King Nabhi belonged to Solar dynasty. It is the clan in which Lord Rama took birth as the son of Dasaratha, it is also known as Ikshvaku dynasty.
King Nabhi and his queen Merudevi did not have issues for a long time and this caused deep worry to him as he wanted to have a progeny that is worthy of their linage and then he also wanted to pursue the spiritual inquiry.
He prayed to Sriman Narayana and He readily agreed to his earnest appeal and
said that as His amsabhuta a son would be born to him. Thus the King Nabhi got
a son called Rishabhadeva!
Incidentally the Jains too claim Rishabhadeva to be their first theerthankar, the first guru.
Rishabhadeva grew up to be proficient in Vedas, sastras, and all the skills required of an emperor. His benevolence and forbearance and his administrative abilities and his courage made his subjects demand the King Nabhi to confer the ruler ship on Rishabhadeva.
The king too agreed and made Rishabhadeva the King. Then the kingdom was known as Ajanabha and later named as Ayodhya. He got married to a princess called Jayanthi and begot one hundred sons and foremost of them was Bharata, and after this son our nation is called Bharata varsha!
The King Rishabhadeva went to the nearby forest Brahmavartha and there he called all his sons and instructed them on virtues, and importance of worship of Lord Sriman Narayana and then told them to install Bharta as the king and engage themselves in service of the King and that would satisfy him. All his sons did as they were told and King Bharata was made the King.
The erstwhile King Rishabhadeva retired to the forest and lead a life of mendicant and Yogi and was above the normal material lifestyle. He did not care for personal hygiene as his body was not afflicted by waste! What he would pass was unnatural and exuded in fragrance that some times filled the entire forest.
He would lie down there itself and gave an impression that he was a mad man. But the ascetics knew that he was a Yogi par excellence!
Then there was a sudden forest fire that engulfed the forest where Rishabhadeva was meditating and his material body too was consumed by that fire. Thus ended, the glorious period of Rishabhadeva.
As instructed, Bharata ruled his kingdom for many years along with his brothers. He got married to Panchajani daughter of a nearby Kingdom’s ruler called Viswarupa. He had five sons foremost among them was Sumati. He handed over the reins to him and retired to the forest in the Himalayas and reached the Pulahasrama, where he would engage himself in prayers and pooja of Sriman Narayana and he used to collect flowers from the nearby garden and also take bath in the nearby lake.
He was an ascetic. One day when he was thus taking bath he saw a female deer drinking water from the lake and just then a lion roared and the frightened deer who was pregnant got terrified and jumped about in water and the young one from her womb slipped and fell into the waters!
Still terrified deer reached the other bank and went into a cave and gave up her body in sorrow and fear! Bharatha watched all this and saw the just born baby deer struggling to survive and took pity on it and rescued and tended and nursed it to regain its health. Gradually he became attached to it and started showing love and affection to it.
This was contrary to his present status of his life of a mendicant! He became so infatuated with his new found companion he would not live for moment without it. One day the deer went into the forest and never returned and Bharatha got so worried he forgot all about his worship and went in search of it lamenting and crying! Soon he saw the footprints disappear, this made him heartbroken and he presumed that the deer was dead and became tired and confused and slipped in the mountain path and fell down the valley.
There a snake bit him and when he was about to shed his mortal coil he found his deer too next to him fondly looking at him and sad at the prospect of his death.
Thinking of that deer he died! He was soon to be born again upon this earth as a deer.
But due to the austerities that he had followed, he remembered all about his past life unlike normal animal. The deer chose to live in an asrama of a Rishi in the forest and used to lead a secluded life unlike other animals.
As time passed grew old and when the time for its departure came it went to the nearby stream and stood in the middle and gave up its body!
He was born again as a son of a Brahmin in a village near the Himalayan mountains. He was named Bharata again by his father!
As he had curly locks he was known as Jata Bharata!
Right from the young age he showed signs of a gyani. It took no interest in the material life and was quite indifferent towards family life. His poor father performed sacred thread ceremony thinking that it would bring about welcome change in the boy’s behavior but to no avail. He lead a life of a nomad, and cared not for his own needs and took scanty food, and started roaming in a state of ecstasy!
Soon his brothers too started abusing him and called him mad man, though well built he would not engage in any work but simply will be lost in trance and suddenly wake up and roam in the forest.
One day he was captured by the tribal men who worshipped Kali caught him and thought it fit to offer him as a sacrifice to the deity by killing him in a ritual. Soon they bathed him and dressed him up in fresh clothes and fed him and adorned him with garlands and took him to the altar of sacrifice and as soon as the tribal chieftain raised his sword to cut his head, the deity appeared in person from the image in the temple and was furious over the incident that was about to be enacted.
She took the sword and killed all the assembled tribes’ men and with a eerie laugh disappeared in a jiffy. As though nothing happened Jata Bharatha walked back to his dwelling in the forest. Sooner he was given up by his family.
During that time the King of the nearby Kingdom, called Rahuguna wanted to visit the hermitage of sage Kapila. The palanquin bearers were summoned and when they were proceeding thus one of them fell sick and had to be substituted. King ordered his men to find a suitable replacement.
They soon searched the forest for a fit person and came across Jada Bharatha and took him to the King, and he was ordered to carry the palanquin. Without any murmur Jata bharatha did what he was ordained, while traversing he saw many ants passing across the forest floor, since he felt one with the entire cosmos he could not consciously hurt them by stamping his foot upon them.
So he jumped, this caused great discomfort to the King seated inside. This repeated several times and the King got annoyed and stopped the palanquin and reprimanded the bearers, they fearing the King’s wrath told him that the newly recruited bearer is the cause for this hardship. Immidiately the king spoke angrily to Jata Bharatha and told him that he was a brute and blind and mad.
With a stern warning he allowed the journey to proceed. After a while the same thing happened and the King got hurt on his head. He stopped them and angrily and got out and was in a rage to punish the culprit. He asked him almost in a shouting voice, why even after his warning he was so careless? He further told him that he is carrying a king and not an ordinary person and the punishment for such a mistake would be capital!
Jata Bharatha was not at all amused about the whole affair and calmly replied that why the person was getting so furious! He further asked who was being carried ? and who carrying whom? Since he was sitting inside that carriage the carriage was carrying him, and that carriage was being carried by these men, and these men were being carried by the earth through its support. Who is to be blamed now? He asked !
Then the King spoke and told him since he was looking strong and able he was drafted to carry the King, why was he behaving like this in the middle of the forest ? Bharatha replied that he is not the physical body, body is known by its parts like hands, legs, head and so on. If one would separate them as individual parts then where is the person he was referring to? He also said that soul never has any burden can never be strong or weak and never experiences fruits of action like the body does and the body has no intelligence of its own! Suddenly King realized that he is talking to a realized soul and not an ordinary person, and soon he calmed down and spoke with reverence and asked him who he really was?
Now Jata Bharatha took pity on the King’s ignorance and considering his pious nature and earnestness in seeking knowledge, revealed to him that he is a saint and took him as his disciple and taught him the highest truth about God! Soon the King became realized and turned into an ascetic!
This story teaches us to be level headed and while taking decisions we should not depend on our emotional intelligence but use our discerning intellect. This also teaches us to avoid hasty conclusions that we arrive at looking at a person without inquiring his antecedents. Above all it teaches us how to behave in front of learned persons.