UPDATED DECEMBER 2020. I have just published a 60 minute documentary on my Puranic Geography research! It has been uploaded in two parts:
The Puranic Geography of Bhārata-varsha
The Geo-Sphere vs. The Flat Earth
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami (Śrīla Prabhupāda) who was the first successful pioneer to transplant the teachings of Krishna within the western world, requested his disciples to construct a planetarium based on the descriptions of the universe given in the fifth book of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa. He advised them to also study the other Purāṇas, Samhitas and other literature of the Vaishnava tradition to clarify and shed light on a working model of our universe. It was also Śrīla Prabhupāda’s style to often express ancient terminology with modern phrases and concepts to help the common man understand the complexities of Vedic Cosmology. It is with his blessings and within these basic guidelines that the following analysis of Bhāgavata and Puranic geography will be presented.
Information posted here are excerpts from my upcoming new book which researches the ancient geography and cosmology of the texts known in India as “Purāṇas” or “The Old Histories”. It will also serve as a platform to share the Purāṇic text resources in PDF format, and to share some of my new maps based on the recently translated sections of this ancient literature.
Delving into the major purāṇas and epics of India, we will examine what landforms and modern countries fall within the boundary of the region called Bhārata-varṣa. We will demystify the apparent contradictions in the definition of ‘Bhārata’ as both the Indian continent and as the Earth, compare the Purāṇic map of the Jambūdvīpa island with maps of our known world, identify the regions referred to as the nine islands of Bhārata and the eight upa-dvīpas, or ancillary islands of Jambūdvīpa, and finally, create a map of Bhārata that best represents the description given in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
Section 1 – Resources
The Geographical Sections of the major Puranas in English PDF format.
For quickest download, right click and choose “save link as” to your own download folder. They mostly range from 2 to 20 Mb. The numbers in brackets refer to the relevant chapters of each Purāṇa, and the Roman numerals, the relevant canto or section.
Harivamsa Cosmography 61-62)
The above documents are each a pdf extract of the geography and cosmology chapters of the major Purāṇas, which can be downloaded in full from the Internet Archive Digital Library here
I strongly encourage those interested in my latest research about Bhārata-varṣa, to read my new 20 page Preview of the upcoming book “The Purāṇic Geography of Bhārata-varṣa” here. It contains an additional 100 page appendix of essential side-notes, original Purāṇic slokas, and transcripted conversations by Śrīla Prabhupāda, recorded only months before he physically left our world in 1977, all about his vision of Bhū-mandala, Jambudvipa and Bhārata-varṣa, and the importance of presenting the original Sanskrit Purāṇic descriptions over and above the modern atheistic theories of “Scientism”. This preview ‘summary’ has new material that is complementary to the excerpts already provided on this web-page.
Also below, is a recent 5-minute Australian TV interview (March 2019) with Mark Sargent posted on Facebook outlining some common scientific reasons why so many people have revived the ancient concept of a Flat Earth reality ……….
Gallery: Maps of the ‘Earth Circle’ and ‘Mt Meru’ from Various Traditions
One of my first blogs on this ‘ancient wisdom’ website, was a page dedicated to the Vedic model of the universe. From several different documentaries created by the Hare Krishna scholars of America, Britain and India, I edited together a 20 minute educational 3D animation called “Tour of Our Vedic Universe and Beyond“.
Since then, seven more years of research has revealed details of how our planet Earth fits into the Vedic, or Purāṇic, model of the cosmos. Both a deeper study of the Purāṇic and Jyotish texts, plus a world-wide re-emergence of interest in the flat-Earth model, has created an opportunity for me to re-examine and fine-tune my presentation of the Vedic Universe.
Amongst the current deluge of both Youtube information and dis-information, surprising evidence has emerged which discredits the standard formula for viewing the curvature of the Earth. Similar scientific tests repeated over recent years now support the scriptural statements from many traditions, that Earth occupies a special central place in the cosmos. Fake news, fake photos and fake videos of astronauts and the Earth from space are being seen for what they are – fundraising propaganda for government agencies like NASA, …. and these ideas are all lining up with new verses found in the ancient puranic texts, now available for download at the top of this page.
Discussion: An Overview of the Geographical Content of the Major Purāṇas
The assessment of the cosmographical content of the Purāṇic texts warrants many considerations. Although we have the authority of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa along with the unbroken lineage of Bhāgavata custodians since the advent of Bhāgavan-Śrī-Caitanya-deva – who all testify to the pastime of Śrīla Vyasadeva writing down the major and minor Purāṇas along with the Mahābhārata immediately prior to the beginning of Kaliyuga some 5,000 years ago, the purāṇas themselves describe by which orator and in which kalpa each are originally composed.
Due to the mystical and transcendental nature of the authors, histories can be retold from any of the 18,000 kalpas since the morning of the first day of the first year of Brahma’s life. Many Puranic references substantiate we are presently in the 51st year of Brahma’s creation. Other stories are envisioned from future kalpas, from any of the 50 remaining years of Brahma’s life. During each year of Brahma’s life, 360 kalpas and Earth devastations pass away, and during each kalpa passes 1,000 Mahayuga-cycles, consecutively ruled by 14 Manvantaras or ‘Manus’.
Review the concept of the repeated cycle of four Yugas, or Cosmic Ages, here.
Since our acaryas have stated that Śrī Krishna and Śrī Chaitanya appear only once in each day of Brahma, thus the present kalpa within the last 5,000 years, it is obvious that histories of Krishna – and subsequently many histories and geographies of Bhārata-varṣa mentioned in the Purāṇas – refer to pastimes in previous kalpas. Those purāṇic slokas which list when each purāṇa was originally composed should be especially referenced to explain differences in Bharata genealogies and geo-political boundaries, viz. Bhārata-varṣa’s khandas and dvipas.
In those Purāṇas, there are several lists of the names of the 30 kalpas (days of one month of Brahma) and in which kalpas the different purāṇas are composed. The days of Brahma’s month are not identical, being named from various events or avatars manifesting in each day. Thus, differences in geography arise not only in different months of kalpas, but also by the passing of each kalpa, and by the passing of yuga cycles. Fortunately, during each morning of Brahma’s day [kalpa], the eleven lowest worlds, which are demolished by fire and water, are recreated almost identically, as a material reflection of Goloka Vrindavan’s original landscape. The samskar of Brahma’s enlightened vision by Śrī Govinda-deva serves as the daily impetus to recreate the worlds.
Similarly, by the power of transcendental vision, previous purāṇas may accurately describe the future situation of Bhārata-varṣa, as it may apply to the world of this present Mahāyuga of this present Varāha kalpa. These different perspectives on the historical and geographical content of the purāṇas should be understood at the beginning of any comparative study of Purāṇic literature.
This consideration is completely separate to the issue of accurately copying the Sanskrit texts over generations of Guru-disciple lineage. The other major consideration is the accurate translation of the surviving Sanskrit manuscripts into the English language. As we progressively post excerpts from “Purāṇic Geography of Bhārata-varṣa”, our team of translators and advisers will help to maintain the integrity of the geographical descriptions of the Purāṇic Earth as envisioned by the ancient seers.
Section 2 – Contents
Kalpa-Bheda and the Purāṇas
Defining the Bhārata-varṣa of Jambūdvīpa
The Division of Bhārata-varṣa into Nine Khaṇḍas
The Islands in the Ocean Associated with Bhārata-varṣa
The “Hare and Fig-tree” Geography of the World
The Lotus, Sāṅkhya, and the Fourth Dimension
New Purāṇic Maps of Bhārata-varṣa
To date, December 2020, only the summary of four chapters have been posted. More recent information is provided in the book ‘Preview’ – please follow this link here. Most of 2019 has been spent re-analyzing the Sanskrit verses from several Puranas – the evidence required to create a more accurate map of our Earth-realm known as Bhārata-varṣa. Additional research from my still unpublished book can be read in Puranic Geography Part 2.
1. Defining Jambūdvīpa and Bhārata-varṣa
Modern science currently estimates the Earth to be a sphere 8,000 miles in diameter which spins at 1,000 mph, while orbiting the sun at 67,000 mph, simultaneously orbiting the galaxy at a greater speed. The Indian Himālayas are seen to have an average height of nearly 4 miles and stretch for a length of about 1,400 miles. The sun and moon, though said to be vastly different in size, and vastly different in distance, appear exactly the same size to us, and appear to rise and set over the horizon.
The Purāṇas describe the Himalayas have a maximum length of 640,000 miles and a height of up to 16,000 miles. How does the world of the Purāṇas translate to the world that we inhabit and experience through the senses of our everyday lives? The Purāṇic Earth is said to be flat, fixed and immobile, beneath a revolving sky of stars, the moon and the sun. While this matches our everyday experience, the scientists present the teachings that we are helplessly flying through the galaxy at 490,000 miles per hour, and that by some unimaginable coincidence, the centrifugal force created by all this motion is perfectly balanced by a force that nobody can explain, called gravity. What a convenient outcome for an explosion that came out of no-where, for no reason, and which also ignores every known law of nature!
Such dilemmas have been answered in the ancient pages of the Purāṇas. They contain the histories of the world, creation stories, the stories of great kings and saints, and how the incarnations of Godhead have appeared amongst us over the millenniums. They contain knowledge of astronomy, astrology, architecture, medicine, surgery, poetry, music, politics, laws, geography, and the different religious and philosophical pathways to self-realization. They have been passed down since time immemorial as memorised verses, guarded by the succession of Masters and students, and were written down for our benefit around 5,000 years ago.
In attempting to describe the arrangement of the universe, Śrī Śukadeva, the guardian of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, says this: “My dear King, there is no limit to the expanse of the Supreme Lord’s material energy. This world is simply the transformation of the three material qualities, yet no one could possibly explain it perfectly, even in a lifetime as long as that of Brahma” (SB 5.16.4) i.e.: 3.14 x 1014 years. And in the Brahmaṇḍa Purāṇa, Śrī Suta explains “Men mention the magnitude of the cosmos by means of guess alone. One cannot arrive by means of guess alone, at those things which cannot be pondered upon. That which is beyond nature is called Achintya (that which is inconceivable)”. (B.P. 15:7-8).
The contents of this chapter examines how the term Bhārata-varṣa has been simultaneously applied to the subcontinent of India, to the complete Eurasian landmass, and to include the whole Earth as we know it, in both the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and many other Purāṇic scriptures. It describes how this world we live in goes through cosmic cycles of time where floods, Ice Ages and Golden Ages affects the shape and size of the world, and the consciousness of both past and future civilizations. This chapter also maps out the mysterious border regions which connects our world to other realms, known as Jambūdvīpa and Sumeru in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions, and to realms of the Sacred Isles, Arcadia, Asgard, Avalon, Eden, Olympus, and Shambala in other traditions.
2. The Division of Bhārata-varṣa into Nine Khaṇḍas
Often the Purāṇas describe 5 divisions of the kingdom of Bhārata, namely, the middle province and those of the four cardinal points, as does the Mahabharata. Some Purāṇic descriptions add the mountain regions of the Vindhyas and the Himālayas, along with their rivers, creating 7 regions. However, the division of Jambudvīpa into 5, 7 or 9 petals is often confused with the division of Bhārata-varṣa into 5, 7 or 9 divisions. There is a good reason for this, as the transcendental template of creating the universe in the shape of a lotus is repeated, just like the fractal repetition found everywhere in nature.
This lotus pattern expands from the original vision of Goloka Vrindavan, to the outer petals of Mathura, Dwarka and Ayodhya, to the expansion of Vaikuṇtha planets, to the expansion of universes from Mahaviṣṇu, to the creation of the lotus of the 14 worlds, to the creation of the lotus of Bhū-mandala (where Lokāloka Mountains are the boundary petals), to the lotus of Jambūdvīpa (where the Varṣa-Parvata’s are the petals), to the lotus of Earth (which acts like a closed karma lotus bud with Meru at the poles), to the lotus of Eurasia (where the Pamir Mountains represent Meru), and finally to the lotus of Greater India, where Manu’s Brahmāvarta is at the centre, surrounded by eight petals, which are the geographic regions in the eight directions, sometimes called the nine dvīpas or khaṇḍas.
This description of Bhārata as ‘India’ is found in every single Purāṇa, and is called ‘Puṇya Bhūmi’, the ‘Land of Seven Rivers’, the land of seven ‘kula-parvata’ mountains, the ‘land of Nava-Khaṇḍas’, or ‘Nava-dvīpas’, which are in the eight directions described by the astronomers Parasara and Varāhamihira. According to this arrangement, Panchala was the chief district of the central division, Magadha of the east, Kalinga of the south-east, Avanta of the south, Anarta of the south-west, Sindhu-Sauvira of the west, Harahaura of the north-west, Madra of the north, and Kauninda of the north-east. The list from Varāhamihira’s abstract are in the same order as the Markaṇḍeya Purāṇa.
By comparing the detailed lists from works like the Brihat-Samhita or the Siddhanta-Siromani, with those of the Brahmanda, Markandeya, Vishnu, Vayu, and Matsya Purāṇas ; we find that, although there are sundry repetitions and displacements of names, as well as many various readings, all the lists are substantially the same. Although most Purāṇas mention the Nine Divisions and give their names, only the Brahmanda, Markandeya and Skanda state the names of the districts in each of the Nine Divisions. They follow the same order in all ; namely, Indradvīpa, Kaśeru, Tāmradvīpa, Gabhastiman, Nāga, Saumya, Gāndharva, Varuṇa and Kumārikā. No description is given to identify these names, but they mention Indradvīpa to be in the east, Varuna in the west, and Kumarika in the middle.
Unfortunately to date, these divisions without description, have made them difficult to locate, as parts of India, or as parts of the known world, or as places where humans reside that we have no knowledge of. That these ‘dvīpas’ might be unknown worlds of humans lying beyond the extent of either the Flat-Earth’s Antarctic ice-ring, or beyond the stationary Earth-Globe sitting on the ocean, are the two most common speculations held by most ISKCON Vedic cosmology researchers today.
However, by careful study of the Purāṇic literature, the key to identifying these Nava-dvīpas of Bhārata has finally been revealed. Below are compared the usual translations about the nine dvīpas, with some new and very revealing verses from lesser studied Purāṇas:
Vishnu Purāṇa (quoted in Śrīmad Bhagavatam 5.19.19, comments by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura)
Listen to the nine divisions of Bhārata-varṣa. They are Indradvipa, Kaśeru, Tāmravarna, Gabhastimant, Nagadvipa, Saumya, Gāndharva, Vāruṇa, and the ninth [Navadvipa], which is situated near the ocean in the midst of the other eight islands [“sagara saṁvṛita” means situated in the proximity of the sea*]. It extends 1,000 yojanas from north to south. To the east, the Kirata’s live and to the west are the yavanas. [In the east of this island there are the denizens of Kamarupa (Assam). Odhas, Kalingas and Magadhas are all the denizens in the south.] (VP 2.3.6-9)
*Note that the acarya Srila Visvanatha translates sagara-saṁvṛta as ‘in the proximity of the sea’ and NOT ‘separated by the ocean’, as the latter is often how the Sanskrit is rendered to English in many other Puranas which duplicate this verse. Here also the ninth division ‘navadvipa’ is unmistakably identified with India extending 1,000 yojanas from the ocean to the Himalaya. Therefore, in this interpretation, Bharata-varsa must equal the entire Eurasian landmass, of which the Indian peninsular is a ninth portion.
Siddhānta-śiromaṇi (Golādhyāya, Bhuvana-kośa, Ch 3 verse 41-42)
“Within Bhārata-varṣa, there are nine khaṇḍas. They are known as (1) Aindra, (2) Kaśeru, (3) Tāmraparṇa, (4) Gabhastimat, (5) Kumārikā, (6) Nāga, (7) Saumya, (8) Vāruṇa and (9) Gāndharva. In the Kumārikā alone is found the subdivision of men into castes, in the remaining khaṇḍas are found all the tribes of Antyajas or outcaste tribes of men. In this region [Bhāratavarṣa] are also seven Kriachalas (mountain ranges). The Mahendra, Sukti, Malaya, Rishika, Pāriyātra, Sahya and Vindhya hills.”
This list places the previously un-named dvīpa of Kumārikā in the middle. More importantly, these verses describe the divisions as Khaṇḍas (literally ‘divisions’ or ‘sections’) and are associated with, or separated by, the famous seven mountain ranges of Bhārata. This is a completely different picture …. that the “islands” are divisions of the land south of the Himālayas and surrounded by the ocean, the most important and central being Kumārikā-Khaṇḍa. This next verse from the Bhagavata Purāṇa indicates that the Sanskrit term ‘dvīpa’ is often applied to regions separated by mountains, rivers and forests …. not by oceans. “To stop the quarreling among different peoples, Mahārāja Priyavrata marked boundaries at rivers and at the edges of mountains and forests so that no one would trespass upon another’s property.” (SB 5.1.40) Bhaktivedanta Purport: “The example set by Mahārāja Priyavrata in marking off different states is still followed. As indicated here, different classes of men are destined to live in different areas, and therefore the boundaries of various tracts of land, which are described here as islands, should be defined by different rivers, forests and hills.”
Vāyu Purāṇa (45.78-82)
There are nine islands attached to Bhārata-varṣa, separated by the ocean. One cannot go to one island from another. They are Indradvīpa, Kaśeru, Tāmraparna, Gabhastiman, Nāgadvīpa, Saumya, Gāndharva, Vāruna and Bhārata itself the ninth. Bhārata-varṣa is one thousand yojanas from south to north, extending from Kanyākumārī in the south to Gangotri in the north. From east to west it is 9,000 yojanas, Mlecchas reside always near and beyond the borders of this varṣa. To the east there are Kirātas and to the west there are Yavanas.
Bhāgavata Purāṇa (translated by Śrīla Prabhupāda)
In regard to “attached to Bhārata-varṣa”, the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam also lists eight islands, but we are given a completely different list: “The names of these islands are Svarṇaprastha, Candraśukla, Āvartana, Ramaṇaka, Mandara-hariṇa, Pāñcajanya, Siṁhala and Laṅkā. My dear King Parīkṣit, O best of the descendants of Bharata Mahārāja, I have thus described to you, as I myself have been instructed, the island of Bhārata-varṣa and its adjoining islands.” (SB 5.19.30-31)
We can see listed here a different type of island. These ‘upadvīpas’ – the Sanskrit word used, do not claim to be divisions of Bhārata-varṣa at all, but rather additional islands in the ocean surrounding Jambūdvīpa in the vicinity of Bhārata. Siṁhala and Laṅkā are well known to us, but the others have no description, however, the upadvīpas are given extensive description in the 48th chapter of the Vāyu Purāṇa. By cross-examination we can identify several of those listed in the Bhāgavata, but the names and details given in the Vāyu are descriptive enough to identify with the known islands and continents of the Earth. Thus, this distinction between upadvīpas and the navadvīpas (nine khaṇḍas) should remain very clear in subsequent maps of Jambūdvīpa and Bhārata-varṣa. The major upadvīpas, 13 of which have been named in the Vāyu Purāṇa, is the subject matter of the next chapter of “Purāṇic Geography”.
Agni Purāṇa (Ch 118 v1-5):
“1. That country which (lies) to the north of ocean and south of Himadri (Himalaya) is known as the Bhāratavarṣa extending to nine thousand (yojanas) 2-4. This is a land of religious rites. It gives accomplishment of action in getting redemption. Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Suktimat, Hemaparvata, Vindhya and Pariyatra are the seven principal mountains here. Indradvīpa, Kaśeru, Tāmravarṇa, Gabhastimān, Nāgadvīpa, Saumya, Gāndharva, Vāruṇa and Bhārata are the nine territories here surrounded by the ocean. 5. The continent extends to one thousand yojanas from north to south. There are nine divisions of the Bhārata lying around the central part with the Kiratas in the east and the Yavanas in the west.”
Here, the subtle difference in rendering to English envisages a regional division of India surrounded by ocean, the exact opposite of the typical “each surrounded by ocean” rendering. Once again the whole of Bhārata is recognised by the same seven mountains and their respective rivers.
Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa (54:5-6 & Ch 55)
“Surrounded by the ocean are the nine divisions in Bhārata-varṣa – all of them are mutually inaccessible. They are Indradvīpa, Kaśeru, Tāmraparṇa, Gabhastimān, Nāgadvīpa, Saumya, Gāndharva, and Vāruṇa.”
At the beginning of chapter 55 (or chapter 58 in some editions), Kraushtaki requests to hear about how Lord Hari resides in Bhāratavarṣa in his Kūrma form. Mārkaṇḍeya replys: Kūrma occupies the entire Bhārata-varṣa with its nine divisions. His head faces the east. All the stars and other things occupy the different divisions of his nine fold divisional body.”
The chapter describes all the kingdoms in the nine divisions of Bhārata, and the following summary clearly demonstrates that the nine so-called “dvīpas” of Bhārata are actually nine divisions of the Indian subcontinent: (1) the middle portion, including the Sārasvatā, Panchala and Aravali Hills (Pāriyātra), (2) the head (east) portion, including Māgadha, Lohitya and Kosala, (3) right foot (south-east) portion, including Kalinga, Andhra and Vidarbha, (4) right side (south) portion including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kāverī river, Malaya Mts, Siṁhala and Laṅkā. (5) right hind foot (southwest) portion including Pahlava, Indus river and Saurashtra. (6) tail (west) portion including Tarakshuras (Iran), Asta-giri (Afghanistan) and Panchanada (Punjab). (7) Left hind foot (north-west) portion, including Asvaka-Kambhojas, Bāhlikas (Bactria) and Kandahar (8) left side (north) portion including Kailash, Himālayas, Kashmir, Takṣaśilā (Taxila), Huns (Tibet) and Rasalaya (Lhasa). (9) north-east foot portion, including, mountainous villages of Kiratas, Yavanas and Pauravas, the Koshi River (Nepal) and Vana-rastra (Assam). These are all located on the map below.
Skanda Purāṇa (Maheśvara Khaṇḍa, Book 2, Chapter 39)
While the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa accurately locates the nine khandas of Bhārata in the world, the largest Purana amongst them all is the only one that gives the origin of these nine names. The Skanda Purāṇa gives the story of how these divisions get their names, and how Kumarika-devi donated her portion to her brothers, Indradvīpa, Kaśeru, Tāmravarna, Babhasimān, Nagadvīpa, Saumya, Gāndarva, Vāruṇa. Next she divides up each ‘Khaṇḍa’ or ‘Dvīpa’ into a further eight parts, and states the number of villages in each of them. This results in a list of 72 regions that span Southern Asia, or the Greater India called “Bhārata-Khaṇḍa”. Below are these important verses from the 39th Chapter.
“Śrī Nārada said : There was one named Ṛṣbha whose name, O son of Pṛtha, will be associated with many heretic concepts and views in Kali Yuga [Jainism]. They will be contributory to the delusion of all the worlds. Bharata was his son. Śataśṛṅga was his son. Eight sons and a daughter were born to him. They were Īndradvīpa, Kaśeru, Tāmradvīpa, Gabhastiman, Nāga, Saumya, Gāndharva and Varuṇa. The girl’s name was Kumārikā.
He [King Śataśṛṅga] divided this Bhārata continent into nine regions. Eight of them he gave to his [eight] sons and the ninth one to Kumārī. I shall describe the different regions rendered splendid by the mountains. Listen from me to the mountains and the sub- continents named after the sons. Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Śuktimān, Ṛkṣaparvata, Vindhya and Pāriyātra – these seven are the chief mountains.
Indradvīpa is said to be beyond Mahendra. The sub-continent of Kumārika is said to be located on the lower slopes of Pāriyātra. Each of these regions extends to a thousand (Yojanas). After dividing the kingdom thus among his sons and the daughter Kumārī, the king Śataśṛṅga went to the mountain in the north and performed penance. The magnificent virgin Kumārī of exalted fortune stayed at Stambhatīrtha. With the wealth coming from her sub-continent, she performed the rites of giving in charity and austere penance. After some time, nine sons of great vigour, strength and zeal were born to each of those eight brothers. They gathered together, approached Kumārī and spoke (thus): “O splendid lady, you are our family goddess. Be pleased with us. Divide these eight sub-continents into seventy-two regions yourself, and give them to us so that there will be no difference (discord) amongst us.”
On being asked thus, she who was conversant with all righteous acts and pious duties and who was on a par with Brahma in wisdom and knowledge, divided the nine continents into seventy-two regions. I shall truthfully tell you, 0 Phālguna, their names, the villages, towns, shores and banks and their number.”
The text goes on to describe 72 regions, and even how many towns and villages were in each kingdom, for example: – “There are 100,000 villages in Nepāla [Nepal], Bālāka [Kazakhstan] is said to be a country with 25,000,000 villages. There are 7,200,000 villages in Gajaṇaka [Afganistan], There are 1,800,000 villages in Gauḍa Deśa [West Bengal], 900,000 villages are well-known in Kāmarūpa [Assam] In the Oḍḍiyāṇa [Orissa] country 900,000 (villages) have been declared. Similarly, 900,000 (villages) have been declared in Jālandhara land [Jharkhand]. Bālhika [Bactria] is known as having 400,000 villages. Laṅkā Deśa is known as having 36,000 villages, Kāśmīra Maṇḍala is said to have sixty-eight thousand, etc. etc. etc. ….. Thus in Bhāratakhaṇḍa, ninety-six crore seven million two hundred thousand Pattanas (towns) have been proclaimed. O descendant of Bhārata, there are thirty-six thousand seashores. Thus she divided the nine sub-continents and gave them to her nephews.”
Those who read the full 39th chapter will find a story remarkably similar to the pastime of Śrī Parvati incarnating as the teenage virgin tapasvi ‘Kumāri-devi’ who performed penance for Lord Shiva at the holy confluence of the three oceans at Cape Kanya-Kumāri. This holy place was visited by Śrī Caitanya, and Śrī Baladeva, on their pilgrimages around Bhārata.
Previous to finding this account, I had assumed our entire world was in fact the Kumārika-khaṇḍa portion of Bhārata-varṣa, placed centrally and attached to Jambudvipa via the Himalayan range. Considering all the shastric evidence together, we are now lead to a new picture where the entire world of our experience is none other than the bow-shaped varṣa at the southern shore of Jambudvipa.
Even though each of the nine Khaṇḍas were said to be 1,000 yojanas across, we can understand by comparison to the Kaliyuga distance from Gangotri to Kanya-kumari, that the entire region of Asia and Europe is being discussed here. It is all nine ‘dvīpas’ of south Asia that are surrounded by ocean, that’s the proper translation. When we read the Skanda Purāna’s description that ‘half the kingdoms are on the sea-shore’, it can be understood how a mistake in grammar can make them seem ‘separated by ocean’. It is a great fortune that this Purāna explains the exact location of Kumarika and Indradvīpa, finally resolving the mystery of the nine ‘islands’.
Often in the Purānaic literature the sub-continent of India was considered the only civilized (or important) region of Bhārata, and was usually divided into 5 parts; four petals and a centre, while the rest of Eurasia were said to be populated by Mlecchas. Generally they were called Yavanas, Tukharas, Kiratas and Cinas, who were said to live beyond the borders of Bhārata-varṣa. This is supported by Varāhamihira’s work “Brihat Samhita”, where, in the 14th Adhyaya ‘Divisions of the Earth’, he lists the kingdoms of central, eastern, south-east, south, south-west, west, northwest, north and north-east regions as the nine natural divisions of Bhārata. For example: 14:1 “To the nine triads of stars commencing from Krittika belong the nine regions of the earth having Bhārata as its centre and proceeding thence to the East, South-east, etc.” Like the Skanda Purāna and the Mahābhārata, he lists hundreds of localities, but divides them according to the nine directions.
The geography of the ancient Vedas and Puranas is dominated by the descriptions of the land between the Sarasvati and Ganga Rivers, where civilization was repeatedly initiated by the incarnations of Manu and the great sages born of Brahma’s mind. Initially the land of Aryans or cultured people was limited to this region, yet in every direction the names of tribes and provinces was known. In due course of time the entire subcontinent was civilized and ruled by the King of Bhārata, and in past aeons these kings extracted tribute from the entire Earth. The names of far off islands, continents and peoples were recorded in the old stories.
From studying the 48th chapter of the Vāyu Purana called “Islands South of Bhārata in the Salt Ocean”, we find the descriptions and names of the islands surrounding the Indian ocean, and even the foreign continents like Africa, Australia and the Americas. In this way, we are finally collecting all the verses that describe the entire Earth as we know it, and how it could possibly fit into our perception of Bhārata-varṣa as it is presented in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
This new book “Puranic Geography of Bhārata-varṣa” will be of great interest to institutions teaching the History of Hinduism, the History of Geography, those studying comparative cosmology, Maps of Ancient Times, and the International Society For Krishna Consciousness, which is presently building an enormous Vedic Planetarium and Temple by the Ganges in Navadvipa, India.
3. The Ocean Dvīpas Associated with Bhārata-varṣa
Bhāgavata Purāṇa 5.19.29-31:
Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: My dear King, in the opinion of some learned scholars, eight smaller islands surround Jambūdvīpa. When the sons of Mahārāja Sagara were searching all over the world for their lost horse, they dug up the earth, and in this way eight adjoining islands came into existence. The names of these islands are Svarṇaprastha, Candraśukla, Āvartana, Ramaṇaka, Mandara-hariṇa, Pāñcajanya, Siṁhala and Laṅkā. My dear King Parīkṣit, O best of the descendants of Bhārata Mahārāja, I have thus described to you, as I myself have been instructed, the island of Bhārata-varṣa and its adjoining islands. These are the islands that constitute Jambūdvīpa.
These are the last three verses describing Bhārata in the 5th Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and while Śrīla Prabhupāda makes no comment on these verses, the previous Acaryas have said this:
Ashwanveshane means as they went in search of the sacrificial horse. The islands are mentioned by their names.
The ancillary islands to Jambūdvīpa are mentioned. They were not created by the chariot wheel of Priyavrata. They were created when Sagara’s children dug the earth in search of the sacrificial horse. The eight islands are individually named. They are eight as mentioned here. But in the Shakuntala Mahābhārata [Book 3, Vana Parva, v.134] thirteen islands are mentioned by number in the text and the commentator has given the names of three among the remaining five islands. He has said they are Romakapattana, Siddhapana and Yamakoti. He has not mentioned the other two names.
By saying “as they dug the earth,” the author conveys that Bhārata-khaṇḍa, though 9,000 yojanas broad, appears smaller, because of their digging.
Having now thoroughly discussed the identity of the Bhāratavarṣa as Bhārata-khaṇḍa or Kumārikā-khaṇḍa, the Indian Peninsular, and the pious capital territory of our entire Earth (called Bhāratavarṣa or Karma-bhūmi), we come to hear about the ancillary islands of Jambūdvīpa that are associated with India. After describing in great detail the nine khaṇḍas of the Indian mainland in the last chapter, we can now focus on the islands in the sea that actually are separated by ocean, reached by ocean ships or the mysterious Vedic air-ships.
Śrī Bhagavatprasādācārya makes the interesting comment about thirteen such islands in his notes. His list consists of the eight from this verse, including Laṅkā and Siṁhala, plus the four cardinal cities of Jambūdvīpa, mentioned by the translator, which originate from the Surya-Siddhanta: Yamakoti, Siddhapurī, Romaka and Laṅkā. This is a considerably speculative list on the part of the unnamed translator, as these additions are only cities, signified by the suffix puri and pattana. However, in the Mahābhārata verse itself, Lomasa-Suta does indeed mention “thirteen islands exist on earth” without listing them.
The actual list of thirteen islands, including the eight from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, is very likely a variation of the lists in the Vāyu Purāṇa, plus those mentioned in the Mahābhārata and in the Ramayana. The thirteen islands could also be a reference to the 12 or 14 mountains that became islands in the ocean out of fear of Mahendra (Indra). The Vāyu describes at least nine islands that lie in the salt water ocean surrounding the Bhāratavarṣa peninsula. Fortunately, in the Vāyu these islands are described with some detail and can therefore be identified with some degree of certainty. This list of islands (excepting Laṅkā, Siṁhala and Yava) are not mentioned in the other Purāṇas, which mostly have the list of nine khaṇḍas starting with Indradvīpa. On the other hand, the Ramayana and Mahābhārata do furnish several characteristics about these ocean islands, which of course should never be confused with those gigantic sapta-dvīpas that have no connection whatsoever with the salt ocean of our experience.
The table provided at the end of this chapter, shown below, contains a compilation of all the oceanic islands and ocean provinces that have been mentioned and cross-referenced in the Bhāgavata, Vāyu & Varaha Purāṇas, the Mahābhārata & Ramayana, and the Siddhanta-śiromani. The Purāṇas call them the ‘upadvīpas’ or the ancillary islands to Jambūdvīpa, although most are within the jurisdiction of Karma-kṣetra – the southern ocean of Bhārata. Care has gone into excluding all references to the seven great concentric islands of Bhū-maṇḍala (Satpa-dvīpa), as well as the nine internal divisions or dvīpas (Nava-dvīpas) of the Bhārata mainland already discussed.
Many of the islands described here span the Indian Ocean, with references to those in the Pacific Ocean as well, while some which cannot be accessed by humans are heavenly islands much like the heavenly varṣas of Jambūdvīpa. Although much scriptural, historical, geological and geographical evidence has gone into the identification of these islands and continents as described in the third chapter of my Purāṇic Geography book, some associations remain as educated guesses.
|NAME OF DVĪPA||MODERN NAME|
|Svarṇaprastha||Java, Sumatra, Philippines (Suvarṇadvīpa)|
|Candraśukla||Heavenly island west of Uttarakuru|
|Ramaṇaka||Fiji (Kaliya’s isolated tropical island)|
|Āvartana||Antarctica (avartana = return away from)|
|Mandara-hariṇa||Madagascar (historical Harina)|
|Pāñcajanya||Borneo (conch-shaped with white mountains)|
|Siṅhala||Sri Lanka (Land of Sinhalese)|
|Laṅkā||Laccadive ocean ridge & Maldives (Treta yuga)|
|Nāga||Sumatra &/or Java (Rabbit-ear)|
|Kaśyapa or Karna||Malaysian Peninsular (Rabbit-ear)|
|Susa||Eurasia & Africa (Jack-Rabbit)|
|Peepal||North & South America (Fig-Trees)|
|vegetation dvīpas||Indonesia, Australia (Fruit & Vegetation)|
|Yava||Java / Sumatra|
|Yava-dvīpas||Indonesia / Philippines|
|Varaha Mt.||Mt. Meru, Africa (“west of Arabian Sea”)|
|Siṅhala||Ceylon (Sri Lanka)|
|Kataha||Kedah (Malaysian Peninsular)|
|Candradvīpa||White Isles of the Moon (west of Uttarakuru)|
|Bhadrākara||Golden Isles of the West (beyond Candradvīpa)|
|Suryadvīpa||Golden Isles of the Sun (north of Uttarakuru)|
|Vidyutvān Mt||African Eastern-Rift Ranges|
|Barhīna Islands||Papua, Pacific islands & the Americas|
|Yama||Sumatra (Suvarna or Yavadvīpa)|
|Nāgadeśa||Australia (Land of snakes)|
|Malaya||Java (Yava Islands)|
|Kañcanapāda Mt.||In Java (Mt. Semeru)|
|Kumuda||Thailand & Cambodia (Land of Kumuda lotus)|
|Varāha||Africa (Nile River Aryans)|
|Laṅkā||Laccadive Ocean Ridge – Maldives|
|Bali-dvīpa||Bali or Balāhaka|
|Rādhā-dvīpa||Rhodes (Greek Is. Rhodos)|
|Kuṣṇa-dvīpas||Andaman & Nicobar Is.|
|Barhīna-dvīpas||Sulawesi, Timor, Solomon Is, Fiji, Tahiti, etc. etc.|
|Barhīna-dvīpas||New Zealand, Nan Madol, Hawaii, Easter Is, etc.|
4. The “Hare and Fig-tree” Geography of the World
The following is an article published by Aravindan Neelakandan in Sep 21, 2017 from his online magazine < link. It discusses the ancient description of the Earth’s continents as resembling the shapes of an Indian jack-rabbit (susa), an Indian figtree (peepal) and various vegetations, surrounded by ocean. He points out how easily this analogy can be interpreted in many ways, and suggests that the brahmins and pandits of the 18th century reverse engineered the world maps of the day to match the ancient verses from the Mahabharata, with the intent of verifying their ancient knowledge in the face of British imperialism and bigotry:
The Earth’s geography is described in the Mahābhārata, reported here, as looking like a rabbit and the sacred peepal tree leaves (ficus religiosa). Then, a claim is made. If the conventional modern world map is rotated 180 degrees, it looks amazingly similar to what the Mahābhārata has said about Earth’s shape as seen from space.
This story has been repeated in many other websites that propagate Hindu dharma and culture.
The same claim has been made by His Holiness Tridandi Chinna Śrīmannarayana Ramanuja Jeeyar. In a lecture from 2011 delivered at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, with a benign smile, Jeeyar asked the audience if they knew when the modern map of the world was made. He then asked his audience if they think a fairly accurate map of the world could have been made without help from the views from above – like from satellites. Then he pointed out that in the Mahābhārata it was said in one place that “the picture of the Earth was reflecting on the moon and there it looked like as if a rabbit is standing on its legs trying to catch hold of a big bush in front of it”. He then proceeded to show the rabbit and the big bush. When the rabbit, poised to jump on the bush, was morphed into the conventional map of the Earth, the audience broke into tremendous applause.
Vedic science stood vindicated in the hallowed hall of IIT Madras.
Now many Hindu websites have repeated this claim but after adding their spin to it. ‘First ever World Map was sketched out based on this Mahābhārata verse!’’ This ‘first world map’ is attributed to none other than Śrī Ramanuja, the great egalitarian Vaishnavaite seer who practiced Vedantic humanism.
Between that lecture and the claim on the website, we have two peepal leaves instead of a bush. So, then, what is the truth?
Let us first look at what the Mahābhārata verses actually say. The verses are from ‘Jamvu-khaṇḍa Nirmana Parva’, which in turn is within the Bhishma Parva book of the Mahābhārata. Here, Sanjaya explains to the blind king Dhritarashtra thus:
O son of Kuru’s race, I will, however, describe to thee the island called Sudarśana. This island, O king, is circular and of the form of a wheel. It is covered with rivers and other pieces of water and with mountains looking like masses of clouds, and with cities and many delightful provinces. It is also full of trees furnished with flowers and fruits, and with crops of diverse kinds and other wealth. And it is surrounded on all sides with the salt ocean. As a person can see his own face in a mirror, even so is the island called Sudarśana seen in the lunar disc. Two of its parts seem to be a peepul tree, while two others look like a large hare. It is surrounded on all sides with an assemblage of every kind of deciduous plants. Besides these portions, the rest is all water.
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, The Mahābhārata Of Krishna-Dvaipāyana Vyasa Translated Into English Prose(1883-1896)
As anyone who has read the passage can see, what the verses describe and what the purported morphing of the nineteenth-century world maps to that imagery suggests need a tremendous volume of the suspension of disbelief.
In the Indic tradition, the puranic geography is often pointed out to be the symbol of inner cartography. A good example is the work of Nilakantha Chaturdara of Maharashtra who lived in the second half of the seventeenth century. He collected manuscripts of the epic from different parts of India and brought out a comprehensive version of it. He also wrote a famous commentary on the Mahābhārata, which in itself was based on previous traditional commentaries. This was named ‘Bhārata-bhava-deepa’ (‘Light on the Inner Significance of the Bhārata’). In this commentary, he says these specific verses have an inner meaning – thus Sudarśana becomes the mind.
The flawed attempt to twist the Mahābhārata verses to fit the world map was undertaken in the nineteenth century by Śrīman Thiruvenkata Ramanuja Jeeyar (1806-1877)
The map in question was not drawn by Śrī Ramanuja (1017-1137). It was actually drawn by Śrīman Thiruvenkata Ramanuja Jeeyar (1806-1877). The first world map showing both the Americas and, fairly correctly, other continents had come into existence by the nineteenth century itself.
Hondius World Map published in Europe in 1630 CE
So by the time of Thiruvenkata Ramanuja Jeeyar, the Western maps showing Asian, European, African and American continents had arrived in India. All that the nineteenth-century Jeeyar did was, to take the Mahābhārata verses and do some ingenious, meticulous manual morphing of the map to fit the verse.
Interestingly, for Jeeyar, the rabbit was Europe and Asia, while for the twentieth-century Jeeyar, the rabbit was the two Americas – now that should make one wonder if it was belief-induced Rorschach of a very bad kind.
Yet this nineteenth-century attempt by Jeeyar is important only because it shows one way in which Hinduism faced the challenge thrown to it by modern science and missionary propaganda. It shows the way that should be avoided. At least Jeeyar was perceptive enough not to challenge the map but tried to integrate it into his scriptural knowledge.
(Top) A depiction of Sudarsana island perhaps more faithful to the verses. (Below) Fifteenth-century Vijayanagar depiction of the rabbit-like reflection on the Moon. On both sides of the Moon are the serpents Rahu and Ketu, symbolic of the ascending node with the Moon moving to the north of the solar path and the descending node with the Moon moving to the south respectively
Though Christianity itself had a confrontation with the natural sciences because of its adamant literal and fundamentalist adherence to Biblical mythology, by eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the missionaries had started using the knowledge generated by then modern cartography to challenge the Puranic geographical descriptions of both Hindus and Buddhists. While we need to do the necessary research for what transpired in such confrontations between Hindu scholars and missionaries, in the case of Buddhists we have some well-preserved documents of such debates.
For example, in 1873 in Śrī Lanka, a Wesleyan missionary, David da Silva, held up a globe during a debate with an audience of 5,000 people and asked Buddhist monk Gunananda to locate Mount Meru. If it was 80,000 yojanas high, 80,000 yojanas wide and 80,000 yojanas long and at the centre of the Earth, how was it that, asked the Christian preacher, it could not be seen by the humans? According to one report, an irritated Buddhist monk yelled from the audience, asking the reverend to climb on top of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden and then he would be able to see Meru.
Interestingly, a Japanese scholar of the eighteenth century, Tominaga Nakamoto (1715-1746), who was perhaps the first scholar (whether Asian or European) to study Buddhism in a historical context, provided a Hindu-Buddhist interpretation to such cosmologies. In a passage that is relevant even today, the Buddhist scholar first acknowledged that such imagery had been borrowed from Vedic religion and went on to call those who wanted to find empirical “rights and wrongs of such things” as “small-minded people”. He cautioned against “people who have indulged in taking this up again when putting together theories about the universe” and said “it is extremely squalid, indeed ridiculous”. Then he concluded: “Teachings about the cosmos are in actuality quite vague and do no more than tell us of the inner workings of the mind. There is no way of knowing whether they are right or wrong. Hence I say that the cosmos arises on the pattern of people’s minds” (‘Emerging from Meditation’, 1735-1737).
Unfortunately in India, despite traditional commentators clearly providing the inner significance of such map-making in the language of Purāṇas and Itihasas, the emerging scholars tended to dismiss them. For example, Kisari Mohan Ganguli, who did a meticulous translation of the Mahābhārata into English (1883-1896), calls Nilakantha’s interpretation as “seeking to put sense in non-sense”. Naturally, one can understand the socio-cultural context in which Thiruvenkata Ramanuja Jeeyar was trying to invent in the verses of the Mahābhārata the world map of his century. However, the development of inner sciences and a deeper understanding of world mythologies have shown that the Indic tradition of cosmologies and puranic sacred geographies were created consciously to serve a deeper purpose. Even Western Indologists are beginning to acknowledge this aspect. Dr Ariel Glucklich points this aspect out:
The narrator (suta) of this vast cosmography was both a realist and a rationalist. He prefaced his geography lesson with a reminder to his audience that the true divisions (dvīpa) of the world added up, in fact, to thousands, and that both his seven- and four-part schemes were only simplifications. Only reason, he added, should be used to explain immensities or realities that extended beyond common experience. His maps, in short, were representations of something greater—mere facsimiles, however reasonable. He seemed to be urging restraint among his listeners when they considered comparing what they heard in his narration to what was truly out there in the world.
‘The Strides Of Viṣṇu’ (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Dr Glucklich says it “is still good advice for modern readers of the Purāṇas”. As ever, however, it was the great seer-poet Śrī Aurobindo who provides (as early as 1920) a holistic way of looking at Puranic cosmology while warning about the pitfalls. The passage below from Śrī Aurobindo’s Foundations of Indian Culture, though a bit long, provides the key to understanding the ‘fantastic geography’ of Puranic and Itihasic lore:
The so-called fantastic geography of the Purāṇas, as we are expressly told in the Purāṇas themselves, are a rich poetic figure, a symbolic geography of the inner psychical universe. The cosmogony expressed sometimes in terms proper to the physical universe has, as in the Veda, a spiritual, and psychological meaning and basis. It is easy to see how in the increasing ignorance of later times the more technical parts of the Puranic symbology inevitably lent themselves to much superstition and to crude physical ideas about spiritual and psychic things. But that danger attends all attempts to bring them to the comprehension of the mass of men and this disadvantage should not blind us to the enormous effect produced in training the mass mind to respond to a psycho-religious and psycho-spiritual appeal that prepares a capacity for higher things. That effect endures even though the Puranic system may have to be superseded by a finer appeal and the awakening to more directly subtle significances, and if such a supersession becomes possible, it will itself be due very largely to the work done by the Purāṇas.
Śrī Aurobindo, The Foundations Of Indian Culture (First Edition: 1953)
So we have on the one hand the traditional and yet scientifically sound way of approaching the poetic language of ancient Indic literature. We can understand what psychological and spiritual dynamics were at work in creating these cosmologies and sacred geographies. To proceed through this path, one needs an in-depth study of our tradition as well as of modern sciences, particularly psychology. It is to walk in the path of Patanjali, Thirumular, Nilakantha and Śrī Aurobindo.
It requires from the seeker hard work, lifelong perseverance and intelligence of high quality. To make it a discipline, we also need to build institutions. On the other hand, we can do a demonstrably wrong, laughable Zakir Naik-type of science-religion mapping to humour our petty egos and, in the process, become a laughing stock of any intelligent mind that seeks truth. And Zakir Naik is a terrible tragedy that can befall any religion.
In my book “Puranic Geography of Bharata-varsa” the original sanskrit verses found in several Puranas and the Mahabharata which describe the world as Sudarśana-dvīpa are analysed to uncover the truth about this description, and I discuss ways to use this information to identify the Earth’s continents and islands by their ancient Sanskrit names.
TO BE CONTINUED – last updated 11th July 2020
(Summary of Chapters 5,6 & 7 pending)
Please note that due to the new YouTube “Fact-Check” Policy, Videos about “Flat Earth” are being taken down, banned, ‘fact-checked’ by YouTube owned subsidiary groups which have decided to call “Flat Earth” research fake news or have placed them in particular age categories to restrict the genuine enquirer, who is now insulated and cut off from any real research. It is for this reason that some videos I suggested to watch over the last 4 years have been removed or restricted from viewing. Everyone seems to have a price, and it looks like YouTube have now reached that threshold. Take care, and watch my latest videos about Puranic Geography before they are deemed to be “Fake Research” too! Your well-wisher, Soolaba.
Please enjoy this latest scientific release (2 May 2021) by FECORE, that shows the ‘standard curvature formula for the Earth’ has been disproved by scientific experiment and observation:
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