The legend of "Bharat"
Like many of India's great
leaders, including Gautama Buddha, Bharata was born to the warrior
caste, the Kshatriya, to King Dushyanta and his Queen, Shakuntala.
His early years were not the life of a privileged prince of the
realm, nor even that of a pampered palace brat.
His parents met when his father, King Dushyanta, was out hunting and
wounded a deer. Tracking the deer, he came upon it being nursed by
Shakuntala, a young woman from the secluded little village of Rishi
Kanva. Heart-struck by her compassion, kindness, and beauty, he was
instantly and completely in love. The two married after the fashion
of the Ghandarvas, a ceremony that requires no witnesses, and the
king gifted her with a ring to proclaim her status as his wife. He
needed to return right away but Shakuntala required some time to
organize her affairs and then she would follow him. Unfortunately,
as soon as he returned home, the love he discovered faded until he
regarded it as merely a youthful peccadillo. In the meantime,
Shakuntala had misplaced the ring. Without the ring, the king,
relieved to be freed of an embarrassing burden, refused to
acknowledge her. Devastated, Shakuntala returned to her home in the
woods where she bore a strong, healthy son.
When he was six, his mother took him to his father and, once again,
was repudiated. Exasperated, she warned Dushyanta that Lord Vishnu
knew the truth and stormed out of the palace. The moment she left,
mysterious voices warned Dushyanta of the penalties for lying,
foretold that the boy was destined for greatness, and commanded that
he be named Bharata. Dushyanta advised the court that had he merely
taken Shakuntala in, she would never have been accepted but since
the gods had spoken, he would willingly acknowledge both wife and
Bharata grew up to become a benevolent, beloved ruler with three
wives by whom he fathered nine sons before adopting Bhumanyu, a twin
who was born prematurely, some say when he was kicked out of the
womb by his brother to be rejected again, this time by by his
mother. As Emperor, Bharata had a much more democratic leadership
style. Rather than one ruler over all India, he acted more like a
CEO except that the board members were all kings and nobles. Under
his rule, India grew and flourished. Unfortunately, his sons did not
inherit his ability.
When the time came to choose a crown prince, Bharata was at a loss -
none of his sons had what it took to be a wise and just king. Some
stories say that the mothers killed their boys in disappointment but
this is probably negative propaganda. After considerable thought, he
appointed his adopted son, Bhumanyu, as crown prince. When it was
pointed out that the law said the eldest must inherit, he reasonably
argued that surely ability counted for more than accident of birth?
His argument carried the day and his wise rule continued on for many
Religion during the reign of Bharat
Life during the
early Vedic period