The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 319,243 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes the length and extent of the earth: description of jambudvipa which is Chapter 15 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 15 - The length and extent of the Earth: Description of Jambūdvīpa

Sūta said:

1-3. On hearing about the settlement of the subjects thus, Śāṃśapāyani asked Sūta about the length and extent of the Earth[1] as it had been determined—“How many continents are there? How many oceans? How many mountains are proclaimed? How many are the Varṣas (sub-continents)? What are the rivers declared therein? Mention all these things to us in detail and factually such aṣ the magnitude of the great elements, the Lokāloka mountain, the transits, the extent and the movements of the moon as well as the sun.

Sūta said:

4-6. O! I shall recount to you the length and extent of the earth, the number of the oceans and the number and extent of the islands. There are thousands of different islands that are included in the seven continents. They cannot be recounted in due order, because this world is studded and constantly (surrounded by them). I shall recount the seven continents along with the moon, the sun and the planets.

7-8a. Men mention their magnitudes by means of guess alone. One cannot arrive by means of guess alone, at those beings (or things) which cannot be even pondered upon. That which is beyond nature is called Acintya (that which cannot be even pondered upon).

8b-10. I shall recount the Jambūdvīpa as exists actually, consisting of nine Varṣas. Understand it through its extent and girth in terms of Yojanas. It is more than a hundred thousand Yojanas all round. It is full of different, rural countries and different kinds of splendid cities. It is filled with Siddhas and Cāraṇas and is embellished with mountains.

11. (It is full of mountains) endowed with all kinds of minerals originating from clusters of rocks. It is full of rivers flowing from mountains.

12. Jambūdvīpa is immense and glorious with huge zones all round. It is encircled by nine worlds that evolve a number of living beings.

13. It is surrounded on all sides by the briny sea the extent of which is equal to that of Jambūdvīpa itself.

14.[2] The following are the six Varṣaparvatas[3] (Mountains dividing the sub-continents). They have good ridges. On either side they merge into the Eastern and Western oceans.

15. Himavān is practically covered with snow. Hemakūṭa is full of Heman (gold). The great mountain Niṣadha is equally pleasant in all the seasons.

16. Meru is remembered as the most beautiful.[4] It has four colours (like four castes—Varṇas). It is golden. On its top its extent is thirty-two thousand Yojanas.

17. It is circular in shape. It is symmetrical and very lofty. It is endowed with the qualities of Prajāpati. It has different colours at its sides.

18. It is originated from the umbilical cord of Brahmā born of the unmanifest one. In the east it is white in colour. Hence, it is on a par with the Brāhmaṇas.

19. Its northern side has a natural red colour. Hence, the Kṣatriya-hood of Meru on account of various reasons and purposes. (?)

20-21. In the southern side it is yellow. So its Vaiśyatva (state of being a Vaiśya) is evident. In the West it is like the Bhṛṅgapatra (A kind of leaf black in colour) all round. Hence it has the state of Śūdra. Thus the colours are recounted (as well as the castes). Its nature through colour and magnitude has been explained.

22. The Nīla mountain is full of sapphires (has that colour). The Śveta is white and full of gold. Śṛṅgavān has the colour of the peacock’s tail and it is full of gold.

23. All these lordly mountains are frequented by the Siddhas and Cāraṇas. Their internal diameter is said to be nine thousand Yojanas.

24. The sub-continent of Ilāvṛta is in the middle of Mahāmeru. Its extent all around is thus nine thousand Yojanas.

25. In its middle is the Mahāmeru like a smokeless fire. The southern side of Meru is like the middle of the altar. Its upper half is its upper surface.

26. The Varṣa-Parvatas which belong to the six Varṣas are two thousand Yojanas in extent and in height.

27-31a. Their length is said to be in accordance with the extent of Jambūdvīpa. The two mountains, (Nīla and Niṣadha) are hundred thousand Yojanas long. The other four mountains are shorter than these. The mountains Śveta and Hemakūṭa are each ninety thousand Yojanas long. The mountains Himavān and Śṛṅgavān are each eighty thousand Yojanas long. There are Janapaḍas (territories or counties) in between them. The Vaṛsas are seven in number. They are encircled by mountains that are difficult to cross on account of steep precipices. They are criss-crossed with different kinds of rivers. It was impossible to travel from one Varṣa to another (lit. they were mutually unapproachable).

31b. Animals of different kinds live in them. This Haimavata sub-continent is well known by the name Bhārata.

32-34. Hemakūṭa is beyond this. It is remembered by the name Kimpuruṣa. Naiṣadha sub-continent is beyond Hemakūṭa and it is called Harivarṣa. Ilāvṛta is beyond Harivarṣa (and in the middle) of Meru. Nīla is beyond Ilāvṛta and it well-known by the name Ramyaka. Śveta is beyond Ramyaka and it is well-known as Hiraṇmaya. The sub-continent Śṛṅgavat is beyond Hiraṇmaya and it is remembered as Kuru.

35. The two sub-continents in the south and the north should be known as situated in the form of a bow. Four others are stationed lengthwise and the middle one is Ilāvṛta.[5]

36. Vedyardha which is on the hitherside of Niṣadha, is known as the southern Vedyardha and that which beyond the Nīlavān is the northern Vedyardha.[6]

37. In the southern side of Vedyardha, there are three Varṣas and on the northern side of Vedyardha also there are three Varṣas. Meru should be known as existing in between them and Ilāvṛta is in the middle of Mem.

38. To the south of the Nīla and to the north of Niṣadha, there is a great mountain stretching to the north named Mālyavān.[7]

39. It stretches a thousand Yojanas from Nīla to Niṣadha. It is glorified as one, thirty-four thousand Yojanas in extension.

40. The mountain Gandhamādana should be known as situated to its west. In length and extent it is reputed to be like Mālyavān.

41. Meru, the golden mountain, is in the middle of two circles. That golden mountain has four colours. It is symmetrical and very lofty.

42. The brilliant Sumeru shines, established like a king. It has the colour and brilliance of the midday sun. It is refulgent like the smokeless fire.

43. It is eighty-four thousand Yojanas high. It has entered (down the ground level) sixteen thousand Yojanas. Its width is also sixteen thousand Yojanas.

44. Since it is stationed like a platter its width on the top is thirty-two thousand Yojanas. Its girth all round is three times its width.

45-47. When the mass is circular the reckoning is triangular (?) (According to the triangular reckoning) its girth all round is forty-eight thousand Yojanas. Now the magnitude is recounted in the triangular reckoning. According to the quadrangular reckoning (?) the girth all round is laid down as sixty-four thousand Yojanas. That mountain is highly divine and equipped with divine medicinal herbs.

48-49. The entire mountain is surrounded by worlds splendid and golden. All the groups of the Devas, the Gandharvas the serpents, and the Rākṣasas are seen on that king of mountains, as well as the splendid groups of Apsaras. That mountain Meru is encircled by worlds causing welfare of living beings.

50-53. Four lands (Realms) are established on the four sides. They are Bhadrāśvas (with east), Bhāratas (south), Ketumālas in the west and the Kurus in the North[8] which are the resorts of meritorious persons.

At the side of the Gandhamādana, there is this another great Gaṇḍikā (hill?). It is charming and fascinating in all the seasons. It is auspicious and pleasant. East to West it extends to thirty-two thousand Yojanas. The (gross) length is thirty-four thousand Yojanas. The people Ketumālas of auspicious holy rites are established there.

54. All the men there are black and very strong. They have great inherent vitality. The women have the colour and lustre of the petals of lilies. All of them are pleasing to behold.

55. There is a great divine jack-tree there. It has all the six tastes. It is Īśvara (masterly and powerful). It is the son of Brahmā. It is as swift as mind and wanders wherever it pleases.

56. They drink the juice of its fruits and live for ten thousand years.

At the side of the Mālyavān, in the east there is a wonderful Gaṇḍikā Hill?

57. It has the same length and extent as the western Gaṇḍikā. Bhadrāśvas[9] should be known (as the people) there. They are always delighted in their minds.

58. There is a forest of Bhadraśālas (excellent silk cotton trees). The great tree is the Black Mango tree. The men there are white-complexioned, highly enthusiastic and endowed with strength.

59. The women have the colour and lustre of the water-lilies. They are beautiful and pleasing to behold. They have the lunar brilliance and hue. Their faces resemble the moon.

60. Their limbs are cool of touch like the moon. They have the odour of lilies. Their span of life is ten thousand years and is free from ailments.

61-63. By drinking the juice of the black mango all of them have perpetual youth.

To the south of the Śveta and to the north of the Nīla, there is the Varṣa (sub-continent) Ramaṇaka.[10] Human beings are born there. They are free from impurities. They give importance to amorous dalliance. They are devoid of old age and bad odour. They are white-complexioned and richly endowed with nobility of birth. All of them are pleasing to behold. There also is a great Nyagrodha tree (holy fig tree) red (in colour).

64-66. They maintain themselves by drinking the juice of its fruits. Those highly fortunate ones live for eleven thousand five hundred years. They are excellent men and are always full of delight.

To the south of the Śṛṅgavān and to the north of the Śveta there is the Varṣa named Hairaṇvata.[11] There is a river here, the Hairaṇvatī. Men of great strength and good brilliance are born there.

67-69. They are heroic Yakṣas of great inherent vitality. They are rich and pleasing to behold. They have great vigour and they live for eleven thousand five hundred years.

In that Varṣa, there is a great Lakuca (bread fruit) tree of six tastes. By drinking the juice of its fruits, they live without ailments.

The Śṛṅgavān has three great and lofty peaks.

70. One of them (peaks) is full of Maṇis (jewels). One is golden and (the third) one all sorts of Ratnas (precious stones); it is embellished with houses.

71. To the north of Śṛṅgavān and to the south of the sea are the Kurus.[12] That Varṣa (sub-continent) is sacred and frequented by the Siddhas.

72. The trees there have Madhu (honey, wine) for its fruit. They put forth perpetual flowers, fruits and sprouts. They yield garments and ornaments by way of fruits.

73. Some of the trees are very delightfully charming and they bestow all desires. They exude excellent honey full of sweet smell, colour and taste.

74. Other trees are kṣīrins (Milky ones) byname. They are very delightful and they always exude milk comparable to nectar having six tastes.

75. The entire ground is full of jewels with fine golden particles for sand. It richly accords happiness in all seasons. It is devoid of mud and dust. It is splendid.

76. Splendid human beings displaced and dropping down from the world of the Devas are born there. They are white-complexioned and richly endowed with nobility of birth. All have steady perpetual youth.

77-80. Women on a par with the celestial damsels give birth to twins. They drink the milk of the Kṣīrin trees comparable to nectar. The twins are born in a trice and they grow together. Their conduct of life, habits, forms and features and lovable qualities are all equal. They love one another and have the same activities and practices as the Cakravāka birds (Ruddy geese). They are always free from ailments and devoid of sorrows. They resort to perpetual pleasure. They are of great vigour and vitality. They live for fourteen thousand five hundred years. They never carnally approach another men’s wives.

Footnotes and references:


Vā.P.34.1b reads: Pṛthivyāyāma-vistarau. It is better than Bel.P.’s Pṛthivyodadhivistaram. Hence Vā.P. reading accepted.


After verse 14 there read verse Xo.28 which tells: the six mountains are Nila, Niṣadha, Śveta, Hemakūṭa, -Hiinavān and Śṛṅgavān.


The Varṣa-parvatas are the mountains (mountain-chains) which divide one Varṣa (sub-continent) from another. Thus they may be regarded as boundary mountains. The names and other characteristics are described in the following verses. Their geographical location is given in supra Ch.l Footnotes on pp. 11, 12.


There is a consensus among Purāṇas like K.P., Mt.P., Mk.P., Vā.P., and Bd.P. about the shape and size of Meru. M. Ali points out that ancient Persians, Greeks, Chinese, Jews, and Arabs repeat the traditional ṇodality of Meru. After discussing the problem, he comes to the conclusion that Mt. Meru is identical with the Pamirs, in central Asia.

His diagrammatic representation of the Jambūdvīpa and its cross-section (Fig.4) on p.65 of Geog. of the Purāṇas is interesting.


This Purāṇa supports the Sapta-dvīpī (seven-continent) theory about the earth. The distribution of the continents may be represented as under.


(Uttara) Kuru Varṣa
Śṛṅgavān Mt.
Hiraṇmaya Varṣa
Śveta Mt.
Ramyaka Varṣa
Nīla Mt.
Ilāvṛta Varṣa
Meru Mt.
Ilāvṛta Varṣa
Niṣadha Mt.
Hari Varṣa
Hemakūṭa Mt.
Kimpuruṣa Varṣa
Himavān (Himalaya) Mt.


Bharata or Haimavata Varṣa

Does the bowlike formation of these Varṣas suggest the spherical shape of the earth?


Called Veyaddha in Jain (Ardha Māgadhī) canon.


Purāṇas give different locations of Gandhamādana and Mālyavān. So do modern scholars, as the names of extra-Indian mountains were adopted by the Indo-Aryans as they penetrated deep in the Indian Peninsula. Thus Mālyavān due to its association with Gandhamādana and Meru should be identified with the Sarikol range, as Gandhamādana was the northern ridge of the great Hindukush arch with its northern extension, the Khwaja Mahammad. The southern ridge of Híndukush is Niṣadha which merged into Northern Karakorum and Kunlun (M. Ali.—Geog. of Purāṇas, pp. 58-59).


This appears to be the four-continent (Catur-dvīpī) theory about the earth where the distribution of Varṣas is as follows:

West. Ketumāla (Mt. Meru) Bhadrāśva. East


This seems to be modem China.


Identified with ancient Sogdiana as the description tallies with the land, plant-life and people of those times, M.Ali—Ibid. pp. 83-84.


Hairaṇvata Varṣa is closely associated with the river Hairaṇvatī (mod. Zarafshan) both forms of the name of the river mean ‘The scatterer of gold’. In that case it must be presumed to be adjacent to Sogdiana—M.Ali. ibid. pp. 84,85.


Kuru or Uttarakuru: This region as described here and in other Purāṇas includes the basin of rivers—The Irtysh, the Ob, the Tobol, in other words “Western Siberian Regions” M.Ali—Op. Cit. pp. 84, 85.

As M.Ali points out the main tree which is supposed to feed the population indicates the peculiar climate prevailing there.

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