The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes The Race of Bharata—The History of Rantideva which is chapter 21 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the twenty-first chapter of the Ninth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 21 - The Race of Bharata—The History of Rantideva

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]


(a). As Bhāvāratha Dīpikā points out, although Bharadvāja was originally a Brāhmaṇa, he became Kṣattriya after his adoption by Bharata. He is thenceforth known as Vitatha and he continued Bharata’s race.

(b). The Rantideva episode and especially his refusal to attain to Mokṣa but wish to live here in order to relieve the misery of all beings (vv 12, 13 below) are similar to the Bodhisattva ideal of Buddhists.

Śrī Śuka said:

1. Vitatha (Bharadvāja) had a son Manyu who begot (five sons) viz. Bṛhatkṣatra, Jaya, Mahāvīrya, Nara, Garga. Nara’s son was Saṅkṛti.

2. Saṅkṛti had two sons—Guru and Rantideva, Oh delight of the Pāṇḍu family! The glory of Rantideva is eulogised in this world as well as in heaven.

3-4. By giving away wealth which came his way without efforts (like the sky) thinking it to be momentary, he became hungry and destitute of everything (including provision even for the evening). While the hero suffered hardships along with his family, fortyeight days passed during which he could not get even water to drink. In the morning (of the fortyninth day), he happened to get by chance ghee, rice cooked in milk, (saṃyāva) (an article of food consisting of wheat-flour, raw-sugar, ghee and milk) along with water.

5. He whose family was distressed and trembling due to utter starvation and parched with thirst, was about to partake of it (the food) when a Brāhmaṇa guest arrived, just at the time of their breaking the fast.

6. As he visualized Hari everywhere (and in everybody), he received the Brāhmaṇa with reverence and faith, gave him his share of food. The Brāhmaṇa took his meal and went his way.

7. While he was about to partake of the remaining food which was distributed among themselves, another stranger—now a Śūdra—arrived. He gave him the portion of the food so distributed, contemplating all the while on Lord Hari, Oh king of the earth.

8. When the Śūdra departed, another stranger surrounded by a pack of hounds approached him and requested, “Oh King! May food be served to me along with my dogs, who are hungry”.

9. The king received them kindly and gave to him respectfully whatever food that remained with him, and bowed to the dogs and the master of those hounds.

10-11. Now some water, just sufficient to quench the thirst of one person, remained. While he was about to drink it, a Cāṇḍāla came up and requested, “Give water to me who am a low caste person”. Hearing his pitiful request uttered with great pains and exhaustion, the king who was deeply moved and tormented with compassion, uttered the following nectar-like speech.

12. “I do not seek from the Almighty Lord the highest position attended with eight spiritual powers (e.g. Aṇimā, Laghimā, etc. detailed in the Yogasūtras), nor emancipation from saṃsāra; I would rather prefer to dwell in all beings and undergo sufferings for them, whereby they may be free from miseries.

13. By offering water which was essential to save the life of an unfortunate creature who craved for life, my personal hunger, thirst, exhaustion of limbs, distress, languor, grief, despondency and delusion—all have disappeared.”

14. Expressing such nobility of heart, the king who was compassionate by nature and full of fortitude, gave that water to the Cāṇḍāla, though he himself was on the point of death through thirst.

15. To him, the Lords of the Three worlds (e.g. God Brahmā and others) who bestow fruits on those who seek them, and who visited him in those illusory forms (a short while ago) under instructions from Lord Viṣṇu, revealed themselves to him.

16. The king being entirely free from attachments, cherished no desires. Bowing down to them all, he concentrated his mind on glorious Lord Vāsudeva with utmost devotion, and sought no boons from them.

17. Concentrating his mind on the Almighty Lord as the only support, and cherishing no desire for any fruit (in return) therefrom, Māyā the deluding potency of the Lord constituted of three guṇas (automatically) dissolved (disappeared altogether) like a dream, in the case of Rantideva, Oh king.

18. By virtue of close association with him, all yogins who followed closely Rantideva (i.e. his path of intense, selfless devotion) became absolutely devoted to Lord Nārāyaṇa.

19-20. From Garga was born Śini who begot Gārgya. In this way, a Brāhmaṇa family-line started from a Kṣatriya race. From Mahāvīrya sprang Duritakṣaya whose sons were Trayyāruṇi, Kavi and Puṣkarāruṇi. They attained to the state of Brāhmaṇa-hood. Bṛhat-kṣattra [Bṛhatkṣatra?] had a son, who built the city of Hastināpura.

21. Hastin begot Ajamīḍha, Dvimīḍha and Purumīḍha. The descendants of Ajamīḍha were Brāhmaṇas like Priyamedha and others.

22. From Ajamīḍha was born (another son) Bṛhadiṣu whose son was Bṛhaddhanu. His son was Bṛhatkāya whose son was Jayadratha.

23. He (Jayadratha) begot Viśada from whom sprang up Senajit. His sons were Rucirāśva, Dṛḍhahanu, Kāśya and Vatsa.

24. Rucirāśva’s son was Pāra whose son was Pṛthuṣeṇa. Pāra’s son was Nīpa to whom were born a hundred sons.

24(A). Among them one was Aṇuha, the eldest was Satyaka, Oh King.

25. That Nīpa begot on Kṛtvī, the daughter of Śuka[1], Brahmadatta. That yogī procreated through his wife Gau (Sarasvatī) a son called Viśvaksena.

26. According to the advice and guidance of sage Jaigīṣavya, he wrote a work on the yoga-system. He begot Udaksvan from whom sprang Bhallāda. These are the descendants of Bṛhadiṣu.

27. Dvimīḍha had a son called Yavīnara whose son was Kṛtimān by name. His son was Satyadhṛti whose son Dṛḍhanemi was the progenitor of Supārśva.

28-29. From Supārśva was born Sumati whose son was Sannati. His son was Kṛti who learnt yoga under Hiraṇyanābha, and sang the six earlier saṃhitās of the Sāma-veda[2] (divided them separately). He begot Nīpa from whom was born Ugrāyudha. His son was Kṣemya; his son Suvīra from whom was born Ripuñjaya.

30. His son was Bahuratha. Purumīḍha (Dvimīḍha’s younger brother) had no child. Ajamīḍha begot on Nalinī, a son called Nīla whose son was Śānti.

31. From Śānti was born Suśānti, whose son was Puruja, from whom Arka was born. His son was Bharmyāśva who had five sons beginning with Mudgala.

32-33. Yavīnara, Bṛhadiṣu, Kāmpilya and Sañjaya were the (remaining four) sons (of Bharmyāśva). Bharmyāśva said, “These five sons of mine are capable (and enough) to protect five countries. And hence they came to be known as Pāñcālas. From Mudgala originated a clan of Brāhmaṇas named Maudgalya.

34. A twin was born of Mudgala, the son of Bharmyāśva; (out of the twin) the male child was Divodāsa and the female child, Ahalyā. She had from (her husband) Gautama, a son called Śatānanda.

35-36. Śatānanda’s son Satyadhṛti was expert in Military Science. His son was Śaradvān. They say that at the sight of Urvaśī, the seed of Śaradvān (emanated and) fell on a clump of reeds. From the semen was produced an auspicious twin. Finding the twin children during the course of hunting, Śantanu picked them out of compassion. The male child came to be known as Kṛpa, while the female child Kṛpī became the wife of Droṇa.

Footnotes and references:


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā Bhāgavata Candrikā V C. Bhaktamanorañjanī quote from HV (Harivaṃśa) ch. 18 and explain that when Śuka left home even before his upanayana (investiture of the sacred thread) ceremony, to lead a perpetually celibate life, he left behind his shadow for the consolation of his father who married and had five sons and one daughter. The daughter is named Kīrtimatī and not Kṛtvī as here. Devī Bhāgavata 1.19.39-43 rejects the shadow theory and states that as per Janaka’s advice Śuka married pīvarī. a daughter of Pitṛs and had four sons (names differ from the HV), and a daughter Kīrti who was married to Anu, the son of king Vibhrāj. I think Kramasandarbha is correct in regarding this Śuka as a different person, not so much because Kramasandarbha quotes the authority of the Brahmavaivarta P. where Śuka is said to have been born as a boy of twelve years, who, renouncing the world, straightway walked out of home, but the tenor of the text of the Bh. P., shows that according to Śuka the narrator of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. this Śuka, father of Kṛtvī, is altogether different, merely a name-sake.


v.l. jagan ḍvi-ṣat—Twelve earlier saṃhitās of the Sāma Veda (Bhaktamanorañjanī) and Bhaktamanorañjanī quotes Viṣṇu Purāṇa which credits him with saying (mastering and teaching) twenty-four saṃhitās:

hiraṇya-nābho yogam adhyāpayāmāsa /
yaścaturviṃśatim prācya-sāmnāṃ cakāra saṃhitām //

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