Bharata and Rahugana

An ancient tale in contemporary times

Once, king of Sindhusauvira, Rahugana was going in a palanquin to have darshana of divine sage Kapila. He intended to get instructions from the sage about spiritual knowledge, for his thirst for spiritual awareness increased each moment. While he was going along the bank of river Iksumati, the bearers of the palanquin, after a long journey, were tired and so they were looking out for a man who could provide some relief one by one.

With the grace of great providence that they came across a wise brahmin. He was stout, strong, and quite young with a muscular body. They thought that he could carry a donkey load and therefore, they forcibly employed that brahmin for carrying palanquin. They did not worry that it was humiliating to a learned brahmin. That brahmin silently carried palanquin without complaint but the technique and walk of other palanquin-bearers differed from the brahmin who carefully examined the ground before taking a step ahead and thus, he measured a distance of three feet only each time he took a step.

The king soon realized that something was wrong in the manner of lifting palanquin as he felt the bearers carried unsteadily and erratically, and so gave jerks to him.

He said to the bearers, “Move properly. Why do you carry palanquin inconsistently, O bearers? Make smooth lifting.”

The bearers were afraid of the punishment because of the faulted carrying of palanquin. One of the bearers said meekly, “O king, we are not slipshod and careless. We are lifting palanquin quite befittingly as it should be. A new bearer, just recruited is not keeping pace with us. Therefore, we are unable to keep pace and so palanquin appears unsteady.”

Hearing piteous words, the king thought and analyzed that the fault of one man, at times, travels to others. If new man is not stopped, others will get some ailment of taking wrong steps thus jeopardizing easy and relaxed journey. Despite noble thoughts, a ksatriya’s psyche crept in and because of rajas – (qualities born of passion, energy and adventure), anger and annoyance filled Rahugan.

To the learned brahmin whose divine radiance was hidden and was not obvious like fire, he said showing sympathy, “O brother, it is a pity, you are exhausted. It appears you carry palanquin alone without any help from other bearers. Now, you are fatigued. You do not look very stout or healthy. Old age is oppressive and therefore, you are not tough and muscular. ”

Learned brahmin, a realized soul appeared to have become one with the infinite and was devoid of any feeling of I or mine. He considered body as concatenation, an inseparable linkage of organs and limbs, where five gross elements and ten senses/organs (like eyes, ears, nose. etc of perception and action) had lost existence for him as cultured brahmin had attained complete detachment and equanimity. Everything in the world of the visible had lost relevance, and internally feelings and thoughts born of mind, heart and intellect had become dead for the brahmin, for he was now totally devoted to Him alone.


King got infuriated after sometime when he observed that his words had no effect and the bearers still carried palanquin unsteadily causing discomforts.

To teach a lesson, he said curtly, “Array, what is this? Are you living? It looks you are as good as dead since you ignore and disobey instructions? It looks you are nervous and hotheaded. I think I should punish you like Yama and correct your perversity. I do not approve of this transgression.”

Rahuganahad a temperament that was a mix of rajas and tamas (earthly infatuation/creation and destructive/obsessive) qualities and so he began to talk irrelevantly without any decency. Thus, he displayed great disrespect to the brahmin. Perhaps, the king was not acquainted with the queer and deluding way of yogis. The brahmin was silent for a long time.

He heard words of a great king and therefore, he said with an even mind, “O king whatever you said just now, is truth. It is not ironical. If there is some load, on the body, it is for a man who carries and if there is a path, it is for a man who walks. If someone is fat and sturdy, it is body and not the soul inside. Wise people do not talk like this. I say a man like you, is not expected to be impertinent. You understand what I told you. Load has a subtle meaning and so also path symbolizes another meaning.”

He knew that the king understood the difference in the meanings of the words he uttered, and so he did not elucidate.

Nevertheless, after a pause, he resumed, “O king, understand subtleties of meanings when you speak of the gross and the subtle. You should also comprehend the meaning of stoutness and leanness of body. What is the precise meaning of ailments, worries, hunger and thirst, fears and strife, desire and old age, sleep and attachment to the pleasure of senses, anger and vanity arising out of egotism and grief you ought to understand. I hold that distortions in conduct appear only in a man who is born with feelings of identification with the body.”

He was quiet for some time and possibly waited for an appropriate response. None spoke and the journey continued.

Learned brahmin, took steps cautiously and then, said in measured soft words, “When you identify with the soul, the self these words have different meanings and take you to divine lands but when you offer worldly meanings these ensnare and make lives miserable. This I explain and so I understand. O king, if you think you are the master, what do you expect me to do? What service I should render? What objective you are going to attain? I know what is going on in your mind. By reproaching, correcting or teaching a lesson, you are not behaving like a king. What will you gain by punishing me? If I am a fool, a stupid, a conceited, a nervous fellow, then it is again like grinding flour, which is worthless and outlandish. For, I am steadfast internally and externally.”

Thus, wise brahmin spoke in measured words exhibiting tranquil and calm nature. The king understood clearly that brahmin was not a captive of ignorance and did not harbour love for identification with the body and that was a reason he nurtured no feeling of animosity or friendliness while carrying palanquin. King of Sindhu and Sauvira was in a contemplative countenance, for a brahmin spoke words that desired intensity of understanding since words contained hidden meanings.


He realized that brahmin was fit to resolve puzzle of ignorance that continued to exist in the hearts of created beings bringing sufferings born of ego and pride. However, the king cherished genuine faith and true ability to enquire into the truth of life. Expecting imminent curse from the brahmin, he did not wish to annoy a learned brahmin. Therefore, he alighted from the palanquin and stood on the ground. He was entirely bereft of arrogance and conceit of king of a vast kingdom.

He fell flat at the feet of learned brahmin and seeking forgiveness, spoke in a soft and humble voice, “O godlike brahmin, you have worn the sacred thread -a distinguishing mark made of a thread, which a learned brahmin wears. Who are you, O brahmin moving about so happily and disinterestedly? Are you among the Avadhutas (an avadhuta is one who has relinquished worldly feelings and obligations and lives as a recluse) from the pedigree of divine sages like Dattatreya (a Hindu deity, who speaks of trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva also known as Trimurti or the Supreme Soul) and others. Whose son you are? Where were you born and how have you arrived here? Have you come here for our deliverance or well-being?” He looked at the learned brahmin and thought for some time.

He resumed in soft words, “Are you not sage Kapila, a personified Sattva – (an embodiment of truth and righteousness)? I am neither afraid of the thunderbolt of Indra nor the trident of Shiva. I also do not fear the rod of punishment of Yama. I tell you that the weapons of fire god, sun god, moon god, wind god and lord of riches do not create fears in me. I speak out of no flattery but I tell you I am afraid of showing disrespect to the brahmins.”

After a short pause, he said again, “O great brahmin, please tell me who are you roaming about like a stupid fellow by hiding profound wisdom and power of self-knowledge and who is detached from worldly pleasures. I am unable to penetrate depth of your divine wisdom. O virtuous soul, you speak like a yogi and you are critical but this does not dispel suspicions I nurse within.”

While speaking above words, King Rahugana was apologetic, remorseful, submissive to the extent of being obsequious and pleading.

After a few moments, he spoke again, “I have been getting tired by doing karmas –acts, of varied nature and consequences. I fought for many years and incessant wars tired me out so I thought, while carrying this load you must be exhausted. I thought similar feelings of lethargy and fatigue must be troubling you while doing such laborious and burdensome work. I understand that the phenomenal world too, ought to contain some reality at the bottom, for otherwise, I feel, it would be devoid of any utility or benefit. To tread a path of truth is right. No one can bring water in a non-existing pitcher.” Rahugana turned a little philosopher it appeared.


He told learned brahmin, “Like cooked rice in the pot, men get mature and attain knowledge of the self. One puts water in the pot, it boils and then, as rice is poured into the pot, it boils again and ultimately rice is worth eating”.

He continued, “This means that heat is transmitted. A play of identification with body as well as the senses of perceptions and organs of activities it is. Mind and heart define, understand and experience feelings of fatigue, heat and cold. These feelings and sensations travel to inner self, the soul and therefore, life is conditioned. Subtle feelings of heat, hearing, seeing and touch offer different meanings. You are quite aware. It is all a matter of service to the body, to the lord and ultimately to the great Lord, who, creates, preserves and destroys.”

King gave expression to feeling and thoughts, for he was a man of wisdom in search of spiritual knowledge but when a brahmin on the way met and behaved in an unpredictable manner, it became unbearable for the mighty king.

After initial anger, wisdom dawned upon and he desired true self-knowledge to get rid of delusions. He deduces that carrying of load by a learned man of wisdom and tapa is also like offering prayer to the Lord. Doing one’s duties with devotion is worship. King was extremely regretful of humiliation he had inflicted upon a brahmin and now every hurting thought and feeling waned. Wise brahmin cast a benign look at him so that he is purified of sins. Thus, a king in total modesty felt penitent at his conduct and wanted mercy and blessing from a brahmin of tapa.

That brahmin (Bharat) was quite soft and humble when he told king that a man of wisdom and learning never talked so much. King spoke of wisdom and self-knowledge for a long time as if to impress others. It did not speak well of a man of wisdom to talk of mundane relations while talking of absolute reality. Vedic teachings, heavenly enjoyments, and the means of obtaining form a wing of attaining knowledge. There, he talked about the Upanishads and further told that knowledge contained in holy books did prove adequate to reveal truth directly. Silence prevailed for some time as they looked at each other.


After a deep thought, he said, “So long mind of a man is dominated by the qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas it continues to stay unrestrained and yields him fruit which is either virtuous or sinful, and this he knows through sense of perception or action. Holy brahmin told mind was a conditioned venture of soul and therefore, identified with it and body and remained a storehouse of various impression, virtuous or sinful, and so he was also attached to the pleasures of the senses -the earthly existence, and was often disturbed by the above three qualities.

Thus, modes of Prakriti – nature, play a significant role in identifying. Brahmin continues his discourse on mind and matter. Mind is reason of besmirched state of mundane life, for this id guided by three qualities and it is the cause of liberation when a man goes beyond the horizons of three qualities and feels as if these did not exist. When mind is attached to the pleasures of life that are just another figurative shape or variation of three qualities, it leads man to sufferings and miseries and as already told if there is absence of the three, it is a life of beatitude, brahmin observes. Brahmin further tells how the organs of actions, senses of perception and ego, distress mind and if a man exercises complete control, he is liberated. Rahugana continued listening to words of wisdom of great Bharata who had appeared as a brahmin before him.

He stood speechless and could not find words to intercede. Bharata, a brahmin told him, “A man is an embodied soul and it continues to revolve in whirlpool of mundane existence so long it does not realize true nature of Self. a man achieves this state of mind only when he shakes off illusions, maya –delusory potency, and stops identification with the body.” Deep wisdom of a brahmin enthralled him.


One would be able to stay away from embodied relationship of living beings with the strength of wisdom, brahmin revealed. Further, he will shatter to tiny fragments or rather exterminate enemies, who continue to haunt a man with feelings of anger, greed, lust, infatuation, arrogance and jealousy. If he does not, then mind shall remain conditioned to uninterrupted succession of grief, infatuation, disease, attachment, greed and animosity and so enemies like ‘Mine and I’ will chase driving man to cycle of birth and death.

Knowledge of self is possible when one concentrates at the holy feet of Lord he explains. Great brahmin’s teaching on how to get rid of infatuation of worldly pleasures opens up gates of divine glimpses before the eyes of the king but still his thirst to know more had not quenched.

One infers that the king symbolizes aspirations of an embodied being to get out of the snares of earthly charms, fascination and pleasures, which do not lead to salvation but shackle mind and body more and more cruelly and bring sufferings to human beings. Everyone living on this earth encounters this dilemma. Sufferings and miseries in the world are result of enslavement to three dangerous qualities namely modes of the Prakriti.

If sattva gunas guide and govern mind and heart of a man while suppressing or killing inclination to rajas and tamas, life will be happy and automatically, will lead to deliverance. In fact, Bharat a poor brahmin, conveys this message of the ‘Self. King Rahugana made another appeal to brahmin to elucidate his teaching pregnant with deep spiritual import making it more intelligible and understandable.

Holy brahmin said, “A man remains under constant delusion and thinks that he is doer of everything around. It is not so. He always lives in illusions, and a state of dreams makes him lethargic, inapt and impotent to know mystery of life on earth and beyond. Phenomenal existence is a creation of Maya, a creative energy of the Lord with wide-ranging qualities and identities such as substance -the gross elements, nature -the mutability of phenomena, predisposition and Time Spirit, which disturb symmetry of three qualities and karma –good/virtuous or evil destiny. O king, consciousness is alone, pure and absolute without inside or outside one ought to understand.

He continued to say after a pause, “O king, one does not attain heightened consciousness through asceticism or Vedic rituals or feeding food and giving essential offerings to the needy and the poor. This is unworkable through performance of religious duties or yajnas pertaining to household life where entertaining a guest or serving an afflicted or suffering is involved. It is not a study of Vedas or Upanishads or worship of gods or goddesses or lords of water, fire, sun or any other god but it is sprinkling one’s body with the dust of holy feet of exalted souls, and therefore, O king, concentrate on the feet of the great Lord, a holy karma.”


Curiosity of Rahuguna subsided at last when he said, “It is therefore, out of fear that I move about with a detached mind. I roam about in disguise without attachment, as fears do not permit me to associate the Self with anyone. I severe ties of infatuation with wisdom attained at the feet of blessed and exalted souls who attained godly consciousness, I will reach the highest goal.” Ragugana’s words exhibited faith and confidence in the Supreme Lord and began having glimpses of a pure Self.

Rahuganacontinuous probing satisfied him in the end. Having realized the true nature of the Supreme Spirit, as taught by a saintly soul brahmin, Jadabharata, Rahuguna -a great king of Sindhu and Sauvira territories, felt calmness and serenity when darkness of inner-self was dispelled. He felt purified as false wisdom, ego and pride born out of earthly existence vanished.

Without waiting for a moment, he shed wrong notions, feelings, thoughts and other inessentials created through ignorance and infatuation with worldly life growing in his mind. Now, he realized that nothing than the body seemed transitory and therefore, likely to perish. This understanding becomes possible when one dedicates life to the Supreme. Thus, Rahuguna was guided to a path of salvation.

Attachment to worldly pleasures of the senses and the materialistic aspirations and reflections bring miseries and inner dilemmas in life of a man. If he is able to stand apart, does assigned worldly duties with the consciousness of modes of Prakriti and adheres to the truth and dharma, he can definitely live life of harmony and prosperity. In the present scenario of violence, greed and corruption with predominance of Rajas and Tamas gunas, if one guards properly, life has meaning and purpose.

Source: Srimad Bhagavata-Mahapurana


More by :  P C K Prem

Top | Hinduism

Views: 3675      Comments: 2

Comment Thanks for the question. I understand it refers to Bharata

Please see email and also I would request

the readers to refer to chapters 7 to 12 of BK V

of the great Mahapurana. It will not only elucidate but

satisfy many other related questions/anxieties.

p c k

02-Apr-2014 08:22 AM

Comment I came across this site. Can I have the answer for the question, What is the previous birth of King Rahugna? Thanking you in advance.

01-Apr-2014 04:12 AM

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