Bharat Mata means mother, and is also known as Mother India. It is called so, as it is the national personification of India as a mother goddess. She is usually depicted as a woman dressed in a saffron sari holding the Indian national flag, sometimes accompanied by a lion. Bharatha Mata refers to the mother of all lands where Bharathas may be found. To put it in simple terms, ‘Bharat’ is recognized by the constitution of India as an official name of the country and ‘Mata’ is simply the literal translation of ‘motherland’ into Hindi. Its the respect and the feeling of protection that it generates when equated to a mother that we see India being termed as Bharat Mata.
Some even believe in the mythology which led to this term. According to few superstitious and religious people, the Sanskrit word Bharat is a derivation of bharata. The term is of the Sanskrit root bhr- “to bear / to carry” (fire or agni), with a literal meaning of “to be maintained”. Mata is for goddess Sati whose 51 body parts fell on various places (known as Shakti peeth) in a landmass which defines ‘akhand bharat.’ Various legends explain how the Shakti Peetha came into existence. The most popular is based on the story of the death of the goddess Sati.
Out of grief and sorrow, Shiva carried Sati’s body, reminiscing about their moments as a couple, and roamed around the universe with it. Vishnu had cut her body into 51 body parts, using his Sudarshana Chakra, which fell on Earth to become sacred sites where all the people can pay homage to the Goddess. While this is the belief of few communities everyone has different viewpoints on how Bharat Mata came into being. Others believe it has nothing to do with religious significance but is solely related to the national pride of the country.
There are evidently many such instances when the countries are known by a Goddess or female personification like, Britannia of Britain, Columbia is female personification of the United States of America, Statue of Liberty emerged from Columbia, Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty, Mother Albania of Albania, Hispania of Spain and Mother Armenia of Armenia.
According to these examples, there is no religious connection to this national personification but was only done to invoke national pride in each country across the globe. Since majority of the country is religiously bound there are more religious and mythological theories on why our land is called Bharat Mata, than straightforward textbook theories. One says it is because in the olden days, in the medieval times, there was a king named Bharat who reigned the country for about 40 years and Mata due to divine of Lord Saraswati and vedic in our land.
Another theory says that, The Shrimad Bhagawatam explains India has been called Bharat since the birth of Bharatji, the eldest of the hundred sons of Rishabhdev Bhagwan and Jayanti. Bharat grew up to become an extremely robust, handsome, charming, brave, intelligent, just and noble king who reigned over the entire Bharatkhand – the continent of greater India believed to have stretched from present-day Turkey to Burma. So there is really no one explanation of why India is called Bharat Mata, it all really depends on which theory you want to believe.
For Indians, their motherland represents more than a piece of land. They see India with the love, respect and awe of a real mother. Like all mothers, Bharat Mata gave us our existence. She nurtures us, protects us, and sees to our holistic development. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the grains we eat, the cotton grown and made into the clothes we wear, the shelter and refuge we take, all these are ‘her’ loving gifts to us, her beloved children. And like all children, every proud Indian will lead their lives and one day leave on this same land. Many poets have literally personified Bharat Mata as a strong and dynamic holy figure – with quite some literary flare.
As proud and privileged children of Mother India, we pay homage to her sacrifices, and pledge our faithful allegiance to her values and heritage. Abanindranath Tagore portrayed Bhārat Mātā as a four-armed Hindu goddess wearing saffron-coloured robes, holding the manuscripts, sheaves of rice, a mala, and a white cloth. This is how we as Indians picture Bharat Mata even today. The image of Bharatmata was an icon to create a nationalist feeling in Indians during the freedom struggle. Another way of seeing it is, every living being is born from the womb of a mother.
She carries us inside her body for a period of time. Even after we are born, our mother feeds us with her milk, cleans us and keep us warm.Similarly, Bharat Mata provides us the soil in which we take birth. Provides us with a proper environment to grow up in, the other sons and daughters of this great land provides us with resources. That’s the little respect that we give to the great land of bharata by calling her our mother. The motto Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (“Victory for Mother India”) is used by the Indian Army even today.
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