Emperor Bharata was the eldest among One Hundred sons of Rishabhdev and Jayanti, the daughter of Indra. Bharata was an illustrious and brilliant king. After successfully ruling for many years he renounced everything and proceeded to forest for worship and adoration of God. Once after having his bath in the river Gandaki, he was muttering prayers on its bank when a pregnant doe came here to drink water. While she was drinking water the roar of a lion was heard. The frightened doe leaped with full force to reach the other side of the river and in the process her young fawn fell in the water from the womb. The doe fell down on the other side of the river and died. Bharata saw the fawn floating in the water. He rushed and save it. He brought the baby deer to his ashram (abode) and nursed it like a mother.
In course of rearing the baby deer in his abode Bharata developed an attachment towards it. He was always engrossed in the thought to arrange for its food and to save it from the wolves. He used to cut grass and leaves from the forest and fed it most affectionately.
Thus the fawn was the centre of all his thoughts and time. He thought- this fawn has come to me for protection. Now I am its all in all. I have got to do everything for it. If I reproach it, it would be the biggest sin. He was so engaged in the upbringing of the baby deer that he had least time for worship and adoration. He kept on thinking that it was the act of God that the fawn had come to him. God willed him to serve him through the fawn. He considered the upbringing of the baby to be his devotion. He kept it always in his company so that it may not be devoured by any wolf or lion. When it leapt here and there to eat grass Bharata used to lift it over his head and roamed about.
Unending was Bharata’s attachment towards the fawn. Even for a while when the fawn was out of his sight, he would get bewildered and distressed. He would pray to God- ‘please save him’. He used to become so distressed as though the dearest friend of somebody had died or the riches had been destroyed. Sometimes he used to talk to himself- ‘how foolish I am that I let it got out. I do not deserve to be excused.’ He used to recollect – how playful was it! When I would try to sit in meditation, it would distract me by scratching with his tender horns. Sometimes he would talk to the fawn- Prince fawn, where are you? When will you come and please me?
This way his attachment kept on increasing. Whenever he sat for meditation the fawn used to titillate him with its paws. When he prepared for sacrificial ladle, it would take away the flowers and would thereby make all the materials impure. Bharata, however, considered all these acts to be its innocence and fondled the fawn. He considered the fawn to be his son and at times felt that the earth was fortunate enough for his sons has placed its feet on it. Wherever the fawn placed its feet, he considered the land to be the place for sacrificial rites. This way Bharata was engrossed in his own empire of imagination and deviated from the path of Bhakti (devotion) and Yoga (meditation).
An ascetic Bharata, who had considered his own sons to be obstacles in the way of the ultimate goal and had renounced them was now so attached to the fawn that even at the time of death his thoughts were centred around him and so in his reincarnation he received the body of a deer but for the ascetic fervour of his previous birth the memory of his earlier births persisted. He understood it well that it was his deviation from devotion and attachment towards the deer that he had got the body of a deer.
He, therefore, decided to keep away from worldly attachments. He left his mother doe and came back to the same Pulah ashram (abode) where he had practiced penance in earlier birth and it was here that he waited for the remaining days of his life to complete. When the end came he kept half of his body immersed in the river Gandaki, kept on chanting the name of God and left his body.
In his next life Bharata was born as a son to a Brahmin from Angiras gotra (family lineage). Father named him as a Bharata. Since he had the memory of his earlier births, he was not inclined to worldly attachment and kept aloof from his parents and his own brothers. He was different from other children. All the while he remembered God and the others considered him to be a fool, a deaf and dumb. His father, however, had a great affection for his ‘foolish’ son. He tried to teach him everything but he was not ready to learn it all. The father thought about teaching him the Gayatri Mantra (a sacred verse) at least but Bharata could not properly pronounce ‘Om’ even. The father miserably failed and died when the time of his death come. Bharata’s mother handed over her children to their step- mother and committed Sati (burnt herself on the funeral pyre of her husband).
Bharata then became care free and lived like an insane. In fact, he had kept hidden his brilliance. People thought him to be a fool. They got all sorts of works done by him in exchange of some plain and simple food yet he remained care free. People addressed him as a mad, stupid and deaf, but he never felt insulted. He had a healthy well built body and he remained lying like a bull. People insulted him for his dirty attire and janeu (sacred thread) but he did not mind.
Thus bharata was leading his life. People called him jada (inert) Bharata. Once a leader of a gang of robbers was worshipping goddess Kali with a desire to have a son. He resolved to offer human sacrifice to the goddess. They had held a man for the purpose, who somehow fled away. They were now in search of another person when they came across stout Bharata. They caught hold and took him for the sacrifice. According to rituals they bathed, dressed, fed him and tied him with a rope. Bharata did not object. Having done all this the robbers started dancing on the beats of drums. When they raised the sword to offer sacrifice, his radiance as though set the idol of goddess on fire. The goddess appeared and beheaded all the robbers with the same swords and played with their sculls like a ball. Bharata was free to return home.
Once King Rahugan of Sindhu Souveer state was going to the abode to sage Kapil in a palanquin. On his way on the bank of Icchumati river one of the palanquin carriers became unwell. They were in search of someone to replace him, when they met healthy and stout Bharata. They entrusted him the work of carrying the palanquin. Bharata had no objection for any work but he had never carried a palanquin earlier and so he was unable to match the steps of other palanquin carriers. Besides, there was another problem. Bharata was very attentive while on move to avoid crushing any insect under his feet. So, he jumped whenever he saw an insect, thereby disturbing the balance of palanquin. Naturally, it caused inconvenience to the King.
The King said to the palanquin carriers- carry the palanquin properly. Why are you carrying it like this?
The three palanquins carriers replied- your majesty! We are carrying it properly. It is this new carrier who is not doing so. The King thought that the fault of one destroyed the good works of others so it was necessary to rectify the fault. King Rahugan then addressed Bharata in most bitter and sarcastic words- ‘O great soul! You must have got tired as you are singularly carrying the load of palanquin from such a long distance, beside you are physically frail and old. It so happens in old age.
Bharata was, in fact, healthy and young and beside him three more carriers were carrying the palanquin. The King had said so just to insult him. Bharata, however, remained cool. He had no vanity that the body was his or that he was the body. He kept on moving as he did without any change. When the palanquin wavered again the king got enraged and said- are you dead or what? You are not listening to my orders. Now you would know what punishment awaits you for disobeying the King.
The King’s anger had least effect on Bharata, who smiled and replied- O King! Your ill words make no difference to me. If there is load, someone is needed to carry it. Road has importance only when someone moves on it. Stout or frail, old or young are the adjectives for the body, not for the soul.
So, these are not for me. Meanwhile, you said something about my death. I know it well that in this world the birth of everything has death attached to it. I keep on being care- free, you can not alter this state. Calling me an insane if you try to punish me, it would be a futile attempt like grinding again the milled flour.
Having heard such knowledge able words from Bharata King Rahugan got down from the palanquin, prostrated on his feet and begged forgiveness- O revered Brahmin! You have kept yourself hidden. I hope, you are not the superior Awadhoot (an ascetic) Lord Dattatreya. I am not afraid of anyone in this world. I only fear that I should not insult any Brahmin. Kindly forgive me for my ill words. I am going to see the great sage Kapil. I hope he has not come in your form to test me.
After begging forgiveness from Bharata, King Rahugan placed his various queries before him. Bharata replied along with his spiritual instructions.
Thereafter, Bharata thus told his tale to King Rahugan- in my earlier birth I was King Bharata. Having enjoyed all the worldly and next worldly pleasures I engaged myself in meditation of God. Even after that during last days of my life I got attached to a fawn and as a result I had a reincarnation as a deer but due to my devotion to God memory of my earlier life persisted. Now, having renounced the body of the deer I am born as a jad (inert) Bharata. Memory of my earlier births still persist and so in this birth I do not keep attachment with anyone. It was a faulty attachment that I squandered a birth. Now, I am leading my life this way and people considered me inert, fool and insane. What I mean to say is that in the company of great men we should awaken asceticism in our lives. By speaking and listening about the Leelas (acts) of God, constant memory of God persist with the help of which we may easily cross the worldly jungle.