SUMATI MORARJI [see "Departures," page 32], who in 1965 gave Srila Prabhupada free passage to America on her steamship Jaladuta, remembered meeting Srila Prabhupada at Kurukshetra for the first time during the 1950s. Srila Prabhupada was sitting under a tree, chanting on beads. Sensing that he was a distinguished sadhu, Sumati Morarji approached him. She was impressed with his humility and devotion, and she mentioned this when Srila Prabhupada went to see her in Bombay to ask her help in getting to America.
In October 1970, Srila Prabhupada was traveling to Amritsar by train with a group of disciples. As the train arrived in Kurukshetra station, he said, "Just here, Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago. People say that it does not exist, that it's a mythological place, a symbol of the field of the body and the senses. They say it is an allegorical place. But here we are at the Kurukshetra station."
As he spoke, the sun was setting, and a bright orange sky shone over the flat land.
"How can they say Kurukshetra is not a real place?" he continued. "Here it is before us, and it has been a historical place for a long, long time."
On December 1, 1975, Srila Prabhupada went to Kurukshetra with several disciples. Before returning to Delhi, he decided to visit a less developed area of Kurukshetra called Jyotisar, the actual place where Lord Krsna had spoken the Bhagavad-gita. Srila Prabhupada walked about and thoroughly inspected the area. After ten minutes he asked the devotees what they thought of it. Everyone expressed enthusiasm about the place, which they sensed as spiritually vibrant. A deep, timeless wisdom and serenity seemed to permeate the atmosphere. Srila Prabhupada told the devotees that ISKCON should build a temple of Krsna and Arjuna there.
In 1996, the Srila Prabhupada Centennial year, devotees made a special effort to obtain a parcel of land in Jyotisar. By the grace of Krsna and Arjuna they succeeded in acquiring six acres, just a hundred yards away from the spot where the Bhagavad-gita was spoken. In April 1998, the governor of Haryana presided over the ceremony dedicating the ground for the temple. At present, ISKCON runs a small temple in Thaneswar, a couple of miles from Brahma Sarovar. The devotees are planning, designing, and raising funds for the complex that Srila Prabhupada wanted in Jyotisar.
Also during the Srila Prabhupada Centennial year, a prominent square in the town of Kurukshetra was named after Srila Prabhupada: Bhaktivedanta Swami Chouk [Square].
Kurukshetra's Holy Sites
The Vamana Purana says that nine sacred rivers and seven sacred forests exist in the region.
The beds of all the rivers except the Sarasvati are difficult to find at Kurukshetra. But the Sarasvati flows during the rainy season, and its bed is visible at other times.
At Jyotisar, Lord Krsna spoke the Gita, the spot marked by a marble chariot under a banyan tree. The tree is said to be more than five thousand years old, making it the oldest witness to Lord Krsna's immortal conversation with Arjuna. Jyotisar is on the bank of the Sarasvati, about five miles from the town of Kurukshetra.
Lord Brahma is said to have created the earth here. During solar eclipses hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to take a holy dip in Brahma Sarovar, observing an ancient tradition. The beautiful Brahma Sarovar is larger than the other lakes in the area and is well maintained by the Kurukshetra Development Board. It has become the center of interest for pilgrims coming to Kurukshetra.
On the northern banks of Brahma Sarovar sits a Radha-Krsna temple of the Gaudiya Math, the institution founded by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The Gaudiya Math temple was built to commemorate the reunion between Radha and Krsna that took place at Kurukshetra five thousand years ago.
Kurukshetra is known as Samanta Pancaka ("five lakes") because here Lord Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Krsna, made five lakes from the blood of ksatriyas he killed. (Lord Parasurama purged the earth of wicked kings and warriors twenty-one times.) Srila Prabhupada said that the blood later turned into water.
One of the lakes is called Sannihit ("assembly"). On the new-moon day all the holy places personified are said to assemble in the lake. At the time of a solar eclipse, pilgrims are first led to Sannihit Lake, known as an abode of Lord Visnu.
Ban Ganga, or Bhishma Kund, is a holy place about three miles from Kurukshetra. During the Battle of Kurukshetra, Bhismadeva, the grand-uncle of the Pandavas, lay here on his deathbed, made of arrows piercing his body. When he asked Arjuna to quench his thirst, Arjuna knew that the great Bhisma did not thirst for water of this world. So Arjuna pierced the earth with an arrow, and Ganges water gushed out like a fountain. Bhisma drank the holy water and thanked Arjuna for his great deed. Bhisma then instructed Yudhisthira on the path of dharma.
Pilgrims to Ban Ganga can worship a Deity of Lord Krsna in His universal form and a 26-foot-high deity of Hanuman.
Ban Ganga (Dayalpur)
This is a small village a couple of miles from Brahma Sarovar. Here Arjuna also brought forth the Ganges by shooting an arrow into the ground, this time to provide drinking water for his chariot horses during his single combat with Jayadratha.
Karnavadha is a long trench where the wheels of Karna's chariot were stuck before Arjuna killed him.
Parasara Muni, the father of Srila Vyasadeva, had his asrama here, about twenty-five miles south of the town of Thaneswar. Duryodhana hid in the lake here after running away from battle at the end of the Mahabharata war. He came out of the water when the Pandavas challenged him to fight.
Pehowa, seventeen miles west of Thaneswar, was formerly known as Prithudak, "the pool of Prthu." King Prthu, an incarnation of Lord Krsna's ruling potency, performed last rites for his father here. Hundreds of pilgrims visit Pehowa every day to offer oblations to their ancestors.
At Chakravyuha, eight kilometers south of Thaneswar, the general Dronacarya organized his army in the shape of a discus (cakra). It is also where Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, was killed.
At Dadhichi Tirtha, on the bank of the Sarasvati, the sage Dadhici had his asrama long ago. The Srimad-Bhagavatam relates that Indra once asked Dadhici to give his bones to be made into a weapon for fighting the demons. Dadhici complied with the request and gave up his life.
How to Get There
Kurukshetra, located in the state of Haryana, is a four-hour train ride from Delhi. There are also direct trains from Mumbai, Agra, Baroda, Chandigarh, and Simla.
Where to Stay
Kurukshetra has several inexpensive or free guest houses (dharmshalas). The rooms are generally clean and are adequate if you don't mind roughing it a little. Otherwise, the best hotel in town is the centrally located Neelkanthi Krishna Dham Yatri Niwas. In Jyotisar, try the secluded Canal Guest House.
(This information comes from Holy Places and Temples of India, by Jada Bharata Dasa, available through The Hare Krsna Catalog.)