Karnal Tourism: Places to visit and things to do
A city named after Karna, the silent hero of the epic Mahabharata, Karnal is located between Delhi and Chandigarh
Karnal is often referred to as the rice bowl of India and is among the oldest districts of Haryana. Believed to have been founded by Karna, the eldest son of Kunti, Karnal is also the place where Nadir Shah defeated Muhammad Shah in 1739.
I started my exploration of Karnal by heading to the old market and found out that the city is a walled town and the old citadel is seen here as the Kot Mohalla, a fort built by Raja Gajpat Singh of Jind. As I headed to the market I observed the Government Medical College and Hospital named after Late Dr. Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-American scientist and NASA astronaut and was told that she was actually born in a Punjabi Hindu family at Model Town in Karnal and also did her schooling here. The local market was abuzz with activity when I arrived here in the evening and my guide tells me that everything is available here. I enter through Karn Dwar – Karna Gate into a labyrinth of small lanes that is dotted with small stores and street vendors. There is also a flower market that sells brightly strung marigold strings. My first stop is at the Shiva Temple that is a long vertical structure. What is unique is the main deity here is Shiva in the form of a statue as opposed to a linga. However what makes this temple interesting is a narrow winding staircase that has over six levels each of which have many deities at different levels and interestingly there is a balcony at each level from where you get a bird's eye view of the city as well as see some of the old buildings here. There is a gurudwara located next door as well.
Sights & Sounds
Karna Tal is a water tank named after Karna and is believed to be the site where he camped during the war and gave gold equal to his weight in charity to the Brahmins of the region. Known for his generosity, Karna was tested by Lord Krishna on his last day when he disguised himself as a Brahmin and asked for gold. At that time Karna had no gold but pulled out his golden teeth which Krishna refused to accept as it was not clean. At that time, Karna is believed to have shot an arrow into the ground from which a freshwater spring emerged with which he washed his tooth and offered it to the Brahmin (Lord Krishna). Moved by this Lord Krishna is said to have revealed his true form to Karna and granted him immortality. This is the same spot that the Karna Tal is now located. A larger than life statue of Karna aiming an arrow occupies the center stage of this small park that is a walking spot for the locals. Also stop by the Atal Park, a fairly large lung space where locals relax over conversations especially in the evening.
Considering its links with the epic Mahabharata, Karnal has several interesting places of worship as well. I started by temple run at the Karneshwar Mahadev Temple an expansive complex that has an old peepal tree where it is believed you can tie a red thread to make a wish (the thread is available with the priest at the main temple that is located on the upper level. The temple itself is a marble structure with a Shiva linga (Karneshwar) and some other deities are also here. Also check the ornate Durga Bhawani Mandir that has ornate marble and extensive murals on the walls dedicated to many Gods and Goddesses. If you are here in the evening, you can see the temple lit in bright hued lights that makes for a stunning visual. A stop at Peer Baba, a saint who is highly revered is a good idea too. The Cantonment Church Tower is another place that you must visit. And there is great food too. While the city is known for its excellent North Indian fare, do try the famed jalebis of this place – they are very large and chewy and a specialty here. Some food souvenirs to pick from Karnal are the local pickles and papads. And do dig into the chaats especially aloo tikki and lassi with a dash of cream. Karnal is a unique destination that offers a nice mix of things to do, check it out yourself soon.