Bharata (Mahabharata)

In Hindu scriptures, Bharata (Sanskrit: भरत, romanizedbharata, lit.'The Cherished')[1][2] is an ancestor of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Though the Bhāratas are a prominent community in the Rigveda,[3] the story of Bharata is first told in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata, wherein he is the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala.[4][5] The story of his parents and his birth is also related in Kalidasa's famous play Abhijñānashākuntala.

Bharat plays with lion cubs
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma
BornSage Kanva hermitage
SpouseSunanda, 2 others
FatherDushyanta of Hastinapura

In the epic Mahābhārata, the ancestor of Kurus becomes Emperor Bharata, and his ruler and kingdom are called Bhārata.[6] The Bharata clan mentioned in Mahabharata is a Kuru clan which is a sub-clan of the Puru clan.[7]

Bharata in LiteratureEdit

According to the Mahābhārata (Adi Parva), Bharata was the son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala and thus a descendant of the Lunar dynasty of the Kshatriya Varna.[8] He was originally named Sarvadamana ("the subduer of all"); the Mahābhārata traces the events in his life by which he came to be known as Bharata ("the cherished"). Bharata's exploits as a child prince are dramatised in Kalidasa's poetic play Abhijñānaśākuntalam.[9]

Story of BharatEdit

Abhijñānaśakuntalā versionEdit

According to a dramatized version of the events by the poet Kalidasa, the king Dushyanta married Shakuntala on his hunting expeditions in forests. He was captivated by Shakuntala's beauty, courted her in royal style and married her. He then had to leave to take care of affairs in the capital.[citation needed][10] She was given a ring by the king, to be presented to him when she was ready to appear in his court. She could then claim her place as queen. Shakuntala gave birth to her child who was named Sarvadamana by the sage Kanwa. Surrounded only by wild animals, Sarvadamana grew to be a strong child and made a sport of opening the mouths of tigers and lions and counting their teeth.[9]

This narrative varies dramatically from the version in the epic Mahabharata.[11][clarification needed]

Mahabharata versionEdit

In the Mahabharata, the core story remains the same. However, in the story, Shakuntala's son Bharata is already 6 years old, and when they both appear in Dushyanta's court, the latter rejects both of them by saying that he had no relation with both of them and women are often experts at speaking lies, so he pretends to forget them in order to avoid embarrassment in front of his ministers and public. Shakuntala leaves angrily and frustrated. Suddenly, a divine voice echoes at the court, ordering Dushyanta to acknowledge Shakuntala and Bharata. Bharata succeeded his father as the king and with his unparalleled might, he subjugated the world. He proceeded to perform numerous Rajasuya and Ashwamedha rituals on the banks of Ganga, donating vast amounts of wealth to the Brahmanas.

Bharat had a son named Bhúmanyu. The Adi Parva of Mahabharata tells two different stories about Bhúmanyu's birth. The first story says that Bharat married Sunanda, the daughter of Sarvasena, the King of Kasi Kingdom and begot upon her the son named Bhumanyu.[12] According to the second story, Bharata had three wives, and nine sons from them. But these sons were not as their father and incapable of being his successor. Seeing Bharata's dissatisfaction, his wives in wrath slew all of their sons. Then Bhúmanyu was born out of a great sacrifice that Bharata performed with the help of the sage Bharadwaja.[13]

The Bhagavata Purana gives another account of the adopted son of Bharata. When Angiras' son - Utathya's wife, Mamata was pregnant, Utathya's younger brother Brihaspati moved by desire sought Mamata. But the child in her womb obstructed the deposition of Brihaspati's semen. Instead the child was delivered by Mamata. Mamata and Brihaspati started to quarrel over the guardianship of the child. At last they left the infant boy abandoned. The Maruta gods adopted the boy and named him Bharadwaja. When the wives of Bharata killed all their sons, the Marutas gave Bharadwaja to Bharata. Bharadwaja, also known as Vitatha, became the king.[14]

Bharata lineageEdit

Emperor Bharat gave his name to the dynasty of which he was the founder. It was in Bharat's dynasty that later the Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata were born.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva
  2. ^ Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva (in Sanskrit)
  3. ^ Singh, U. (2009), A History of Ancient and Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Delhi: Longman, p. 187, ISBN 978-81-317-1677-9
  4. ^ Apte, Vaman Shivaram (1959). "भरतः". Revised and enlarged edition of Prin. V. S. Apte's The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary. Poona: Prasad Prakashan.
  5. ^ Buitenen, J. A. B. van (1973). "Introduction". Mahabharata Book I: The book of beginnings. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226846637.
  6. ^ Julius Lipner (2010) "Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices.", p.23
  7. ^ National Council of Educational Research and Training, History Text Book, Part 1, India
  8. ^ The Mahābhārata. Buitenen, J. A. B. van (Johannes Adrianus Bernardus), 1928-1979,, Fitzgerald, James L. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1973. pp. 214. ISBN 0226846636. OCLC 831317.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ a b Ganguly 2006, pp. 130–132.
  10. ^ Kālidāsa. (1984). Theater of memory : the plays of Kālidāsa. Miller, Barbara Stoler. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 109, 122. ISBN 0231058381. OCLC 10299417.
  11. ^ Macfie, J. M (1993). Myths and Legends of India. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. p. 323. ISBN 978-81-7167-131-1.
  12. ^ Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva - Bharat Vamsha in Detail Archived 16 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Bhagavata Bhagavata Purana Skandha IX Chapter 20
  15. ^ Mackenzie 2004, p. 157.