Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bheeshma Kund, Kurukshetra

The holy town of Kurukshetra is most famously associated with the battle of the Mahabharata (Wikipedia page, Mahabharata by Amar Chitra Katha - 42 Comic Books in 3 Volumes, The Gita, Bhagavad Gita (Amar Chitra Katha)), a terrible fratricidal war fought between members of the Kuru family, with the Pandavas on one side, and the Kauravas on the other.

The Kauravas had the mighty Bheeshma (Bheeshma (Amar Chitra Katha)) as the leader of their army, and for ten days he rampaged through the Pandava army, taking care however not to kill any of the Pandavas though. With the war in a stalemate, and with the realization that the Pandavas could not win the war without first killing Bheeshma, and also that Bheeshma could be killed only if he so willed it, Lord Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, came up with the strategem of having Shikhandi face Bheeshma in battle, with Arjuna firing the lethal arrows from behind Shikhandi. Now, Bheeshma knew, as did Lord Krishna, that Shikandi was none other than Amba reborn as a man. Bheeshma also knew, as did the others, that he would not raise his weapons against a woman, even if that person had been a woman in a previous birth. And so, Bheeshma, the indestructibe warrior, let Arjuna's arrows pierce his body, and thus fell on the tenth day of the war. Having fallen, he was surrounded by both the Kauravas and the Pandavas. He asked for water, and Arjuna shot an arrow into the earth, thereby releasing a stream of water.

The spot, where Bheeshma fell, is generally accepted as the modern day village of Naraktari, in the district of Kurukshetra.There is a small temple and a small water tank that marks the spot.

View Larger Map (Naraktari, or Bheeshma Kund, Kurukshetra, Haryana, India)

The temple itself is not more than a couple of decades old.

To get to this village, you have to keep your eyes peeled for a small, single-laned road that leads into the village. The only indication that you are on the right track is this stone signpost at the turn. It reads "Baan shayya mandir" on the first line, the second line reads "Bheeshma kund baan ganga". The third line reads "26 foot Hanumanji", and the fourth line states simply the name of the village, "Naraktari".

This road that leads to the village of Naraktari is not as bad as it looks, and in any case you do not need to travel more than a kilometer before you reach the village.

A world weary priest outside a temple at Naraktari

"Shree Ganga Mata Pracheen Mandir, Shree Ganga putra Bheeshma Pitamah Baan shaiyya pandav mandir, Naraktari, Kurukshetra"
Transliterated into Hindi - श्री गंगा माता प्राचीन मंदिर, श्री गंगापुत्र भीष्म पितामह बाण शैय्या पांडव मंदिर, नाराक्तरी, कुरुक्षेत्र
Translated it reads - "Ancient temple of Mother Ganga", "Bed of arrows Pandava Temple dedicated to great grandsire Bheeshma, the son of Ganga, in Naraktari, Kurukshetra"

There is a depressing lack of infrastructure to support any sort of tourism, whether national or international. For a city that should rank as one of the holiest places in the world, it is quite dis-heartening to see an almost complete lack of attention or interest to building Kurukshetra into a heritage city.
Take this photo below for example. The Gita Press of Gorakhpur is one of the oldest and most respected publishers of books on Hinduism. This however is the lone shop, ramshackle as it is, that sells Gita Press publications at the site. We worship our Gods, we swear by our texts, we all know our mythologies, yet we do not care enough to showcase the incredible history and richness of our culture. Not to ourselves, not to the outside world.

Also see my earlier post, The Gita Chariot at Kurukshetra.

Link to the Amar Chitra Katha web site.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.