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Bharat plays with lion cubs
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma
|Title||Samrat or Emperor|
In Hindu scriptures, Bharata (Sanskrit: भरत, Bharata i.e., "The cherished") is a legendary emperor and the founder of the Bhārata dynasty and thus an ancestor of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Though the Bhāratas are a prominent tribe in the Rigveda, the story of Bharata is first told in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata, wherein he is the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. The story of his parents and his birth is also related in Kalidasa's famous play Abhijñānashākuntala.
Bharata in Literature
According to the Mahābhārata (Adi Parva), Bharata was the son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala and thus a descendant of the Lunar dynasty of the Kshatriya Varna. He was originally named Sarvadamana ("the subduer of all"); the Mahābhārata traces the events in his life by which he came to be known as Bharata ("the cherished"). Bharata's exploits as a child prince are dramatised in Kalidasa's poetic play Abhijñānaśākuntalam.
Story of Bharata
King Dushyanta married Shakuntala on his hunting expeditions in forests. He was captivated by Shakuntala's beauty, courts her in royal style and married her. He then has to leave to take care of affairs in the capital. She is given a ring by the king, to be presented to him when she appears in his court. She can then claim her place as queen. Shakuntala gave birth to his child who was named by the Sage Kanwa named as Sarvadamana. Surrounded only by wild animals, Sarvadamana grew to be a strong child and made a sport of opening the mouths of tigers and lions and counting their teeth.
The anger-prone sage Durvasa arrives when Shakuntala is lost in her fantasies, due to which she fails to attend to him and show due respect and courtesy. He curses her by bewitching Dushyanta into forgetting her existence. Upon seeing Shakuntala repentant, apologetic and filled with woe, his anger subsides and he decrees that the only cure for Shakuntala is to show him the signet ring that he gave her.
She later travels with her son to meet the king and has to cross a river. The ring is lost when it slips off her hand when she dips her hand in the water playfully. On arrival the king has no memory of her and refuses to acknowledge her. Shakuntala is abandoned by her companions, who return to the hermitage.
A few days later, a fisherman finds the ring inside a fish and presents it before the king. The king remembers Shakuntala and his love for her. The king finds his son accidentally many years later and is reunited with Shakuntala. The boy later came to be called Bharata ('"devoted to light/knowledge"').
In his youth, Bharata became the King. Young Bharata conquered and ruled the entire sub continent of India, from sea to Himalaya. His empire was named Bharatavarsha, the land of Bharata.
Vishnu Purana accounts the extent of Bharatavarsha,
उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।
वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।
uttaraṃ yatsamudrasya himādreścaiva dakṣiṇam
varṣaṃ tadbhārataṃ nāma bhāratī yatra santatiḥ
"The country (varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."
He ruled virtuously and earned great fame and was known by the titles of "Chakravarti" (emperor) and "Sarvabhauma" (Sanskrit: सार्वभौमः). Bharata performed many sacrifices and Sage Kanva was the chief priest at those sacrifices. Bharata performed a hundred Horse sacrifices on the banks of the Yamuna, three hundred on the banks of Saraswati and four hundred on the banks of the Ganga. He again performed a thousand Horse sacrifices and a hundred Rajasuya . He also conducted sacrifices such as Agnishtoma, Atiratra, Uktha and Viswajit. He also performed many thousands of Vajapeyas. 
Bharata had a son named Bhúmanyu. In the Adi Parva of Mahabharata, it tells two different stories about Bhúmanyu's birth. The first story says that Bharata married Sunanda, the daughter of Sarvasena, the King of Kasi Kingdom and begot upon her the son named Bhumanyu. According to the second story, Bhúmanyu was born out of a great sacrifice that Bharata performed for the sage Bharadwaja.
- Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva
- Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva (in Sanskrit)
- Singh, U. (2009), A History of Ancient and Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Delhi: Longman, p. 187, ISBN 978-81-317-1677-9
- Apte, Vaman Shivaram (1959). "भरतः". Revised and enlarged edition of Prin. V. S. Apte's The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary. Poona: Prasad Prakashan.
- Buitenen, J. A. B. van (1973). "Introduction". Mahabharata Book I: The book of beginnings. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226846637.
- Ganguly 1883.
- Macfie, J. M (1993). Myths and Legends of India. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. p. 323. ISBN 978-81-7167-131-1.
- Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva - Bharata Vamsha in Detail Archived 16 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
- Donald A 1913, p. 157.
- KM, Ganguly (2006) , The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (Drona Parva Section LXVIII ed.), Sacred Texts
- Mackenzie, Donald A, Indian Myth and Legend, Sacred Texts
- Indian Myth and Legend, CHAPTER IX: Prelude to the Great Bharata War, Sacred Texts.com