A manuscript of Mahabharata depicting the war at Kurukshetra
According to the Puranas, Kurukshetra is a region named after King Kuru, the ancestor of Kauravas and Pandavas in the Kuru kingdom, as depicted in epic Mahabharata. The Kurukshetra War of the Mahabharata is believed to have taken place here. Thaneswar whose urban area is merged with Kurukshetra is a pilgrimage site with many locations attributed to Mahabharata.
In the Vedas Kurukshetra is described not as a city but as a region ("kshetra" means "region" in Sanskrit). The boundaries of Kurukshetra correspond roughly to the central and western parts of the state of Haryana and southern Punjab. According to the Taittiriya Aranyaka 5.1.1., the Kurukshetra region is south of Turghna (Srughna/Sugh in Sirhind, Punjab), north of Khandava (Delhi and Mewat region), east of Maru (desert), and west of Parin.
According to the Vamana Purana, King Kuru chose land at the banks of the Sarasvati River for embedding spirituality with eight virtues: austerity (Tapas), truth (Satya), forgiveness (Kshama), kindness (Daya), purity (Shuddha), charity (Daana), devotion (Yajna), and conduct (Brahmacharya). Lord Vishnu was impressed with the acts of King Kuru and blessed him with two boons—first, that this land forever will be known as a Holy Land after his name as Kurukshetra (the land of Kuru); second that anyone dying on this land will go to heaven.
Kurukshetra reached the zenith of its progress during the reign of King Harsha, during which Chinese scholar Xuanzang visited Thanesar.
Kurukshetra was conquered by the Mauryan empire in the late 4th century BCE and subsequently became a center of Buddhism and Hinduism. The history of Kurukshetra is little-known in between the collapse of the Mauryans and the rise of the Kushans who conquered the region. After the decline of Kushan power in the region, Kurukshetra became independent only to become conquered by the Gupta empire in the early 4th century CE. Under Gupta rule, Kurukshetra experienced a cultural and religious revival and became a center for Hinduism. After the fall of the Gupta, the Pushyabhuti dynasty ruled over Kurukshetra.
Civil war broke out when Harsha (of the Pushyabhuti dynasty) died without a successor in 647. A Kashmiri army briefly conquered Kurukshetra in 733 but were unable to establish dominion in the area. In 736, the Tomara dynasty was founded and they took over the region. Around the early 9th century, Kurukshetra lost its independence to Bengal. Mahmud of Ghazni sacked Kurukshetra in 1014 and Muslim raiders sacked it in 1034. Kurukshetra was incorporated into the Delhi Sultanate in 1206. Other than a short moment of independence from the result of a rebellion within the Sultanate in 1240, Kurukshetra was under the control of Delhi until 1388.
Kurukshetra became independent once again after the steep decline of the Delhi Sultanate and the raids of Tamerlane near the region. The Sayyid dynasty incorporated Kurukshetra into their territory though the city likely enjoyed some autonomy. The area was much more firmly controlled under the subsequent Lodi dynasty. Some damages to Kurukshetra and its structures occurred during this period. Kurukshetra became part of the Mughal Empire after Babur quashed a local rebellion in 1526. Under Akbar, Kurukshetra once again became a spiritual center not only for Hindus but also for Sikhs and Muslims.
Between the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Kurukshetra was controlled by the forces of the Maratha Empire until the British took over Delhi in 1803. In 1805, the British took Kurukshetra after defeating the Maratha forces in the Second Anglo-Maratha War, who were controlling the city. Since 1947, Kurukshetra has become a popular spiritual center and has seen much infrastructure, development, and restoration of old structures.
In 2017, the government declared Kurukshetra a holy city and the sale, possession, and consumption of meat are banned within the limits of the Municipal Corporation due to its religious significance.
Kurukshetra is an important Hindu pilgrimage destination, and there are several pilgrimage sites surrounding the city. The Hindi phrase 48 kos parikrama refers to a roughly 90-km traditional circle (Parikrama) around the holy city (1 kos equals about 3.00 km or 1.91 miles), and a complete parikrama refers to a pilgrimage to all these sites on foot.
Hindu religious sitesEdit
Brahma Sarovar: Every year lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of people come to take a holy bath at Brahma Sarovar on the occasion of "Somavati Amavasya" (Sacred No-Moon Day that happens on a Monday) and on solar eclipses. They believe that a bath in the holy Sarovar frees all sins and cycle of birth-death. The Sarovar is one of Asia's largest man-made ponds.Hindu genealogy registers are kept here.
Sannihit Sarovar: The pond is believed to be the meeting point of seven sacred Saraswatis. The Sarovar, according to popular belief, contains sacred water. Bathing in the waters of the tank on the day of Amavasya (night of complete darkness) or on the day of an eclipse bestows blessings equivalent to performing the Ashvamedh Yajna.
Jyotisar: The famous site where Bhagavad Gita was delivered to Arjuna under the tree. The tree of that time is witness to Gita.
Sheikh Chilli's Tomb: This monument is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. It was built during the Mughal era in remembrance of Sufi Saint Sheikh Chehli, believed to be the spiritual teacher of Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh. The Prince's main 'Murshid' or 'Sheikh' (Spiritual Guide), however, is historically known to have been Hazrat Sheikh Mian Mir Sahib, of Lahore, although Sheikh Chehli might have been an additional teacher. Another theory is that the site of the so-called maqbara or tomb. Sheikh Chaheli’s Tomb and the madarasa are associated with the Sufi saint Abdu'r-Rahim alias Aabd-ul-Razak, popularly known as Shaikh Chehli (also pronounced Chilli).
The Pathar Masjid is built of red sandstone and is known for its fluted minaret.
Nabha House, a palatial building was constructed by the royal family of Nabha principality.
The Superintendent of Police, an officer belonging to the Indian Police Service, is responsible for maintaining Law & Order and related issues in the district. He is assisted by the officers of the Haryana Police Service and other Haryana Police officials.
The Deputy Conservator of Forests, an officer belonging to the Indian Forest Service, is responsible for the management of the Forests, Environment, and Wildlife in the district. He is assisted by the officers of the Haryana Forest Service and other Haryana Forest officials and Haryana Wildlife officials.
Sectoral development is looked after by the district head/officer of each development department such as PWD, Health, Education, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Statistics, etc. These officers are from various Haryana state services.
Bronze Chariot with Lord Krishna and Arjuna in Kurukshetra.
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