Bharata was the second son of Dasharatha and the only born of Mother Kaikeyi, the daughter of the king of Kekaye Kingdom. He was married to Mandavi, a cousin of Sita. The Ramayana portrays the four brothers as extremely closely bonded to each other.
Bharata’s character is considered amongst the highest in The Ramayana, next only to that of Lord Rama. An extremely loyal and devoted brother, he never intended to rule Ayodhya as a king.
It’s only when Queen Kaikeyi, whose intellect and intentions were poisoned by her maid Manthara, sent Bharata away for a week away from Ayodhya, that she asked the two boons from King Dasharatha. Consequently Lord Rama was sent away for exile and Bharata was to be crowned as the new king. When Bharata returned home and discovered that Lord Rama had been exiled by his mother, his anger and sorrow were indescribable upon realising his mother’s intentions. In his anger, he even cursed his mother for thinking something so cruel and for executing it. He immediately left Ayodhya for the forest to meet him and request him to come back to Ayodhya and rule it as the rightful king.
However, Lord Rama, the ever abider of dharma, refused to come back to Ayodhya as it was his dharma to honour his father’s words. Even after hearing news of their father’s demise, Rama and Lakshmana refused to go back. Finally it was King Janaka, Sita’s father, who was able to convince Bharata to stop persuading Rama. King Janaka explained to him that as his love for his brother, Lord Rama is unparalleled, it is his duty to let Rama follow his dharma and that returning back to Ayodhya would not be right.
Reluctantly, Bharata returned to Ayodhya after receiving Rama’s promise to return home after their 14 years’ exile got over, and that Bharata would immolate himself if he delayed his return by even a day.
Furthermore, he decided to rule Ayodhya as Rama’s representative. Though the people of Ayodhya loved Bharata and were ready to accept him as their king, he placed Lord Rama’s sandals on the throne, signifying that he was not the King, but just the representative of Lord Rama, the rightful King. This act has made him an epitome of selfless dedication and love towards one’s siblings. Infact, when Rama decided to retire, Bharata and Shatrughna also joined him and walked into the river Sarayu with him.
During the 14 years of Rama’s exile, Bharata never forgave his mother Kaikeyi, and instead, served Kausalya (Rama’s mother) and Sumitra (Lakshman’s mother).
Under his reign, the kingdom was safe and prosperous. A proof of Bharata’s recognition in India is the Koodalman- ikyam Temple in Kerala, where Bharata is worshipped.