समन्तपञ्चकं क्षेत्रं ययु: श्रेयोविधित्सया ॥ २ ॥
purastād eva sarvataḥ
tam — that; jñātvā — knowing; manujāḥ — people; rājan — O King (Parīkṣit); purastāt — beforehand; eva — even; sarvataḥ — from everywhere; samanta-pañcakam — named Samanta-pañcaka (within the sacred district of Kurukṣetra); kṣetram — to the field; yayuḥ — went; śreyaḥ — benefit; vidhitsayā — wishing to create.
Knowing of this eclipse in advance, O King, many people went to the holy place known as Samanta-pañcaka in order to earn pious credit.
Vedic astronomers of five thousand years ago could predict eclipses of the sun and moon just as well as our modern astronomers can. The knowledge of the ancient astronomers went much further, however, since they understood the karmic influences of such events. Solar and lunar eclipses are generally very inauspicious, with certain rare exceptions. But just as the otherwise inauspicious Ekādaśī day becomes beneficial when used for the glorification of Lord Hari, so the time of an eclipse is also advantageous for fasting and worship.
The holy pilgrimage site known as Samanta-pañcaka is located at Kurukṣetra, the “sacred ground of the Kurus,” where the Kuru kings’ predecessors performed many Vedic sacrifices. The Kurus were thus advised by learned brāhmaṇas that this would be the best place for them to observe vows during the eclipse. Long before their time, Lord Paraśurāma had done penance at Kurukṣetra to atone for his killings. Samanta-pañcaka, the five ponds he dug there, were still present at the end of Dvāpara-yuga, as they are even today.