The 48 Kos Kurukshetra Region
BY: SUN STAFF
Dec 08, CANADA (SUN) A two-part look at the religious and cultural heritage of the 48 Kos Kurukshetra Region.
Kurukshetra as a pilgrimage destination has been in the limelight ever since the days of Mahabharata. Originally it was a dhama visited by millions of pilgrims. However, the destination Kuruksheta is now also regarded as the cradle Vedic civilization and the land of Bhagavad-gita.
According to modern history, the antiquity of Kurukshetra dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. The fame and glory of Kurukshetra have been widely popularised because of its association with the epic battle of Mahabharata, but Kurukshetra is an amalgamation of cultural and religious attractions. Sacred bathing tanks and historical monuments are found throughout the town, and now a new museum provides dioramas of the epic battle, Krsna lila, etc.
On the whole, the district of Kurukshetra is a plain, sloping from Northeast to South and Southwest. The plain is remarkably flat and has narrow, low-lying flood plains known as the Betre Khadar of Naili. The Saraswati, Markanda and Ghaggar rivers flow through the area.
Along what is known as the 48 kos Kurukshetra region (48 kos is a circuit equivalent to about 80 miles) there are many religious shrines, tanks and monuments associated with the epic Mahabharata, as well as sites pertaining to pastimes found in the Puranas. Some of these shrines are now under restoration.
Overall, Kurukshetra is revered as a Tirtha, par excellence. Having been influenced by the Bhakti movement in the 1st and 2nd century B.C., many architectural and sculptural sites will be familiar to the devotees.
According to the Mahabharata, the land between the Sarasvati and the Drishadvati was called Kurukshetra, and it covered an area of five yojanas in radius. The earliest known reference to Kurukshetra occurs in the Taittiriya Aranyaka, where its bordering territories are described as being Khandava to the south, Turghna (or Srughna) to the north, with Parinah and Maru (a desert) on either side.
As pointed out by P.V. Kane, Khandava (or the kingdom of the Pandavas with Indraprashta as its capital), Turghna (Srughna or Sugh in Ambala District), and Parinah (a place in Kurukshetra) were the border areas of Kurukshetra, but the Maru district (desert of Rajasthan) sprawled somewhat further afield from Kurukshetra.
The Manusmrti included Kurukshetra with Matsya (Jaipur, Rajsthan), Panchala (Bundelkhand, western U.P.), and Surasena (Mathura) in the Brahmarshidesa, as distinct from Brahamavarta, the sacred tract between the rivers Sarasvati and the Drishadvati. Kurukshetra means here other units of Kurudesa, and not the proper Kurukshetra. According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the territory between Tarantuka and Arantuka and between Macchakruka and Ramahrada is called Kurukshetra, Samantapanchaka and the Northern Vedi of Brahma.
A renowned historian, Hopkins believed that these areas represented the Yaksa-gatekeepers and the holy places encompassesed in between. In the Abhidhanachintamani of Hemachandra (12th century A.D.), the region of Kurukshetra is said to have covered about twelve yojanas. The Mahamayuri, a Buddhist text, refers to two Yaksas - Tararka and Kutararka - which may be the same as Tarantuka and Arantuka. The location of these yaksas according to modern Mahatmyas on Kurukshetra is as follows:
Ratna Yaksa : Northeast corner
Arantuk Yaksa : Northwest corner
Kapila Yaksa : Southwest corner
Macchakruka : Southeast corner