The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
Account of kings, divisions, mountains, rivers, and inhabitants of the other Dwípas, viz. Plaksha, Śálmala, Kuśa, Krauncha, Śáka, and Pushkara: of the oceans separating them: of the tides: of the confines of the earth: the Lokáloka mountain. Extent of the whole.
IN the same manner as Jambu-dwípa is girt round about by the ocean of salt water, so that ocean is surrounded by the insular continent of Plaksha; the extent of which is twice that of Jambu-dwípa.
Medhatithi, who was made sovereign of Plaksha, had seven sons, Śántabhaya, Śiśira, Sukhodaya, Ánanda, Śiva, Kshemaka, and Dhruva; and the Dwípa was divided amongst them, and each division was named after the prince to whom it was subject. The several kingdoms were bounded by as many ranges of mountains, named severally Gomeda, Chandra, Nárada, Dundubhi, Somaka, Sumanas, and Vaibhrája. In these mountains the sinless inhabitants ever dwell along with celestial spirits and gods: in them are many holy places; and the people there live for a long period, exempt from care and pain, and enjoying uninterrupted felicity. There are also, in the seven divisions of Plaksha, seven rivers, flowing to the sea, whose names alone are sufficient to take away sin: they are the Anutaptá, Śikhí, Vipásá, Tridivá, Kramu, Amritá, and Sukritá. These are the chief rivers and mountains of Plaksha-dwípa, which I have enumerated to you; but there are thousands of others of inferior magnitude. The people who drink of the waters of those rivers are always contented and happy, and there is neither decrease nor increase amongst them 1, neither are the revolutions of the four ages known in these Varshas: the character of the time is there uniformly that of
the Treta (or silver) age. In the five Dwípas, worthy Brahman, from Plaksha to Śáka, the length of life is five thousand years, and religious merit is divided amongst the several castes and orders of the people. The castes are called Áryaka, Kuru, Vivása, and Bháví, corresponding severally with Brahman, Kshetriya, Vaiśya, and Śúdra. In this Dwípa is a large fig-tree (F. religiosa), of similar size as the Jambu-tree of Jambu-dwípa; and this Dwípa is called Plaksha, after the name of the tree. Hari, who is all, and the creator of all, is worshipped in this continent in the form of Soma (the moon). Plaksha-dwípa is surrounded, as by a disc, by the sea of molasses, of the same extent as the land. Such, Maitreya, is a brief description of Plaksha-dwípa.
The hero Vapushmat was king of the next or Śálmala-dwípa, whose seven sons also gave designations to seven Varshas, or divisions. Their names were Śweta, Háríta, Jímúta, Rohita, Vaidyuta, Mánasa, and Suprabha. The Ikshu sea is encompassed by the continent of Sálmala, which is twice its extent. There are seven principal mountain ranges, abounding in precious gems, and dividing the Varshas from each other; and there are also seven chief rivers. The mountains are called Kumuda, Unnata, Valáhaka, Drona, fertile in medicinal herbs, Kanka, Mahisha, and Kakkudwat. The rivers are Yauní, Toyá, Vitrishńá, Chandrá, Śuklá, Vimochaní, and Nivritti; all whose waters cleanse away sins. The Brahmans, Kshetriyas, Vaiśyas, and Śúdras of this Dwípa, called severally Kapilas, Arunas, Pítas, and Rohitas (or tawny, purple, yellow, and red), worship the imperishable soul of all things, Vishńu, in the form of Váyu (wind), with pious rites, and enjoy frequent association with the gods. A large Śálmalí (silk-cotton) tree grows in this Dwípa, and gives it its name. The Dwípa is surrounded by the Surá sea (sea of wine), of the same extent as itself.
The Surá sea is entirely encircled by Kuśa-dwípa, which is every way twice the size of the preceding continent. The king, Jyotishmat, had seven sons, Udbhida, Venumán, Swairatha, Lavana, Dhriti, Prabhákara, and Kapila, after whom the seven portions or Varshas of the island were called Udbhida, &c. There reside mankind along with Daityas and Dánavas, as well as with spirits of heaven and gods. The four
castes, assiduously devoted to their respective duties, are termed Dámís, Śushmis, Snehas, and Mandehas, who, in order to be relieved of the obligations imposed upon them in the discharge of their several functions, worship Janárddana, in the form of Brahmá, and thus get rid of the unpleasant duties which lead to temporal rewards. The seven principal mountains in this Dwípa are named Vidruma, Hemaśaila, Dyutimán, Pushpaván, Kuśeśaya, Hari, and Mandara; and the seven rivers are Dhútapápá, Śiva, Pavitrá, Sammati, Vidyudambhá, Mahhvanyá, Sarvapápahará: besides these, there are numerous rivers and mountains of less importance. Kuśa-dwípa is so named from a clump of Kuśa grass (Poa) growing there. It is surrounded by the Ghrita sea (the sea of butter), of the same size as the continent.
The sea of Ghrita is encompassed by Krauncha-dwípa, which is twice as large as Kuśa-dwípa. The king of this Dwípa was Dyutimán, whose sons, and the seven Varshas named after them, were Kuśala, Mallaga, Ushńa, Pívara, Andhakáraka, Muni, and Dundubhi. The seven boundary mountains, pleasing to gods and celestial spirits, are Krauncha, Vámana, Andhakáraka, Devavrit, Puńd́aríkaván, Dundubhi, and Mahaśaila; each of which is in succession twice as lofty as the series that precedes it, in the same manner as each Dwípa is twice as extensive as the one before it. The inhabitants reside there without apprehension, associating with the bands of divinities. The Brahmans are called Pushkaras; the Kshetriyas, Pushkalas: the Vaiśyas are termed Dhanyas; and the Śúdras, Tishyas. They drink of countless streams, of which the principal are denominated Gaurí, Kumudwatí, Sandhyá, Rátri, Manojavá, Kshánti, and Puńd́aríká. The divine Vishńu, the protector of mankind, is worshipped there by the people, with holy rites, in the form of Rudra. Krauncha is surrounded by the sea of curds, of a similar extent; and that again is encompassed by Śáka-dwípa.
The sons of Bhavya, the king of Śáka-dwípa, after whom its Varshas were denominated, were Jalada, Kumára, Sukumára, Maníchaka, Kusumoda, Maudákí, and Mahádruma. The seven mountains separating the countries were Udayagiri, Jaládhára, Raivataka, Śyáma, Ámbikeya, Ramya, and Keśarí. There grows a large Sáka (Teak) tree, frequented
by the Siddhas and Gandharbas, the wind from which, as produced by its fluttering leaves, diffuses delight. The sacred lands of this continent are peopled by the four castes. Its seven holy rivers, that wash away all sin, are the Sukumárí, Kumárí, Naliní, Dhenuká, Ikshu, Venuká, and Gabhastí. There are also hundreds and thousands of minor streams and mountains in this Dwípa: and the inhabitants of Jalada and the other divisions drink of those waters with pleasure, after they have returned to earth from Indra's heaven. In those seven districts there is no dereliction of virtue; there is no contention; there is no deviation from rectitude. The caste of Mriga is that of the Brahman; the Mágadha, of the Kshetriya; the Mánasa, of the Vaiśya; and the Mandaga of the Śúdra: and by these Vishńu is devoutly worshipped as the sun, with appropriate ceremonies. Śáka-dwípa is encircled by the sea of milk, as by an armlet, and the sea is of the same breadth as the continent which it embraces 2
The Kshíroda ocean (or sea of milk) is encompassed by the seventh Dwípa, or Pushkara, which is twice the size of Sáka-dwípa. Savana, who was made its sovereign, had but two sons, Mahávíra and Dhátakí, after whom the two Varshas of Pushkara were so named. These are divided by one mighty range of mountains, called Mánasottara, which runs in a circular direction (forming an outer and an inner circle). This mountain is fifty thousand Yojanas in height, and as many in its breadth; dividing the Dwípa in the middle, as if with a bracelet, into two divisions, which are also of a circular form, like the mountain that separates them. Of these two, the Mahávíra-varsha is exterior to the circumference of Mánasottara, and Dhátakí lies within the circle; and both are frequented by heavenly spirits and gods. There are no other mountains in Pushkara, neither are there any rivers 3. Men in this Dwípa live a thousand years, free from sickness and sorrow, and unruffled by anger or affection.
[paragraph continues] There is neither virtue nor vice, killer nor slain: there is no jealousy, envy, fear, hatred, covetousness, nor any moral defect: neither is there truth or falsehood. Food is spontaneously produced there, and all the inhabitants feed upon viands of every flavour. Men there are indeed of the same nature with gods, and of the same form and habits. There is no distinction of caste or order; there are no fixed institutes; nor are rites performed for the sake of advantage. The three Vedas, the Puráńas, ethics, and polity, and the laws of service, are unknown. Pushkara is in fact, in both its divisions, a terrestrial paradise, where time yields happiness to all its inhabitants, who are exempt from sickness and decay. A Nyagrodha-tree (Ficus indica) grows on this Dwípa, which is the especial abode of Brahmá, and he resides in it, adored by the gods and demons. Pushkara is surrounded by the sea of fresh water, which is of equal extent with the continent it invests 4.
In this manner the seven island continents are encompassed successively by the seven oceans, and each ocean and continent is respectively of twice the extent of that which precedes it. In all the oceans the water remains at all times the same in quantity, and never, increases or diminishes; but like the water in a caldron, which, in consequence of
its combination with heat, expands, so the waters of the ocean swell with the increase of the moon. The waters, although really neither more nor less, dilate or contract as the moon increases or wanes in the light and dark fortnights. The rise and fall of the waters of the different seas is five hundred and ten inches 5.
Beyond the sea of fresh water is a region of twice its extent, where the land is of gold, and where no living beings reside. Thence extends the Lokáloka mountain, which is ten thousand Yojanas in breadth, and as many in height; and beyond it perpetual darkness invests the mountain all around; which darkness is again encompassed by the shell of the egg 6.
Such, Maitreya, is the earth, which with its continents, mountains, oceans, and exterior shell, is fifty crores (five hundred millions) of
[paragraph continues] Yojanas in extent 7. It is the mother and nurse of all creatures, the foundation of all worlds, and the chief of the elements.
197:1 So the commentator explains the terms Avasarpińí and Utsarpińí; but these words most commonly designate divisions of time peculiar to the Jainas; during the former of which men are supposed to decline from extreme felicity to extreme distress; and in the latter, to ascend from misery to happiness. The author of the text had possibly the Jaina use of these terms in view; and if so, wrote after their system was promulgated.
200:2 The Kúrma is the only Puráńa in which the white island, Śweta-dwípa, the abode of Vishńu, is included in the geography of the world: an incidental description of it is quoted by Col. Wilford from the Uttara Khańd́a of the Padma Puráńa (As. Res. XI. 99); and it is in this and in the Brahma Vaivartta that allusions to it are most frequent and copious.
200:3 A slight alteration has been here made in the order of the description.
201:4 The description of the Dwípas in the Agni, Bráhma, Kúrma, and Váyu Puráńas agrees with that of our text. The Márkańd́eya, Linga, and Matsya contain no details. The Bhágavata and Padma follow the same order as the Vishńu, &c. but alter all the names, and, many of the measurements. The account of the Mahábhárata is very irregular and confused. The variations throw no additional light upon the geographical system of the Puráńas. Some traces of this appear discoverable in the west; and the seven Dwípas, with their surrounding seas, may have some connexion with the notion of the seven climates, as Col. Wilford has supposed. That learned, but fanciful writer bestowed great pains upon the verification of these fictions, and imagined the different Dwípas to represent actual divisions of the globe: Jambu being India; Kuśa, the Kush of Scripture, or the countries between Mesopotamia and India: Plaksha being Asia Minor; Śálmali, eastern Europe; Krauncha, Germany; Śáka, the British isles; and Pushkara, Iceland. The white or silver island, or island of the moon, was also, according to him, the island of Great Britain. Whatever may be thought of his conclusions, his essays on these subjects, particularly in the eighth, tenth, and eleventh volumes of the Asiatic Researches, contain much curious and interesting matter.
202:5 Although the Hindus seem to have had a notion of the cause of the tides, they were not very accurate observers of the effect. The extreme rise of the tide in the Hugli river has never exceeded twenty feet, and its average is about fifteen. (As. Res. vol. XVIII. Kyd on the Tides of the Hugli.)
202:6 The Ańd́a kat́áha. The Kat́áha is properly a shallow hemispherical vessel, a saucer; but compounded in this form, implies the shell of the mundane egg. The Bhágavata thus describes these portions of the world: "Beyond the sea of fresh water is the mountain belt, called Lokáloka, the circular boundary between the world and void space. The interval between Meru and Mánasottara is the land of living beings. Beyond the fresh water sea is the region of gold, which shines like the bright surface of a mirror, but from which no sensible object presented to it is ever reflected, and consequently it is avoided by living creatures. The mountain range by which it is encircled is termed Lokáloka, because the world is separated by it from that which is not world; for which purpose it was placed by Íśwara on the limit of the three worlds; and its height and breadth are such that the rays of the heavenly luminaries, from the sun to the polar-star, which spread over the regions within the mountain, cannot penetrate beyond it." According to Col. Wilford, however, there is a chasm in the belt, and a sea beyond it, where Vishńu abides; but he has not given his authorities for this. (As. Res. XI. 54.) The Mohammedan legends of Koh Kaf, 'the stony girdle that surrounds the world,' are evidently connected with the Lokáloka of the Hindus. According to the Śiva Tantra, the El Dorado, at the foot of the Lokáloka mountains, is the play-ground of the gods.
203:7 This comprises the planetary spheres; for the diameter of the seven zones and oceans--each ocean being of the same diameter as the continent it encloses, and each successive continent being twice the diameter of that which precedes it--amounts to but two crones and fifty-four lacs. The golden land is twice the diameter of Pushkara, or two crones and fifty-six lacs; and the Lokáloka is but ten thousand Yojanas. So that the whole is five crores ten lacs and ten thousand (5.10.10.000). According to the Śiva Tantra, the golden land is ten crores of Yojanas, making, with the seven continents, one fourth of the whole measurement. Other calculations occur, the incompatibility of which is said by the commentators on our text, and on that of the Bhágavata, to arise from reference being made to different Kalpas, and they quote the same stanza to this effect: 'Whenever any contradictions in different Puráńas are observed, they are ascribed by the pious to differences of Kalpas and the like.'