Tales of Mahabharata, a mythological battlefield, Lord Krishna sermonising Bhagwad Gita to Arjun among other Hindu mystical stories are aplenty when one talks of the towns of Kurukshetra and Karnal in Haryana. We reached the former on a weekend after a breezy three-hour drive through NH1 crossing green fields and roadside Punjabi dhabas. Of course, we stopped at them for a hearty meal before embarking on a mythological trail.
According to legend, King Kuru, the ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas, chose this area on the bank of the river Saraswati giving it the name Kurukshetra. It is also considered to be the birthplace of the sacred Hindu scripture Bhagwad Gita but lays neglected compared to other pilgrimage towns. We headed straight to the Brahma Sarovar, a gigantic lake where Lord Bramha is said to have performed holy rituals. Tourists often take a dip here and the clear water is an added incentive.
The place is full of images and tales of Mahabharata, and there is a big bronze statue of Krishna and Arjun as well. It also houses several temples. We were told the best time to visit it is during the International Gita Festival, which usually takes place in November-December. That's when the water body is decorated by lamps that pilgrims set afloat and it becomes a sight to behold.
Next, we headed to Jyotisar where Lord Krishna convinced Arjun for war. There’s no temple that adorns the area, it is simply an open field. It left us a little underwhelmed. From another chapter of the Mahabharata is the Bhishma Kund. The story goes that, Bhishma Pitamah, was felled by Arjun’s arrows during the war. Later, when the Kauravas and Pandavas went to pay homage to him, he was thirsty. That’s when Arjun shot an arrow into the earth, from where water sprung out and thus became a kund (pool). Located in Narkatari village, what stands today is a small pond and the temple of Bhishma. Locals believe that those who take a dip here are cleansed of all their sins.
Another famous temple in the area is the Bhadrakali Temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali. It is said to have been built by the Pandavas. Where the Pandavas, along with Lord Krishna, came to worship. The Arunai Temple at Kurukshetra is believed to have been built by the sages Vishwamitra and Vashishtha. Then in Ami village, a few kilometeres away from Kurukshetra is said to be the place where, Arjun’s son, Abhimanyu, was trapped in a Chakravyuha. Called Abhimanyukhera, the site is in the shape of a mound.
Retiring for the night, we headed for the only five-star property, Noor Mahal, in the vicinity in Karnal, which also has its own mythological significance.
The area gets its name from King Karn, son of Sun, whose kingdom it was in Mahabharata. Built on the lines of a royal palace, the property stands away from the hustle of the main town and offers gorgeous views of the green fields of the state. The stay at Karnal seemed like a perfect escape from the crowds of Delhi. With a view of lush greens, state-of-the-art facilities inside the hotel, and delectable cuisine, Noor Mahal seemed to have struck a perfect balance between the old world and the new. Similar to Kurukshetra, Karnal is home to a big lake known as the Karna Lake, where locals believe King Karn used to bathe after praying at a local temple. If you’re pressed for time, yet looking to make a trip filled with myths and legends, Kurukshetra and Karnal are the perfect spots.