Wednesday, November 07, 2012

17 - The story of Bharata and the deer

Bharata , the son of Lord Rishabha Deva, was anointed king of Ajanabha. Due to his exemplary rule following the standards set by his father Rishabha, Ajanabha was thenceforth called Bharatavarsha (a sub-division of Jambudvipa). He marries Panchajani, the daughter of Viswarupa and begets five sons.  He was devoted to his duty like his father Rishabha and grandfather Nabhi. He performed sacred rites and yagnas with due reverence. His mind was thus completely purified and his devotion to Lord Vasudeva grew intense by the day.
After ruling for many years according to dharma, he divided the hereditary fortune equally amongst his sons, and retired as a recluse to the hermitage of sage Pulaha (on the banks of Gandaki river in Nepal, called the Saligramakshetra).  Bharata worships the Lord through flowers and leaves of various kinds, particularly the basil plant (Tulasi), and offers roots and fruits, in a lonely retreat in the grove of the said hermitage. He was rid of all craving for the pleasures of the sense, and was in a very tranquil state of mind.  Brimming over with devotion, there was an ardent longing in him to meet the Lord.
Once, the wise Bharata, after his daily ablutions, was sitting on the bank of the river, chanting the Pranava. Then a lone deer approached the river bank to drink water. Before it could quench its thirst, there was a loud, deep roar of a lion which reverberated across the forest. The frightened deer, which was pregnant with her young, leaps across the stream. When it leaps, out of excessive fright, the foetus slipped out and fell into the stream. The mother deer, afflicted by the long leap and the premature birth of its young one, falls into a cavern and dies.
Bharata, who was watching all this was moved with compassion. He picks up the young deer which was being swept away by the current and takes it to his hermitage.  He nourished it and protected it from the wild animals and treated the deer as his own child.  He fondled the fawn keeping it in his lap and bosom. He kept thinking about its safety when it ventured too far away from his hut.  When he sat in meditation, the deer would nudge him with the horns, soft as a drop of water.  He neglected his devotional duties, routine ablutions and worship of the Lord one by one and all were abandoned in due course. His mind was occupied by the thoughts of the deer at all times. At the time of death, he looked at the deer which stood lamenting like a son. Bharata, his mind fixed on the thoughts of the deer, leaves his body and assumes the body of a deer in his next birth, in the mountain of KAlanjara. But due to his sustained worship of the Lord as Bharata, he could recollect his previous birth. He was filled with remorse, having strayed from his path. He forsook his mother deer and returns to Salagrama, the place where he had performed his austerities earlier. He lived there all by himself, subsisting on dry leaves as atonement, listening to the teaching of the saints. At the hour of death, he entered the Gandaki river and cast off his body, with half his body remaining under the water (called Ardhajala). His stock of merit still not exhausted, he was reborn in a brahmin family.

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Srimad Bhagavatham