Kurukshetra : bending the narrative into place
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation explores the connection among place, narrative, and ritual in a survey of Kurukshetra and its meaning to different communities across time. Kurukshetra, a region of central Haryana, is currently identified predominantly as a tīrtha and the site of the central battle of the Mahābhārata epic. I ask, "How did this area come to be known as Kurukshetra and how did it become so strongly associated with the Mahābhārata?" I argue that there is a constructive dynamic tension among place, narrative, and ritual that connects Kurukshetra, the Mahābhārata, and tīrthayātrā, leading to the current situation. I begin by examining pre-epic constructions of Kurukshetra to discover shifts and continuities in the terrain that Kurukshetra inhabits and the narrative themes ascribed to it. Following, I trace these themes into the epic period, and explore how a new ritual paradigm, tīrthayātrā, continues to modify the physical and narrative landscape. Next, I observe that the ritual, narrative, and terrain begin to coalesce in the post-epic period. I argue that even as the ritual begins to become more stable, the narrative and ritual geographies remain in flux. By the sixteenth century, the Mahābhārata begins to dominate the narrative identity of Kurukshetra and the region around the city of Thanesar becomes the primary locus of ritual activity and narrative reproduction.