The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Mythological Geography—The Terrestrial Globe which is chapter 16 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the sixteenth chapter of the Fifth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 16 - Mythological Geography—The Terrestrial Globe

[Note: This and the following chapters deal with geography. Most of the material is common to other Purāṇas. Puranic geography is not all imagination, vide V.S. Agrawala: M.P.—A Study, pp. 184-215, D. G. Sircar’s SGAML, pp. 17-118, N. L. De’s GDAMI. The concept of the earth with four continents (catur-dvīpā vasumatī) and the details of the lands, mountains, rivers etc. tally a great deal with the details in the East, West and South Asia. The ‘Greater India’ of to day was regarded not merely an extension of India but a part of one unit separated by seas. (Vide B. UpadhyayaPurāṇa-Vimarśa. pp. 338-341.]

The King said:

1. The whole extent of the globe of the earth on which the Sun shines and where the Moon with the hosts of stars is visible, has been described by you.

2. Within that area, seven seas were formed by the seven (moat-like) ruts, furrowed by the wheels of (king) Priyavrata’s chariot. You have verily suggested, venerable Sir, that the divisions of this earth in seven distinct island-continents is due to those (seas). I am now desirous to know all about the dimensions and characteristics of those continents, in detail.

3. For, the mind, when concentrated on the Lord’s gross form—the physical universe, a product of three guṇas, becomes capable of entering into and fixing on the attributeless, subtle-most, self-refulgent, transcendent Brahman known as Lord Vāsudeva. Oh Preceptor, may you be pleased to describe to me the same.

The sage (Śrī Śuka) said:

4. Oh great King! No human being, even if it be blessed with the longevity of gods, can adequately comprehend even by mind or (can express) by speech, the extent of Lord’s great glories (viz. the universe) displayed through the (product of) three guṇas of His Māyā Potency. We, therefore, shall mainly describe to you the special features of the terrestrial globe, with the names, position, extent and characteristics.

5. As for this (jambūdvīpa) island-continent (in which we live), it forms the central innermost (the seventh) layer of the lotus-like earth. It is one lakh yojanas[1] (eight lakh miles) in extent, and is circular in form like the leaf of a lotus.

6. In this dvīpa, there are nine continents (varṣas) each nine thousand yojanas in extent. They are clearly separated from each other, by eight mountain-ranges forming the boundaries of each (of the dvīpas).

7. The inner-continent called Ilāvṛta forms the centre of these continents. At the navel (centre) of this (Ilāvṛta) continent stands the all-gold mount Meru, the king of all of mountains. It is as high as the extent of his (Jambū) dvīpa. It forms the pericarp of the lotus in the form of the earth. It is thirty-two thousand yojanas in extent at the top, and sixteen thousand yojanas at its foot, and its root lies under the earth’s surface to the same extent viz. sixteen thousand yojanas. (i.e. it is 84000 yojanas in height from the surface of the earth)

8. To the northern side of Ilāvṛta, are three mountain ranges one after the other—viz. Nīla, Śveta and Śṛṅgavān. They form the boundaries between the continents called Ramyaka, Hiraṇmaya and Kuru. They stretch in eastern and western directions upto the salt ocean, and are two thousand yojanas in breadth. Every outer range (of mountains) is shorter only in length by a little over of one tenth of the next interior range (their height and breadth is the same).

9. In this way, to the south of Ilāvṛta, are the mountain ranges Niṣadha, Hemkūṭa and the Himālayas. They run from the east (to the west) and are ten thousand yojanas in height, like Nīla and other mountains (mentioned above). They form the boundaries of Harivarṣa, Kiṃpuruṣa and Bhārata respectively.

10. Similarly, the West and East of Ilāvṛta, upto the mountain Nīla and Niṣadha, run the mountain-ranges called Mālyavat and Gandhamādana, each two thousand yojanas iṇ length. These (two mountains) form the boundaries of Ketumāla and Bhadrāśva.

11. As side supporters on its four sides to Mount Meru, are the (four) mountain-ranges, Mandāra, Merumandāra, Supārśva and Kumuda—each ten thousand yojanas in length and height.

12. There stand respectively on these four mountainranges, four great trees, viz. the Mango, the Jambū (rose apple), the Kadamba and the Banyan, like the flags of these mountains. They are more than one thousand yojanas in height extending over the same by their branches. The trunk (of each) is one hundred Yojanas in circumference.

13. And there are four lakes, of Milk, honey, sugarcane juice and fresh water (one per mountain). The demigods who drink of these acquire natural yogic powers. Oh prominent Bharata.

14. There are also four celestial gardens (on them), viz. Nandana, Caitraratha, Vaibhrājaka and Sarvatobhadra.

15. While listening to their eulogies sung by bands of demigods (like Gandhrva, and Kinnara), prominent gods, heading the bevies of celestial beauties, indulge in sports, in those celestial gardens.

16. From the top of the celestial mango tree eleven hundred yojanas in height, fall nectar-like sweet mangoes, as big as mountain peaks, on the upper side of the Mountain Mandāra.

17.A river, named Aruṇodā (a river of deep red water) is formed. It is so called because it carries as water extremely sweet, fragrant, scented abundant reddish juice of the mangoes (falling from the tree and) bursting open. It falls down from the crest of Mount Mandāra and waters the eastern part of Ilāvṛta.

18.When the damsels of Yakṣa tribe, the female attendants of goddess Pārvatī, enjoy the sweet juice of Aruṇodā, their person becomes so fragrant that the breeze coming in contact with them gets charged with perfume, and it diffuses that perfume over an area of ten yojanas (in radius).

19.In this way rose-apples, as big as elephants, and containing very fine seed, fall from a very great height and burst open. The river Jambū formed out of their juice, falls from the peak of Mount Merumandāra, ten thousand yojanas in height, down to the ground and irrigates the whole of Ilāvṛta, lying south of the river.

20. The clay on both the banks of that river gets saturated through and through, with that juice (of rose-apples). With the chemical change wrought by the action of the wind and the Sun (on it), it (the clay) is transmuted into gold known as Jāmbunada and it is always used for ornaments by celestial beings.

21. How wonderful! The gods and other heavenly beings along with their consorts, wear that (variety of) gold in the forms of various ornaments such as crowns and diadems, bangles, girdles and other ornaments.

22. There grows a big Kaḍamḍa tree on the Supārśva mountain. From its hollows flow out five currents of honey each five āyāmas[2] in dimension. They fall from the tops of Supārśva, they spread joy to the region of Ilāvṛta lying to the west of those currents.

23. The wind (breath) issuing out of the months of those who drink from those currents (of honey), spreads fragrance on an area of one hundred yojanas (in radius).

24. Similary, there stands a banyan tree called Śatavalśa on mount Kumuda. From, the branches (lit. arms) of that tree flow forth all streams, capable of yielding whatever one desires, such as milk, curds, honey, clarified butter, raw sugar, (delicious) food, garments, beds, seats or chairs, ornaments and others. These streams fall down from the summits of mount Kumuda and flow in the northern part of Ilāvṛta.

25. Subjects (beings) who make use of these riverwaters never suffer afflictions from wrinkles, baldness, fatigue, perspiration, bad odours, old age, diseases and death or from cold, heat, paleness and other troubles. They enjoy the highest bliss all through their life.

26. Like filaments on the seed-vessels in a lotus, around the base of Meru, on all sides, there are twenty mountains viz. Kuraṅga, Kurara, Kusumbha, Vaikaṅka, Trikūṭa, Śiśira, Pataṅga, Rucaka, Niṣadha, Śinī-Vāsa, Kapila, Śaṅkha, Vaidūrya, Jārudhi, Haṃsa, Ṛṣabha, Nāga, Kālañjara, Nārada and others.

27. Mounts Jaṭhara and Devakūta are to the east of Meru. They extend to the north for eighteen thousand yojanas in length, and two thousand yojanas in breadth, and in height. Similarly to the west (of Meru) stand two mountain-ranges, Pavana and Pāriyātra. To the south are situated Kailāsa and Karavīra which extend to the east. To the north (of Meru) stand Mount Tṛśṛṅga and Makara. Enclosed by these eight mountain-ranges, the mountain of gold (Meru) shines like (sacrificial) fire surrounded by blades of Kuśa grass, (to demarcate its boundaries).

28. Those (who are in know) say that on the summit of Meru, at the very centre, is situated ŚātaKumbhī, (the city of gold), the capital of god Brahmā. It covers an area of a ten thousand yojanas[3] and is square in shape.

29. Surrounding that city (capital of god Brahmā), there are eight suburbs (or cities) of the eight guardian deities of the world (such as Indra, Varuṇa etc.),[4] They are after the model of Śāta-Kumbhī, and are built in a style befitting their masters, each city being one fourth in extent of Lord Brahmā’s capital.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Yojana—8 miles.

[2]:

āyāma—Vyāma—a measure of length equal to the space between the tips of the fingers of either hands when the arms are extended (Vyāmo bāhvoḥ sakarayos tatayos tiryagantaram /Bhāvāratha Dīpikā)

[3]:

ayuta-yojaṇa-sāhasrī [sāhasrī]: I followed the text as it is. I doubt the interpretation as the area “a thousand times ten-thousand yojanas”, although some respectable commentators like Bālaprabodhini interpret it this way without suspecting any contradiction between the area of the plateau on Meru and the city built over it, as the area of the plateau on Mount Meru is only 32,000 yojanas. vide Bhāgavata Purāṇa Supra verse 7 above, which states mūrdhani dvātriṃśat-sahasra-yojana-vitataḥ. Bhāvāratha Dīpikā is conscious that the dimension given here conflicts with that given in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa 2.2.30 which states fourteen thousand yojanas the area covered by Brahmadeva’s capital.

catur-daśa sahasrāṇi yojanānāṃ mahāpurī /
meror upari maitreya brahmaṇaḥ prathitā divi //

This is plausible in view of the area of the plateau on the summit of Meru which is 32,000 yojanas. Bhāvāratha Dīpikā’s explanation that the dimensions differ with different Kalpas is not satisfactory. Bhāgavata Candrikā interprets this as ayuta-yojana-vistarām i.e. ten thousand yojanas in area. Padaratnāvalī regards Śatakoṭi as the name of Brahma’s capital. Bālaprabodhini does not suspect any contradiction between the area of the plateau on Meru and the city built over it. He explains: ayutāni yāni yojana-sahasrāṇi /

Bhaktamanorañjanī explains: ayuta-yojana-sāhasrīm as ayuta-sahasra-yojana-vistārām but hastens to add, atra bhāgatyāga-lakṣaṇayā yuta-sabda-varti-sahasrārtha-tyāgo bodhyaḥ.

[4]:

Bālaprabodhini and others enumerate the suburbs of Brahmadeva’s capital as follows: To the East, Indra’s capital Amarāvatī, to the South-East, Fire-god’s headquarters Tejovatī. to the South, Yama’s city Saṃyaminī, to the South-West, Kṛṣṇāṅganā of Nirṛtas, to the West, Varuṇa’s capita Śraddhāvatī, to the North-West, Vāyu’s headquarters Gandhavatī, to the North, Kubera’s town Mahodayā, and to the North-East, Lord Śiva’s capital Yaśovatī.

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