Why is India's second official name "Bhaarata"?

The name "Bhaarata" is an old one and is the subject of some controversy and confusion. The most common and most accepted belief is that the country was named after the third Emperor Bharata. This is very plausible, as Bharata is one of the most influential rulers in India's history, giving rise to a powerful dynasty that lasted centuries. Although there is no first-hand documentation of his life - it's all secondhand from oral tradition - it's general knowledge that he was an unusually broad-minded individual for his day. He ruled benevolently and clearly placed a high value upon knowledge. Upon his death, he did not follow the tradition that said the eldest son must inherit the throne - he passed the crown to his adopted son, the one showing the most ability of all his sons. There are, however, some interesting cultural details that shed doubt on this theory.

At the time of the great Emperor's rule, Christianity and its associated monotheistic, male-dominated religions did not exist. The majority of prehistoric religions were female-dominated, usually a Mother Goddess ruling (or co-ruling on an equal footing) a pantheon, as opposed to a single male ruling alone. This makes sense, as women are the bearers and nurturers of children, hence they are the creators of life and the guardians of the future. Even in the Vedic scriptures and the Mahabharata, females are depicted as strong, powerful, wise, and supportive. A single male cannot create life all by himself, no matter how hard one tries to twist the laws of nature, so it is unlikely that the nature-oriented society extent at that time would have accepted this form of religious structure, even though it grew closer to it later on.

Indians have always had an extremely high regard for knowledge and education. Even today, modern Indian parents make incredible sacrifices for the chance to send their child to university. From India came the foundation of modern science, fine arts, higher mathematics, and engineering - knowledge. The oldest centres of learning were in India. The university at Taxila may be the first institute of higher learning although some feel that the university in Nalanda is the first true "university". In the Mahabharata, Saraswati is the Goddess of wisdom and knowledge. Saraswati is also known as "Bharaati". It is equally plausible, then, that India was named after the Goddess of Wisdom rather than a great Emperor.

It is simply impossible to say how India came to be called Bhaarata. Maybe the name honours what is arguably one of the most significant of India's rulers. Maybe it was to honour the Goddess of Wisdom. It could have been adopted in order to celebrate India's seminal contribution to education, art, and to every mathematics-based branch of science. It could have been chosen because the word "Bharat" means "cherished" or it could even mean all of the above.

Who was Bharata of Kanvashram    Religion during the reign of Bharat    Life during the early Vedic period    Moden India

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