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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, November 28, 2008

Story of Bharata I

To all the religions rooted in India, self-realization is the ultimate aim. For some, it is God-realization as well. Modes of God-realisation vary. But the ultimate liberation known as Mukti or Moksha should follow after leading fruitful life as an house holder.

To achieve this final liberation 4 stages were worked out by ancient Indian sages, for an house-holder. Human life was divided in 1) Celibacy 2) house-hold responsibility 3) preparation for renunciation and 4) Final retirement to forest giving up all mortal desires. These last days were to be devoted to meditation and thinking of God only. Thus all those who could follow disciplines of 3rd stage, kings, sages and ordinary citizens retired to forest to concentrate on God realizing practices to avoid rebirth. Several stories in the Puranas exist to emphasize the need for discipline at the final hour. This story is from Bhagavata Purana.

The Story of Bharata

Bharata was a great emperor of India because of whom, India has gained the name of Bharat (land of Bharata). After a long and glorious reign, Bharata also decided on renunciation and one night left his capital incognito for forest.

One day he was sitting under a tree beside a stream, trying to meditate. A big roar of the lion in the nearby forest reverberated in such a volume that Bharata opened his eyes. He saw an extremely frightened deer with fawn come running and jumping into the stream, which gave birth and died of shock. The newly born fawn was being carried away by the current when the merciful Bharata, a witness to the chilling event, ran to save the new-born. He took it to his hut, lit the fire and was able it save its life by warmth and slow feeding of milk.

The fawn began to grow into a beautiful deer with spots and wonderful big black eyes, under the fatherly care of Bharata. Now there was diversion from his austere monastic practices. He spent most of his time in nursing it, feeding it and talking to it. Even while moving out to fetch water, flowers and grass he would think of protecting it from wild animals and hunters and rush back.

When the final hour for departure came, He lay down. His dearest deer sat beside him, its beautiful eyes brimming with tears. Thinking of the orphan-to-be deer, Bharata breathed his last.

It is general belief among Hindus that the last thought of the Soul, before casting its mortal coil, takes creature shape in next birth. Thus emperor Bharata who wanted to die a recluse and avoid rebirth, was born a deer in his next life!

But his pure and selfless life, as also last few days of prayer and meditation earlier bore fruit. He could remember the events of his previous birth, and reasons for rebirth as a deer. He moved round about hermitages, listened to recital of sacred texts and ate remnants of sacrificial offerings. Only drawback was that, he could not speak. He knew when his end was approaching, and entered the sacred river of Gandaki, gave up his life, meditating on God.

He was born in a Brahmin house-hold in his next birth.

Coming Soon: The Story of Bharata -II

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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