Bhaaratavarsha is the term used to denote the regions ruled by Emperor Bharata and his descendants, which sometimes include the descendants of sage Bharadwaja also. This territory roughly coincides with the territories of modern day India and some adjacent territories. I have created several maps to depict Bharatavarsha (Ancient India or Epic India) by studying about the probable locations of villages, cities, pilgrim places, rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and kingdoms of ancient India.
A Multicultural Empire
Unlike the emperors of recorded history, Bharata did not try to create a homogeneous empire. He never wanted the people and kings under his domain to sing in his praise. He created a heterogeneous empire, with each kingdom doing their own business. It was an empire based on Plurality. It promoted Multiculturalism and celebrated Unity in Diversity. In doing so, Bharata only did what his predecessor emperors had done. It is the same plurality and multiculturalism that the modern Republic Of India (ROI) has inherited.
A Nation of Sages
Bhaaratavarsha was also the domain of visionary sages (Rishis) and not just an empire of emperors. Hence it is rightly called Arsha-Bhaarata, the Bhaarata of the Rishis (sages). The unity of this nation was envisaged by its sages who saw its past and its future in the tranquility of their mind, ever fixed in Dhyana (meditation) and Yoga. Their level of understanding was higher than that of the average men and women. Sages like Agastya, Vasistha, Viswamitra, Bharadwaja, Gautama, Agnivesa, Lomasa, Markandeya, Vyasa, Valmiki Saunaka and Yajnavalkya traveled throughout the Bharatavarsha, uniting its people.
The Birth of a Nation
The seeds of a united India (Bharatavarsha) was born in the minds of these visionary sages several thousand years ago, not in the midnight of 15-August-1947. They authored the Vedas, to proclaim to the people of Bharatavarsha about their discoveries, the results of their relentless search for knowing nothing less than the Ultimate Truth. Through the Upanishads and Gita, they proclaimed with joy, again and again the Truth so difficult to be attained. They authored the epics to celebrate the unity and diversity of this vast stretch of land spreading from the foothills of the great Himalayas and ending in the waves of the grand (Indian) Ocean. They authored the Puranas and the common people of Bharatavarsha, their simple-minded and truth-loving fellow men listened with joy and wonder.
Mahabharata:- The Soul of the Nation
The name Mahabharata is synonymous with Bharatavarsha. Geographically the word 'Mahabhaarata', 'the Great Empire of Bharata' is same as the word 'Bhaaratavarsha'. Politically the word 'Mahabharata' is same as the nation united under the geographical entity called Bharatavarsha with all its cultural diversity. Thus Mahabharata is Bharatavarsha! In his work called Jaya which later grew into Mahabharata, Vyasa had dedicated several chapters to describe the geography of Bharatavarsha describing its rivers, mountains, forests and lakes that existed during his lifetime. In several chapters he describes the political entities and tribal populations that existed in Bharatavarsha. He also described its people and their kings in several chapters of his work. In describing the circuitous pilgrimage journeys of Arjuna and later Yudhisthira and in describing the journeys of Yudhisthira's brothers into four cardinal directions for Rajasuya, Vyasa has united the East, South, West and North of India.
Truly, Vyasa's Mahabharata is the soul of Bharatavarsha! In it lies the sacred thread that unifies the whole of India.
Ramayana:- The Glue of the Nation
Valmiki too in naming his work 'Ramayana', literally meaning 'Rama's travels', had his intentions very clear. He had vividly described the length and breadth of Bharatavarsha, in the form of travel narrations of Rama. Rama's travel route from Ayodhya to Lanka, united the Northern India with the Southern India. Rama's brother Bharata's travels to the west and his brother Lakshmana's travels to the east united the East and West of India.
Truly, Valmiki's Ramayana is the glue that unites Bharatavarsha it into a single whole!
Vyasa together with Valmiki are the true forefathers of Bharatavarsha; emperor Bharata is its founder.
Bharatavarsha: Kingdom Map and City Map
Below is the Ancient India Map I created in 2004. It is formerly added to Wikipedia under creative common license. It is also used by many web-sites dealing with ancient India.