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History of Kurukshetra


The name Kurukshetra is associated in the Puranas and the Great Epic with the legendary king Kuru although it appears to be more logical to trace it to the tribe of Kurus which was born as a result of merger of the various classes of the Great Bharatas who are described in the Rigveda as kindling sacrificial fires on the banks of the sacred Sarasvati and Drishadvati. The Sarasvati is described in the Rigveda as a perennial river par excellence, flowing from the Himalayas to the ocean most probably it refers to the Ghaggar. The Drishadvati was the river in whose bed the Hansi-Hisar branch of the Western Yamuna Canal now flows. The Kurus also were known to the Rigveda as the mention of a King named Kurushravana indicates.

Many geographical names and personalities connected with Kurukshetra occur in the earliest Sanskrit literature and around this region were enacted the opening scenes of the drama of Indian history. Most of the Vedic literature was composed here and most of the social, religious and political traditions of this country arose in this region. It is therefore regarded as the cradle of Indian civilisation and culture. Kurukshetra shot into prominence as the battle field of Mahabharta and as the birth place of the holy Gita. The great 18-day battle of Mahabharta was fought here in the ancient past between Kauravas and Pandavas for upholding the cause of dharma. It was a war between good and evil, in which the Pandavas were victorious. Bhagvad Gita, the Song Celestial, is the divine message which lord Krishna delivered to Arjuna on the eve of the Great War when he saw the latter wavering from his duty. It epitomises all that is the best and noblest in the Hindu philosophy of life.

Jyotisar, near Thanesar, is supposed to mark the site where it was delivered.

Kurukshetra is mentioned a great deal in ancient literature. A flourishing country of the Kurus, it was the most sacred region of the Dvapara age according to the Matsya Purana and one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa. It was the region of lakes and lotus beds which can be seen even now. Manu indirectly praises the prowess of the people of Kurukshetra. Bana describes it as the land of the brave in the eyes of the warriors. The place was visited by Buddha and appears to have been favoured by his masterly discourses. Kurukshetra also finds mention in Panini's Ashtadhyayi. It was also visited by nine out of the ten Sikh Gurus, Guru Angad Dev the Second Guru, being the only exception. The place where Guru Nanak stayed during his sojourn at Kurukshetra is well known as Gurdwara Sidhbati on a mound near the pumping station across the Kurukshetra Tank. The gurdwara dedicated to Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru, stands near Sannihit tank. Another gurdwara near the Sthaneshwar tank marks the spot sanctified by the visit of the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur. And on the main bank of the Kurukshetra tank, stands the Gurdwara Rajghat built in the memory of the visit of the tenth Guru Gobind Singh; who also visited Jyotisar.

This region saw the rise and fall of many an empire through centuries. Sons of the soil fought invaders in the battlefield of this sacred land from time to time and their exploits fill the pages of history. The period of King Harsha was a golden age.

It is written in Puranas that Kurukshetra is named after King Kuru of the Bharata Dynasty, ancestor of Pandavas and Kauravas.

The Vamana Purana tells how King Kuru came to settle on this land. He chose this land at the banks of Sarasvati River for embedding spirituality with 8 virtues: austerity (tapas), truth (satya), forgiveness (kshama), kindness (daya), purity (sucha), charity (dana), yagya and brahmacharya. Lord Vishnu was impressed with the act of King Kuru and blessed him. God gave him two boons, one that this land forever will be known as a Holy Land after his name as Kurukshetra (the land of Kuru) and the other that anyone dying on this land will be going to heaven. The land of Kurukshetra was situated between two rivers - the Sarasvati and the Drishadvati.

This land has been known as Uttravedi, Brahmavedi, Dharamkshetra and Kurukshetra at different periods. When King Kuru came on this land it was called Uttarvedi. Over the period this land has been ruled by many empires. The Bharata Dynasty came and settled on this land.

Later the Battle of Mahabharata was fought on this land, during which Lord Krishna preached Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna.

It reached the zenith of its progress during the reign of King Harsha, during which Chinese scholar Hieun Tsang visited this land at Thanesar. By the archaeological grounds it has been proved that Ashoka the Great made Kurukshetra a centre of learning for people from all over the world.

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