There were five Bharatas in Hindu mythology: (1) the brother of Rama, (2) a partial incarnation of Vishnu who ruled for 27,000 years and whose land was called Bharata, (3) a king of Hima who reigned for 100,000 years and, according to one tale in the Bhagavata Purana, was the king from whom India received its name, (4) a sage and writer of the Natyasastra (art of theater), and (5) a late collective term for the sons of Agni, god of fire.
Bharata, son of Das’aratha and brother of Rama, was interesting from a number of points of view. There were so many twists and turns in this myth that a skillful teller could find something for almost any occasion—from positive examples of loyalty and duty to negative ones of deceit and jealousy.
King Das’aratha of Ayodhya had no children, so he performed the putra- kameshti (the ritual to beget children) on the advice of the sage Rishyas’ringa. From the sacrificial fire emerged a pot of pudding (some accounts say the very ambrosia of the gods, amrita). The pudding was equally divided between his three wives: Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumithra. Sri Rama was born to Kausalya, Bharata to Kaikeyi, and Lakshmana and Satrughna to Sumithra. The four sons married well, and arrangements proceeded for Rama to succeed his father. But Das’aratha’s second wife, Kaikeyi, had two boons from the old king that she had not used. So she used these to force him to exile Rama to the forest for fourteen years and crown her son, Bharata, king. Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lak- shmana went without complaint to the forest. But even before Bharata returned from a visit to be crowned, the old king died of remorse at what he had been forced to do by his evil wife Kaikeyi. Bharata was so furious with his mother that he would have killed her had his half-brother Satrughna not prevented it. Bharata and Shatrughna then set out to find Rama and get him to come back to the kingdom. A huge procession from Ayodhya followed them to the banks of the Ganga. At Rama’s forest asrama the brothers completed funeral rites for their father but were unable to get Rama to return as king. Rama believed that it was his duty (dharma) to fulfill his promise to his father. So Bharata took Rama’s sandals back to Ayodhya to symbolize that he was ruling for his brother until Rama returned after the fourteen-year exile. Bharata left the palace vacant and ruled from a village near the capital. After fourteen years Rama returned and was crowned king of Ayodhya.
Bharata was sent by King Rama on a mission to kill gandharvas who were molesting people in Kekaya, a nearby region. When he had freed these regions of demons, his two sons were made their rulers. Bharata’s final act of loyalty and devotion to his divine brother was to give up his life when Rama drowned himself in the Sarayu River. Satrughna committed suicide as well. When Rama became Vishnu again, Bharata and Satrughna became Vishnu’s conch and wheel.