The Mahabharata Home
"The Rishis said, 'O Rama, this Samantapanchaka is said to be the eternal northern altar of Brahman, the Lord of all creatures. There the denizens of heaven, those givers of great boons, performed in days of yore a great sacrifice. That foremost of royal sages, the high-souled Kuru, of great intelligence and immeasurable energy, had cultivated this field for many years. Hence it came to be Kurukshetra (the field of Kuru)!'
"Rama said, 'For what reason did the high-souled Kuru cultivate this field? I desire to have this narrated by you, ye Rishis possessed of wealth of penances!'
"The Rishis said, 'In days of yore, O Rama, Kuru was engaged in perseveringly tilling the soil of this field. Shakra, coming down from heaven, asked him the reason, saying, "Why O king, art thou employed (in this task) with such perseverance? What is thy purpose, O royal sage, for the accomplishment of which thou art tilling the soil?" Kuru thereupon replied, saying, "O thou of a hundred sacrifices, they that will die upon this plain shall proceed to regions of blessedness after being cleansed of their sins!" The lord Shakra, ridiculing this, went back to heaven. The royal sage Kuru, however, without being at all depressed, continued to till the soil. Shakra repeatedly came to him and repeatedly receiving the same reply went away ridiculing him. Kuru, however, did not, on that account, feel depressed. Seeing the king till the soil with unflagging perseverance. Shakra summoned the celestials and informed them of the monarch's occupation. Hearing Indra's words, the celestials said unto their chief of a 1,000 eyes, "Stop the royal sage, O Shakra by granting him a boon, if thou canst! If men, by only dying there were to come to heaven, without having performed sacrifices to us, our very existence will be endangered!" Thus exhorted, Shakra then came back to that royal sage and said, "Do not toil any more! Act according to my words! Those men that will die here, having abstained from food with all their senses awake, and those that will perish here in battle, shall, O king, come to heaven! They, O thou of great soul, shall enjoy the blessings of heaven, O monarch!" Thus addressed, king Kuru answered Shakra, saying, "So be it!" Taking Kuru's leave, the slayer of Vala, Shakra, then, with a joyful heart, quickly went back to heaven. Even thus, O foremost one of Yadu's race, that royal sage had, in days of yore, tilled this plain and Shakra had promised great merit unto those that would cast off their bodies here. Indeed, it was sanctioned by all the foremost ones, headed by Brahman, among the gods, and by the sacred Rishis, that on earth there should be no more sacred spot than this! Those men that perform austere penances here would all after casting off their bodies go to Brahman's abode. Those meritorious men, again, that would give away their wealth here would soon have their wealth doubled. They, again, that will, in expectation of good, reside constantly here, will never have to visit the region of Yama. Those kings that will perform great sacrifices here will reside as long in heaven as Earth herself will last. The chief of the celestials, Shakra, himself composed a verse here and sang it. Listen to it, O Baladeva! "The very dust of Kurukshetra, borne away by the wind, shall cleanse persons of wicked acts and bear them to heaven!" The foremost ones amongst the gods, as also those amongst the Brahmanas, and many foremost ones among the kings of the Earth such as Nriga and others, having performed costly sacrifices here, after abandoning their bodies, proceeded to heaven. The space between the Tarantuka and the Arantuka and the lakes of Rama and Shamachakra, is known as Kurukshetra. Samantapanchaka is called the northern (sacrificial) altar of Brahman, the Lord of all creatures. Auspicious and highly sacred and much regarded by the denizens of heaven is this spot that possesses all attributes. It is for this that Kshatriyas slain in battle here obtain sacred regions of eternal blessedness. Even this was said by Shakra himself about the high blessedness of Kurukshetra. All that Shakra said was again approved and sanctioned by Brahman, by Vishnu, and by Maheshvara.'"
Next: Section 54