The “Land of Bhagavad Gita” is very well known for its pilgrimage. This city of Haryana is known today as Kurukshetra, which is situated at the distance of 160 km from Delhi. It is also known as Dharmakshetra (“Holy Place”). It is also known as the “Land of Bhagwad Gita”. Kurukshetra lies at distance of 160 km from New Delhi and about 80 km from Chandigarh – city with the nearest airport.
As per the depiction of Mahabharata, they had an ancestor of Kauravas and Pandavas named King Kuru, after whom the name of the city was named Kurukshetra. The fact being known that the Kurukshetra War of the Mahabharata was fought on this land and the Bhagavad Gita was preached here during the war when Lord Krishna found Arjuna in a dilemma.
According to ancient Hindu texts, Kurukshetra is not just a city but a region as ‘kshetra’ which in Sanskrit means region. Since this place has religious importance, various festivals are celebrated here to remember the saints and traditional stories. Namely :
Gita Jayanti is celebrated in Kurukshetra since ages. It was also known as ‘Kurukshetra Utsav’. Hence in 2016, The Government of Haryana decided to honor it as a ‘global flavor’ and therefore started organizing ‘International Gita Mahotsav’ at Kurukshetra. The duration of this festival is from 1 December to 11 December.
Hindu Religious Sites
Since this place is filled with the air of pilgrimage, it also has some ancient religious sites:
a). Brahma Sarovar: Lakhs of people gather here to take a holy bath on the rare occasion of solar eclipse believing that a bath in holy Sarovar frees all sins. It is said to be the world’s largest man-made pond. It is believed that when Duryodhan lost the war of Mahabharat, he tried to hide in this lake.
b). Sannihit Sarovar: This Sarovar is the meeting point of 7 sacred Saraswati. This Sarovar contains sacred water.
c). Jyotisar: The famous site where Bhagavad Gita was delivered to Arjuna under the tree. The tree of that time is the witness to Gita. It also has a newly built tourist spot where lights and sound show is arranged. Here, some aspects of Geeta Saar are highlighted during the show.
d). Dharohar Museum: It shows the tradition and culture of Haryana which is located in Kurukshetra University.
e). Bhishma Kund at Naraktari: This was the place where Arjuna shot an arrow towards the earth to quench the thirst of Bhishma Pitamah. This Kund lies around 3 km before Jyotisar.
f). Bhadrakali Temple: This temple is believed to be one of the 52 Shakti Peethas.
g). Shri Durga Devi Mandir: This temple is in Pipli as the entrance of Kurukshetra as the name of Gita Dwar.
Hence, such is the region of Kurukshetra which is rich with heritage. Aged people urge to visit this place at least once in their lifetime due to its religious importance and to experience the history of Mahabharat closely. Kurukshetra has always been crowded but during special festivals, it receives an immense response from the public, may it be foreigners!
Phulkari came into existence from Punjabi culture since ancient times. Phulkari means ‘flower work’. It is a type of embroidery that is spun from the ‘charkha’ which is designed on dupattas, shawls, Kurtis etc. The highlight of this embroidery is the usage of the darn stitch on the back side of the cloth with coloured silk texture thread. It was 1st mentioned in the romantic stories of Heer and Ranjha written by Waris Shah. Since then Phulkari became a dream attire for every Punjabi girl.
Phulkari was brought to the Indian Subcontinent by the migrant Jat people of Central Asia in ancient times. No documents explained the techniques and patterns about the embroidery work but were only transmitted by word of mouth. This tradition was related to the Sikh heritage but was also shared with Hindus & Muslims. The embroideries were a mere reflection of a woman’s life and every woman had her unique way of representing it. Earlier, this art offered complete freedom of creativity. Motifs used were an adroit representation of the dear and sundry values of Punjab. Since it was essentially a communal activity, colors and shades were somewhat run-of-the-mill, however, the fact that most of the women were experts in Phulkari would even make mediocre look exquisite. This face of fashion was a reflection of the routine and regular life of a typical Punjabi woman.
Thread by thread, each motif is made in a geometric grid, which is a specific pattern for coming up with a curvilinear final output. Long and short darn stitches are used for creating horizontal, vertical and diagonal thread work, inspired by the routine of the artists, nature, flowers etc. Earlier, Punjabi women used to come together after finishing their household chores for chit-chatting and weaving. But now, this very pleasuresome activity has become a business which has given employment to women. Though it was never made for commercialization. For Punjabi people, it is more like a traditional culture than just embroidery.
There is numerous variations of Phulkari which are worn for several occasions by specific category or women or so. Fortunate are Indians who have easy access to this beautiful attire. Variety is as follows :
Thirma : It’s a symbol of purity, hence worn by elders or widows or given a choice due to aesthetic reasons.
Darshan Dwar: Made for a temple as an offering to thank god after a wish has been fulfilled.
Chope: These are single colored, usually on the borders.
Bawan Bagh: It is a Mosaic of 52 different patterns which decorate the piece and is said to be the rarest of all.
Vari da bagh: Mainly, made on an orange-reddish khaddar with the main pattern being a group of 3 or 4 small concentric lozenges (diamond) of growing size.
Surajmukhi : As the name suggests, Sunflower design is the main pattern in this type.
Meenakshi: Made of gold and white colored pat, is decorated with small multicoloured lozenges referring to enamel work (meenakari).
Kaudi Bagh: These are chains of small white squares representing stylized cowries.
Pachranga: Decorated with designs of 5 different colours.
Satrangi: Decorated with designs of 7 different colours.
Ideally, Phulkari was assumed as Bridal wear but even today, it is worn by other ladies and girls during the wedding season! Vibrant shades like Orange, yellow, red and blue added merry vibe to the celebrations. Phulkari dupattas can be taken with plain Kurti-Patiala or a cotton top worn over rugged denim for a contemporary look. Also, Phulkari suit or sari mixed and matched with ethnic jewelry in contrast colors looks elegant. Oxidized silver jewelry is most preferred over Phulkari for a traditional look.
Initially, this tradition started by performing this dance form in front of Goddess Durga which represented a mock battle between demon Mahishasura and Goddess. Few stories also say that this dance form originated from ‘Raas Leela’ played by Krishna and Radha, therefore, the name Dandiya Raas! The word ‘Raas’ is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Ras’ which means essence or expressions and Raas Leela meant playful dance performed in Mathura by Krishna.
Dandiya dance is also named as “The Sword Dance” because earlier it was only performed by men, who used swords instead of sticks during the performance. Later on, even women started joining the celebration where they used bamboo sticks painted in colors like sticks. These sticks were eventually called Dandiya which represents the ‘swords of Durga’. During the dance, dancers energetically whirl and move their feet and arms in a well-synchronized manner to the rhythm of music with various beats. Percussion instruments such as Tabla, Dhol, Dholak, Bongos etc are played. The women wear traditional Gujarati dresses which are colorful. 3 pieces such as Embroidered and vibrant choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas with mirror work and thread work is the attire. Heavy oxidized jewelry is chosen to complement with the dress whereas men wear special turbans and dhotis with short kurtas which this varies regionally.
Dandiya is performed after worshipping Goddess Durga, as a part of merriment. This season of worshipping is called ‘Navratri’ where the Goddesses are worshipped for 9 Nights. It is a culture where women have fast for 9 nights to please the deity! After the rituals and prayers end, the celebration of Navratri begins. Men and women join in for Dandiya Raas. The drummer of the band plays various traditional songs and commands the beat and people form a circle in the open space to get started with Dandiya. The circular movements of Dandiya Raas with sticks are much more complex. Today, Raas is not only an important part of Navratri in Gujarat, but extends itself to other festivals related to harvest and crops as well. The Mers of Saurashtra is noted to perform Raas with extreme energy and vigor.
The performers strike the wooden sticks in rhythmic beats. People gather in two circular formations as mentioned earlier where the inner circle moves in a clockwise direction and the other circle moves in the opposite direction. With this formation, each person gets a chance to play with different partners. Various Dandiya choreographers are in high demand around the country since this festival is not just limited to Gujarat now but the entire nation enjoys the vibe. Almost 15-20 days prior to the season, workshops and seminars of this dance form are held in various cities where non-dancers and aspirants learn the authentic steps of Dandiya dance. These typical steps with pirouettes and jumps are very complicated but indeed energetic!
The complete aura around is mesmerizing as all the communities come together and celebrate Navratri. Each one is enthusiastic to learn and perform dandiya steps to gain happiness and peace. Almost every playground, auditoriums and open spaces are filled with decorations for the evening where people gather and say the chants of ‘aarti’ and then begin with the 2-4 hours of enjoyment called Dandiya Raas!