The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “the description of jambudvipa” which forms the 54th chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 54 is included the section known as “exposition of the manvantaras”.

Canto LIV - The description of Jambudvīpa

Mārkaṇḍeya tells Krauṣṭuki further the size of the earth, and the order and dimensions of the seven continents and their oceans—He describes Jambudvīpa, the countries in it, and Meru and the other mountains; and mentions various local facts.

Krauṣṭuki spoke:

How many are the continents, and how many the oceans, and how many are the mountains, O brāhman? And how many are the countries, and what are their rivers, O Muni? And the size of the great objects of nature,[1] and the Lokāloka mountain-range; the circumference, and the size and the course of the moon and the sun also—tell me all this at length, O great Muni.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

The earth is fifty times ten million yojanas[2] broad in every direction,[3] O brāhman. I tell thee of its entire constitution, hearken thereto. The dvīpas which I have mentioned to thee, began with Jambudvīpa and ended with Pubhkaradvīpa, O illustrious brāhman; listen further to their dimensions. Now each dvīpa is twice the size of the dvīpa which precedes it in this order, Jambu, and Plakṣa, Śālmala, Kuśa, Krauñca and Śāka, and the Pushkaradvīpa. They are completely surrounded by oceans of salt water, sugar-cane juice, wine, ghee, curdled milk, and milk, which increase double and double, compared with each preceding one.

I will tell thee of the constitution of Jambudvīpa; hearken to me. It is a hundred thousand yojanas in breadth and length, it being of a circular shape.[4] Himavat, and Hemakūṭa, Niṣadba,[5] and Meru, Nila, Śveta and Śṛṅgin are the seven great mountain-systems[6] in it. Two of these great mountain-ranges[7] are a hundred thousand yojanas in extent, and are situated in the middle of Jambudvīpa; there are two more mountain-ranges which are south of those two, and two more which are north. They are severally less by ten and ten thousand yojanas in length[8]; they are all two thousand yojanas in height, and they have the same breadth. And six of the mountain-ranges in it extend into the sea. The earth is low on the south and north, it is highly elevated in the middle.

On the southern half of the elevated ground[9] are three countries, and on the north are three. Ilāvṛta is situated between those halves, and is shaped like the half-moon. East of it is Bhadrāśva, and west is Ketumāla.[10]

Now in the middle of Ilāvṛta is Meru, the mountain of gold. The height of that immense mountain is eighty-four[11] thousand yojanas; it penetrates downwards sixteen thousand yojanas, and it is just sixteen thousand yojanas broad; and since it is fashioned like a cup,[12] it is thirty-two thousand yojanas broad at the summit. It is white, yellow, black and red on the east and other sides consecutively; and a brāhman, a vaiśya, a śūdra, and a kṣatriya are stationed there according to the castes. Moreover, upon it on the east and the seven other directions of the sky consecutively[13] are the Courts of Indra and the other Lokapālas; and in the centre is Brahma’s Court, which is fourteen thousand yojanas high.

Moreover below it are the subjacent hills[14] with a height of ten thousand yojanas. On the east and other sides consecutively are the mountains Mandara, Gandhamādana, and Vipula, and Supārśva[15]; they are decorated with trees as standards. The kadam tree[16] is the standard on Mandara, the jambu tree[17] on Gandhamādana, and the aśvattha tree[18] on Vipula, and the great banyan[19] on Supārśva. These mountains are eleven hundred yojanas in extent. Jaṭhara and Devakūṭa are two mountains on the east side; they stretch up to Nila and Niṣadha without any space intervening between them. Niṣadha[20] and Pāripātra are on the west side of Meru; these two mountains, like the two former, extend to Nila and Niṣadha. Kailāsa and Himavat are two great mountains on the south; they stretch east and west; they extend into the ocean. Śṛṅgāvat and Jārudhi, moreover, are two mountains on the north; they, like the two on the south, extend into the ocean.[21] These eight are called the boundary mountains, O brāhman. Himavat, Hemakūṭa and the other mountains comp rise, one with another, nine thousand yojanas, eastward, westward, southward and northward. Similarly Meru stretches to the four quarters in the middle in Ilāvṛta.

The fruits which the jambu[22] tree produces on the mountain Gandhamādana, are as large as an elephant’s body; they fall on the top of the mountain. From their juice springs the famous Jambū river, in which is found the gold called Jāmbūnada. That river passes around Meru and then enters Jambūmūla, O brāhman; and those people drink of it.

In Bhadrāśva Viṣṇu is figured with a horse’s head; in Bhārata[23] he has the shape of a tortoise; and he is like a boar in Ketumāla; and he has a fish’s form in the north. In all those four countries, worldly affairs are governed by the arrangement of the constellations, O brāhman; the people there study the influence of the planets.

Footnotes and references:




This word must obviously be supplied; see verse 8.


Taking the yojana as 40,000 feet (see Canto xlix, 40), this diameter of the earth equals 3,787,878,788 miles.


Vṛttau. This distance cannot apply to the circumference (vṛtti) as well, for the circumference, length and breadth cannot all be the same.


The text reads Ṛṣabha, which disagrees with other Purāṇas and verses 22 and 23.




Niṣadha on the south of Meru, and Nila on the north, according to the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa. Bk. II, ch. ii.


The text of the first line of verse 11 seems wrong: read instead, as in the MS.— Daśabhir daśabhir nyūnāḥ sahasrais te parasparam. Hema-kūṭa (south of Niṣadha) and Śveta (north of Nila) are 90,000 yojanas long. Himavat (south of Hema-kūṭa) and Śringin (north of Śveta) are 80,000 yojanas long. The decrease is due to their position in the circle of the earth. See Viṣṇu-Purāṇa, Bk. II., ch. ii.




These are the nine countries mentioned in canto liii, verses 32-35.


For catur-asīti read catur-aśiti?


Śarāva; other authorities compare it to the inverted seed vessel of a lotus, which is somewhat like an inverted cone.


The MS. reads puryo dikṣu for pūrvādiṣu, with practically the same meaning.




Mandara is on the East; Gandhā-mādana on the South ; Vipula on the West; and Supārśva on the North. See Canto lvi, verses 7, 13 and 16.


See note **, page 25.


Eugenia Jambolana, Hooker, vol. II, p. 499; Roxb. p. 398. A large tree, common everywhere, with a rather crooked trunk, shining leaves, and edible fruit. The bark yields brown dyes.


Called also pippala ; Ficus religiosa (Oliver, p. 272; Eoxb. p. 642); the modern peepul; a large spreading tree with a grateful shade, common everywhere. See also note *, p. 33.


Vaṭa, Ficus benghalensis (Oliver, p. 272; F. indica, Eoxb. p. 639), the large, common, well-known tree.


Read Ṛṣabha ?


For antarvāntar read arṇavāntar ?


For jambā read jambvā ?


For bhārite read bhārate?

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