My ancestral house in Varanasi is located in Bharata Milap Colony, named after Bharata Milap that is celebrated near my residence every year in October/November the day following Dussehra on Ekadashi of Ashwin month. Yesterday was Ganga Dussehra and today is also Ekadashi.
Bharata Milap is held at Nati Imli, Varanasi with great fanfare and devotion to commemorate Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and his reunion with his younger brother, Bharata.
Thousands gather in the streets near my colony to see the processions of Lord Rama and Bharata and their reunion. People pay their respect by putting tilak on the forehead and garlanding Lord Rama and his brothers.
Another interesting part of the Bharata Milap celebration is the presence of Kashi Naresh (Former King of Kashi) with all his royal paraphernalia and regal finery.
The question is why so much importance is attached to Bharata Milap. The answer lies in one of the greatest and most beautiful characters in the Ramayana, Shri Bharata, Lord Rama’s younger half-brother.
Bharata was in his uncle’s kingdom, when his mother Kaikeyi got her two boons invoked from King Dasharatha that Rama should be exiled for 14 years and that Bharata become the ruler instead.
When Bharata learned of Rama’s exile, he was shocked and angered at the idea that he should take Ayodhya’s throne. He lost respect and failed to forgive his mother, Kaikeyi for her cunningness. He went to bring Rama back from the forests, but Rama declined on the grounds that such a deed would be unrighteous.
Heavily disappointed, he agreed to govern Ayodhya, not as its ruler, but as Rama’s representative. He placed Rama’s Paduka (footwear) and ruled Ayodhya in his stead for 14 years. He neither sat upon the throne nor crowned himself.
Bharata’s reign was righteous, and the kingdom was safe and prosperous. Like Rama, he was also the symbol of dharma, idealism and sacrifice. But he continuously longed for Rama’s return. Bharata lived in a simple hut, like on ascetic at Nandigrama near Ayodhya during his rule.
Upon Rama’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, Bharata led the procession to greet his elder brother, Rama with tears in his eyes. That’s the essence and spirit of Rama-Bharata Milap.