons for choosing Kurukshetra as the battle ground so that the armies of two sides might not face the dearth of water resource in the event of a long drawn contest. Having said so, it was interesting to note that in present times, we have forgotten its former role. Instead, religious sentiments have completely taken over the present society. Mass bathing rituals are organized here on the occasions of Annual Gita Jayanti and during solar eclipses.
Temple of Sarveshwar Mahadev

Temple of Sarveshwar Mahadev


Superimposition of religious sentiments over the battle-entrenched city seems to have originated from the times of Mahabharata war itself, when Lord Krishna gave the sermon of Gita to mighty Arjuna, when he was having second thoughts about the war. At one hand, the Gita uplifted the morale of Arjuna, the warrior duly motivating him to continue with the war, at other hand, it also propagated the deep-rooted philosophies about Karma, soul and life within and beyond the world. Subsequently, the fame of Gita took over the entire world in its fold and the battleground was converted as a holy place.

The chariot

The chariot


The place, which is associated with the sermon, is known as “Jyotisar”, which is situated on the Kurukshetra-Pehowa road at a distance of about 4 kilometers from the Brahma Sarovar. A colourful, vibrant market abuzz with religious numbers is situated there. Noise coming from different shops, each playing a different CD, was quite deafening. But, the most eccentric signboard that caught my attention was about a shop selling video CDs of actual Mahabharata and actual Ramayana. Quite amused, I took its picture and proceeded ahead.

The ancient Shiva Temple at Jyotisar

The ancient Shiva Temple at Jyotisar


The first interesting sight was the marking at the ancient Shiva Temple about its being a witness of all external aggressions and foreign invasion. It was a sign of the battle activities at the site. “How the temple, tree and the site at Jyotisar could survive the invasion?” was the immediate question that came into my mind. There might be some special reason for the survival of the ancient temples and the Bunyan Tree that are supposed to be the witness of the Gita and also the battle of Mahabharata. The answer lies in another battle site nearby situated in the city of Thensar (Sthaneswar). In my opinion, during the reign of King Harshavardhana and his father, Thaneswar had assumed more importance and thus bore the brunt of all the medieval invasions and plunder.

The ancient Bunyan Tree

The ancient Bunyan Tree


The ancient Bunyan Tree stood near the pond. It is said that the sermon of Gita was delivered by the Lord Krishna under its branches. Thus, it is considered as a holy tree. People were picking up the leaves fallen on the ground as a token of having visited the holy place. Groups of people sitting under the holy tree were singing religious songs in praise of the Lord turning the atmosphere into completely religious one. People also sit on the marble steps constructed on the banks of the pond and worship the God.

Marble chariot at Jyotisar

Marble chariot at Jyotisar


In 1924, the then king of Darbhanga had got a marble platform built around this tree. Very recently, it has been scientifically observed that the marble laid around the pond is causing harm to the tree by reducing their water absorption capacity and also stopping the natural growth of offshoots of Banyan tree. In 1967, with the efforts of the then Shankaracharya of Kamakoti, a marble chariot and a temple dedicated to Adi Shankarachaya had also been constructed.

Jyotisar

Jyotisar

At Jyotisar, I was standing at the very centre of the battle, which had taken place centuries ago. The atmosphere was peaceful, serene and totally religious with no sign of remorseness connected with the battle. It was certain that the war cries of the famous battle of Kurukshetra have given way to the mass religious sentiments in as much as people had forgotten that it was ultimately a battle field. Here on the Gita Jayanti day, a massive religious function is organized every year and the tourism department runs a light and sound show every day. As I was searching for clues on the battle that had claimed the lives of many, I went to Narkatari village, where another great spot connected with the battle was situated in the form of a temple dedicated to Bheeshma, the great grandfather of the Kaurav and Pandav.

The Bheeshma Temple

The Bheeshma Temple

Adjoining the temple, a small water reservoir, named “Bheeshma Kund” is situated, which is claimed to be created by Arjuna’s arrow to quench the thirst of Bheeshma, when he fell to his famous bed of arrows on the 10th day of the Mahabharta Battle. The reservoir has been recently renovated. The locals believe that even in the hottest of summer it could never run dry and that nobody knows its actual depth or the actual source of water. Myths and religious significance apart, it was a standing evidence of a war situated onto the battlefield. Soon I found another local belief written on the walls of one of the smaller temples where it was mentioned that the battle had started from Narkatari and had also ended there. It was also mentioned that due to the large volume of blood spilled from the bodies of soldiers and princes, the entire surface of the earth had turned red giving an alternate name to the place as “land with Red soil”. So that was the part of oral tradition about the battle of Kurukshetra.

Bheeshma Kund

Bheeshma Kund

At the end of the battle that had continued for eighteen days Pandavas came out victorious when their eternal enemy Duryodhana was killed. It was the time for Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, to take her revenge. She had already announced her wish to wash her curly hair with the blood of Duryodhana, who had humiliated her in the past. This city still preserves the well, where that act is claimed to have been enacted. It is called “Pandav Draupadi well”.

Pandav Draupadi Well

Pandav Draupadi Well


The well is enclosed with rectangular walls and was much below the surface. One has to go down many steps to reach near the well. The graffiti on the wall speaks about its historical claim that Draupadi, being the reincarnation of Goddess Mahakali, had washed her hair with the blood of Duryodhana at that well. If that is true, then I was standing at the place directly connected with the goriest of incident of the battle.

The Draupadi’s well

The Draupadi’s well


Over time, some other stories got associated with that well. Some believe that Lord Rama, during his exile, had performed the rituals of Shraddh for his father. Though it was not known as to how a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna got constructed at the well-site, another story goes around that the then queen had thrown her nine-lakh necklace in the well to prevent it from being taken away by the Aurangzeb army, when he had imposed Jizyah tax on performing religious activities on occasions of solar eclipses. Later, when the soldiers of Aurangzeb searched in the well, they found thirteen more such necklaces there. The story led to a belief that every secret donation made at that well will give a thousand-fold return to the giver.
As I was visiting Kurukshetra with a clear purpose of observing its battle sites and heritage, it was distinctively found that everyone remembers the place and is able to locate them. As I said in the beginning, Kurukshetra was different than Panipat. At Panipat, people have started forgetting their battle heritage. Whereas, at Kurikshetra it was observed that every battle-related points have grown into religious places for worship. The basic traits of battle-heritage have been camouflaged under the shroud of religious fervor, for which the city is presently known. Anyway, God forbids, if there be another war on its soil.

22 Comments

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    • Uday Baxi says:

      ?? ????? ?? ???????? ???? ??? ????, ????? ?????? ??? ????? ?? ?? ????? ?? ?? ??? ??????? ???.

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  • Kaveri says:

    The Sanskrit verse mentioned on the website is quite interesting and would like to understand a deeper meaning.
    The perspective of why the battle was chosen in kurukshetra and how Shrimad Bhagwad Gita changed a blood thirsty battle ground to a holy shrine is intriguing.
    Bheeshma temple, kund and Draupadi well is new to me. Every land has a story behind it. I would be delighted to see that holy Banyan tree which was been a beholder of Gita.
    True or not, but we would believe with our religious sentiments.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Kaveri

      Your religious sentiments are true and so is mine.

      But it was a nice experience to go to Kurukshetra and see it in a different perspectives, which also included religiosity.

      Best Wishes

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Uday,
    Solid reporting with linkage between the past and the present. I got to recapitulate a lot of historical reference while reading your article. Just one point, cross referencing of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna has been drawn to the same temple, as we know that Lord Krishna appeared in Dwapar Yuga and Lord Rama in Treta Yuga respectively. This may give room for confusion in the mind of readers. From the nice pictures you have posted, it is clear that places are well maintained. Thanks for your valuable contribution.
    Regards
    Santanu

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Santanu

      Oral Traditions through folklore are very difficult to factorize unless the dates are determined through some techniques like carbon dating etc. If the Treta Yug was the precursor to the Dwapar Yug, then it was claimed that the Lord Rama arrived at the well first. Later, in Dwapar Yug, the same well was used by Draupadi. Later in 17th Century, Auranjeb’s Army search the same well. The temple around the well might have been built, when the religious importance took over.

      Thanks for the excellent comment.

      Regards

  • Dear Uday

    You are true in your observations. But the religious concepts are enshrined in Mahabharata itself which made it different from other wars like battle of Panipath. If we believe in Mahabharata and Lord Krishna, who is said to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, then the war was fought with the support of God in this battle field of Kurukshetra which also made it a religious ground. According to Lord Krishna it was a Dharmayudha. The concept of Dharma though defined as religious duty for righteousness. Religious thoughts and war are so intermingled in Mahabharata that the war of Kurukshetra may not be perceived in isolation from religious believe. But at the same time I totally agree with you on many counts when I read about the Bheeshma Temple (he is not believe to be a GOD) and others also, that perhaps more about the war could have been preserved. But you know this is India! Here we worship almost everything, tree, water, air, light etc etc!

    Well, back to your posta nice thoughtful post which I liked very much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Regards
    Anupam

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Anupam

      Thanks for the elaborate comments.

      It is all a matter of perspectives attributed to a war. Many societies in different stages of battles/ wars have justified their approach and claimed to be on the righteous cause. The Gita is such a book that can bring transformation of Human beings as well as societies, but it can also be said to be a masterpiece war doctrine.

      Anyway, I did enjoy the trip and also enjoyed while reading your excellent message.

      Regards

  • Very well written !
    Looking for some details on Hotel / restaurants ??

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Semwal ji

      Thanks for appreciation.

      I did not stay at any hotel. I had arranged some Government accommodation at Karnal, where I had spent the previous night. While returning from Kukurkshetra, we had a fabulous lunch at a restaurant at Murthal.

      Regards

  • Naresh Sehgal says:

    Excellent post,with detailed description & supporting pictures.
    Your posts started from Rajasthan , then to Delhi , Panipat and Now Kurukshetra . Moving in the same direction , I am eagerly waiting for your next post on my city i.e. Ambala.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Sehgal Bhai

      Thanks for the encouraging message.

      In past, I had missed Ambala by a narrow margin of time . But I will try to go there once.

      Presently I am writing some more articles on the battlefields.

      Regards

  • Nandan Jha says:

    A very educative and interesting log. Thank you.

    What intrigues me is that who is supporting this massive religious eco-system. I guess the basic infra support might be coming from Government (the sarovars etc) but what about the well, the temples and the likes. I am guessing that there would be temple-trusts and all, taking care of religious events.

    Usually once a structure is confirmed to be a certain year old (I guess 100 years is the cut-off) then ASI gets in. Did you see any ASI supported/curated monument or a structure ?

    All said, this post and the comments have made this a great read. Thank you Uday. I look forward to more of battlefields and of course, Ambala. I would guess that Naresh would be a super host if you choose to venture that side. Wishes

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Sir

      Thanks a lot for the nice comment.

      As far as I know, under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 the Banyan Tree at Geeta Updesh Sthal, Kurukshetra (Haryana) does not fall under the definition of monument. At the remaining sites, I could not see the presence of ASI.

      Regards

  • Archana Ravichander says:

    This post is a clear example of how passionate you are about the subject of your travel. The intention to explore the Historical place of Kurukshetra is not a small one. I appreciate you for that at the first place!

    Belonging to that place and not being aware or proud of its history is something really foolish and if you felt so about the people of Panipat, then I feel sad for them. However, let us look at the brighter side of the story and appreciate the people of Kurukshetra.. I guess these are the people who will proudly pass on the legacy tales to several generations down the line.

    Nice post Uday. I look forward to the next one.

    Best.
    Archana

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Archana

      Thanks for nice comments.

      You are right. It is the people who either preserve their legacy or loose them.

      Regards

  • Nitin Yadav says:

    The prople of India will believe in Santa clause, Christ but will not believe in their own stories.
    Such a shame on us.

  • Gulshan Kumar Goel says:

    What govt of India is doing to preserve cultural heritage of kurushetra are the sites under ASor not

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