In the Mahabharata, Kurukshetra is where the great battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas was fought. It has been set down in the texts and in popular imagination as the place where dharma triumphed over everything else, restoring order to the universe.

The point is that war is and was abhorrent to most of the people even at the time the epic was being told and written. It was being denounced even more under the influence of pacifist religions such as Buddhism. Still the battle of Kurukshetra, in its most gruesome and violent outcome, was justified because it put an end to the forces opposing the rise of the good forces as embodied by the Pandavas.

The Pandavas are the heroes of the epic and, with Krishna by their side, their fight is the fight against evil. And thus Kurukshetra is established in the Hindu mind as dharmaksetra.

Apart from the Mahabharata, several other ancient texts too furthered the perception that this is god‚have  chosen land on earth. According to Vamana Purana, this is where all creation emerged from. Also Kurukshetra is where King Kuru tilled the land. He sacrificed his body so that truthfulness, charity, justice etc would flourish in the world. Kurukshetra is called the gate of heaven in the Mahabharata and the battlefield as devabhumi is a belief that is firmly entrenched in the collective imagination.

But there is another popular legend about the place popular mostly as temple lore around the region. The story goes that as the cousins got ready for war, they sent their envoys out to look for a suitable battlefield. They needed a place that could accommodate 18 aksauhini (battle formation with chariots, elephants, horses and infantry) of soldiers. The envoys petitioned many kings but none agreed because they knew there would be extreme bloodshed.

The kings did not want to sully their kingdoms and the fate of their people by hosting the great battle. Because they knew that this would be where all dharma codes would be breached and blood would fight blood.

Dejected the envoys were on their way back to Hastinapura, when they saw a farmer tilling the land. As he struggled through his task, his levee broke and hard though he tried he could not fix it. He made several attempts to carry on nevertheless, but everything came to nought. Finally, unable to do anything else and faced with the prospect of starvation and death for his entire family, he killed his son who was playing in the field. And then used his dead body to secure the levee.

When the envoys saw this horrific act, they realized that they had found their battlefield. If this land was cruel enough to bear the burden of a father killing his son, it was ready to take on the burden of a war.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Source: Evil in the Mahabharata by Meena Arora Nayak

Location: Pan India

Image Source: