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Paradise Found, by William F. Warren, [1885], at

p. 459


(Illustrating pp. 129-133; 148-154; 18.3, etc.)

That the mythological cosmos of the modern Hindus was originally constructed upon the basis of a geocentric system of the planetary heavens I cannot doubt. Its "concentric oceans" are simply the interplanetary spaces mythologically pictured and described. Its "concentric continents" are those invisible solid, concentric, "crystalline spheres" which revolved about the common axis of the Pythagoreo-Ptolemaic universe, and were presided over by the different visible planets. In both systems the Earth is not only the centre of the planetary revolution, but also the centre of each planetary sphere itself. How entirely incorrect the flat-world interpretation ordinarily given us is 1 could hardly be more forcibly shown than it is in the following extract: "Priya Vrata, by the wheel of whose car the Earth [or better, the World] was divided into seven continents, had thirteen male children. Six of these embraced an ascetic life; the rest ruled the seven divisions of the Earth [World.] To Agnidhra was assigned the Jambu-dwípa [the Earth]; to Medhátithi, Plaksha; to Vápushmát, Sálmali; to Jyotishmat, Kúsa; to Dyutimat, Krauncha; to Bhavya, Sáka; and to Savala, Pushkara. With the exception of the sovereign of Jambu each of the six other kings is said to have had seven sons, among whom he divided his kingdom into seven equal parts. These seven divisions in each of the six continents are separated by seven chains of mountains and seven rivers lying breadthwise, and placed with such inclinations with respect to one another that if a straight line be drawn through any chain of mountains or 

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rivers and its corresponding mountains or rivers on the other continents, and produced toward the central island, it would meet the centre of the Earth." 1

All Puranic descriptions of the Earth are by no means consistent with each other, but the following from the Vishnu Purana can readily be understood if read in the light of the illustrative cuts already given:—

Parásara.—You shall hear from me, Maitreya, a brief account of the earth. A full detail I could not give you in a century.

The seven great insular continents are Jambu, Plaksha, Sálmali, Kusa, Krauncha, Sáka, and Pushkara; and they are surrounded, severally, by seven great seas,—the sea of salt water (Lavana), of sugar-cane juice (Ikshu), of wine (Surá), of clarified butter (Sarpis), of curds (Dadhi), of milk (Dugdha), and of fresh water (Jala).

Jambu-dwípa is in the centre of all these. And in the centre of this (continent) is the golden mountain Meru. The height of Meru is eighty-four thousand Yojanas; and its depth below (the surface of the earth) is sixteen (thousand). Its diameter at the summit is thirty-two (thousand Yojanas), and at its base sixteen thousand; so that this mountain is like the seed-cup of the lotos of the earth.

The boundary mountains (of the earth) are Himavat, Hemakúta, and Nishadha, which lie south (of Meru); and Níla, Śweta, and Śringin; which are situated to the north (of it). The two central ranges (those next to Meru, or Nishadha and Níla) extend for a hundred thousand (Yojanas, running east and west). Each of the others diminishes ten thousand (Yojanas, as it lies more remote from the centre). 2 They are two thousand (Yojanas)

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in height, and as many in breadth. The Varshas (or countries between these ranges) are: Bhárata (India), south of the Himavat mountains; next, Kimpurusha, between Himavat and Hemakúta; north of the latter, and south of Nishadha, is Harivarsha: north of Meru is Ramyaka, extending from the Nila or blue mountains to the Śweta (or white) mountains; Hiranmaya lies between the Śweta and Śringin ranges; and Uttarakuru is beyond the latter, following the same direction as Bhárata. Each of these is nine thousand (Yojanas) in extent.

Ilávrita is of similar dimensions, but in the centre of it is the golden mountain Meru; and the country extends nine thousand (Yojanas) in each direction from the four sides of the mountain. There are four mountains in this Varsha, formed as buttresses to Meru, each ten thousand Yojanas in elevation. That on the east is called Mandara; that on the south, Gandhamádana; that on the west, Vipula; and that on the north, Supárswa. On each of these stands severally a Kadamba-tree, a Jambu-tree, a Pippala, and a Vata; each spreading over eleven hundred (Yojanas, and towering aloft like) banners on the mountains. From the Jambu-tree the insular continent Jambu-dwípa derives its appellation. The apples

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of that tree are as large as elephants. When they are rotten they fall upon the crest of the mountain; and from their expressed juice is formed the Jambu river, the waters of which are drunk by the inhabitants; and, in consequence of drinking of that stream, they pass their days in content and health, being subject neither to perspiration, to foul odors, to decrepitude, nor organic decay. The soil on the banks of the river, absorbing the Jambu juice, and being dried by gentle breezes, becomes the gold termed Jámbunada (of which) the ornaments of the Siddhas (are fabricated). The country of Bhadráswa lies on the east of Meru, and Ketumála, on the west; and between these two is the region Ilávrita. On the east (of the same) is the forest Chaitraratha; the Gandhamádana (wood) is on the south; (the forest of) Vaibhiája is on the west; and (the grove of India, or) Mandana is on the north. There are also four great lakes, the waters of which are partaken of by the gods, called Aruńoda, Mahábhadra, Ásitoda, and Mánasa.

The principal mountain ridges which project from the base of Meru, like filaments from the root of the lotos, are, on the east, Sítánta, Mukunda, Kurarí, Mályavat, and Vaikanka; on the south, Trikútá, Sisira, Patanga, Ruchaka, and Nishadha; on the west Śikhivásas, Vaidúrya, Kapila, Gandhamádana, and Járudhi; and on the north Śankhakúta, Ŕishabha, Hamsa, Nága, and Kálanjara. These and others extend from between the intervals in the body, or from the heart, of Meru.

On the summit of Meru is the vast city of Brahma, extending fourteen thousand leagues, and renowned in heaven; and around it, in the cardinal points and the intermediate quarters, are situated the stately cities of Indra and the other regents of the spheres. The capital of Brahma is inclosed by the river Ganges, which, issuing from the foot of Vishnu, and washing the lunar orb, falls, here, from the skies, and after encircling the city

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divides into four mighty rivers flowing in opposite directions. These rivers are the Śítá, the Alakanandá, the Chakshu, and the Bhadrá. The first, falling upon the tops of the inferior mountains, on the east side of Meru, flows over their crests, and passes through the country of Bhadráśwa, to the ocean. The Alakanandá flows south, to (the country of) Bhárata, and, dividing into seven rivers on the way, falls into the sea. The Chakshu falls into the sea, after traversing all the western mountains and passing through the country of Ketumála. And the Bhadrá washes the country of the Uttarakurus, and empties itself into the northern ocean.

Meru, then, is confined between the mountains Nita and Nishadha (on the north and south), and between Mályavat and Gandhamádana (on the west and east). It lies between them, like the pericarp of a lotos.

The countries of Bhárata, Ketumála, Bhadráswa, and Uttarakuru lie, like leaves of the lotos of the world, exterior to the boundary mountains. Jat́hara and Devakúta are two mountain ranges, running north and south, and connecting the two chains of Níla and Nishadha. Gandhamádana and Kailása extend, east and west, eighty Yojanas in breadth, from sea to sea. Nishadha and Páriyátra are the limitative mountains on the west, stretching, like those on the east, between the Níla and Nishadha ranges. And the mountains Tríśŕinga and Járudha are the northern limits (of Meru), extending, east and west, between the two seas. Thus I have repeated to you the mountains described by great sages as the boundary mountains, situated in pairs on each of the four sides of Meru.

Those also which have been mentioned as the filament mountains (or spurs), Śítanta and the rest, are exceedingly delightful. The valleys embosomed amongst them are favorite resorts of the Siddhas and Cháranas. And there are situated upon them agreeable forests and

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pleasant cities, embellished with the palaces of Lakshmí, Vishńu, Agni, Súrya, and other deities, and peopled by celestial spirits; whilst the Yakshas, Rákshasas, Daityas, and Dánavas pursue their pastimes in the vales.

These, in short, are the regions of Paradise, or Swarga, the seats of the righteous, and where the wicked do not arrive even after a hundred births. In (the country of) Bhadráśwa, Vishńu resides as Hayasíras (the horse-headed); in Ketumála, as Varáha (the boar); in Bhárata, as the tortoise (Kúrma); in Keru, as the fish (Matsya); in his universal form, everywhere: for Hari pervades all places. He is the supporter of all things; he is all things. In the eight realms of Kiḿpurusha and the rest (or all exclusive of Bhárata), there is no sorrow, nor weariness, nor anxiety, nor hunger, nor apprehension; their inhabitants are exempt from all infirmity and pain, and live (in uninterrupted enjoyment) for ten or twelve thousand years. Indra never sends rain upon them; for the earth abounds with water. In those places there is no distinction of Kŕita, Tretá, or any succession of ages. In each of these Varshas there are, respectively, seven principal ranges of mountains, from which, O best of Brahmans, hundreds of rivers take their rise. (From H. H. Wilson's Translation of the Vishnu Purana.) 1

For further accounts of Puranic geography see Wilford's "Sacred Isles in the West," ch. iii.; "Geographical Extracts from the Puranas," in "Asiatic Researches," vol. viii.


459:1 See picture in Dr. Scudder's Tales for Little Readers about the Heathen. New York, 1849: p. 48.

460:1 Babu Shome, "Physical Errors of Hinduism." Selections from the Calcutta Review, No. xv., April, 1882.

460:2 In our diagram of the Hindu Varshas, p. 152, the length of the outer partition-ranges diminishes at about the rate here required. In the only other I have ever seen,—one shown me by Professor p. 461 Max Müller in a modern Sanskrit tractate, whose author's name I regret to have lost,—all the ranges were represented as parallel with the Nila and Nishadha. Moreover, as the whole surface of Jambu-dwípa was represented as a circular flat disk, the second of the two successive outer ranges was much more than the required one tenth shorter than its predecessor. Besides this, Jambu-dwípa is repeatedly described in this same Purana as a globe, and should be so treated in all graphic representations.

Postscript. Since the above was written a long search for Capt. Wilford's diagrams in vol. viii. of the Asiatic Researches (London, 1808) has been crowned with success. His perpetual vacillation between what he considers the primitive and proper flat earth of "the Pauranics" and the spherical earth of the astronomers is the chief source of his manifold embarrassments. A second and subordinate source of endless trouble is his effort to interpret mythical geography in the terms of geography actual.

464:1 The parentheses and vowel marks in the foregoing are Wilson's.

Next: Section V. Grill on the World-Pillar of the Rig Veda