Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 01 May 2010 05:32 and updated at 07 Sep 2011 10:42
Bharata's mixed lineage
Bharata was the son of Puru king Dushyanta and Sakuntala. The lineage of Sakuntala is not well known. She is raised by sage Kanwa. The name Kanwa is the name of a lineage of sages and there were many Kanwa sages. (Kanwas were a branch of Kasyapas). Sakuntala is mentioned as the abandoned daughter of an Apsara named Menaka and a Kshatriya sage named Vishwamitra of Kusika's race (this race is connected with the Bhrigus and is also mentioned as a branch of the Aila-Puru lineage). Apsaras were related to the Gandharva tribe, a native exotica. Thus Bharata had a mixed lineage and was the most prominent Puru king. He expanded the territories of the Purus. His power directly extended to the whole of north India and indirectly to the entire India upto the souther tip then known as the Kumari region (now known as Kanyakumari) which was a Yaksha stronghold.
Signs of Ancient Democracy
Bharata was an unconventional ruler. He ruled his empire more like a democracy giving control to his citizens. This could also be a necessity to rule a large territory which contained almost the whole of present day India. Usually a king's eldest son inherits his kingdom. Bharata had many sons. Mahabharata mentions about nine sons born of his three wives. But he did not give throne to any of them but chose Bhumanyu the son of Bharadwaja to be the next king. Bharadwajas were a lineage of sages belonging to the race of Angiras. Bharata believed that his decision of making Bhumanyu his successor was just, and in line with his principle of democracy. It is not clear if Bhumanyu was a leader of the people in those days, or if he had the support of the public.
It could also because of the influence of the Bharadwajas who were then gaining prower in comparison the the Bhargavas, in those days. Bharadwajas also followed a rigid form of Vedic culture compared to the Bhargavas. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, emperor Bharata choose to make Bhumanyu, his heir not by his own choice but based on the choice of his people. This definitely is a sign of the rudimentary form of democracy that prevailed during the reign of Bharata.
Bharata and Bhaarata
There is also a belief that Bhumanyu was the son of Bharadwaja begotten on Bharata's queen Sunanda a princess of Kasi. It is not known if Bharata's other sons who could not become his successors ever became as famous as Bhumanyu. (The epic says they were all slain by their mothers, which seems to be propaganda of the Bharadwajas.) Since Bharata had a large territory and there were several Bharata kings spread all over India after the rule of Bharata, they could have got established as kings in different territories within the territories of Bharata. However the majority of the Bharata kings were descendants of Bhumanyu of Bharadwaja blood. It is due to emperor Bharata, the sage Bharadwaja and all the kings in their lineage, that this land called India was formerly known as Bhaarata.
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.
Bhaarata, The Official Name of India
This name also is accepted as the Second Official Name of the country equal in status to the name 'India' as per the Indian constitution. The epic Mahabharata is all about the history of all these Bharata kings, though the focus narrow downs to the history of a special branch of Bharatas called the Kurus and then to the two factions of the Kurus known as the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Majority of the kings who participated in the battle of Kurukshetra (that was fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas), too belonged to the Bharata lineage of kings, though other tribes like the Yadavas, the Dravidas, the Mlecchas, the Kiratas, the Rakshasas and the Bahlikas (a branch of the Kurus) participated in it.
Vyasa together with Valmiki are the forefathers of Bharatavarsha; emperor Bharata is its founder.