Bharthari, also known as Bharthar Yogi was the king of Ujjain. He renounced his kingdom under the tutelage of Gur Gorakhnath, the founder of the Nath Panth Yogis and the founder of Hatha Yoga. The Nath Panth Yogis find mention in many Indian folklore. The word Nath which comes from Sanskrit; and literally means ‘protector’ or ‘master’.
King Bharthari’s queen was called Rani (queen) Pingla. It is said that the King was out for a hunt one day and he saw a woman jump into the funeral pyre of her husband (practice of Sati* in these times) as her grief would not let her stay alive. King Bharthari was moved and this incident stayed in his mind. When he returned to his palace, he told the story to Rani Pingala and asked her out of his curiosity if she would do the same.
Rani Pingala said that she would die on hearing the news itself. Bharthari decided to test her and went on a hunt once again and sent the news of his death back to the palace. The queen died on hearing the news as she had promised. The King was very grief-stricken about what he had done.
Gur Gorakhnath heard about the grief of the King and came to help him overcome his grief.
The King gave up his kingdom and renounced the world. All that he was attached to could only give him sadness, so giving it up would take that possibility away.
During his ascetic life, Bharthar Yogi had to beg for alms from house to house. The first time feeling shame, he started to cry out loud. Till yesterday, he thought, he was a giver - a King - and now he had to go around asking small amounts of flour.
He was still a very determined man so he accepted all. He was the a very good sadhak (practitioner) under the tutelage of Gorakhnath. He found many Siddhis (unimaginable accomplishments) and was regular practitioner of Pranayama.
However, he had still not found his peacefulness.
RELAVANCE & MORAL
Guru Nanak explains the situation of Bharthar Yogi with the metaphor of a Lotus flower.
“Jal te upje, Jal te door
jal main jot reya bharpoor
sun Bhartar, Nanak kahe vichaar
Nirmal Naam mera aadhaar”
Learn from this Lotus flower, he says.
It is born from this water, it is living from this water - but it did not drown in it.
Guru Nanak had to say, you don’t have to leave your kingdom, your wife and renounce everything to be in a state of detachment from it.
* Sati was a an evil practice where women were to jump into the funeral pyre of the husband.