The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Bharata-varsa

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BY: SUN STAFF - 22.7 2019

King Bharata at play in his birthplace at Sage Kanva's asrama 
Illustration from Kalyana Kalpataru

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 28.

In Bhagavad Arka Marichi Mala, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur relates the glories of Bharata-varsha, as told by Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit:

kalpayusham sthanajayat punar-bhavat
kshanayusham bharata-bhujayo varam
kshanena martyena kritam manasvinah
sannyasya samyanty abhayam padam hareh

"A short life in the land of Bharata-varsha is preferable to a life achieved in Brahmaloka for millions and billions of years because even if one is elevated to Brahmaloka, he must return to repeated birth and death. Although life in Bharata-varsha, in a lower planetary system, is very short, one who lives there can elevate himself to full Krishna consciousness and achieve the highest perfection, even in this short life, by fully surrendering unto the lotus feet of the Lord. Thus one attains Vaikunthaloka, where there is neither anxiety nor repeated birth in a material body."

(Bhagavad Arka Marichi Mala, Chapter 15, 05.19.23 - Analysis of Unfavorable Conditions for Bhakti (bhakti pratikulya vicarah)

Before we summarize some of the key aspects of Bharata-varsha's name, origin, location and history, we share this passage from the Summary of Srimad Bhagavatam 5th Canto, 19th Chapter, entitled 'A Description of the Island of Jambudvipa'. Here, Srila Prabhupada describes the tremendous importance of taking birth on Bharata-varsha, which offers the devotee a rare opportunity for going back home, back to Godhead.

Srimad Bhagavatam 5.19 Summary

"When Devarsi Narada descended to instruct Sarvani Manu, he described the opulence of Bharata-varsa, India. Sarvani Manu and the inhabitants of Bharata-varsa engage in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the origin of creation, maintenance and annihilation and who is always worshiped by self-realized souls. In the planet known as Bharata-varsa there are many rivers and mountains, as there are in other tracts of land, yet Bharata-varsa has special significance because in this tract of land there exists the Vedic principle of varnasrama-dharma, which divides society into four varnas and four asramas.

Furthermore, Narada Muni's opinion is that even if there is some temporary disturbance in the execution of the varnasrama-dharma principles, they can be revived at any moment. The effect of adhering to the institution of varnasrama is gradual elevation to the spiritual platform and liberation from material bondage. By following the principles of varnasrama-dharma, one gets the opportunity to associate with devotees. Such association gradually awakens one's dormant propensity to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead and frees one from all the basic principles of sinful life. One then gets the opportunity to offer unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Vasudeva. Because of this opportunity, the inhabitants of Bharata-varsa are praised even in the heavenly planets. Even in the topmost planet of this universe, Brahmaloka, the position of Bharata-varsa is discussed with great relish.

All the conditioned living entities are evolving within the universe in different planets and different species of life. Thus one may be elevated to Brahmaloka, but then one must again descend to earth, as confirmed in Srimad Bhagavad-gita (abrahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino 'rjuna). If those who live in Bharata-varsa rigidly follow the principles of varnasrama-dharma and develop their dormant Krsna consciousness, they need not return to this material world after death. Any place where one cannot hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead from realized souls, even if it be Brahmaloka, is not very congenial to the living entity.

If one who has taken birth in the land of Bharata-varsa as a human being does not take advantage of the opportunity for spiritual elevation, his position is certainly the most miserable. In the land known as Bharatavarsa, even if one is a sarva-kama-bhakta, a devotee seeking the fulfillment of some material desire, he is freed from all material desires by his association with devotees, and ultimately he becomes a pure devotee and returns home, back to Godhead, without difficulty."