The 48 Kos Kurukshetra Region, Part 2
BY: SUN STAFF
Rantuk Yaksha, Bir Pipli
Dec 09, CANADA (SUN) A two-part look at the religious and cultural heritage of the 48 Kos Kurukshetra Region.
The Significance of the Yakshas of 48 Kosa Kurukshetra
According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the territory between Tarantuka and Arantuka, and between Machakruka and Ramahrada is called Kurukshetra, Samanta panchka, and the northern altar (vedi) of Lord Brahma. These areas are said to be represented by the yaksha gatekeepers, or guardians of the holy places.
The location of the yakshas in modern times, as per the text of Mahabharata and Vamana Purana, are as follows:
North - River Saraswati
South - River Drishadvati
Northeast corner - Ratna Yaksha
Northwest corner - Arantnuk Yaksha
Southwest corner - Kapil Yaksha
Southeast corner - Machakruk
The geography of ancient Kurukshetra was bounded by River Saraswati on the north, Drishadvati on the south, and the yakshas at its four corners. The modern identification, according to Sir Alexander Cunningham, service General of British of India, gives the directions of the yaksha locations as follows:
Northeast corner - Ratna close to Pipli on Saraswati
Northwest corner - Aratnuk Behar Jaka, a village which partly falls under Punjab in the Patiala district and partly under Haryana in the Kaithal district
Southwest corner - Ramahrada or Kapil at Ramray, or 5 miles to the southwest of Jind identified as Pokhar kheri in Jind
Southeast corner - Machkruka At Sinkh, a village in Panipat district
Important Tirthas of Kurukshetra
RANTUKA YAKSH OR RATNA YAKSH AT BIR PIPLI
Rantuka Yaksha is one amongst the four cardinal yakshas of the holy land of Kurukshetra. According to Mahabharata, the land between Rantuka to Arantuka and Ramahrada and Machakuka is known as Samanta Panchaka, Uttaravedi, or Kurukshetra.
The shrine of Rantuka Yaksha is located on the ancient bank of river Saraswati in Bir Pipli. According to Vamana Purana, it was the entry point to the holy land of Kurukshetra, and one was advised to initiate the pilgrimage of Kurukshetra by taking holy bath in the waters of Saraswati near this Tirtha, and worshiping at the Rantuka Yaksha nearby.
Sharveshwar Mahadev Temple
This ancient sacred tank is one of the largest man-made bathing tanks in Asia. Having seen this gigantic water body, Akbar’s court historian, Abul Fazl, called it a 'miniature sea'. This tank is said to have been created by Lord Brahma, being later excavated by the legendary King Kuru. It is 3,600 x 1,500 feet in size. Arched enclosures and separate bathing ghats for ladies and men have been provided for the convenience of the pilgrims. A dip in this sarovar bears the sanctity of performing thousands of Asvamedha yajna. During the solar eclipse, lakhs of pilgrims from all over the world gather here to take holy bath.
This tank was also known as Kurukshetra tank, and is linked with the Solar Eclipse fair. The tank Brahma Sarover and the pilgrimage to Kurukshetra are intimately related. Kurukshetra in ancient time was known as Uttaravedi (the northern alter of Brahma), Brahma vedi, and Samanta Panchaka.
The crowning feature of this holy tank is the Sharveshwar Mahadev temple, which is linked to the outer periphery by a small bridge. The outer walls of the tank have been rebuilt. It is lined by bathing steps, and there are arched enclosures for pilgrims.
On the solar eclipse, lakhs of pilgrims from all over India and abroad throng to the city for a holy dip in its sacred water. Adjacent to Brahmasarovar lie Jai Ram Vidya Peetha, Geeta Bhawan, Baba Shravana Nath ki Haveli, and Guru Gorkha Nath Temple.
LAKSHMI NARAYAN TEMPLE
This temple is said to have been built in the late 18th or early 19th century. It is a double storied structure, standing on a high platform approached by flights of steps. The temple has three components, viz. sanctum, vestibule, and sanctum-sanctorum. The temple stands on a huge platform. The plan of the sanctum sanctorum is a saptaratha, or a structure having seven projections.
The sanctum sanctorum is a spired temple having the look of a long, conical roof decorated with miniature spires or sikhars (miniature temples) all over and all along the projected parts, right from the body of the temple, which is above the height of the sanctum. The main sanctum sanctorum is a small square chamber.
The sanctum is a long corridored hall having two projected arms on either side, bearing trancepted windows. The roof of the sanctum is domical. The trancepted windows are projected and have a canopied structure with a vaulted roof. The sanctum is a pancharatha.
KUBERA TIRTHA, THANESAR
This tirtha is located on the banks of River Saraswati, near Faridkot house in Thanesar. Kubera, the guardian of the northern quarter, is considered to be supreme amongst the Yakshas and a treasured demigod. Taking a holy dip in the water of Saraswati near this tirtha is considered to bestow wealth and prosperity on the devotee.
27 km. west of Thanesar lies Pehowa. Archaeologists date the place to 882 A.D. An inscription on a temple here proclaims that Pehowa was built as late as 895 AD, during the region of the Pratihara King, Mahendrapal. Excavation has been done here from time to time, revealing the antiquity of Pehowa as being dated back to as late as the Harrappa period. Interesting sculptures made of buff sandstone of various periods have been found from here.
The town of Pehowa finds special mention in the Vaman Purana and the epic Mahabharata. In ancient times the town was known as ‘Prithudaka’ after King Prithu. King Rashtangu, the father of Kind Prithu, was on death bed. As a late wish, he called his son and asked him to take him to Prithudak so that he could breathe his last on the banks of the holy River Saraswati. On his father’s death, King Prithu was filled with anguish. He sat for days on the bank of this river offering shradha. Ever since, the ritual of offering shradha of fathers here has been popular. The place has come to be known as Prithidak Tirtha, and numerous ghats and temples have been built here for the pilgrims.
Pehowa is known for its beautiful temples and temple murals. One of the most grand architectural structures of Pehowa is the Pasupati Nath Temple, adjacent to which lies a Haveli containing beautiful murals.
PASUPATINATH TEMPLE PEHWA
One of the oldest among the existing temples is Pashupatinath Temple. This temple was built around the 16th-17th century. In fact, the temple complex has as many as five temples, which may not be contemporary to one another. The temple which is called Pashupatinath temple is the oldest among these temples.
Architecturally, the temple resembles that of Laksmi Narayana temple at Kurukshetra on the bank of Sannehit. This temple is dedicated to Pashupatinath, who is the 24th incarnation of Shiva. Pehowa in the Thanesar region had a very strong tradition of Savisim, particularly known for its Pashupata cult. This is one of the few rare temples dedicated to Lord Shiva’s Pasupati form. However, no image of Pasupati is worshipped here. Instead, a huge black Shiva Linga made of chlorite schist is worshipped by devotees.
Bhisma Kund, Kurukshetra
BHISHMA KUND AND ARARAK TIRTHA, NARKATARI
Bhisma Kund, a water reservoir situated in the village Narakatari, is dedicated to Bhishma, the grandsire of the Kauravas and Pandavas. According to Mahabharata, on the 10th day of the battle, Bhisma fell on the battlefield and having felt thirst, asked for water. Arjuna at once pierced an arrow into the ground, and water came forth to quench Bhishma’s thirst. This pastime from Mahabharata is famously associated with this place. The reservoir or kund is a medieval structure, renovated in recent times.
Anarak tirtha on the southern bank of River Saraswati is also famous. It is said that this tirtha is surrounded by Brahma on the east, Rudra Patni (or mother goddess) on the west, Shiva on the south, and Vishnu on the north. Such tirthas are visited by the devotees of all sects of Hinduism, i.e., Vaisnavas, Saivas and Shaktas.
TEMPLE OF PRACHI
Prachi is one of the important pilgrimages of Kurukshetra. It is located 28 kilometers from Kurukshetra, in the Pehowa sub-division. The literal meaning of 'prachi' is east. The easterly flow of the Saraswati River is known as Prachi Sarasvati.
On the bank of the ancient Saraswati known as Prachi are found various important temples. Originally, some stone temples belonging to 9th-10th century A.D. existed here. However, due to the onslaught of time and climatic conditions, these have been destroyed. The remnants of the temples, in the form of a doorjamb and exquisitely carved sculptures at the entrance of the tirtha are testimonies to the existence of ancient temples.
At present, on the bank of the Prachi tirtha still stands the late medieval temples dating back to the 17th-18th century. The most important and colossal among these edifices is the Shiva temple on the northern side of Prachi tirtha.
SARASVATI TIRTHA PEHOWA
This tirtha is located 26 kilometers from Kurukshetra, in Pehowa town. It is one of the supreme pilgrimages dedicated to Sarasvati River. According to Mahabharata and Vaman Purana, Kurukshetra was located on the south of the Saraswati. Presently, however, the tirtha is noted for its association with Pind daan, or offerings made to the departed souls. Here lies a huge tank called Saraswati Tirtha, where thousands of people come to offer shradha for their ancestral soul.
BRAHMAYONI TIRTHA, PEHOWA
This tirtha is located 26 kilometer from Kurukshetra, in Pehowa town. In the Mahabharat it is mentioned that those who take a bath here with purity and devotion attain the Brahmloka and thereby liberate their ancestors. In the Vaman Purana it is mentioned that Lord Brahma conceived the concept of caste here, viz. Brahman, Kshetria, Vaishya and Sudra.
PRITHUDAK TIRTHA PEHOWA
The tirtha is located 26 kilometres from Kurukshetra, in Pehowa town. Amongst the tirthas in Kurukshetra on the bank of Sarasvati, Prithudak is considered to be the most important one. According to Mahabharata, the tirtha gives all the merits that one can attain from a tirtha. It is also mentioned in the Puranas that there was a King named Prithudak, after whom this tirtha was named. The King was known for his sacrifice and devotion to his father. Archaeologically speaking, the temple and its adjoining area is of immensely rich age, noted in the existing temple brick structures, murals, and inscription dating back the time of Pratihar Mahendra Pal.
The tirtha is located six kilometers away on the Ambala Road at Pehowa, or 31 kilometers from Kurukshetra town. This is one of the important pilgrimages associated with the saints Vashishta and Vishwamittra. The place is also significant for being the confluence of the rivers Saraswati and Aruna.
Mahabharata and Vamana Purana vividly describe the significance of this tirtha, however the tirtha is not presently known for the stories narrated therein. Rather, it is famous for being a Shaivite center. The Sangameshwar Mahadev temple is next to a small tank, and thousands of pilgrims and devotees throng to the temple regularly.
PHALGU TIRTHA, PHARAL
Phalgu tirtha is located at Pharal, 33 kilometers away from Kurukshetra, on the Kaithal Kurukshetra road. The tirtha is named after a saint named Phalgu. Pharal is also known as one of the seven ancient forests of the Kurukshetra region. The names of the forests are Kamyakvan, Aditivan, Vyasavan, Suryavan, Madhuvan, Sitvan, and Phalki van or Pharal. Phalkivan happens to be the most prominent among the seven forests of Kurukshetra.
This tirtha has been revered both in the Mahabharata and Vamana Purana. According to Mahabharata, in the context of the significance of various tirthas and their merits, it is mentioned that the Devins used to do penance here for hundreds of years at this Phalgu tirtha. Thus, all pilgrims are advised to visit this Phalgu or Pharal.
This region is also known with respect to the pastimes of a demon called Gayasur, who used to dwell in this forest. He vowed that he would give his three daughters in marriage to the person who could defeat him in the battle. Having learnt this news, the saint Phalgu accepted the challenge and by defeating the demon Gayasur, he married the three daughters. Gayasur bestowed a boon to Phalgu that the place where saint Phalgu lives will be of immense significance from the point of view of offering pinda (food offered to the souls after death).
The day of Somavati Amavasya in the month of Sravan (August-September), falls during the Pitri Paksha, or black fortnight. Somavati amavasya in pitrapaksha in the month of Sravan is a rare occasion, as it comes once in every 10 or 12 years only. This is a special day for the offering of pinda to the souls for the people of northern India. Hence people from all over northern India come here to offer pinda to their forefathers. Incidentally, on this particular day no pinda is offered at Gaya, the regular tirtha, which is exclusively meant for Pind dan, where throughout the year the pinda daan is done. Therefore, Pharal has this special privilege on this day, and is treated as the Gaya of Northern India, which enables the people to perform pinda daan.
PAVANHRAD TIRTHA, PABNAWA
This tirtha is located at Pavnava village. It is 18 kilometers away from Kurukshetra and 13 kilometers away from Pehow. This is the only tirtha associated with Pavan (the Wind God). The word 'Pavanhrad' constitutes two words, viz. 'pavan' meaning wind, and 'hrad' meaning lake. Therefore, the lake associated with Pavan is called Pavanhrad. Pavana is a distorted version of Pavanhrad.
Mahabharata associates this tirtha with the demigod Pavan, whereas Vamana Purana links it to both Mahadeva and Pavan. However, the Padma Purana associates this tirtha with the saint Dadhichi.
Eulogizing its significance, Mahabharata states that those who take bath in this holy tank are worshipped and respected in the Vishnuloka. According to the Vaman Purana and Padma Purana, Pavanhrad is supreme among the 49 Maruta tirthas, and those who take a holy dip here achieve the highest status in the Vayuloka.
Having had a bath in the sacred tank, the pilgrim should visit the Shiva temple, as that will remove all sins and thereby enable the pilgrim to reach Shivaloka.
Another holy tank is the Sannehit Sarovar. It is 1,500 x 450 feet in size. On the days of Amavasyas (nights of complete darkness) or on the days of eclipse, all the sacred tirthas assemble at Sanneshit. It is said to be the seat where the wandering souls of the unhappy dead find moksha, or release from worldly ties. It is recommended that prayers and pind daan for the unnatural deaths be performed here.
Since time immemorial, people from all over India have been visiting Kurukshetra to have a sacred dip in this tank, which is the resort of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Shiva became sthanu (stationary) by residing at this place, and it is here that the Rigvedic sage Dadhichi gave up his life for the sake of Indra.
The Bhagavat Purana mentions that at this place, on solar eclipse, Krishna met with the gopis and other kinsmen who came here from Braja. By the side of the tank lie temples of Surya Narayana, Dhruv-Narayana and Lakshmi-Narayana.
KAPIL MUNI TIRTHA
Kalayat, a village near Narwana, is known for its ancient heritage. It is one of the popular pilgrimages of ancient 48 kos Kurukshetra Bhumi. The tirtha is dedicated to the Saint Kapila, the author of Sankhya philosophy.
The sacred land of Kurukshetra, comprised of 48 kos, an area in which are located numerous pilgrimages or tirthas dedicated to various ancient rishis or saints and pastimes from Mahabharata and the Puranas. One of the important tirthas of Kurukshetra is called Kapila tirtha, or Kapil Muni tirtha, located 80 km from Kurukshetra on Kaithal-Nawana road, which is about 29 km from Kaithal in a small village called Kalayat. Kalayat is a distorted version of Kapilayat, or Kapil, which are one and the same according to scholars. Kapila was an ancient philosopher known for his extraordinary works of Sankhya. It is Sankhya which is vividly elaborated in the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita, expounded here at Kurukshetra from the mouth of Lord Krishna on the battlefilled at the outset of battle of Mahabharata.
Kalayat possess one of the rarest architectural monuments of Northern India, in the form of a brick temple. The temple was built by a legendary King Salwan in the 7th century AD. This temple is one of the few brick temples of India to have survived the onslaught of time and climate. Molded bricks were used in this temple for various decorative parts of the façade. This is a panchratha temple built in Nagara style, with typical curvilinear spire. There is another similar temple standing opposite the tank, which has been restored by the Archaeological Department of India.
Tirthas of Kurukshetra
1. Arunai tirtha, Arnai
2. Prachi tirtha, Pehowa
3. Saraswati tirtha, Pehowa
4. Brahmayoni tirtha, Pehowa
5. Prithudak tirtha, Pehowa
6. Shalihotra tirtha, Sarsa
7. Bhisma Kund, Narkatari
8. Ban Ganga, Dyalpur
9. Kulotaran Tirtha, Kirmich
10. Brahma Sarovar, Kurukshetra
11. Sannehit Sarovar, Kurukshetra
12. Bhadrakali Temple, Kurukshetra
13. Aditi Tirtha and Abhimanyu ka Tila, Amin
14. Site of Gitaupadesha, Jyotisar
15. Som Tirtha, Sainsa
16. Shukra Tirtha, Sataura
17. Galav Tirtha, Guldehra
18. Saptasarsvta Tirtha, Mangna
19. Brhma Tirtha (Brahma Sthan), Thana
20. Som Tirtha, Gumthalagadu
21. Manipurak Tirtha, Murtjapur
22. Bhurishrava Tirtha, Bhor saidana
23. Lomash Tirtha, Lohar Majra
24. Kamyak Tirtha, Kamauda
25. Aapga Tirtha, Mirjapur
26. Karan ka Tila, Mirjapur
27. Nabhikamal, Thanesar
28. Rantuk Yaksha, Bid Pipli
29. Sthaneshwar Mahadev Temple
30. Vyasa Sthali, Basthali
31. Ojas Tirtha, Samsipur
32. Renuka Tirtha, Ranacha
Source: the Official Kurukshetra Website.