Bharadwaja, also referred to as Bharadvaja was one of the revered Vedic sages (rishi) in Ancient India, who was a renowned scholar, economist and an eminent physician. His contributions to the ancient Indian literature, mainly in Puranas and Rig Veda, played a significant role in giving an insight to the then Indian society. He and his family of students are considered the authors of the sixth book of the Rigveda. Bharadwaja was father of warrior Brahmin Dronacarya, a main character in Mahabharata who was an instructor to both Pandava and Kaurava princes. He was grandfather of Asvatthama, a legendary warrior in Mahabharata. Both Droncharya and Ashwatthama fought in different battles of Mahabharata alongside Kauravas. Bharadwaja is also mentioned in Charaka Samhita, an authoritative ancient Indian text on medicine.
He is one of the Saptarisi (seven great sages or Maharis). His full name in Vedic texts is Bharadvaja Barhaspatya, the last name referring to his father and Vedic sage Brihaspati. His mother was Utathya. He is one of the seven rishis mentioned four times in the Rigveda as well as in the Shatapatha Brahmana, thereafter revered in the Mahabharata and the Puranas. In later Puranic legends, he is stated to be the son of Vedic sage Atri.
In Buddhist Pali canonical texts such as Digha Nikaya, Tevijja Sutta describes a discussion between the Buddha and Vedic scholars of his time. The Buddha names ten rishis, calls them “early sages” and makers of ancient verses that have been collected and chanted in his era, and among those ten rishis is Bharadvaja.
The ancient Hindu medical treatise Charaka Samhita attributes Bharadvaja learning medical sciences from god Indra, after pleading that “poor health was disrupting the ability of human beings from pursuing their spiritual journey”, and then Indra provides both the method and specifics of medical knowledge.
The word Bharadvaja is a compound Sanskrit from “bhara(d) and vaja(m)”, which together mean “bringing about nourishment”.
Bharadvaja is the third in the row of the Pravara Rishi’s (Aangirasa, Barhaspatya, Bharadvaja) and is the first in the Bharadvaja Gotri’s with the other two also being initiators of Gotra’s with their respective names.
Bharadvaja and his family of students are the authors of the sixth mandala of the Rigveda, one of the “family books” in this text. He and his students are also the attributed authors of other Rigvedic hymns such as 10.87, 10.152 and 10.155. Bharadvaja and his famiy of students were the traditional poets of king Marutta of the Vedic era, in the Hindu texts.
Bharadvaja is a revered sage in the Hindu traditions, and like other revered sages, numerous treatises composed in ancient and medieval era are reverentially named after him. Some treatises named after him or attributed to him include:
Dhanur-veda, credited to Bharadvaja in chapter 12.203 of the Mahabharata, is an Upaveda treatise on archery.
Bharadvaja samhita, a Pancharatra text (an Agama text of Vaishnavism).
Bharadvaja srautasutra and grhyasutra, a ritual and rites of passage text from 1st millennium BCE. After the Kalpasutra by Baudhayana, these Bharadvaja texts are among the oldest srauta and grhya sutras known.
Sections in Ayurveda. Bharadvaja theories on medicine and causal phenomenon is described in Charaka Samhita. Bharadvaja states, for example, that an embryo is not caused by wish, prayers, urging of mind or mystical causes, but it is produced from the union of a man’s sperm and menstrual blood of a woman at the right time of her menstrual cycle, in her womb. According to Gerrit Jan Meulenbeld, Bharadvaja is credited with many theories and practical ideas in ancient Indian medicine.
Niti sastra, a treatise on ethics and practical conduct.
Bharadvaja-siksa, is one of many ancient Sanskrit treatises on phonetics.
Epics and Puranic mythologies
An 18th-century painting of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakmana with sage Bharadvaja
In the Vishnu Purana, Bharadwaja had a brief liaison with an apsara named Ghritaci, and together they had a baby who grew up into warrior-Brahmin named Dronacarya linked to Asvatthama. Bhardvaja is a gotra (family lineages) of the Brahmin caste.
According to one legend, Bharadvaja married Sushila and had a son called Garga. In the Mahabharata, he has a son with an apsara named Ghritachi, and this son is called Dronacharya. In the epic, Bharadvaja trained Drona in the use of weapons.
Bharadwaja had a daughter called Katyayani, who married Yajnavalkya.
In the epic Ramayana, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana meet Bharadvaja at his asrama (hermitage) at the start of their fourteen-year exile. The sage asks them to stay with him through the exile, but they insist on going deeper into the forest to Chitrakuta which is three kosla away from ashram. Bharadvaja gives them directions. Also Bharath along with Sumanth received at Ashram by Bharadvaja while Bharath went on to forest in search of Lord Ram for re-union and to bring Lord Rama, Sita and Laxmana back to Ayodhya. He reappears at various times in the epic. According to James Lochtefeld, the Bharadvaja in the Ramayana is different from the Vedic sage mentioned in Panini’s Ashtadhyayi.