Bharat: The original name

Dr Vishal Gupta
A name is the most important identity of an individual, a social group, a religious belief or a nation. Especially, a name of a country infuses sense of pride in its citizens. Political leaders use country name as emotional activator in public speeches, marketers try to attract the customer with ads having country name and general public craft slogans around the country name to rally support on social sites and invoke harmony in protest. Nevertheless, like our names are given to us without our involvement, the names of nations are also inherited, subjective and often influenced by some past period events. As far as our country is concerned, we operate with two names, ‘Bharat’ the primary or original name and ‘India’ the name given by outsiders. The outsiders who invaded Bharat, when reached to the river Sindhu someway articulated the word Sindhu as Hindu and afterward Indus. Since then, the name India stuck on us as the identity of our country. It always remains a hard thing for people with English as first language or with other European language to pronounce the eastern names. For that reason, in the ancient times, it was a custom to amend all those names and innocent people would easily acknowledge the new-fangled names without much confrontation. People can easily trace the origin of the name ‘India’ in modern history but no one find this name anywhere in the ancient Indian history, Vedas or Purnanas. In Sanskrit language, the term BHA means light and RAT means someone who has dedicated his/her whole life for that light. It basically means, the seeker of ultimate truth. According to our Puranas and Ithihasas, India was called Bharathavarsha in the prehistoric times and it extended in the west including modern Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Iran, Sumeria upto Caspian Sea (which was known as Kashyapa Samudra). The old Sankalpa Shlokha “Jambu Dweepe Bhaarata Varshe Bharata Khande”, also supported the prehistoric relevancy of the name Bharat. Bhratahvarsha was the Greater India while Bharatha Khanda referred to the Indian Subcontinent which lies at the heart of the Vedic Civilization and extended from Himalayas in the north to KanyaKumari in the South. Apart from the most accepted belief among the masses that the name Bharat is associated with name of Lord Rama’s younger half-brother Bharata, one can find different stories related to name Bharat in ancient Indian texts.
According to Mahabharata, Bharatha Varsha or Bharatha is named after a very virtuous and noble king Bharata. Bharata was a legendary emperor and the founder of Bharata Dynasty and an ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Bharata, a descendant of Kshatriya Varna, had conquered all of greater India, united into a distinct political entity which was named after him as “Bharatvarsha”. Obviously, in the olden days being born in Bharata dynasty was a matter of pride. In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna often called Arjuna as Bharatha, which means the noble one.
The Vedic scholars came up with different conjecture about the name Bharat. In Rig Veda, there is a detailed description about the horrible war ‘Dasharajna’ or battle of ten kings, which took place on the shore of river Ravi in Punjab. The war was a struggle between ten dominant tribes who conspired to conquer King Sudasa of the Bharata tribe of Trtsu Dynasty. Consequently Sudasa pulled off a great thrashing victory over the alliance of ten kings. This triumph further led to the fame of King Sudasa and inhabitants in due course started considering themselves as members of the Bharata tribe. The name ‘Bharata’ stuck on the lips of people and in due course named as ‘Bharat Varsha’ meaning the land of Bharata.
In the Vishnupurana, there is a sholaka, which further adds to the evident literature about the terminology of the Bharat.
This shloka purports: “The country (Varsam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharatam; there reside the descendants of Bharata.
As per Jain Dharma, India’s original name ‘Bharat’ was named after the name of Bharat Chakravarti the eldest son of First Jain Tirthankar. Bharata is claimed to be the first chakravartin (universal emperor) of avasarpini in Jain tradition.
Over the centuries the name of Bharatha Varsha, its shape and extension have changed on countless occasions. No matter what is its current name, either borrowed or given; whatsoever the scope of its borders is; the concept of Bharat have survived many political cyclones. Due to the life sacrifices of enormous unsung people, however amidst the encircling turmoil, it has always been a proud nation. Bharat has held fast to its pluralism theme, its democratic practice and its basic values; in spite of conflict, oppositions and infinite diversities. It is for this reason of unity in diversity, the world call it, the Miracle that is Bharat. Every time, when any Bharatiya does wonder in any field like sports, technology, business, defence or entertainment, the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is proudly raised by we ‘Bharatiya People’.

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