Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 20 Apr 2010 15:34 and updated at 04 Jun 2010 18:05

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History of Emperor Bharata and King Santanu


The first episode of Mahabharata TV Serial contains the history of two of the kings in the Aila-Puru-Bharata-Kuru lineage (also known as the lunar lineage of kings). The first one was Bharata, who earned the title of Chakravarti (emperor) due to the size of the territory he controlled. The other was Kuru king Santanu. Both were separated by many generations of kings.

References in the Mahabharata Wiki


Research and Analysis

Emperor Bharata

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 who had their capital at Hastinapura. 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. 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. They followed a rigid form of Vedic culture as opposed to the Bhargavas who were more liberal in the interpretation of the Vedas. 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.

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. This name also is accepted as the second 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.

From Bharata to Santanu

Dushyanta and Bharata belonged to the Puru lineage, which was established by Aila king Puru. (The first Aila king Pururavas > Ayus > Nahusha > Yayati > Puru. ) After Puru, Emperor Bharata became the establisher of the new royal lineage, viz. the Bharata lineage. In this lineage was born several kings spanning many generations and many regions of India. They were all descendants of Bharata's own sons or the descendants of Bhumanyu the son of Bharadwaja. A prominent king in the lineage of Bharatas was king Samvarana. Samvarana definitely had some links with the solar dynasty since his priest was a Vasistha. The Vasisthas were usually priests of solar dynasty (especially Ikshwaku dynasty) of kings. Samvarana also ruled in the Sindhu region when he was banished by Panchalas from Hastinapura. The Sindhu region indeed had Ikshwaku (solar dynasty) presence in those days. Kotika is mentioned as a Sivi king in the Sindhu region. Many Sindhu and Sauvira kings were also Ikshwakus. Samvarana married Tapati belonging to the solar dynasty and the alliance was materialized with the help of Vasistha.

The myth makers during the period of Mahabharata had portrayed Tapati as a river (the reference is to the Tapati (Tapti) river of Maharashtra) and made her the son of Surya the son-god. Such myths are plenty in Mahabharata and the Puranas. Women of unknown origin but who later became queens of great kings due to their beauty or intelligence were portrayed as goddesses or as human-form of rivers or as fairies. Kuru is mentioned as the son of Samvarana and Tapati. One can find glimpses of ancient democracy in the history of Kuru too. He is mentioned as being established by people in the throne of Hastinapura as they found him virtuous. Another side of this piece of information is why Kuru had to be chosen by the people rather than installed by Samvarana as his successor which make one doubt if Kuru were really the son of Samvarana. This make some historians to believe that Kuru was a lineage different from the Bharatas but later fused into the Bharata lineage.

Kuru King Santanu

The prominent kings in the lineage of Kuru were Pratipa and his son Santanu. Mahabharata focus on the life of Santanu in great detail. He was not the first son of Pratipa. The eldest son Devapi became an ascetic. Santanu's another brother Bahlika established another kingdom. Santanu became the king of Hastinapura. He married a woman whose linage is not well known. She is mentioned as the daughter of Jahnu. (Jahnu was a king in the lineage of Bharata. (Bharata > Bhumanyu > Suhotra > Ajamidha > Jahnu.) There was also a sage known as Janhu.) The myth-makers portray her as a river none other than the mighty Ganga. This could mean that she lived on the banks of Ganga. The name 'Ganga' do not have any Sanskrit root. Thus it belonged to some language spoken on the banks of Ganga during those times. She was extremely beautiful and that is why Santanu married her. Ganga, the queen of Santanu seemed to be suffering from some psychological disorder or some illness that affected delivering healthy babies. Her first seven births were probably still-births or short lived babies. She throw them into river Ganga, before it was ever known to Santanu or the people of the palace if they were alive or healthy or if they were already dead. The rumor that spread was that the queen is killing her babies as soon as they are born by throwing them into river.

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