Kurukshetra, Part Two

in

BY: SUN STAFF - 18.12 2018

Gita Updesha on Kurukshetra Battlefield  
Orissan Pata-chitra

From "A Tour in the Punjab", a report by Alexander Cunningham, published in Calcutta (1882) for the Archaeological Survey of India.

The river that flows past Thanesar has always been known as the holy Saraswati, and as this formed the northern boundary of Kurukshetra, the southern boundary must have been the Rakshi. In the Mahabharata the four comers of the sacred region are called Ratnuk to the north-east, Aratnuk to the north-west, Rama-hrada to the south-west, and Bachakruk to the south-east. In the modern Mahatmyas the names are given somewhat differently, as Ratna Yaksha to the north-east, Aratnuk Yaksha to the north-west, Kapila Yaksha to the south-west, and Bachakruk Yaksha to the south-east. In this series the four names belong to four Yakshas, or demons, who are said to have sung and danced with joy during the battle, while they drank the blood of the slain.

The south-west corner is placed at Ramray, 5 miles to the south-west of Jhind, where there are said to be both a Rama-hrada and a Kapila tirath. The south-east corner is placed at Sinkh, very nearly midway between Jhind and Panipat, on the bank of a stream which is said to be the old bed of the Rakshi or Drishadwati.

There is still a Yaksha Kund at Sinkh. The north-east corner is at Ratna Yaksha or Ratan Jakh, close to Pipli on the Sarasuti. And lastly the north-west corner is placed at Ber, or Baher, to the west-north-west of Kaithal, where there is also a Yaksha kund.

According to these boundary points the circuit of the Chakra or holy region of Kurukshetra is as nearly as possible 20 yojanas, or 160 miles, as follows:

North side from Ber to Ratna Jakh - 40 Miles 
East side from Ratna Jakh to Sinkh - 54 Miles
South side from Sinkh to Ramray - 25 Miles
West side from Ramray to Ber - 41 Miles 
TOTAL - 160 Miles

The estimate of the size of the region of Kurukshetra agrees with the other name given in the Mahabharata or Samanta panchaka, "on every side five," or 20 yojanas all round the four sides.

Within this circuit of 160 miles there are popularly said to be 360 holy sites, most of which are connected with the names of the heroes of the Mahabharata. Many of these are no doubt genuine ancient places, as attested by their high mounds and brick ruins. But the greater number appear to me to be the inventions of modern days.

According to the Mahatmyas, of which only one is said to be old, the holy places had lain desolate for several centuries after the Muhammadan conquest, when a Dandi or mendicant, named Rima Chandra Swami, came from Kasi to Kurukshetra. He was grieved to see the desolation, and determined to stop there and try to restore the holy places. But as even the sites of many were unknown, he professed to have obtained a knowledge of them in his dreams, and accordingly he wrote a book describing them, which is called the Mahatmya of 6,000 slokas and also the "Dandi Mahitmya."

Long afterwards a Pandit of Thanesar, named Banmali, traced all the holy sites from the positions given by the Dandi, whose account is now accepted as genuine by all Brahmans, although his only authority for the identifications was a dream.

The whole region is divided into seven bans, or forests, but the people do not quite agree as to the names. From two independent sources I obtained the following lists, which together contain nine different names, from other information:

I. 

1. Prithu-ban
2. Kim-ban
3. Aditi-ban
4. Sit-ban
5. Phalaki-ban
6. Madhu-ban
7. Vyas-ban
8. …………
9. Solan-ban
II. 

…………
Kim-ban
Aditi-ban
Sit-ban
Phalaki-ban
Madhu-ban
Vyas-ban
Surya-ban
…………

I take the first list to be the correct one, as the second omits Prithu-ban, in which the famous Prithu-daka is situated. On looking at the map it will be seen that the names of Surya-ban and Solan-ban belong to the two outside forests, and that a smaller Chakra containing seven forests might be made by leaving them out altogether. This contracted chakra would be of the much more reasonable size, of little more than 20 miles on each side, or about 90 miles in circuit. This smaller space would, however, include all the famous places of pilgrimage, as well as the great battle-field itself.

On the west it would extend to the farthest point of Prithu-daka, and on the south to Dachor. And authority is not wanting for this smaller extent of the holy region, as the Kos or Krosa of the whole of North-west India, from Delhi to the Indus, is as nearly as possible 1-1/3 mile, or 7,040 feet, agreeing with the smaller valuation of 4,000 cubits, as set down in the native books. [1] The five yojanas forming the side of the holy region would thus be reduced to about 25 miles, and the whole circuit to about 100 miles, which I have marked in the map by thin dotted lines.

This limitation would exclude both Kaithal and Jhind, both of which I strongly suspect have been added to the Chakra in recent times to gratify the Sikh Rajas of those places. I may add that there is a Rama-hrada near the Rakshi, which is one of the four corners named in the Mahabharata, 17 miles to the south of Thanesar, from which point the boundary would incline to the south-west to Dachor along the old bed of the Rakshi.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Wilson's Sanskrit Dictionary in V. Krosa.