A Sage of the Vedic period - a great seer who attained extraordinary scholarship and power of meditation. An enlightened man who used his might for punishing the wicked and protecting the poor and the weak.
Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvana Veda - these four Vedas are a treasure house of Indian culture? From the Vedas we learn all about the behavior, life, customs and rituals of our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago
Bharadwaja was a saint of the Vedic period. There are numerous hymns in Rigveda concerning him. Not only that he was a Mahatma who lived serving other people. He taught the way of life to citizens. He blessed numerous virtuous kings. He earned the praise of gods. He became famous as one of the galaxy of seven saints. The biography of such an eminent person is interesting. Remembering him is salutary.
Who? Who is this great Bharadwaja?
A male child lying on the shore of the divine Ganga river!
"How pretty this baby is! Golden-colored body. Looks like a just-born child. Its face has the radiance of the sun, and lustre of the moon. He is shivering possibly due to hunger and cold. Is there nobody to care for him? Who left him in this condition? Poor soul!"
The Marudgana-gods (celestial beings) spoke among themselves thus. They took the babe in their arms. They fondled and kissed him. Then there was heard a voice from heaven:
"This baby will be a great soul, a savior of the world, a sage radiating the light of wisdom."
If so, this great soul should not remain an orphan. He must be brought up properly. That is our duty. So thought the Marudgana-gods. The child, unwanted by his parents, grew up in the cradle of the gods. He was the loved one of the gods. That is Bharadwaja!
The young Bharadwaja's sacred thread ceremony was performed by the Marudgana- gods, who also became his bit gurus and taught him. Bharadwaja took keen interest in learning the Vedas. As he progressed in learning, he became eager to learn more. Even when he became of marriageable age, his attention was focused on education. He decided to remain a bachelor- till he completed the study of the Vedas.
Bharadwaja's education continued for long. However much he learnt, he was still not satisfied. The Marudgana gods taught him all they knew. Bharadwaja learnt it all. He wished to learn more. Seeing no other way, the Marut-gods said: "Bharadwaja, we have taught you all we know about the Vedas. If you want to learn still more, you should perform penance and satisfy Indra."
Bharadwaja was still a bachelor. The duty of a bachelor is to live as ordered by the teacher, wishing for nothing except to acquire knowledge with concentration. Bharadwaja desired nothing but education. He decided to perform penance to learn more about Vedas. He stayed in a peaceful place and prayed to Indra.
Even gods were surprised'by the austere penance of the young Bharadwaja. He feared neither rain nor storm. He gave up food and drink. As time passed, his body began to wear out. Everybody began to fear his condition. But he did not stop his penance. Finally, one day, as he could not even sit, he collapsed.
Lord Indra then appeared.
"Arise, Bharadwaja. Here I am!"
"God of Gods, at last you have appeared!"
Bharadwaja rose slowly and folded his hands.
Indra blessed him and said:
"Bharadwaja, you have been a staunch bachelor. You had observed penance like this even in your two previous lives. For the same purpose you have worn out your body now. If I give you one more life, how will you use your body?"
"0, God, even then I will remain a bachelor and wear out my body for the sake of knowledge!"
What a statement of devotion! This is indeed the path of knowledge - said Indra in appreciation. He drew Bharadwaja's attention, "Look here."
Bharadwaja saw before him three mountain-sized masses of radiance. From each of the three heaps Indra picked up a handful and placed them in Bharadwaja's hands. Immediately the three radiant objects melted in Bharadwaja's body and he felt a new vigor. Bharadwaja could not understand what was happening and asked: "Lord, what is this?"
Said Indra laughing: "Bharadwaja, can education be measured? Vedic knowledge is boundless. The three mounds you saw are the three Vedas. Your educational attainments during the last three lives are the three handfuls you have picked up. But it is not a little. Even with this, your radiance has exceeded the brilliance of the gods."
"God, if that is so, what should I do next?"
"Bharadwaja, attaining knowledge is not the sole purpose of existence; spreading that knowledge in the world is important too. That is what you have to do. Let the world attain bliss at your hands."
So saying, Indra departed.
In The Service Of Mankind
The Marudgana-gods saw Bharadwaja coming clothed sparsely, carrying the holy jug and a string of beads. His serene face exuded radiance. The Vedic scholar, the seer, the embodiment of wisdom, Bharadwaja prostrated before the Marudgana-gods. They fondly embraced Bharadwaja and said: "Great soul, although young in age, by virtue of your knowledge, you deserve our veneration. You are a teacher to us also. Knowledge is more important than age."
To bless Bharadwaja, a number of groups of gods arrived - Surya, Chandra, Agni, Varuna, Pushan, and Saraswati. To all the gods Bharadwaja made obeisance. Said they to Bharadwaja:
"Bharadwaja, give as gift to the people of the world the wisdom of the Vedas. Establish morality. Teach people how to live a righteous life. Peace in the world has been disturbed by the menace of the wicked demons. Try to overcome them. In your efforts for this, we will help you."
Bharadwaja bowed to their orders. "From this moment my life is set apart for service."
To Emperor Bharata
The names of Dushyanta and Shakuntala are famous in Bharat Emperor Bharata is their son. Equal in valor to Indra, he was a virtuous king. His wife Sunandadevi was chaste and devoted. They had no children. None of the children born to them had survived. They performed a religious sacrifice 'Maruisoma' on the banks of the Ganga in order to get children. The Marudgana-gods accompanied by Bharadwaja came to the pla6e of the religious ceremony. They pointed out Bharadwaja to emperor Bharata and said: "0 king, this person is born in the Angiras lineage. As you have no children, you may adopt him as a son. He will bring glory to your race."
Bharata became free from worry. At the proper age, Bharadwaja was married. His wife was Susheela. Befitting her name, she was a righteous woman, her character matching her beauty - a wife suited to Bharadwaja. Bharadwaja saluted Bharata for his blessings and kindness.
Continuing Bharata's Lineage
Bharata had adopted Bharadwaja. Bharata had no other children. There fore, Bharadwaja could have become the emperor. But Bharadwaja had no love for the kingdom. The words of the gods had taken root in his mind. Had they not said, you must impart what you have learnt to others? Righteousness must be established; people should be taught how to live a noble life one's example. Therefore, Bharadwaja arranged one more religious sacrifice by Bharata. He praised and invoked Agni. "O Lord Agni, please get rid of Emperor Bharata's worry and grant him what he wants," he said.
The prayer bore fruit. In due cot Bharata got a son named Bhimanyu. As Bharata died around that time, the duty of Bharadwaja increased. Staying in the palace till Bhimanyu came of age, he guided him and crowned him.Bharadwaja's action in thus saving the dynasty was a great deed. it is in Bharata's dynasty that, later, righteous men like the Pandavas were born.
Fate Of The People
Taking leave of Bhimanyu, Bharadwaja went on a pilgrimage. He covered numerous countries san kingdoms. He met a number of ascetics in places of meditation. He went to Mount Kailas and met Bhrigu in the hermitage. Bhrigu was also a learned and respectable ascetic. They discussed the state of the world, religious and other matters.
By this pilgrimage on foot, Bharadwaja saw what his proper future course of action should be. There was poverty all over the world. Assuming that might is right, the well to do were plundering the poor. Every moment people were subjected to fear of evildoers.Hordes of demonsVaarashikha's and 'Shambara'- were harassing the people. They had no respect for righteous conduct, kindness or morality. Every place was full of murder, extortion, torture and immoral behavior. There was strife everywhere. There was. None to lead the people. The rulers here and there were afraid of the demons and somehow passing time.
"End Poverty, Establish Peace"
Bharadwaja felt sorry for the condition of the people. Looking at the weak and poor people suffering for want of food and clothing, his sympathy became boundless. He proclaimed this pledge:
"All people of this earth are my kith and kin. I dedicate my life to their service. I will teach my pupils and redeem Vedic morality. I will use my strength and will power in the service of others. 0 children of this sacred land of Bharat, win over the gods. Acquire knowledge and save Dharma. Warrior you should all unites to defeat the immoral demons. Get rid of the poverty of the poor and establish peace."
Seat Of Education-Priest
Bharadwaja's proclamation spread in several countries. Numerous students came to Bharadwaja for education. For their convenience a hostel was built and a school was started on the banks of the Saraswati river. It was here that Bharadwaja's famous son Garga was born.
As time passed, the number of students in the school increased. The hermitage on the banks of the Saraswati river rever- berated to the chanting of the Vedas. In addition to the Vedas, the people of the warrior community were taught the use of arms and the administration of justice.
Do not the students in the hermitage need food and clothing? It is the ruling kings who provided them. On hearing of the influence and greatness of Sage Bharadwaja, a number of kings used to visit the hermitage. 'They were makind generous gifts to the school. Hundred of cows were given to the ashram to provide milk.
There was another reason for this affectionate pride of the kings. The kings were imploring Bharadwaja constantly to become their Royal Priest. In those days a priest was essential for a ruling king. It is the priest who crowns a kind. It is the priest who shows the path of righteous conduct. His advice is important in administration. In, times of distress, it is he-who protects the king by hiscleverness. Sometimes the priest was so learned that he could teach those warrior sons the art and science of war too. Bharadwaja was an adept in all these matters. Born in divinity and beloved of the gods, he was a great man. What else is needed?
Only Righteous Kings Could Be Students
But Bharadwaja wanted only morally righteous warriors; warriors who could conquer demons and morally upright kings were desired. Finally he succeeded in getting such type of people.
The country on the eastern side of the Indus river was ruled by the race of Srunjaya. These kings were virtuous, famous for their religious observances and were beloved of their subjects because of their charitable disposition. One of them was Abhyavarti, son of Chayamanana. He was a famous emperor. Another was Divodasa, king of the Kashi kingdom. Divodasa was also called Prastoka. When they both requested Bharadwaja to become their priest, Bharadwaja agreed. Ayurveda
Bharadwaja's hermitage was not only a place of education but also, occasionally, a place where pilgrims who passed that way could stay. Forest dwelling people and the hunting tribes were approaching Bharadwaja to represent their grievances. Sometimes sages residing in hermitages were visiting. Bharadwaja's wife was very patient and hospitable. In providing food and drink to visitors she was never indifferent.
More important that all was Bharadwaja's medical treatment. He knew the system of Ayurvedic medicine. He was providing accommodation for the real suffering patients and giving good treatment for them; when the patients become completed cured they will be discharged from the hospital. The circumstances under which he learnt Ayurveda are also interesting.
Boon From Indra For The People
At one time everywhere there were epidemic diseases spreading.The number of people suffering and dying of the diseases increased. The curse of the disease spread to the hermitage also. The sages also were affected. Nobody knew the symptoms or the treatment for the disease. At last, all the ascetics requested Bharadwaja for help.
"O Bharadwaja, this disease will first sap the energy of the body, Tormenting, weakening, finally it takes away life itself. There is only one way out of this. Indra must be propitiated and the science of Ayurveda should be learnt from him. No doubt, you are a great man; so, it is easy for you to learn Ayurveda. Learn Ayurveda from Indra and save us by curing this disease."
Immediately, when called by Bharadwaja, Indra appeared. He gifted Ayurveda as desired by Bharadwaja. Thereafter, Divodasa, pupil of Bharadwaja, gave it much publicity. Divodasa was considered the incarnation of the king of medical science - Dhanvantari.
Violence By The Demons
Mention has previously been made of the Vaarashikha demons. Varashikhas children were Varashikhas. Demon Parama was the eldest of them. He had a hundred younger brothers. Their capital was situated on the banks of the river Hariyoopeeya. They were all wicked, avaricious and were constantly harassing people. They possessed a large army. They had learnt to wear protective armors; which would be invisible to others. Arrows shot by the enemies in war would hit the armor and become useless; they could not petrate the body. Thus no warriors could face them. Consequently, the whole world was in fear of them.
Vaarashikhas invaded the kingdom of Abhyavarti. They interrupted religious ceremonies, destroyed dwellings, cut off the heads of people, even of children and of women, and plundered the property they could lay their hands on.
To assist Abhyavarti's army, Divodasa also arrived. Both faced the Vaarashikhas and fought. But the demon had the upper hand. The armies of the kings sustained losses, and defeat seemed certain. Seeing no way out, Abhyavarti and Divodasa escaped and reached Bharadwaja's hermitage.
Fight For Life
"O great soul, having been defeated by the Vaarashikhas, we have come here. They have occupied our kingdom our riches and treasuries have fallen into their hands. In future only the hermitage will be our place of said Abhyavarti and Divodasa.
On hearing these words, Bharadwaja felt as if the sky had fallen from the heavens. Those whom he had considered the pillars of morality had arrived in a hopeless condition! The eyes of Bharadwaja, who never knew of anger, became red. Like an angry serpent he said:
"By your diffidence you are bringing disgrace to the warder race. Like cowards, you fear a war! Get up, Abhyavarti, arm your bow, and chase away the - unrighteous demons. For once, remember your people who are suffering like orphans. For their safety, sacrifice your body!"
"0 godly man, you are our family priest. In addition, you are born to protect the good 'people. You have the power to call gods to appear before you. We are sure to win if we have your help.
Order us," said Abhyavarti and Divodasa.
Help Of The Gods
The responsibility of Bharadwaja thus increased. It is not easy to fight demons. Arms and equipment are required. Food and clothing are required for the soldiers. The princes were impoverished. The common people were suffering from poverty. The demons had taken over the 'riches of the kingdom. In that condition Bharadwaja had to do his duty and win the war.
In the fireplace of the hermitage Agni was blazing. The ascetic Bharadwaja sat on a pedestal and worshipped Indra devotedly.
"O God, you helped in getting good deeds done. Only you are the Lord of the earth. You had helped my ancestors in working for the welfare of the people. Now also I have undertaken such a task, Grant me success as you did to my ancestors."
There was a flash like lighting in the fireplace. Indra appeared.
"Bharadwaja, let your wish be fulfilled. Tell me what I can do for you."
"God Indra, you reign over this world with the help of the Maruts. The demons are harassing the people of the world proudly thinking that they are superior. Put them down. I am praying to you for these children of the earth, for the good of the cattle and for food and water for all."
"Be it so; we Gods, we will help these valiant Kshatriyas to enable them to defeat the demons and uphold righteousness. With the help of the Ashwini'gods, gather wealth to procure war material."
Indra disappeared. Bharadwaja prayed to the Ashwini gods. They showed Bharadwaja a hidden treasure. Bharadwaja brought that treasure and gave it to Divodasa.
Armies stood ready. Bharadwaja's disciple, ascetic Payu, clothed the warriors with impregnable armour. Both Abhyavarti and Divodasa prostrated before Bharadwaja and were blessed by him. All mounted the chariots.
Fierce fighting started. Abhyavarti and Divodasa fought valiantly. One by one the demons fell dead.
The godly clan won. All persons kept in the jail by Vaarashikhas were released. Abhyavarti transferred the immense treasure they had gathered by plundering to the capital.
When demon Shambara, came to know that Vaarashikhas were dead, he was furious like a serpent. He was also wicked like Vaarashikhas and was proud thinking that there was none to equal him.
Shambara was the chief of a hilly country adjoining Kashi Kingdom. He was the chief -of a hundred towns. A number of kings had accepted defeat at his hands. He was a prime enemy of Divodasa. He invaded Kashi kingdom with a huge army. The misfortune befell that kingdom when Divodasa was away
On hearing this, Divodasa returned to the capital. But before his arrival Shambara had devastated the land of Kashi. There was commotion and misery everywhere.
Bharadwaja To The Rescue
Bharadwaja again stood in support of Divodasa. He made the king perform a religious sacrifice with an intoxicating drink and invoked Indra to appear. The help of other gods like Ashwini also became available.
It was the last war to suppress the demon. Although Shambara's soldiers attacked from all directions, their plan did not succeed. They all fell dead. From Divodasa's arrow, Shambara's head rolled down. His kingdom and the riches he had acquired by plundering fell into the hands of Divodasa. The world's entire ownership thus came to Abhyavarti and Divodasa. In the reign of these righteous people, the subjects led a peaceful life.
Service To The Country
Divodasa was a kingly sage who led the life of an ascetic and unfailingly gave what was sought. Service of the guests was for him service of god. So was emperor Abhyavarti, humble, god's devotee and beloved of the people. Those two became Bharadwaja's commendable followers.
The two kings arranged a celebration to commemorate their victory. It was a grand celebration. Lakhs of people had assembled. People and ascetics had come from distant places. Gifts were given and offerings were made liberally.
In the presence of the full assembly, both the kings washed the feet of Bharadwaja and his son Garga. After that, they heaped the riches such as pearls and diamonds, which they had brought after victory over the demons a huge mountain of riches. Surprised, Bharadwaja asked, "What is this?"
"O, great man, this is the wealth we brought from the demons after defeating them. We won only on account of your help. Therefore, all this is your property," said the two kings.
Bharadwaja laughed. "For me who is in the forest, what use are these? Why do I need these silver and gold articles? Money, which breeds greed, is very bad. Desire begets sins," said Bharadwaja.
"O great man, in any case, we have given these wealth to you as a gift. Use it as you will," said Abhyavarti and Divodasa. In admiration of the righteousness of the kings and generous sacrifice of Bharadwaja, all the gods appeared there. Indra, varuna, Agni and others said in praise of the ascetic: "O Bharadwaja, you are an effulgence descended from heaven to illumine the earth; a sage who saved the vedas; and eminent seer who established peace on earth."
Bharadwaja explained to the gods the charitable nature of Abhyavarti and Divodasa and said: "Charity is a great virtue. Gift is an exemplary service. Let the names of these two kings remain enshrined in the Vedas, for all time."
The valuable articles were all loaded onto chariots and taken away. Bharadwaja distributed them among the poor and humble folk. By this gift the subjects became prosperous.
The Seven Sages
Tarakasura was a wicked demon. He had been given boons by Lord Brahma. With the strength of these boons, he had vanquished the gods and snatched away their kingdom. As Shanmukha, son of Parvati and Ishwara, killed him in war, the gods got back their kingdom and were happy.
Happiness came to the world due to Ishwara's marriage. The sages who brought about the marriage were Bharadwaja, Gautama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa, Atri, Vashishta andVishwamitra. These were well known as the Seven Sages.
Several 'Yugas' make one Manvantara'. In every Manvantara the positions of the Seven Sages change. Fourteen such Manvantaras. According to ancient legends, Bharadwaja will get a place among the Galaxy of the Seven Sages in the Vaivaswata Manvantara. We are now in the Vaivaswata Manvantara. In this Manvantara, Bharadwaja is one of the great sages who saved the Vedas Divodasa's Appeal
Divodasa, who got back his kingdom due to the grace of Bharadwaja, ruled the country well for a long time. Earlier his enemies had destroyed his capital Kashi. With the help of Indra he built a new capital by name Varanasi.
Vatsa was a state adjoining Divodasa's kingdom. Veetahavya was its king. In earlier times he was ruling as asubordinate of Divodasa. As time passed, the number of his sons and grandchildren exceeded a hundred likewise his greed grew. At a favorable time all members ofVeetahavyas side attacked Divodasa's kingdom.
By that time Divodasa had grown old. He had no longer the strength and ability to face the enemies. He was defeated. However without becoming a prisoner of the enemies, he somehow escaped and reached Bharadwaja's hermitage with his wife. He narrated his troubles to Bharadwaja:
"0 great soul, Veetahavyas of Haihaya dynasty have occupied all my territories. I am not afraid of war. But the army of the enemies is vast. They are sure to win. I have no children at all. If I die in fighting, my dynasty will cease to exist. Therefore, I came here to seek your advice."
Bharadwaja was kind-hearted. He took pity on Divodasa. "Don't fear; I will ensure that you will not come to grief," he promised. Divodasa stayed in Bharadwaja’s hermitage itself with his wife.
Bharadwaja instructed Divodasa toperform religious ceremonies to beget children. At an auspicious time Divodasa's queen delivered a male child. The child, named Pratardana, eventually became famous as a virtuous person.
Bharadwaja himself taught Pratardana the art of war with bow and arrow andeducated him in yoga. By the time he was thirteen he gathered an army of youth resident in the forest.
Divodasa's joy was boundless. In Bharadwaja's hermitage itself he was crowned as a prince. After that an armor was put on him and he was given bows and arrows. "Pratardana, vanquish the enemies and repay your father'sgratitude," blessed by Bharadwaja.
A fierce battle was fought on the banks of the river Ganga. All Veetahavyas lost their lives. Only the aged Veetahavya survived; he went to Bhrigu's hermitage and became an ascetic.
Even though Pratardana followed Veetahavya up to Bhrigu's hermitage, on knowing what had happened, he became calm. He received Bhrigu's blessings and returned. Thereafter, Divodasa, after crowing his son as king, returned to Bharadwaja's hermitage for meditation.
Among The Gods
Bharadwaja again undertook a pilgrimage. This time he was satisfied that people were contented and had no problems. Every place he visited, along with Atri and other eminent sages, became a hallowed place of pilgrimage. To this day there are numerous pond and tanks which bear the names of the Seven Sages.
Bharadwaja’s hermitage on the banks of the river Saraswati became a place for contemplation. The Vedic recital by the large number of students cast a holy influence on every tree of the hermitage. In the peaceful forest in which the hermit was living even wild animals lived in harmony as if they had changed their nature.
Gradually age overtook the sage. After prolonged contemplation one day he opened his eyes slowly. Dawn was about to break. The chirping of birds was pleasant to hear. All around there was greenery and cold breeze was blowing mixed with the pleasant fragrance of flowers. Nearby his wife Susheeladevi was seated. She folded her hands and was looking skyward.
Bharadwaja had offered prayers to the morning goddess Usha. In an orderly manner he offered his prayers to all the gods.
"Goddess Usha (Dawn), when you appear birds fly out of their nests. People move about to earn their bread. Bestow wealth on your worshippers. O Pooshan, grant us the company of the wise.... 0 Soma and Rudra, end all epidemic diseases. Fill our bodies with sickness- resistant materials Indra and Varuna, grant us the power to get over sins, just as people cross a flood by means of a ferry."
This is not a prayer offered by Bharadwaja for his own self. But it is a prayer offered by the ascetic for the good of the entire mankind.
There emerged an extraordinary flash in the sky. Gods showered flowers on the Bharadwaja couple. A heavenly chariot appeared. Indra and other gods bowed to the holy being and said: "Great soul, we welcome you to make heaven your abode." Assuming a celestial form, the Bharadwaja couple boarded the chariot and reached heaven.
Sage - Glorious Being
Bharat is well known as the homeland of sages. Among them Bharadwaja was the most renowned. Even now, on Rishipanchami day, the Bharadwaja couples are worshipped with reverence.
In the Sixth Part of Rigveda there are hymns attributed to Bharadwaja. There are also hymns of Bharadwaja's disciples Garga, Payu, Suhotra and others. The names of Abhyavarti and Divodasa or Prastoka are also mentioned In Rigveda. Westerners too have praised the greatness "So long as the rivers a last, the fame of Rigveda said Max Muller, the well-known scholar.
Thus did the great sag live for the spread of knowledge and for welfare of the people. A great soul, he was not tempted by the to become an emperor but to serve the people. He acquired extensive knowledge with strenuous effort; he disseminated it for the welfare of the world. The clash between the good people and the bad people has been in this world for thousands of years. Even in Bharadwaja’s time such confrontations were going on. In that clash, by protecting the good people, Bharadwaja stood like a fortress protecting the good people. extraordinary scholarship and might of Bharadwaja, numerous kings accepted him as their preceptor and ruled as ordered by him. But even among kings he sought out the righteous. He extended support only when people followed the tenets of righteousness enunciated by him. The wealth his warrior pupils offered at his feet, this great soul gave away as a gift to humanity. The vow that he took deserves to be the vow for all time in the hearts of all sages, all warriors and all rich people: "All people are my relatives. For their service my life is dedicated.
My strength acquired by meditation and strength of body I will use for the benefit of the people."
Sage Bharadwaja spent his life bridging the earth and the heaven as it were. A sage who spread the fame of Bharat by his wisdom, meditation, kindness and service of the people.
Remembering him every morning is auspicious:
Munim Angirasam bhaje I
"To Bharadwaja who is holding the sacred beads and looks serene, husband of Susheeladevi, of the dynasty of Angiras, I humbly bow."