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King Dushmanta and Shakuntala.
In the fifteenth generation after Puru appeared Maharaja Dushmanta, the son of Rebhi. Once, while hunting in the forest, King Dushmanta became very tired, and so he approached Kanva Muni’s ashram. There, he saw a most wonderfully beautiful girl, who resembled the goddess of fortune, and who illuminated the entire area with her splendor. Just by seeing this beautiful girl, King Dushmanta became so enlivened that he completely forgot the fatigue of his hunting excursion.
Due to lusty desires Dushmanta was immediately attracted to the girl. Along with some of his soldiers, he approached her and inquired, “O beautiful lotus-eyed woman, whose daughter are you , and why are you here in this solitary forest? O most lovely one, because I belong to the Puru dynasty, I never try to enjoy anything irreligiously. However, it appears to me that you are the daughter of a kshatriya.”
The girl replied, “I am the daughter of Vishvamitra and my name is Shakuntala. My mother, Menaka left me in the forest, at least this is what I have heard from the greatly powerful sage Kanva.”
“O lotus-eyed king, please sit down and accept whatever reception we can offer you. If you so desire, you are welcome to stay here. Now, kindly let me know, how may I serve you?”
King Dushmanta then said, “Beautiful Shakuntala, your gracious reception is quite worthy of your noble family. Aside from this, you should know that the daughters of kshatriyas are generally free to select thier own husbands.”
By her words, Shakuntala had indicated her inclination to have Dushmanta as her husband, and the king, who had desired her from the very beginning, encouraged her to accept him by personal selection. Shakuntala silently agreed to Dushmanta’s porposal, and so he married her according to the Gandharva style, by pronouncing the Vedic pranava, omkara. That night, King Dushmanta, who never discharged semen in vain, impregnated Shakuntala. He then returned to his palace the next morning.
In due course of time, Shakuntala gave birth to a son, and Kanva Muni performed the ritualistic birth ceremonies. This boy, named Bharata, was a partial expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and he became so powerful that, as a child, he sometimes captured a lion and played with it.
After some time, Shakuntala took her son and journeyed to the capital, so that she could stay with her husband. However, when Shakuntala and Bharata presented themselves before Dushmanta, the king refused to recognize them, although they were both beyond reproach.
At this time, an unembodied voice announced from the sky, within the hearing of all, “O Maharaja Dushmanta, a son really belongs to his father, whereas the mother is only a container. Indeed, according to the Vedic injunction, the father is once again born as the son. Therefore, you should maintain this boy and you should not insult your wife. You are the actual procreator of this child and Shakuntala is telling the truth.”
Actually, Dushmanta knew very well that Shakuntala was his wife, and Bharata his son. But, because they had come from outside, and were thus unknown to the citizens, he first of all refused to accept them. When the voice from the sky declared the truth, however, the king very happily recognized them as his wife and son. After the passing away of Dushmanta, Bharata became the emperor of the earth. Maharaja Bharata had the mark of Lord Krishna’s disc on the palm of his right hand, and he had the mark of a lotus flower on the soles of his feet.
With the use of 3300 horses, Maharaja Bharata performed fifty-five ashvamedha-yagyas, under the direction of Bhrigu Muni, on the banks of the Ganga, beginning from its mouth and ending at its source. Then, he performed seventy-eight ashvamedha-yagyas on the banks of the River Yamuna, beginning at Prayaga and ending at its source. By performing these sacrifices, and distributing 13,084 cows to each of thousands of brahmanas, Maharaja Bharata surpassed the opulence of the demigods, and thus astonished all other kings.
After performing other sacrifices, Maharaja Bharata gave fourteen lakh black elephants with white tusks in charity, and each were covered with golden ornaments. Just as one cannot touch the stars, no one can imitate the wonderful activities of Bahrata Maharaja. No one could perform such activities in the past, and no one will be able to do so in the future.
Formerly, after conquering the demigods, the demons had taken shelter in Rasatala, and had brought with them the wives and daughters of the demigods. Maharaja Bharata rescued all of these women from the clutches of the demons, and returned them to the denizens of heaven.
For 27,000 years, Maharaja Bharata ruled the universe, providing all of the necessities of life to his subjects. The king had three very pleasing wives, who were the daughters of the ruler of Vidarbha. However, when they all gave birth to children that did not resemble their father, the queens became afraid of being considered unfaithful. To protect themselves from being rejucted, the queens killed their own sons. His attempt for having progeny being frustrated in this way, Maharaja Bharata performed a sacrifice for the satisfaction of the Maruts. When the Maruts became pleased with the king, they gave him a son named Bharadvaja.
Once, Brihaspati became attracted to Mamata, the wife of his brother Utathya, who happened to be pregnant at the time. When Brihaspati tried to sexually unite with Mamata, the child within her womb forbade him to do so. After cursing the embryo, however, Brihaspati forcibly discharged his semen within Mamata’s womb.
Thereafter, Mamata became very afraid of being rejected by her husband because of giving birth to an illegitimate child, and so she began to consider how to get rid of it. Even though Brihaspati told her, “You foolish woman, in spite of his illegitimate birth (dvaja), you should maintain him (bhara)” Mamata replied, “O Brihaspati, you maintain him.”
After saying this, both departed, and so the Maruts took charge of the child, who then received the name Bharadvaja. When Maharaja Bharata was disappointed due to not having any children, Bharadvaja was given to him by the Maruts to be raised as his son.
As Maharaja Bharata ruled the entire universe, he appeared to be very attached to his unlimited opulence and his family members. However, in due course of time, he began to consider these things to be impediments to his spiritual advancement, and so he ceased from enjoying them any longer.