The holy lands acts as a focal point for the pilgrimage of the different religions of the world. Pilgrimage has been an integral part of one’s life. Pilgrimage integrates pilgrims of these places with the spiritual and religious world and hence provides mental solace and peace. Moreover, these places led to realization of mundane desires and confirm their religious beliefs. Now days, religious places are not only reconciliation of beliefs, but also a source of recreation, which led to influx of large number of pilgrims.
According to the Mahabharata , pilgrimage places have extraordinary powers in their soil and effectiveness of their water. Pilgrims visit these places, perform sacred rites, and obtain certain fruit of their deeds.
Kurukshetra the holy pilgrimage in which 360 places of pilgrimage related to the Mahabharata can be seen. It is one of those holy towns that have borne the imprint of Lord Sri Krishna’s footsteps. Kurukshetra is referred to as “Dharmakshetra” is the place in Haryana state in India where the epic Mahabharata battle took place between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Indian government has named the state as ‘Haryana’ which in local language means: ‘Hari ka ana’ (Lord Hari came here). Tradition holds that the great 18-day battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas as described in the pages of the epic Mahabharata, was fought on the plains of Kurukshetra. Kurukshetra lies on the Delhi-Ambala stretch of the National Highway 1. Kurukshetra has been a symbol of sanctity and holiness for centuries. A visit to this hallowed land of high religious and cultural significance is indeed a rewarding experience!
The founder of the land was King Kuru who practiced austere penance to make this land righteous that is why in the first verse of Bhagavad-Gita, Kurukshetra prefixed with an epithet Dharmakshetra.
History of Kurukshetra: This region – the holy circuit- comprises 48 kosas or 100 miles with a large number of temples and tanks of antiquity and traditions. It covered a wide area with present Panipat and north-west corner of Jind district in south and eastern part of Patiala district, in the west Saraswati and Yamuna rivers as its northern and eastern boundaries. King Kuru is said to have made this land a great centre of spiritual culture. The Puranic story about this land is very interesting and runs thus:
King Kuru selected this land on the bank of sacred river Saraswati for spiritual culture and cultivation of eight-fold virtues. King came here on his golden chariot and utilized its gold for making a plough for cultivation. He took bull of Siva and buffalo of Yama on loan and started ploughing the land. Indra, the king of heaven, came and asked Kuru as to what he was doing? King replied that he was preparing the land for growing eight-fold virtues of religious austerity (tapa), truth, forgiveness, kindness, purity, charity, yoga and continence (brahmacharya). Indra asked him to where he would get the seed of these virtues. King replied that the seed was in his possession. At this Indra laughed and went away.
After king had cultivated land for several days, Visnu appeared before him and asked as to what he was doing? King replied in the same manner as he had done when questioned by Indra. Visnu asked Kuru to give Him the seed and that He would sow it for him. At this Kuru put forward his right arm and the same was cut into 1000 pieces with the Chakra of Visnu and sown in the field. In the same way king Kuru’s left arm, his 2 legs and then his head were offered by him to Visnu for sowing.
This act of Kuru pleased Vishnu very much and He blessed him. Indra also appeared at this stage and told that he was very much pleased with his sacrifice and told him to ask for any boon from him. Kuru there-upon begged of him 2 boons: one, that this land would forever remain a holy land named after himself, and the other, that anyone dying here would get relieved of cycle of birth and death irrespective of his sins or virtues. Thus King Kuru with wealth of his state and his austerities established at Kurukshetra an extensive institution of spiritual culture for humanity as a whole.
Sripad Madhavacharya, a great Vaishnava acharya, who is also the third son of Vayu (after Hanuman and Bhima) visited here around 1250 AD. During his visit he dug-up a certain piece of land in Kurukshetra and found the mace (club/gada) used by Bhima on the battle of Kurukshetra. Later after showing this to his disciples he again kept back the gada to the place where Bhima originally kelp it after the battle.
Kurukshetra is 2 hour journey from New Delhi by Train and about 3½ by Bus. Sridham Vrindavan to Kurukshetra is about 5-6 hour journey by train via Mathura-New Delhi route. While travelling by bus there is a stop called “Pipli” on Kurukshetra by-pass.
Entarance to “JYOTISAR”
Jyotisar is a town on the Kurukshetra-Pehowa road, 5 kilometres west of Thanesar. The word ‘Jyoti’ denotes light and ‘sar’ refers to core meaning. Hence the name Jyotisar refers to the ‘core meaning of light’ or ultimately god. A ‘vat’ or a banyan tree (a symbol of eternity) stands on a raised plinth here. Local tradition has it that this tree is an offshoot of the holy banyan tree under which lord Krishna had delivered the famous sermon of the Bhagwad Gita, encapsulating the doctrine of Karma and dharma to his wavering cousin and pupil, Arjuna. A marble chariot depicting lord Krishna delivering the sermon to Arjuna marks the site of the Srimad Bhagwad Gita. An old Shiva temple can also be seen in one of the secluded sections of this centre. Hundreds of years ago, a holy water tank had been present here and can be seen during the rainy season. The Kurukshetra development board renovated the site and a mango shaped lake was constructed with covered bathing Ghats for ladies. Concrete enclosures were built for protection from sun and rain. A light and music show is organized by the Tourism Department at the site on a regular basis in which episodes from the Mahabharata are recreated. Restaurants and accommodation wing were built to facilitate tourists and the entire area was landscaped with eucalyptus and flowering bushes.
This is the exact spot where Lord Sri Krishna spoke Bhagavad-Gita. Is the most important place to be seen because there is a Banyan tree in this place under which Krishna explained Bhagavad-Gita 5000 years back to Arjuna – his greatest friend and devotee. There is a board placed on the tree in which is written “The immortal banyan tree witness of the celestial song Bhagavad-Gita”. In fact this place is named as the “Gitopadesh sthal – place where the Bhagavad-Gita was spoken”.
The tree is full of birds and squirrels which adds to the mystic aura of that place. This place is eternally peaceful despite amidst coming and going of pilgrims throughout the day. Doing the Parikrama or Circumambulation of the tree is considered as a very auspicious. There is also a small chariot in a glass and marble case below the banyan tree where one can see Krishna and Arjuna speaking to each other. There is also another chariot nearby much bigger entirely in glass casing where both Krishna and Arjuna are seated. In the same courtyard of the Geethopadesh sthal is a Ved Pathshala, rooms containing different characters of Mahabharata like Ganga mata, Bhismadeva, Krishna-Arjuna etc… There is also an ancient Siva temple which is sheltered by the Banyan Tree. This temple is a witness to foreign invasions. Then there are also several other temples for other divinities. There is a small water body in front of the Geetopadesh sthal. Jyotisar lies on Pehowa road, 5 km from Kurukshetra.
BHAGAVAD-GITA: Bhagavad-Gita is also known as Gitopanisad. It is the essence of Vedic knowledge and one of the most important Upanisads in Vedic literature. The spirit of Bhagavad-Gita is mentioned in Bhagavad-Gita itself, which is, Bhagavad-Gita should be accepted ‘as it is’ directed by the speaker Himself. The speaker of Bhagavad-Gita is Lord Sri Krishna. He is mentioned on every page of Bhagavad-Gita as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
What is Bhagavad-Gita?
The purpose of Bhagavad-Gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. Every man is in difficulty in so many ways, as Arjuna was in difficulty. Arjuna surrendered unto Sri Krishna, and consequently this Bhagavad-Gita was spoken. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. Our very existence is in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. Our existence is eternal. But somehow or other we are put into asat. Asat refers to that which does not exist.
Out of so many human beings who are suffering, there are a few who are actually inquiring about their position, as to what they are, why they are put into this awkward position and so on. Unless one is awakened to this position of questioning his suffering, unless he realizes that he doesn’t want suffering but rather wants to make a solution to all suffering, then one is not to be considered a perfect human being. Humanity begins when this sort of inquiry is awakened in one’s mind. In the Brahma-sutra this inquiry is called, Athato brahma jijnasa. Every activity of the human being is to be considered a failure unless he inquires about the nature of the Absolute. Therefore those who begin to question: why they are suffering or where they came from and where they shall go after death are proper students for understanding Bhagavad-Gita. The sincere student should also have a firm respect for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a student was Arjuna.
The subject of the Bhagavad-Gita entails the comprehension of 5 basic truths: Isvara (the Supreme Lord), jiva (the living entity), prakrti (nature), kala (eternal time) and karma (activity) are all explained in the Bhagavad-Gita. Out of these five, the Lord, the living entities, material nature and time are eternal. The manifestation of prakrti may be temporary, but it is not false. Some philosophers say that the manifestation of material nature is false, but according to the philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita, this is not so. However, the karma, is not eternal. We are suffering or enjoying the results of our activities from time immemorial, but we can change the results of our karma, or our activity, and this change depends on the perfection of our knowledge. We are engaged in various activities. Undoubtedly we do not know what sort of activities we should adopt to gain relief from the actions and reactions of all these activities, but this is also explained in the Bhagavad-Gita.
When we are materially contaminated, we are called conditioned. False consciousness is exhibited under the impression that I am a product of material nature. This is called false ego. One who is absorbed in the thought of bodily conceptions cannot understand his situation. Bhagavad-Gita was spoken to liberate one from the bodily conception of life. One must become free from the bodily conception of life; that is the preliminary activity for the transcendentalist. One who wants to become free, who wants to become liberated, must first of all learn that he is not this material body. Mukti means liberation from the contaminated consciousness of this material world and situation in pure consciousness. All the instructions of Bhagavad-Gita are intended to awaken this pure consciousness. Purified consciousness means acting in accordance with the instructions of the Lord. This is the whole sum and substance of purified consciousness. Consciousness is already there because we are part and parcel of the Lord, but for us there is the affinity of being affected by the inferior modes. But the Lord, being the Supreme, is never affected. That is the difference between the Supreme Lord and the small individual souls.
What is this consciousness? This consciousness is “I am.” Then what am I? In contaminated consciousness “I am” means “I am the lord of all I survey. I am the enjoyer.” The world revolves because every living being thinks that he is the lord and creator of the material world. Material consciousness has two psychic divisions. One is that I am the creator, and the other is that I am the enjoyer. But actually the Supreme Lord is both the creator and the enjoyer, and the living entity, being part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, is neither the creator nor the enjoyer, but a co-operator. He is the created and the enjoyed. For instance, a part of a machine cooperates with the whole machine; a part of the body cooperates with the whole body. The hands, legs, eyes, and so on are all parts of the body, but they are not actually the enjoyers. The stomach is the enjoyer.
The legs move, the hands supply food, the teeth chew, and all parts of the body are engaged in satisfying the stomach because the stomach is the principal factor that nourishes the body’s organization. Therefore everything is given to the stomach. One nourishes the tree by watering its root, and one nourishes the body by feeding the stomach, for if the body is to be kept in a healthy state, then the parts of the body must cooperate to feed the stomach. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the enjoyer and the creator, and we, as subordinate living beings, are meant to cooperate to satisfy Him. This cooperation will actually help us, just as food taken by the stomach will help all other parts of the body. If the fingers of the hand think that they should take the food themselves instead of giving it to the stomach, then they will be frustrated. The central figure of creation and of enjoyment is the Supreme Lord, and the living entities are co-operators. By cooperation they enjoy.
Holy Dust of “JYOTISAR” : We shall find, therefore, in Bhagavad-Gita that the complete whole is comprised of the supreme controller, the controlled living entities, the cosmic manifestation, eternal time and karma, or activities, and all of these are explained in this text. All of these taken completely form the complete whole, and the complete whole is called the Supreme Absolute Truth. The complete whole and the complete Absolute Truth are the complete Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. All manifestations are due to His different energies. He is the complete whole. It is also explained in the Gita that impersonal Brahman is also subordinate to the complete Supreme Person (brahmano hi pratisthäham). Brahman is more explicitly explained in the Brahma-sutra to be like the rays of the sunshine. The impersonal Brahman is the shining rays of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Bhagavad-Gita is a treatise which is especially meant for the devotee of the Lord. There are 3 classes of transcendentalists, namely the jnani, the yogi and the bhakta, or the impersonalist, the meditator and the devotee. Bhagavad-Gita is instructed to Arjuna especially because Arjuna was a devotee of the Lord, a direct student of Krishna. Therefore Bhagavad-Gita is best understood by a person who has qualities similar to Arjuna’s. That is to say he must be a devotee in a direct relationship with the Lord. As soon as one becomes a devotee of the Lord, he also has a direct relationship with the Lord. Arjuna was in a relationship with the Lord as friend. Of course there is a gulf of difference between this friendship and the friendship found in the material world. This is transcendental friendship, which cannot be had by everyone. Of course everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. But in the present status of our life, not only have we forgotten the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of the many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. By the process of devotional service, one can revive that svarupa, and that stage is called svarupa-siddhi – perfection of one’s constitutional position.
Lord Krishna descends specifically to re-establish the real purpose of life when man forgets that purpose. Actually we are all swallowed by the tigress of nescience, but the Lord is very merciful upon living entities, especially human beings. To this end He spoke the Bhagavad-Gita, making His friend Arjuna His student.