Bharatamuni, on whom Indian dramaturgy owes a great debt and whose monumental work is said to be the earliest one in Indian dramaturgy, didn’t leave many clues on his biography. He is considered to be a sage and is dated to be from 2nd BCE to 2nd CE by the modern scholars. But nothing is traceable regarding his birth place. But I am hereby making a venture to trace the same by a single clue from his work “Nāṭya śāstra”.
In the third chapter, which is named as “Raṅgadaivata Pūjanam” gives the following hymn to offer to goddess Sarasvati.
देवि देवमहाभागे सरस्वति हरिप्रिये ।
प्रगृह्यतां बलिर्मातर्मया भक्त्या समर्पितः ॥ ५२॥
Oh Sarasvati!, oh Goddess, consort of God, beloved of Hari, Oh mother, please take the offering (Bali) offered by me with devotion.
Here, Sarasvatī is mentioned as Haripriyā – beloved one of Hari (Viṣṇu). Here arises the question. Sarasvatī is said to be the consort of Lord Brahmā. But here, Bharata mentions her as the consort of Viṣṇu. Though the answer is simple, the answer holds the key to identify the brith place of Bharata Muni.
The concept of Sarasvatī being the wife of Viṣṇu is explained in Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa which is considered to be of eastern Indian origin. The sixth chapter of Prakṛti Khaṇḍa of the Purāṇa gives the story.
लक्ष्मीस्सरस्वती गङ्गा तिस्रो भार्य्या हरेरपि ।।
प्रेम्णा समास्तास्तिष्ठन्ति सततं हरिसन्निधौ ।। १७ ।।
चकार सैकदा गङ्गा विष्णोर्मुखनिरीक्षणम्।।
सस्मिता च सकामा च सकटाक्षं पुनः पुनः।।१८।।
विभुर्जहास तद्वक्त्रं निरीक्ष्य च मुदा क्षणम् ।।
क्षमां चकार तद्दृष्ट्वा लक्ष्मी नैव सरस्वती।।१९।।
बोधयामास तां पद्मा सत्त्वरूपा च सस्मिता ।।
क्रोधाविष्टा च सा वाणी न च शान्ता बभूव ह ।। २० ।।
Viṣṇu had three wives viz Lakṣmī, Gaṅgā and Sarasvatī. They had love on the lord equally. Once Gaṅgā looked at the face of the lord with love. The lord also smiled at her. This was tolerated by Lakṣmī. But Sarasvati couldn’t tolerate this and she shouted at her husband stating that he shows partiality and showers love towards Gaṅgā and Lakṣmi where herself was left out. Those who praise him as an embodiment of “Sattva” are fools themselves.
Hearing these words, Viṣṇu went out and quarrel began among the wives. Sarasvatī cursed Lakṣmī to become a tree since she stood like a tree in the argument. Then she cursed Gaṅgā to become a river. But Lakṣmī didn’t get angry and she pacified both. Gaṅgā got angry and cursed Sarasvatī to become a river. Then Viṣṇu came and ordered Gaṅgā and Sarasvatī to become rivers and after their curse period they will be at Śivaloka and Brahmaloka as the consorts of śiva and Barhmā. Lakṣmī will remain the consort of Viṣṇu after getting birth as “Tulasī” plant.
Thus the story is found in Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa which is said to be originated from eastern India particularly from Bengal and Bihar. The sculptures of Viṣṇu found in east India have the figures of Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī as his consorts. There are number of instances to prove the same. Some of the icons found are shown below.
Hence it is very clear that, Bharata belongs to a region where Sarasvatī is considered to be the consort of Viṣṇu. Since Eastern India has the tradition, it won’t be wrong to say that probably Bharata belongs to that region.
Further, while asked for presentation, Bharata chooses “Tripura Dāha” (Torching of Three puras). Since story is said to be connected with the Tripura state, again the compass shows the same region.