Bharatavarsha (भरतवर्षम्)

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Bharatavarsha (Samksrit : भरतवर्षम्) is the term used to denote the regions ruled by Chakravarthi Bharata and his descendants. Some state the decendents of Bharata include the descendants of Maharshi Bharadvaja also. This territory roughly coincides with the territories of modern day India and adjacent territories that have been lost to invaders. Several maps depict Bharatavarsha (Ancient India or Epic India) which help locate the probable locations of villages, cities, pilgrim places, rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and kingdoms of ancient India.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

A united Bharatam or Bharatavarsha was born in the minds of these visionary seers several thousand years ago, not on the midnight of 15th August, 1947. Maharshis and Rishis belonging to this land, since the time Vedas, enlightened those belonging to Bharatavarsha by their discoveries and relentless search for knowing nothing less than the Ultimate Truth. Through the Upanishads and Gita, they proclaimed with joy, again and again the Truth so difficult to be attained. They authored the epics to celebrate the unity of the goal (Moksha) through the diverse paths, treading the vast stretch of land spreading from the foothills of the great Himalayas and ending in the waves of the grand Bharata Samudra (Indian Ocean). They authored the Puranas and the common people of Bharatavarsha, their simple-minded and truth-loving fellow men listened with joy and wonder.[1] In this regard, the Manusmrti says,

एतद्देशप्रसूतस्य सकाशादग्रजन्मनः । स्वं स्वं चरित्रं शिक्षेरन्पृथिव्यां सर्वमानवाः । । २.२० । ।[2]

ētaddēśaprasūtasya sakāśādagrajanmanaḥ । svaṁ svaṁ caritraṁ śikṣēranpr̥thivyāṁ sarvamānavāḥ । । 2.20 । ।

Meaning: In this country, there is great accumulation of knowledge. And people from all over the world come here to secure knowledge from the learned scholars.

In fact, it is recorded in history that our country was the store house of knowledge; there were many great Universities like Takshashila and Nalanda and people from different parts of the world used to come here to acquire knowledge.[3]

भरतम् ॥ Name Bharatam

Bharata (भरतः) from whose name the sub-continent derived its name, Bharatam (भरतम्), refers to two important purana purushas[4] namely

  • Rshabha-putra Bharata: Bharata is one of the 21 important avataras of MahaVishnu. Before Bharata was born the land was called Ajanaabha.

यस्य हीन्द्रः स्पर्धमानो भगवान्वर्षे न ववर्ष तदवधार्य भगवानृषभदेवो योगेश्वरः प्रहस्यात्मयोगमायया स्ववर्षमजनाभं नामाभ्यवर्षत् ३ (Bhag. Pura. 5.4.3)[5]

Summary: Indra, jealous of him (Rshabha) did not rain in his continent, Ajanaabha. On hearing this, Rshabhadeva, through his atmayoga maya profusely showered rains over his Varsha named Ajanaabha.[6]

येषां खलु महायोगी भरतो ज्येष्ठः श्रेष्ठगुण आसीद्येनेदं वर्षंभारतमिति व्यपदिशन्ति ९ (Bhag. Pura. 5.4.9) [5]

Of these (sons) the eldest was a mahayogi, called Bharata who was endowed with highly excellent attributes. It is on account of him that this varsha (continent) came to be called Bharatavarsha.[6]

  • Dushyanta-putra Bharata : Bharata from whom the Bharata-vamsha originated. Bharata ruled over his land for twentyseven thousand years and the land was, therefore, called Bharata.

    शकुन्तलायां दुष्यन्ताद्भरतश्चापि जज्ञिवान्।यस्य लोकेषु नाम्नेदं प्रथितं भारतं कुलम्॥ (Maha. Adi. Parv. 1.2.97)

भारतीयः ॥ People of Bharatavarsha

Unlike the recent rulers of recorded history, Bharata did not see a homogeneous civilisation. It was a multicultural society based on the Varna system now converted to the infamous 'caste system' invented by East India Company. Bharatavarsha was dotted by villages and urban centres, where each unit was self-sufficient in its economies and there was an abundance and huge diversity of food systems and culture. In doing so, Bharata only did what his predecessor rajas, maharajas and chakravarti's had done. It is this plurality and multiculturalism that is under attack in the modern Republic Of India.[1]

ऋषिसंप्रदायः॥ Rishi Sampradaya

Bharatavarsha was also the domain of visionary sages (Rishis) and not just an empire of kings. Hence it is rightly called Arsha-Bharata, the Bharata of the Rishis (sages). The unity of this nation was envisaged by its sages who saw its past and its future in the tranquility of their mind, ever fixed in Dhyana (meditation) and Yoga. Their level of understanding was higher than that of the average men and women. Maharshis like Angirasa, Agastya, Vasistha, Vishvamitra, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Agnivesha, Lomasha, Markandeya, Vyasa, Valmiki, Shaunaka and Yajnavalkya traveled throughout the Bharatavarsha, uniting its people.

In fact, the Rigveda, one of the oldest literary records of humanity, reveals conscious and fervent attempts made by the rshis, adept in polity and culture, to visualise the unity of their mother-country, nay, to transfigure mother earth into a living deity and enshrine her in the loving heart of the worshipper.[3]

Source :
Great India During the Mahabharata. Courtesy :

महाभारतम् || Mahabharata

The name Mahabharata is synonymous with Bharatavarsha. Geographically the word 'Mahabhaarata', 'the Great Empire of Bharata' is same as the word 'Bharatavarsha'. Politically the word 'Mahabharata' is same as the nation united under the geographical entity called Bharatavarsha with all its cultural diversity. Thus Mahabharata is Bharatavarsha! In his work called Jaya which later grew into Mahabharata, Vyasa had dedicated several chapters to describe the geography of Bharatavarsha describing its rivers, mountains, forests and lakes that existed during his lifetime. In several chapters he describes the political entities and tribal populations that existed in Bharatavarsha. He also described its people and their kings in several chapters of his work. In describing the circuitous pilgrimage journeys of Arjuna and later Yudhisthira and in describing the journeys of Yudhisthira's brothers into four cardinal directions for Rajasuya, Vyasa has united the East, South, West and North of India.

Truly, Vyasa's Mahabharata is the soul of Bharatavarsha! In it lies the sacred thread that unifies the whole of India.

रामायणम् || Ramayana

Source :
Epic India Kingdoms.Courtesy :

Valmiki too in naming his work 'Ramayana', literally meaning 'Rama's travels', had his intentions very clear. He had vividly described the length and breadth of Bharatavarsha, in the form of travel narrations of Rama. Rama's travel route from Ayodhya to Lanka, united the Northern India with the Southern India. Rama's brother Bharata's travels to the west and his brother Lakshmana's travels to the east united the East and West of India. Thus it can be said that Valmiki's Ramayana is the glue that unites Bharatavarsha into a single whole! Maharshi Vyasa together with Valmiki are the true forefathers of Bharatavarsha; while Chakravarthi (emperor) Bharata is its very founder.

विष्णुपुराणम् || Vishnu Purana

The Vishnupurana mentions the territorial boundaries of the whole country and its name. It also specifies important mountain ranges.[3]

उत्तरं यत् यमुद्रस्य हिमादे शचैव दक्षिणाम् । वर्षं तदू भारतं नाम भारतो यत्र सन्ततिः ।। 1 ।।

महेन्द्रो मलयः सह्मः शुक्तिमान् ऋक्षपर्व्वतः । विन्ध्यश्व पारिपात्रश्व सप्तत्र कुलपर्व्वताः ।। 3 ।।[7]

uttaraṁ yat yamudrasya himādē śacaiva dakṣiṇām । varṣaṁ tadū bhārataṁ nāma bhāratō yatra santatiḥ ।। 1 ।।

mahēndrō malayaḥ sahmaḥ śuktimān r̥kṣaparvvataḥ । vindhyaśva pāripātraśva saptatra kulaparvvatāḥ ।। 3 ।।

Meaning: The Country which lies to the north of the seas and to the south of Himalayas, is Bharat, and the people of this Country are 'Bharateeyas'.

The other seven main chains of Mountains (in Bharata Varsha) are, Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Suktimat, Rksha, Vindhya and Paripatra.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. Manusmrti, Adhyaya 2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Justice M.Rama Jois, Dharma The Global Ethic.
  4. Vettam. Mani, (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : A comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi:Motilal Banasidass.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Shrimad Bhagavatam (Skanda 5 Adhyaya 4)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tagare, G. V. (1976) The Bhagavata Purana. Part 2 (Skandas 4 to 6). Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  7. Vishnu Purana, Amsha 2, Adhyaya 3.