Bharata or Lakshmana? Who was born first?

In the Ramayana, it is quite clear that Lakshmana is the avatara of Sesha. While there are a few different narrations regarding Bharata and Shatrughna, Sri Madhwacharya has clarified in his Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya that it was Kama who took birth as Bharata and that Aniruddha was born as Shatrughna.

(Note: In the Mahabharata Kama and Aniruddha were born as Pradyumna and Aniruddha, the son and grandson of Sri Krishna respectively)

In the Dvaita discussion forums, an active topic of discussion has been the order of birth of the three siblings of Sri Rama. While there is zero dispute regarding their relative hierarchy – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna – there has been considerable debate about the order in which the brothers of Sri Rama were born.

One argument is in line with what appears to be the statement in Valmiki Ramayana – Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna – in that order.

A second point of view says that the order was Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna.

Sri Madhwacharya, in his Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya, says the following:

तावेव जातौ भरतश्च नाम्ना शत्रुघ्न इत्येव च रामतोsनु |
पूर्वं सुमित्रातनयश्च शेषः स लक्ष्मणो नाम रघूत्तमादनु ||

These (Pradyumna and Aniruddha – from previous shloka) were themselves born as Bharata and Shatrughna after Rama. He who was Shesha earlier was born as Sumitra’s son Lakshmana after Rama.

As we can see Sri Madhwacharya has left room for considerable debate and discussion by adding the phrase “raamataH anu” in the first line and “Raghuttamaadanu” in the second.

Rama’s Birth

From the shloka in Valmiki Ramayana, it is quite clear that Sri Rama was born in Chaitra Masa when Sun was in Mesha, on Navami Tithi, in Punarvasu nakshatra in Karkataka Lagna.

The ‘Sangraha Ramayana’ written by Sri Narayana Panditacharya (a well respected and pramana grantha in the Dvaita sampradaya) also fully agrees with this.

Bharata and Lakshmana’s Birth

Sri Vadiraja Tirtha, in his Bhavaprakashika commentary on the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya says, in no uncertain terms, that it was Bharata who was born immediately after Sri Rama. Lakshmana and Shatrughna, he says, came next.

To those who state that Lakshmana was born first, the statement of Sri Vadiraja Tirtha seems contradictory to what is apparently stated in the Sangraha Ramayana and they try to do samanvaya of both. The reason is that, in the Sangraha Ramayana, the shloka describing Lakshmana’s birth comes first and then the shlokas describing the birth of Bharata and Shatrughna follow.

Let us first see what Valmiki Ramayana says about this:

पुष्ये जातस्तु भरतो मीनलग्ने प्रसन्नधीः |
सार्पे जातौ तु सौमित्री कुलीरेsभ्युदिते रवौ ||

The ever pleasant Bharata was born in Pushya nakshatra, in meena lagna; The two sons of Sumitra were born in the nakshatra of the Sarpa (Ashlesha) in Kulira in Abhyudita-Sun”

I have deliberately retained the words Kulira and Abhyudita because we discuss them next.

In the Sangraha Ramayana we find the following shloka describing the birth of Lakshmana (note the extreme similarity of the second half with the above shloka from Valmiki Ramayana):

अनन्तोsनन्तपर्यङ्कः परिचर्यार्थमीशितुः |
सर्पभेsजनि सौमित्रिः कुलीरेsभ्युदिते रवौ ||

Ananta, who was the bed of Sri Ananta (Vishnu) in order to serve him was born as the son of Sumitra in the nakshatra of Sarpa (Ashlesha) in Kulira in Abhyudita-Sun”

Here too I have retained the words Kulira and Abhyudita in the translation.

Those who consider Lakshmana as the first born interpret Kulire-Abhyudite-Ravau as “When Sun was rising in the Karkataka rashi”. The interpretation is that Lakshmana was born four months later in Ashada masa when Sun was in Karkataka. And that Bharata was born in an even subsequent month on a Pushya nakshatra day.

But the word Ravau is in saptami vibhakti. So it would be difficult to fit in the above translation. If we still consider the word Abhyudite to mean Rising then the translation would end up being “In Karkataka in a rising sun” which does not make a good translation. There is no need to mention Abhyudite since Kulire already indicates Sun is present in Karkataka. So Abhyudite would become a redundant word.

On the other hand, the more commonly used meaning for Abhyudite is Prosperous or Exalted. Using that word the phrase translates to

“In Karkataka (lagna) in an exalted Sun”

This means that Laksmana’s Lagna was Karkataka but Sun was in exalted position i.e. Mesha Rashi which is the same month as when Sri Rama was born.

This meaning to the word Abhyudite also fits the flow of the shloka in Valimiki Ramayana. Notice the first part of the shloka.

पुष्ये जातस्तु भरतो मीनलग्ने प्रसन्नधीः |
सार्पे जातौ तु सौमित्री कुलीरेsभ्युदिते रवौ ||

Notice Sri Valmiki gives Bharata’s lagna in the first half of the shloka. It only makes sense that he also gives the lagna of the other two. Hence Kulire itself stands for Karkataka lagna and the words Abhyudite-Ravau means “In an exalted Sun” i.e. Mesha maasa.

Therefore, the order of birth would be

Sri Rama – Mesha Masa – Chaitra – Karkataka Lagna – Punarvasu nakshatra

Bharata – Mesha Masa – Chaitra – Meena Lagna – Pushya nakshatra

Lakshmana and Shatrughna – Mesha – Chaitra Masa – Karkataka Lagna – Ashlesha nakshatra

(Note that if Lakshmana is considered as being born prior to Bharata then we have to concede that Shatrughna too is elder to Bharata since they were twins. No one claims this).

So roughly twelve hours after Sri Rama’s birth Bharata was born (in Meena Lagna) and roughly 24 hours later (Karkataka Lagna again) the twins were born.

The order of the shlokas in Sangraha Ramayana can be safely considered as indicating the devata-taratamya (hierarchy of the avataras) and not that of birth.

Another clue to the interpretation

The conclusion that Bharata was born ahead of Lakshmana is supported by another shloka of Valmiki Ramayana. Sri Valmiki says that after 11 days of the birth(s) Dasharatha performed the namakarana ceremonies.

अतीत्यैकादशाहं तु नामकर्म तथाकरोत् |
ज्येष्टं रामं महात्मनं भरतं कैकयीसुतम् ||

After the passage of eleven days the King performed the namakarana (samskara); The eldest was named Rama and Kaikeyi’s son was named Bharata….

The simplest interpretation was that the namakarana of all the children were performed together thereby refuting the theory that Lakshmana was born four months later (and Bharata even later).

However, one argument is still possible. One could say that Valmiki was stating that each namakarana was conducted eleven days after their respective births.

This too, however, can be refuted.

According to Smritis, the asoucha period whenever a Kshatriya is born is twelve days and not eleven.

दशाहं द्वादशाहं च पक्षं मासमनुक्रमात् |
ब्रह्मक्षत्रियविट् शूद्रवर्णानां पूर्णसूतकम् ||

For brahmins it (jaata-asoucha) is ten days; For kshatriyas it is twelve; For vaishyas it is one paksha (fifteen days) and for shudras it is one month

Therefore, when Sri Valmiki says that the namakarana was performed after eleven days, it falls short by one day since the same should have been performed after twelve days.

The reason why it is still accurate is that Sri Valmiki was counting eleven days from the birth of Lakshmana-Shatrughna.

Note from above that Bharata was born twelve hours after Sri Rama (same day) and Lakshmana-Shatrughna was born 24 hours later (one day later).

Smritis say that if a particular asoucha is underway and a new asoucha comes and if the newer asoucha is of the same duration as the previous one, then the new one ends along with the first (old) one itself.

यदा पूर्वजातकेन तुल्यं अल्पं वा जातकं प्राप्तं तत्र पूर्वेण जातकेन द्वितीयं जातकं शुद्यति |

(Source: Smritimuktavali)

If a sutika is in progress and another sutika that is equal in duration or lesser comes then the second one gets completed along with the first one.

When Sri Rama was born a twelve day asoucha period started. When Lakshmana-Shatrughna were born the next day, another twelve day asoucha started. However, according to the above rule, the second asoucha ends with the first one which means it ends in just eleven days.

Hence the statement in Valmiki Ramayana that after eleven days (after the birth of Lakshmana-Shatrughna) the namakarana samskaras were performed.

Such a statement is not possible if Sri Rama was born in Mesha Masa and Lakshmana was born in Ashada Masa.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, there is no doubt that the explanation of Sri Vadiraja Tirtha has to be accepted, and the shlokas of the Sangraha Ramayana have to be subjected to samanvaya so they fit in with the explanation of Sri Vadiraja Tirtharu.

Sri Krishnarpanamastu.

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