The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 16 - Seven Continents (sapta-dvīpa)

Preliminary note:

Seven Continents: (1) Jambū (2) Śāka, (3) Kuśa, (4) Plakṣa, (5) Puṣkara, (6) Śālmali (7) Krauñca. A short description of these continents is. as follows:

(1) Jambū—It is the central one of the seven continents surrounding the mountain Meru, so called either from the Jambū trees abounding in it or from an enormous Jambū tree on Mount Meru visible like a standard to the whole continent. Sec S. M. Ali, Op. cit., chapters V-VII on Jambūdvīpa.

(2) Śāka can be identified with Malaya, Siam, Indo-China and Southern China or the South-Eastern corner of the land mass of which Jambūdvīpa occupied the centre.

(3) Kuśa included Iran, Iraq, the south-western comer of the land mass round Meru.

(4) Plakṣa identified with the basin of Mediterranian since Plakṣa or Pākhara tree is the characteristic of warm temperate or Mediterranian lands identifiable with Greece and adjoining lands.

(5) Puṣkara covered the whole of Japan, Manchuria and the south-eastern Siberia.

(6) Śālmala—the tropical part of Africa bordering the Indian Ocean on the West. It included Madagasgar—the Zenj of the Arab and Persian geographers, the Hariṇa of the Purāṇas and the Śaṃkhadvīpa of some other writers.

(7) Krauñca is represented by the basin of the Black Sea.

(8) Upadvīpas (sub-continents): (1) Bhārata (2) Kimpuruṣa (3) Harivarṣa (4) Ramyaka (5) Hiraṇmaya (6) Uttarakuru (7) Ilāvṛta (8) Bhadrāśva and (9) Ketumāla. According to P.E. (p. 342) there are eight long mountain ranges which divide the island Jambu into 9 countries which look like nine petals of the lotus flower. The two countries of the north and south extremities (Bhadra and Ketumāla) are bow-shaped. Four of the remaining seven are longer than the rest. The central country is known as Ilāvṛta.

The sages said:

1 -9. A wonderfully great narrative has been related by you. The stories of Bharata kings, of Devas, Dānavas, Gandharvas, Nāgas, Rākṣasas, Daityas, Siddhas, and Guhyakas have been narrated; their wonderful exploits, activities and holy rites have been recounted. Different divine stories and excellent nativities have been mentioned. O highly intelligent one, the creation of Brahma, Prajāpatis, Guhyakas and celestial nymphs has also been narrated by you. How the mobile and immobile beings were born, how the manifold universe originated has been told by you, O highly blessed one. This beautiful narration has been heard by us. The ancient tradition that yields meritorious benefits has been mentioned in sweet and smooth flowing words. It delights our mind as well as our ear. It is on a par with nectar. Now we wish to hear about the entire zone of the earth. O omniscient one, it behoves you speak it out. We are very eager to hear. How many are the oceans, continents sub-continents, mountains, forests, sacred rivers and holy spots of Devas etc. O highly intelligent one, what is the magnitude of each, what is their support? Of what nature are they? It behoves you to narrate the stance of this universe precisely.

Lomaharṣaṇa said:

10. O sages, please hear as I succinctly relate it to you. A full detailed description of it is impossible even in the course of a hundred years.

11-12. O brahmins, there are seven continents viz—Jambū, Plakṣa, Śālmala, Kuśa, Krauñca, Śāka and Puṣkara. These are encircled by seven oceans, the briny ocean, sea of the sugarcane juice, wine, ghee, curds, milk and sweet water.

13. The Jambūdvīpa is situated in the middle. In its centre, O leading brahmins, is the Meru the mountain of gold.

14-15. Its over-all height is eighty-four thousand Yojanas. Sixteen thousand Yojanas of it constitute the portion beneath the ground. The peak portion extends to thirty-two thousand Yojanas. At its root the extent all-round is sixteen thousand Yojanas. This mountain stands as the pericarp of the lotus of •the earth.

16. The Himavān, Hemakūṭa and Niṣadha are the Varṣa mountains to its South. The Nīla, Śveta and Śṛṅgin are the Varṣa mountains in the north.

17. The two in the middle extend to a hundred thousand (Yojanas) and others are ten (thousand Yojanas) less. They are two thousand Yojanas in height and girth.

18-24. Bhārata is the first sub continent, then is the Kimpuruṣa Varṣa O brahmins, these and another varṣa viz. Harivarṣa are to the South of Meru. Ramyaka is a northern subcontinent. Next to it, is Hiraṇmaya. The northern Kurus are like Bhārata. O excellent brahmins, each of these extends to nine thousand Yojanas, There is the Ilāvṛta Varṣa. In its centre stands the lofty golden Meru. O highly blessed ones, the Ilāvṛta Varṣa extends to nine thousand Yojanas in all directions from Meru. There are four mountains here which stand as the extensive supporting pillars of Meru. They extend to ten thousand Yojanas. The mountain Mandara lies in the east, Gandhamādana is to the south. Vipula is to the west and the Supārśva is to the north. There stand the following trees—Kadamba, Jambū Pippala and Vaṭa as the flag staff of mountains. They extend to eleven hundred Yojanas. O excellent brahmins, the Jambū tree gives the name Jambūdvīpa to this continent.

25. Each of the fruits of this Jambū tree is of the size of a huge elephant. These fruits fall all over the top of the mountain and get shattered and scattered.

26. By the juice of these, the famous Jambū river flows and it is being drunk by the people staying there.

27. The people there are hale and hearty and sound in mind because they drink it. They never even perspire. No bad odour comes out of their bodies. They do not experience old age or debility of sense-organs.

28. The clay on the banks gets soaked in the juice. When it gets dry by the gentle wind that blows there it becomes gold. It is called Jāmbūnada. The ornaments for Siddhas are made thereof.

29. The Bhadrāśva subcontinent is to the east of Meru, Ketumāla is to the west. O excellent sages, between these two Varṣas lies the Ilāvṛta Varṣa.

30. The park of Caitraratha is in the east; the Gandhamādana is in the south; the Vaibhrāja is in the west and the Nandana is in the north.

31. There are four lakes frequented and enjoyed by Devas—the Aruṇoda, Mahābhadra, Asitoda and Mānasa.

32. The Kesara mountains to the east of Meru are—Śāntavān, Cakrakumbha, Kurarī, Mālyavān, Vaikaṅka and others.

33. Trikūṭa, Śiśira, Pataṅga, Rucaka, Niṣadha and others are the Kesara mountains to the south of Meru.

34. Śikhivāsa, Vaidūrya, Kāpila, Gandhamādana, Jānudhi etc. are the Kesara mountains to the west.

35-39. They are very proximate to the Meru and are stationed in its belly. Śaṅkhakūṭa, Ṛṣabha, Haṃsa, Nāga, Kālañjara etc. are the Kesara mountains to the north.

O leading brahmins, at a height of fourteen thousand Yojanas on the Meru is the great city of Brahmā. All round it in the eight quarters are the excellent and famous cities of Indra and other guardians of the quarters.

Originating from the foot of Viṣṇu and flooding the disc of the moon Gaṅgā falls down from Heaven to the city of Brahmā and flows all round. Having fallen there it flows into four streams in the four directions.

40-46. They are Sītā, Alakanandā, Cakṣu and Bhadrā in order.

The Sītā flows along the firmament to the East from mountain to mountain. Then through Bhadrāśva, the Varṣa in the east, it flows into the ocean.

Similarly, O excellent brahmins the Alakanandā flows to the south, approaches Bhārata and splitting itself into seven streams it flows into the ocean.

The Cakṣu crosses the western mountains and reaches Ketumāla the western Varṣa and then flows into the sea.

O excellent brahmins, the Bhadra crosses the northern mountains and the northern Kurus and then flows into the northern ocean.

The mountains Mālyavān and Gandhamādana extend upto Nīla and Niṣadha mountains. The Meru is in the centre of these two. It is stationed in the form of pericarp.

The Bhāratas, Ketumālas, Bhadrāśvas and Kurus are the petals of Loka mountain outside the mountains of boundary.

The Jaṭhara and Devakūṭa are the two mountains of boundary. They extend from south to north between Nīla and Niṣadha mountains.

47-51. The Gandhamādana and the Kailāsa extend from west to east, to eighty thousand Yojanas. They are stationed in the ocean. Niṣadha and Pāriyātra—the two mountains of boundary—extend from south to north between Nīla and Niṣadha. They are stationed to the east and west of Meru.

The Triśṛṅga and the Jarudhi are the northern Varṣa mountains. They extend from east to west and are stationed within the ocean; they extend from one ocean to another.

Thus, O brahmins, the boundary mountains have been mentioned by me. They are stationed in pairs within the belly of Meru in all the four quarters.

52-53. Around the Meru the Kesara mountains are situated. They have already been mentioned along with Śītānta and others. O brahmins, the water troughs amongst those mountains are very charming. They are frequented by Siddhas and Cāraṇas. The forests and the cities in them are very beautiful.

54. There are excellent shrines of Lakṣmī, Viṣṇu, Agni, Sūrya and Indra in them, O excellent sages. They are frequented by men and Kinnaras.

55. Gandharvas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Daityas and Dānavas sport about in those charming water troughs day and night.

56. O brahmins, these places are heavens on earth. They are abodes of the righteous. Those who commit sins never go there even after hundreds of births.

57. O brahmins, in the Bhadrāśva sub-continent lord Viṣṇu stays as Hayaśiras with the head of a horse; in the Ketumāla he stays in the form of a boar and in the Bhārata he assumes the form of a tortoise.

58. Eternal Govinda stays in the Kurus in the form of a fish. Hari, the lord of all, stays everywhere in his Viśvarūpa (Universal form).

59-62. O brahmins, he is the support of all and identical with all.

O excellent brahmins, in the eight Varṣas, Kimpuruṣa etc. there is neither misery, nor fatigue, neither strain nor fear of hunger.

The subjects are healthy and sound, free from agony and devoid of distress. They live upto ten or twelve thousand years. No earthly worries such as hunger or thirst assail them, O brahmins. In these sports there is no such division of time: Kṛta, Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali.

In each of these Varṣas there are seven mountains called Kulācalas.[1] O excellent sages, hundreds of rivers flow there.

Footnotes and references:


Kulaparvatas—Kulaparvata is a chief mountain range. Kulaparvatas are seven in number. Any one of these is supposed to exist in each Varṣa or division of a continent. The principal seven ranges of Bhārata Varṣa include (1) Mahendra (2) Malaya (3) Sahya (4) Śuktimat (5) Ṛkṣa (6) Vindhya and (7) Pāriyātra. (See 17.3)

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