The history of Kurukshetra

Posted on August 19, 2010

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At the time between Dwapara and Treta Yugas, Parasurama, the son of Jamadagni rishi, annihilated the entire tribe of Kshatriyas twenty-one times in an act of revenge (He did this to avenge his father’s death at the hands of a Kshatriya). The blood from the slaughter formed five lakes, and hence that region came to be known as Samanthapanchaka, aka, the five lakes of blood.

Kurukshetra today: A view of Brahma Sarovar

His forefathers, satisfied by Parasurama’s offering of the blood in the lakes, requested him to cease the killing of Kshatriyas. The manes also expressed their desire to offer Parasurama a boon. Parasurama asked that he be absolved of his sins from the slaughter of Kshatriyas, and that the region of the lakes become a holy one. The forefathers acceded to the rishi’s requests.

This region of Samanthapanchaka later came to be known as Kurukshetra. (Source: Mbh 1.2)

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At a later time, King Kuru, the ancestor of Pandavas and Kauravas, was tilling the soil in this land.  Indra approached Kuru and asked, “O king, Why are you tilling the land? ” Kuru  replied, “I am doing this so that those who die in this place shall be cleansed of their sins and would attain heaven”. Indra ridiculed Kuru’s act and returned to his abode. However Kuru, without being depressed, continued to till the soil.  Indra repeatedly came down and ridiculed Kuru but it did not deter the King.

Kuru’s perseverance ultimately started worrying the Devas, for they felt that if all one had to do to attain heaven was to die in that land without having to do any yagnas, it would threaten the very source of subsistence of Devas (as Devas feed on offerings from yagnas). So the celestials urged Indra to somehow stop Kuru’s act even if that meant Indra had to grant Kuru a boon.

Heeding their request, Indra came back to Kuru and said, “Do not toil any more! Act according to my words! Those men that will die here, having abstained from food with all their senses awake (men of sense-control), and those that will perish here in battle (warriors), shall attain heaven”. Thus addressed, king Kuru stopped tilling the land. Indra, with a joyful heart, quickly went back to heaven.
(Source: Mbh 9.53)

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Other facts:

  • Kurukshetra is said lie between Tarantuka and Arantuka and the lakes of Rama and Shamachakra.  (Mbh 9.53)
  • It is also said to be south of river Saraswati and the north of Drishadwati (Mbh 3.83, 9.42)
  • River Hiranwati is said to flow through Kurukshetra (Mbh 5.153)
  • Duryodhana, at the time of his death, said, “By dying upon the sacred field of Samantapanchaka, celebrated over the three worlds, I shall certainly obtain many eternal regions”. (Mbh 9.62)
  • It is said that even the dust of Kurukshetra, borne away by wind, shall cleanse a sinner and help him attain a blessed state (Mbh 3.83, 9.51)
  • Since Kuru cultivated this land, it came to be known as Kurukshetra. It is also said that Kuru performed asceticism after which the land came to be known as Kurukshetra. Until then, it was called Kuru-Jangla (Mbh 1.94). (Perhaps ’tilling the soil’ is a reference to asceticism, or Kuru tilled the land to support his asceticism)
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