The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “seven continents (varsha)” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 18 - Seven continents (varṣa)

Sanatkumāra said:—

1-2. I shall explain the Bhāratavarṣa. South of the Himālaya mountain and north of the ocean is the land of Bharata. O great sage, its extent is nine thousand Yojanas. This is the land of sacred rites for attaining heaven and salvation. So say the wise people.

3. Heaven and hell are attained by men from here only. I shall mention nine subdivisions of the Bhārata Varṣa to you.

4-5. Indradyumna, Kaseru, Tāmravarṇa Gabhastimat, Nāgadvīpa, Saumya, Gandharva, Vāruṇa and the ninth is the sub-continent Sāgarasambhṛta. This sub-continent lies North to South extending to a thousand Yojanas.

6. To the east of Bhārata live the Kirātas,[1] to the south the Yavanas; to the west Khaśas and to the north the ascetics.

7. In the middle live the Brahmins, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras maintaining themselves by sacrifices, battles, merchandise and service.

8. There are seven Kulaparvatas viz Mahendra,[2] Malaya,[3] Sahya,[4] Sudāmā,[5] Ṛkṣaparvata,[6] Vindhya[7] and Pāriyātra.[8]

9. O sage, Vedas, Smṛtis, Purāṇas and other things issue from Pāriyātra. They dispel all sins, it should be known, by their very sight or touch.

10. The great rivers issuing from Vindhya are seven, such as Narmadā,[9] Surasā[10] etc, and thousands of smaller ones are all auspicious. They quell all sins.

11. Godāvarī,[11] Bhīmarathī,[12] Tāpī,[13] and other important rivers issue from the mountain Ṛkṣa. They dispel fear of sins immediately.

12. The rivers Kṛṣṇā Veṇī[14] and others issue from Sahya Kṛtamālā,[15] Tāmraparṇī[16] and others issue from Malaya.

13. Triyāmā,[17] Ṛṣikulyā[18] and others issue from Mahendra. Ṛṣikulyā,[19] Kumārī[20] and others issue from Śuktimat.[21]

14. Many territories, countries are situated in their basins. People drink from these rivers as well as from other lakes.

15. O great sage, all the four Yugās Kṛta and others are followed in Bhārata and not in the other Dvīpas.

16. Charitable gifts are offered here by meritorious sacrifices. Ascetics perform penances strenuously for the attainment of better worlds.

17. O great sage, it is so because this is the land of sacred rites in the Jambūdvīpa. Here too Bhārata is the most excellent. The others are lands of pleasure.

18. O excellent sage, after a thousand births rarely docs a man get birth as a human being here and that too due to hoarded merits.

19. It is said that the gods sing songs like this:—It is only the blessed who are able to live in the land of Bhārata which is the pathway leading to heaven and salvation. They are born as men there.

20. After getting human birth once in a way, and sporting about in the great soul form of Śiva I shall attain the fruits of all sacred rites in that form.

21. Only blessed human beings derive this pleasure. They are happy and their minds are interested in sacred rites. Those who take birth in Bhārata have the two gains of attaining heaven and salvation.

22. This Jambūdvīpa extends to a hundred thousand Yojanas including all its internal zones. It is well surrounded by the salt ocean.[22]

23. The continent of Plakṣa is glorified as surrounding the briny sea extending to a hundred thousand Yojanas. O brahmin the Dvīpa is twice that in extent.

24. The seven Varṣa mountains are Gomanta, Candra, Nārada, Dardura, Somaka, Sumanas and Vaibhrāja.

25. On these beautiful Varṣa mountains, all the subjects, gods, Gandharvas etc. live together for ever.

26. There the life expectation for men is ten thousand years. Neither physical sickness nor worries nor agonies torment the people anywhere there.

27. The seven holy rivers here are Anutaptā, Śikhī, Pāpaghnī, Tridivā, Kṛpā, Amṛtā and Sukṛtā.

28. Insignificant rivers and mountains are there in thousands. The people in the countries are delighted in drinking the waters of these rivers.

29. In all the seven subdivisions in it there is no differentiation among the various Yugas. O great sage, the time there is on a par with Tretā Yuga for ever.

30. O excellent sage, there are brahmins, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras there. In its middle there is a big tree like the celestial Kalpa tree.

31. That tree is called Plakṣa and hence, O excellent brahmin, the continent is called Plakṣadvīpa.[23] Lord Śiva, the benefactor of the worlds, performs a sacrifice there.

32. Lord Viṣṇu and Brahmā too perform worships here with Vedic mantras and Tantras. Now listen again to the description of Śālmali in brief.

33-34. There are seven Upa-varṣas (sub-continents) there too. Please listen to their names. They are Śveta, Harita, Jīmūta, Rohita, Vaikala, Mānasa and Suprabha the seventh one. The continent is called Śālmali[24] because of the Śālmala tree.

35-36. It is always surrounded by the ocean, twice extensive as it. The rivers indicate the Varṣas significantly. Listen to their names. They are Śuklā, Raktā, Hiraṇyā, Candrā, Śubhrā, Vimocanā and the Nivṛtti. All these have cool sacred waters.

37. All the seven Varṣas contain people of the four castes. They worship lord Śiva always with various kinds of sacrifices.

38. In this beautiful place the gods are always present. This Dvīpa is surrounded by the ocean of wine.

39-40. The ocean of wine is twice as much as the Śālmali Dvīpa. Kuśa[25] Dvīpa is all round it externally. Daityas and Dānavas live there along with human beings. So also the gods, the Gandharvas, the Yakṣas, the Kimpuruṣas and others too. There also the castes are devoted to their respective duties and conduct.

41. People in Kuśa Dvīpa worship Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, the bestower of the fruits of all desires.

42. The seven mountains are Kuśeśaya, Hari, Dyutimat, Puṣpavat, Maṇidruma, Hemaśaila and Mandarācala.

43-44. The rivers are seven. Listen to their names factually. Dhūtapāpā, Sivā, the holy Sammiti, Vidyā, Dambhā, Mahī and Alpā. These quell all sins. There are thousands of other rivers of auspicious waters and golden sands.

45. In the Kuśadvīpa the main plant is the stump of Kuśa grass. It is surrounded by the ocean of clarified butter. O fortunate one, listen to the description of Krauñca Dvīpa[26], the other great continent.

46. It is surrounded by the ocean of curds and whey twice as large. O intelligent one, listen to the names of the Varṣa mountains.

47. They are Krauñca, Vāmana, Andhakāraka, Divāvṛti, Manas, Puṇḍarīka and Dundubhi.

48. The subjects live on these Varṣa mountains which are very beautiful and golden. Free from terror, they are accompanied by their friends and the gods.

49. Brahmins, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras live there in their due order. There are seven great rivers and thousands of other small rivers there.

50. They are Gaurī, Kumudvatī, Sandhyā, Rāś?, Manojavā, Śānti and Puṇḍarīka and they make others drink their holy water.

51-53. The lord in the form of Yogarudra is worshipped there. The ocean of curds and whey is surrounded by Śākadvīpa[27] twice as large. The mountains are seven. Listen to their names from me. In the east is the mountain Udayagiri. In the south is the mountain Jaladhāra. The Astagiri is in the west and Avikeśa in the north. The great tree is Śāka there, worshipped by Siddhas and Gandharvas.

54. The countries are very sacred populated by the people of all the four castes. The rivers too are very holy, dispelling all terror due to sins.

55. They are Sukumārī, Kumārī, Nalinī, Veṇukā, Ikṣu, Reṇukā and Gabhasti.

56. O great sage, there are thousands of small rivers there. The mountains too are in hundreds and thousands.

57. There is no question of loss of virtue in them. Men come from heaven to those Varṣas on the earth and sport about with one another.

58. In the Śākadvīpa, the sun is lovingly worshipped by the people of all countries pious in mind and activities as mentioned before.

59-60. It is surrounded on all sides by the milk-ocean twice as large. O Vyāsa, the milk-ocean is surrounded by Puṣkara[28] continent twice as large. (?) There at Varṣa there is famous by the name Mānasa. It is five thousand Yojanas in height.

61. There is a great ring round it, five hundred thousand Yojanas in length. The Puṣkara Dvīpa ring divides it into two.

62. The Dvīpa and the Varṣas are of similar shapes namely gyrated. Men live there up to ten thousand years.

63. They are free from ailment. They are not unhappy. They are devoid of passion and hatred. Evil is never approved of by them. O sage, nor do they imprison or kill anyone.

64. There is neither truth or lie there. It is always night there. Men are of equal dress and features, all being gold-complexioned.

65. This Varṣa, O sage, is Bhauma which is like a heaven on this earth and the life herein is pleasing to all, free from old age and sickness,

66. O great sage, in the Dhātakīkhaṇḍa and the Mahāvīta in the Puṣkaradvīpa, the holy fig tree is the excellent abode of Brahmā.

67. Brahmā resides there, worshipped by gods and Asuras. Puṣkara is surrounded by the ocean of sweet water.

68. Thus the seven continents are surrounded by seven oceans each twice as large as the one within.

69. The speciality of the oceans is mentioned thus. The water is always equal in quantity. It is never reduced.

70. O excellent sage, if the water kept in a pot is heated it goes up. Similarly when the moon rises the water of the ocean rises up.

71. At the time of rising and setting of the moon waters flow and ebb. Hence in the bright and dark halves the waters vary in quantity; they increase and decrease.

72. O great sage, the increase and decrease of the waters of the oceans are seen hundred and thousands of times. This has been mentioned to you.

73-74. All the people in the Puṣkaradvīpa, O brahmin, take as food Sugarcandy which appears there by itself for ever. Beyond that there are no living beings. The land is golden and devoid of living creatures.[29]

75. Beyond that is the mountain Lokāloka. It is a thousand Yojanas in height and an equal number of Yojanas in extent.

76. O great sage, therefore, along with this universe the earth is fifty crores of Yojanas in extent inclusive of all the continents and mountains.

77. This world is the support in due course of all living beings. It has more attributes than all other elements have.

Footnotes and references:


Kirāta, a Himalayan tribe, is placed in the east. Yavanas, identified with the Indo-Greeks, never lived in the south but they are placed there. Khasas, identified with the modern Khakkas lived about Kashmir which in fact is not exactly to the west of Bhārata. The identification of the Tāpasas placed in the n orth is quite uncertain.


See P. 628 note 76.


See P. 164 note 166; p 628 note 72.


See P. 164 note 16?, p 56? note 28, p 623 note 6?.


Mount Sudāman is placed in the Panjab on the Vipāśā (Beas) river. Rāmā. II. 68. 18-19. For details See ‘Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India’ (D. C. Sarkar) p 185-186.


Mount Ṛkṣavat is associated with the central part of the Narmadā valley of which Māhiṣmatī (Māndhatā in the Nimar district of Madhya Pradesh, Maheśvara in the former Indor State according to some) was the most important city and Daśārna a notable river. See Sircar, ‘Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India’ (D. C. Sarkar) P. 49.


See P. 623 note 69.


See P. 629 note 77.


See P. 75 note 55.


The source of the Surasā, a river of the Narmadā group is actually the Ṛkṣavat and not the Vindhya, Sircar, Op. cit, P. 47 note 3.


See P. 75 note 56.


It is identical with modern Bhīmā, a tributary of the river Kṛṣṇā.


It is identical with the modern Tapti, the celebrated river that flows into the western sea.


Kṛṣṇāveṇī is identical with the Kṛṣṇā river. See P. 75 note 57.


It is identical with the modern Vaigai running past Madurai.


It is identical with the modern Tāmbravari which combines its stream with the Chittar in the Tiruneveli district of Madras.


Triyāmā or Trisāmā not identified.


Ṛṣikulyā, still bearing its ancient name flows into the Bay of Bengal near Berhampur on the SE Railway in the Ganjam district of Orissa.


The other Ṛṣikulyā is identical with the Ko?l in Chhota Nagpur.


Raychaudhuri identifies Kumārī with the river of the same name in the Mānbhūm district in south Bihar. The identification is quite probable in view of the plausibility of bis identification of the Kula-parvata called Śuktimat with the hills of Eastern India extending from Chhatisgarh to the Santal Parganas.


The name of the Śuktimat is preserved in that of the Śakti hills in Raigarh, Madhya Pradesh and possibly in that of the Suktel river which joint Mahānadī river Sonepur in Orissa. The name Śuktimat was probably applied to the chain of hills that extends from Śakti in Raigarh M. P. to the Dalma hills in Mānbhūm drained by the Kumārī and perhaps even to the hills in Santal Parganas washed by the affluents of the Bāblā.


It refers to the salt sea placed in the west of Bhārata. See P. 1198 note.


 It has been identified with the basin of the mediterranean. It derives its name from the fig trees growing abundantly on its soil. See Geo. of the Purāṇas Pp. 41-42.


It is identical with the tropical part of Africa bordering the Indian ocean on the east. Ibid P. 45.


It corresponds to Iran, Iraq and the fringing Lands of the hot desert. Ibid P 40.


It is represented by the basin of the Black sea. Ibid P. 45.


It can be identified with Malaya, Siam, Indo-China and Southern China. Ibid 31-40.


It is identical with Japan, Manchuria and the south-eastern Siberia. The milky ocean enclosed by this Dvīpa is the Sea of Japan Ibid. 42-44.


The Skt. text of the first half of this verse is defective.

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