Book 5: Chapter 8
Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 5: Chapter 8: Verses 26-31
Troubled at heart with such fantastic ideas, Bharata (who was engaged in austerities for union with the Lord through Devotion and spiritual enlightenment) was diverted from the practices leading to such union as well as from (devotional) practices in the form of worship of the Lord by his own (evil) destiny appearing in the form of that young antelope ! Otherwise how could there appear (such a strong) attachment for the young of a deer, that belonged to a different species, in (the mind of) one who had already left his own sons, so difficult to part with, as a direct impediment to (the attainment of) final beatitude. While the royal sage Bharata was lost in self-oblivion, the practice of Yoga commenced by him having been thus interrupted, and his mind (ever) engrossed in the thought of nourishing, protecting, humouring and caressing the young deer, the hour of death, which is difficult to overpass and which approaches with terrible speed, arrived even as a serpent would run up to the hope of a rat. Continuing even at that time to look intently on the deer, that was lamenting by his side like a (real) son, with his thought fixed on that animal alone, Bharata, on quitting that body (the body of a royal sage) simultaneously with the deer, attained (in his next birth) the body of a deer as any other mortal would do (under similar conditions).
Of course the memory of his previous life did not leave him as did the dead body. Recollecting-by virtue of the sustained endeavours (in his previous existence) to propitiate the Lord-even in that incarnation the cause of his being reborn as a deer, and repenting bitterly, he said (to himself as follows):- "Oh, how painful it is that I have strayed from the path trodden by the self-poised in that, even though I had completely shaken off all attachments, and, strong-willed as I was, had retired to a lonely and holy forest, my mind-which had been wholly devoted to and thoroughly concentrated in Lord Vasudeva, the Self of all (individual) selves, in course of time, every hour of which was (fully) utilized through diligent application to sacred pursuits such as constantly listening to, fixing one's mind on and duly chanting His names and praises, worshipping Him and incessantly thinking of Him-slipped in no time after the young of a deer, a fool that I was." With this feeling of remorse fully disguised, Bharata (reincarnated as a deer) forsook his mother (the doe) and returned from (the mountain of) Kalanjara (his birth-place) to the hermitage of the sage Pulastya and Pulaha, also known by the name of Salagrama-Ksetra, a site consecrated to the Lord and a favourite resort of hermits naturally given to selfcontrol. Awaiting his death (every moment) and terribly afraid of attachment, he lived there too all by himself, subsisting on dry leaves, blades of grass and low shrubs and looking forward to the exhaustion of the stock of Karma responsible for his birth as a deer, and (eventually, when the hour of death arrived) cast off his bestial form, a part of which had been laid (by him) under the water of the holy river (Gandaki).
- Death with half of one's body immersed in the water of a holy river or lake or the ocean Is believed to confer great religious merit on the dying soul and the posture has been referred to in the scriptures under the name of Ardhajala. The great Bharata was evidently put in mind of this purificatory process while casting off the form of a deer.