We all know about the story of Bharat- the ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas, after whom our country is named Bharat also known as Bharatvarsha.

We also know that the parents of Bharata was King Dushyant and Shakuntala.

But when I read more about Shakuntala, I got some interesting facts which I did not know and I am sharing it here thinking some of you may not be aware of it too. Pardon this ignorance of mine.

There lived a king named Vishwamitra who gave up everything to become a sage and went into meditation in a forest for several years.

Lord Indra, The King of God , was afraid that the powerful sage’s penance would be a threat to his throne. So he sent his most beautiful celestial dancer- Menka to distract Vishwamitra.

Menaka came down and tried to distract the sage. We all know about it and after a lot of effort on her part Vishvamitra opened his eyes.

The moment he laid eyes on Menaka, he forgot his meditation and fell in love with her. The couple lived happily for a while until they had a baby girl.

Vishwamitra could not take his eyes of the beautiful baby girl but she reminded him of his purpose and he realised his mistake that he had completely forgotten about his penance and had become the father of a child.

Angry and upset he said to Menaka, ” I understand now what has happened. You distracted me from my purpose. From this day on it is your sole responsibility to look after this baby.”

And without another look at the newborn, Vishwamitra stomped out of their home,never to return.

Menaka was distraught, what am I to do. I cannot take my baby back to Lord Indra’s court in the heavens as humans are not allowed there. Weeping she prayed to the God above and the creature in the forest. Finally she placed the baby on a leaf under the shade of a tree and said to her, ” my dear child please forgive me. I am helpless I was commanded to distract Vishwamitra, and now that he is no longer with me I must go back. I leave you here with the prayer and I request these animals and birds to look after you. I promise you that whenever you are in trouble I will come down from the heavens to help you.”

With tears in her eyes, Menaka went back to Indra’s Court.

For a long time the baby girl lay there with only some birds for company, who kept her entertained.

The sound of her laughter reached the ears of sage Kanva, who was on his way to a river nearby.

Sage looked around for her parents but there was absolutely no sign of human life.

He lifted the baby in his arm and said I will bring you up like my very own child.

Since you are surrounded by these delightful shakuntas who have kept you cheerful, I will call you Shakuntala.

That’s how Shakuntala was brought up by sage Kanva.

And we all know about the story of the ring and how King Dushyant couldn’t recognize or remember Shakuntala, after she lost the royal ring.

So when Shakuntala was troubled, she decided not to go back to the sage Kanva’s Ashram.

There she remembered her mother who had abandoned her in the forest.

She cried out,” oh mother, look what fate has done to me. My parents left me when I was born and now my husband refuses to recognise me after our marriage. I am pregnant and I don’t want to go back to my father’s home to bring any disgrace. Please help me.”

True to her promise, Menaka came down from the heavens and took Shakuntala to sage Marichi’s Ashram, where Shakuntala gave birth to a healthy baby boy and named him Bharat.

PS: pls ignore typing or punctuation errors as i am drafting them on my mobile phone.

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Shalini Pandey

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