Who were the Bharatas of Bharatavarsha? – Sandhya Jain

The spiritual swastika flag held high

“In recent times, there has been much churning in society about the nature of Indian nationalism and the Indian state. Central to this debate is the status of the Hindu people, their religion and culture, in their natal land. Beginning with the repugnant colonial Aryan Invasion Theory to the Partition of 1947, but by no means ending with that traumatic vivisection, the Hindu people have been prey to a host of Western academic assaults, ably assisted by a category of foot soldiers labeled as Useful Indian Idiots, which seek to confuse the Hindu Mind about the deep significance of this land and civilisation and the tremendous responsibility its people bear to uphold their spiritual lineage and cultural heritage. On the occasion of the painful and humiliating Partition, we revisit some well known aspects of our Eternal Tradition” – Sandhya Jain

Bharatavarsha is encompassed from north to south by Sagarmatha, forehead of the ocean, a beautiful epithet for the tallest Himalayan peak, and Hind Mahasagar, the Indian Ocean. Famed as a divine creation, it is the bhumi of the Bharatas, hallowed by its sacred geography and the great souls who have guided her spiritual ascent and steered her civilizational  destiny. Bharatavarsha literally means the continent (‘varsha’. Sanskrit) that is dedicated (‘rata’) to light, wisdom (‘bha’). Our Vedic Rishis devoted themselves to the quest for the eternal truth and ultimate reality, kevala jnana, satchidananda.

The Bharatas were a venerable and ancient tribe mentioned in the Rg. Veda, particularly in Mandala 3 of Bharata Rishi Vishvamitra. Mandala 7 says the Bharatas were on the victorious side in the Battle of the Ten Kings.

There were three personifications of ‘Bharata’ in Hindu tradition, one each in the first three yugas, or time cycles. Together they are regarded as the epitome of the civilisational values of the Sanatana Dharma.

Bharata of the Satayuga

The first Bharata was born in the Satyuga as the son of Rshabdeva, first among recognized ancient sages. The Jaina community traces its spiritual lineage from Rshabhdeva, designated as the first Tirthankara; he is also known as Adinath, and synonymous with Siva, the foremost yogi of the Hindu tradition.

Jinasena’s Adipurana says three great events occurred simultaneously in Jaina history: Rsabhdeva attained enlightenment and became the first Jina; the cakra (wheel) appeared in the armoury of his son Bharata and proclaimed him a cakravartin (emperor); and a son was born to Bharata, ensuring continuation of the Iksvaku dynasty founded by Rsabhdeva.

Elaborating the multiple rebirths of father and son in the bhogabhumi (world of enjoyment) where salvation is not possible, the Adipurana explains their evolution to karmabhumi (world of karma) where the law of retribution operates and men follow different occupations (karman). Rsabhdeva created the Ksatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra castes; Bharata later created Brahmanas and appointed kings.

The duty of the cakravartin is total conquest of all the directions (digvijaya) by means of superior moral and political powers, to unite the country under a single moral kingdom and prevent anarchy. Readers will note that the Cakravartin is not merely an ideal ruler, but a powerful ancient political concept, inspired by a vision of the Hindu bhumi as a unity which was not belied by the presence of multiple centres of political power. That is why civilisational values permeated the whole land and gave the tradition its abiding continuity.

As first cakravartin, Bharata fasted, meditated, performed puja and followed the cakra symbolizing his kingship as it moved of its own accord to various parts of the country. He paused to perform pradaksina in Saurastra, where the Jina Aristanemi (cousin of Sri Krishna) would be born, all the while circling Ayodhya, centre of Aryavarta (land of the Arya, noble ones).

Bharata thus subjugated rival kings and punished those who taxed their subjects excessively. His digvijaya was accomplished without violence, through innate capability, on account of punya (merit) acquired in previous lives through practice of Jaina precepts. He exemplified the virtues of compassion (daya), divine-wisdom (brahma jñana) and penance (tapas).

Bharata of the Tretayuga

The second Bharata was born in the Tretayuga as the son of King Dasaratha of Ayodhya, and younger brother of Sri Rama. He embodied the virtues of love (prema), devotion (bhakti), and brotherhood (bandhutva).

The story of the Ramayana is well known, but briefly, Keikeyi, the second wife of King Dasaratha, schemes to have the heir apparent, Sri Rama, sent into exile for fourteen years, and her own son, Bharata, appointed crown prince in his place. Rama, accompanied by his brother Lakshman, and wife Sita, departs immediately and the grief-stricken Dasaratha passes away soon afterwards.

Bharata, then on a visit to his maternal grandfather’s kingdom in Gandhara, returns only to learn of his father’s tragic demise and brother’s unfair exile. Tortured further by the thought that he could be considered complicit in this palace conspiracy, he decides – unswervingly – not to accept the throne. He then leads the people to the forest to persuade Rama to return. This political renunciation of a kingdom won illegitimately is a unique Hindu ethic.

Bharata is regarded as the symbol of dharma and idealism, second only to Sri Rama. To this day, he is revered for his adherence to family values, truth, righteousness, filial love and duty.

When Sri Rama refused to return to Ayodhya as rightful king, Bharata, at the intervention of Sita’s father, King Janaka, accepted the onerous duty of facilitating Rama to live righteously, i.e., in exile for fourteen years. He vowed to immolate himself if Rama did not return immediately at the end of the exile period and ascend his throne. Agreeing to govern Ayodhya only as regent, he placed Sri Rama’s sandals at the foot of the royal throne as the symbol of His kingship.

Bharata of the Dwaparyuga

The third Bharata was born in the Dwaparyuga as the son of Shakuntala and King Dushyant. Their story is part of the Mahabharata narrative, but it was Kalidasa who immortalized their love in Abhigyan Shakuntalam.

Shakuntala was the daughter of Rishi Vishvamitra and the apsara Menaka, who was sent by Indra to distract the sage. Menaka returned to heaven, and her daughter was raised in the hermitage of Rishi Kanva.

King Dushyant was the youngest son of King Puru, who had sacrificed his youth for his father, King Yayati. He founded the Paurava dynasty. Dushyant was hunting in the forest when, following a wounded deer into the hermitage of Rishi Kanva, he found Shakuntala nursing the animal. He fell in love and they married secretly in the Gandharva style, being their own witnesses.

The king gave her a ring as token of his love and to establish her identity as his wife. Sadly, Shakuntala lost the ring and the king refused to accept her; she retired to the forest and gave birth to Bharata, who grew up so bold and fearless that he played with lions. Some years later, the ring was found and Dushyant brought Shakuntala and Bharat to Pratishthan, where Bharata later became king.

Bharata is regarded as the greatest king of India, who lent his name to the country. He had nine sons, but deemed none of them fit to succeed him, and hence adopted a capable child as future ruler. Bharata personified the values of service (seva), valour (shaurya), and charity (dana).

Eternal values, eternal tradition

Thus the three Bharatas (two kings, one prince) seamlessly united the Satayuga, Tretayuga and Dwaparayuga and the land itself in political and cultural unity. They exemplified three ideals each that permeated Hindu civilisation and form its core values to this day. Rsabhdeva’s son Bharata gave us daya, Brahma-jñana and tapas; Dasaratha’s son Bharata gave us prema, bhakti, and bandhutva; and Dushyanta-Shakuntala’s son Bharata gave us seva, shaurya and dana.

Their sterling qualities raised a landmass to divine bhumi – Bharat Mata, mother of the Bharata people. This explains the Hindu anguish and anger over M.F. Husain’s exceedingly vulgar imagery of the Eternal Mother.

Hindus impart these nine values to every generation. The jeneu ceremony marking the transition from childhood to youth revolves around this value system. The youth bestowed the sacred thread takes nine vows; each vow is represented as a knot that binds the three separate strands of the jeneu.

The jeneu was therefore a great privilege, bestowed upon conscious Hindus. Today Hindu gurus are extending its reach to all sections of society, shattering mindsets and barriers, and raising the whole population to higher awareness about the responsibilities of religion and culture.

Useful Idiots

All this should nail the lie – peddled incessantly by Western Abrahamic so-called scholars and a modern ‘caste’ designated by some as Useful Indian Idiots – that India was not a nation until the British made it so; that Hindu dharma is not a religion but an assorted collection of ‘cults’ (whatever that means) and beliefs of folk origin (whatever that means – who’s going to ask, anyway?).

We have only to look at ourselves as our Vedic Rishis and Gurus did – as children of the Himalayas, the Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Krishna, Godavari, down to Kanyakumari. According to the distinguished scholar, Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the eternal significance of Adi Sankara is that in establishing Mathams in the four corners of India, he also established the sacred geography of the four directions and united the country in common pilgrimage and cohesive culture at a time of grave danger.

As we look back, some things startle the mind. The ancient seers travelled extraordinary distances, covering every nook and corner of the country and every community howsoever remote, and uniting them in a complex religious and cultural matrix that endures to this day.

But more extraordinary is the fact that the ancient world seems to have had singular communicative skills. In the absence of what is called a common language (read English), a villager from Kerala could traverse the land and dominate the civilisation for over a thousand years, Marathi poets from the Deccan could settle in Punjab, a Guru from Punjab could reach Karnataka and Patna, one born in Gujarat could dominate north India. No one felt alien, or homeless, or misunderstood.

This is surely one of the most enduring mysteries of the Sanatana Dharma. 

» Sandhya Jain is the editor of www.vijayvaani.com

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3 Responses

  1. can anyone tell me when bharata,son of dushyant was born and when he became king?


  2. Sandhya Jain writes in this article, “We have only to look at ourselves as our Vedic Rishis and Gurus did – as children of the Himalayas, the Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Krishna, Godavari, down to Kanyakumari. According to the distinguished scholar, Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the eternal significance of Adi Sankara is that in establishing Mathams in the four corners of India, he also established the sacred geography of the four directions and united the country in common pilgrimage and cohesive culture at a time of grave danger.”

    Doesn’t seem to be much Jain chauvinism here. Aren’t you just picking holes in a good article.


  3. I do not know if this comment will be let through, but certain things must be said.

    Since when does Jain history-writing have any bearing on Hindus? The main article contains numerous Jain assertions that give Jain twists to the older Hindu version of events and which contradict this.

    As an example, Jinasena’s Adipurana, referenced above as supposed authority for Emperor Bharata and the Ikshvaku dynasty being Jain, is from around the 800s/900s C.E., whereas Hindu scriptures from far earlier centuries (including those of a time when Jainism was unknown) all have Emperor Bharata as well as the Ikshvaku dynasty as a Vedic population, that is, Hindus.

    If Jinasena’s Adipurana is to be taken as authoritative for Bharata being a Jain, surely people can take as even more authoritative those Jain works from earlier centuries where all the heroes of the Ramayana were turned into Jains as proof that Rama and his family & friends were indeed Jains? Although, in that case too, Jains merely took Vedic characters from the even earlier Hindu scripture Ramayana and re-wrote them as Jains to promote their own religion. If there was no Hindu Ramayana, there would have been no Rama and the rest for Jains to claim. Just as if there had been no ancient Vedic Emperor Bharata mentioned in earlier Hindu texts, Jainism would not have known of him to claim him.

    Or what about the Jain re-write of the Harivamsha in the late first millennium, which repeats elements from the far older Hindu Harivamsha, only so that it at its centre, it can add in the attainment of a Jain Tirthankara? Such methods were regularly used to create historicity for Jain tirthankaras by embedding them within a setting of familiar Hindu Puranic accounts. The 24 or so Jain Tirthankaras are historic to Jains, but not to general history which can admit only of the last of the line, Mahavira. This is why Jainism has been dated to the 6th century B.C.E of Mahavira. The other Tirthankaras are found to have been back-projected. This is in no way different from the 25 or so Buddhas in Mahayana Buddhism, many of which were similarly back-projected to predate the Buddha and thereby artificially inflate the ancientry of Buddhism. In fact, these Buddhist and Jain lineages are considered to have been developed in competition with each other.

    In order to counteract the general denial of all but the last tirthankara, owing to a paucity of actual evidence for their existence, it’s become an exercise among Jain history-writing today to strain to read Jainism and its Tirthankaras into ancient Hindu scriptures. Matches on common names and even general Sanskrit terms, that were actually used for ancient Hindu society, are now considered sufficient (because no further or actual evidence exists) to choose to read Jainism as mentioned in even the Vedas.

    Jain re-writings of the Hindu Ramayanam are mentioned in the following book cover flap, where the Padma Purana mentioned is of course the Jain work of this name, and distinct from the Hindu Padma Purana. http://www.vedamsbooks.com/no57443/jain-rama-katha-or-padma-purana-padmacarita-composed-sanskrit-by-ravisenacarya-seventh-century-ad-vols-i-ii-shantilal-nagar

    “The story of Ramayana has been dominating the Indian religious scene from the time immemorial. After the composition of the story by the great sage Valmiki in the form of Ramayana, there had been a great boost in its popularity, which very much impressed the masses in general. Soon the story was patronized in regional languages by the local authors but there was no death of the literature in Prakrt as well. In due course of time the story was patronized in Jainism. The first creation of the story in Jainism was in Prakrt by Vimala Suiri under the title of Paumacarya by about the first century A.D., followed by Vasudevahindi by Sanghadasa in the start of the seventh century A.D. While Ravisenacarya composed Padma Purana also known as Padmacarita in Sanskrit by about the close of there seventh century A.D. Thereafter several works on the Ramayana were created in Jainism. The present Padma Purana of Ravisenacarya is the unique work of its kind and comes under the category of the Mahakavyas. It has the style of its own and is beyond comparison, though there are several deviations in the story as compared to the story of Valmiki. In this work Rama, Laksmana and Sita besides other characters have been projected as the followers of Jina dharma, who perform Vratas prescribed in Jainism, adore the Jina ascetics, Jina images, Jina temples and even build the Jina temples and finally achieve Jina-diksa. More than the story of Rama, the work lays emphasis on following the Jina dharma and highlights the merits one earns by doing so. Though Rama and Laksmana are claimed to have all the virtues, but they are not devoted to one wife. Both Rama and Laksmana are said to have thousands of wives and so is the case with Hanuman. Though the poet has all praise for Rama, Laksmana, Hanuman and others, but their innumerable marriage place them at a lower pedestal in the matter of glory as compared to their portrayal by the sage Valmiki. But in spite of all this, the work is of excellent nature and it appears that the poet has minutely analyzed even the smallest events quite lively and gracefully. The English version of the work has been produced with utmost care and is likely to interest the readers. Inspite of the best efforts made in maintaining the true spirit of the composer of the work by its author, in rendering it into English, but same omissions and comonssions can not be completely ruled out.” (jacket)

    Jains may believe all this, but the author has no business trying to interweave Jainist history-telling into Hindu history accounts in order to evangelise among a Hindu audience. Further, in this, the Jainist assumption of a greater ancientry than Hinduism, as is evident in various claims made by the author, is also something that only Jains believe in and that has no basis in actual textual or other evidence used to construct chronology. Jains should desist from evangelising Hindus in this manner.

    If Hindus accepted any of this un-Hindu history-writing, they may just as readily accept Christian history-writing of India, starting with the Saint Thomas Myth. Both are preaching to a Hindu audience the origins of Indian history, as they believe it to have been, with advantage to their own religions and at the expense of history involving Hindus themselves.


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