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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

p. 174


Description of Bhárata-varsha: extent: chief mountains: nine divisions: principal rivers and mountains of Bhárata proper: principal nations: superiority over other Varshas, especially as the seat of religious acts. (Topographical lists.)

THE country that lies north of the ocean, and south of the snowy mountains, is called Bhárata, for there dwelt the descendants of Bharata. It is nine thousand leagues in extent 1, and is the land of works, in consequence of which men go to heaven, or obtain emancipation.

The seven main chains of mountains in Bhárata are Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Śuktimat, Riksha, Vindhya, and Páripátra 2.

From this region heaven is obtained, or even, in some cases, liberation

p. 175

from existence; or men pass from hence into the condition of brutes, or fall into hell. Heaven, emancipation, a state in mid-air, or in the subterraneous realms, succeeds to existence here, and the world of acts is not the title of any other portion of the universe.

The Varsha of Bhárata is divided into nine portions, which I will name to you; they are Indra-dwípa, Kaserumat, Támravarńa, Gabhastimat, Nága-dwípa, Saumya, Gandharba, and Váruńa; the last or ninth Dwípa is surrounded by the ocean, and is a thousand Yojanas from north to south 3.

On the east of Bhárata dwell the Kirátas (the barbarians); on the west, the Yavanas; in the centre reside Brahmans, Kshetriyas, Vaiśyas, and Śúdras, occupied in their respective duties of sacrifice, arms, trade, and service 4.

The Śatadru, Chandrabhágá, and other rivers, flow from the foot of

p. 176

[paragraph continues] Himálaya: the Vedasmriti and others from the Parípátra mountains: the Narmadá and Surasá from the Vindhya hills: the Tápí, Payoshńí, and Nirvindhyá from the Riksha mountains; the Godáverí, Bhimarathí, Krishńavení, and others, from the Sahya mountains: the Kritamálá, Támraparńí, and others, from the Malaya hills: the Trisámá, Rishikulyá, &c. from the Mahendra: and the Rishikulyá, Kumárí, and others, from the Śuktimat mountains. Of such as these, and of minor rivers, there is an infinite number; and many nations inhabit the countries on their borders 5.

The principal nations of Bhárata are the Kurus and Pánchálas, in the middle districts: the people of Kámarupa, in the east: the Puńd́ras,

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[paragraph continues] Kalingas, Magadhas, and southern nations, are in the south: in the extreme west are the Saurásht́ras, Śúras, Bhíras, Arbudas: the Kárushas and Málavas, dwelling along the Páripátra mountains: the Sauvíras, the Saindhavas, the Húnas, the Sálwas, the people of Śákala, the Madras, the Rámas, the Ambasht́has, and the Párasíkas, and others. These nations drink of the water of the rivers above enumerated, and inhabit their borders, happy and prosperous 6.

p. 178

In the Bhárata-varsha it is that the succession of four Yugas, or ages, the Krita, the Treta, the Dwápara, and Kali, takes place; that pious ascetics engage in rigorous penance; that devout men offer sacrifices; and that gifts are distributed; all for the sake of another world. In Jambu-dwípa, Vishńu, consisting of sacrifice, is worshipped, as the male of sacrificial rites, with sacrificial ceremonies: he is adored under other forms elsewhere. Bhárata is therefore the best of the divisions of Jambu-dwípa, because it is the land of works: the others are places of enjoyment alone. It is only after many thousand births, and the aggregation of much merit, that living beings are sometimes born in Bhárata as men. The gods themselves exclaim, "Happy are those who are born, even from the condition of gods, as men in Bhárata-varsha, as that is the way to the pleasures of Paradise, or the greater blessing of final liberation. Happy are they who, consigning all the unheeded rewards of their acts to the supreme and eternal Vishńu, obtain existence in that land of works, as their path to him. We know not, when the acts that have obtained us heaven shall have been fully recompensed 7, where we shall renew corporeal confinement; but we know that those men are fortunate who are born with perfect faculties 8 in Bhárata-varsha."

I have thus briefly described to you, Maitreya, the nine divisions of Jambu-dwípa, which is a hundred thousand Yojanas in extent, and which is encircled, as if by a bracelet, by the ocean of salt water, of similar dimensions.


174:1 As Bhárata-varsha means India, a nearer approach to the truth, with regard to its extent, might have been expected; and the Váyu has another measurement, which is not much above twice the actual extent, or 1000 Yojanas from Kumári (Comorin) to the source of the Ganges.

174:2 These are called the Kula parvatas, family mountains, or mountain ranges or systems. They are similarly enumerated in all the authorities, and their situation may be determined with some confidence by the rivers which flow from them. Mahendra is the chain of hills that extends from Orissa and the northern Circars to Gondwana, part of which, near Ganjam, is still called Mahindra Malei, or hills of Mahindra: Malaya is the southern portion of the western Ghats: Śuktimat is doubtful, for none of its streams can be identified with any certainty: Sahya is the northern portion of the western Ghauts, the mountains of the Konkan: Riksha is the mountains of Gondwana: Vindhya is the general name of the chain that stretches across central India, but it is here restricted to the eastern division; according to the Váyu it is the part south of the Narmada, or the Sathpura range: Páripátra, as frequently written Páriyátra, is the northern and western portion of the Vindhya: the name, indeed, is still given to a range of mountains in Guzerat (see Col. Tod's map of Rajasthán), but the Chambal and other rivers of Málwa, which are said to flow from the Páriyátra mountains, do not rise in that province. All these mountains therefore belong to one system, and are connected together. The classification seems to have been known to Ptolemy, as he specifies seven ranges of mountains, although his names do not correspond, with exception of the Vindus mons: of the others, the Adisathrus and Uxentus agree nearly in position with the Páriyátra and Riksha: the Apocopi, Sardonix, Bettigo, and Orudii must be left for consideration. The Bhágavata, Váyu, Padma, and Márkańd́eya add a list of inferior mountains to these seven.

175:3 This last is similarly left without a name in all the works: it is the most southerly, that on the borders of the sea, and no doubt intends India proper. Wilford places Isere a division called Kumáriká. No description is anywhere attempted of the other divisions. To these the Váyu adds six minor Dwípas, which are situated beyond sea, and are islands, Anga-dwípa, Yama-d., Matsya-d., Kumuda or Kuśa-d., Varáha-d., and Sankha-d.; peopled for the most part by Mlechchhas, but who worship Hindu divinities. The Bhágavata and Padma name eight such islands, Swarńaprastha, Chandraśukla, Avarttana, Rámańaka, Mandahára, Pánchajanya, Sinhalá, and Lanká. Col. Wilford has endeavoured to verify the first series of Upadwípas, making Varáha Europe; Kuśa, Asia Minor, &c.; Śankha, Africa; Malaya, Malacca: Yama is undetermined; and by Anga, he says, they understand China. How all this may be is more than doubtful, for in the three Puráńas in which mention is made of them, very little more is said upon the subject.

175:4 By Kirátas, foresters and mountaineers are intended, the inhabitants to the present day of the mountains east of Hindustan. The Yavanas, on the west, may be either the Greeks of Bactria and the Punjab--to whom there can be little doubt the term was applied by the Hindus--or the Mohammedans, who succeeded them in a later period, and to whom it is now applied. The Váyu calls them both Mlechchhas, and also notices the admixture of barbarians with Hindus in India proper. The same passage, slightly varied, occurs in the Mahábhárata: it is said especially of the mountainous districts, and may allude therefore to the Gonds and Bhils of central India, as well as to the Mohammedans of the north-west. The specification implies that infidels and outcastes had not yet descended on the plains of Hindustan.

176:5 This is a very meagre list, compared with those given in other Puráńas. That of the Váyu is translated by Col. Wilford, As. Res. vol. VIII; and much curious illustration of many of the places by the same writer occurs, As. Res. vol. XIV. The lists of the Mahábhárata, Bhágavata, and Padma are given without any arrangement: those of the Váyu, Matsya, Márkańd́eya, and Kúrma are classed as in the text. Their lists are too long for insertion in this place. Of the rivers named in the text, most are capable of verification. The Śatadru, 'the hundred channelled'--the Zaradrus of Ptolemy, Hesidrus of Pliny--is the Setlej. The Chandrabhágá, Sandabalis, or Acesines, is the Chinab. The Vedasmriti in the Váyu and Kúrma is classed with the Vetravatí or Betwa, the Charmanwati or Chambal, and Siprá and Párá, rivers of Malwa, and may be the same with the Beos of the maps. The Narmadá or Narbadda, the Namadus of Ptolemy, is well known; according to the Váyu it rises, not in the Vindhya, but in the Riksha mountains, taking its origin in fact in Gondwana. The Surasá is uncertain. The Tápí is the Tápti, rising also in Gondwana: the other two are not identified. The Godaveri preserves its name: in the other two we have the Beemah and the Krishńa. For Kritamálá the Kúrma reads Ritumálá, but neither is verified. The Támraparní is in Tinivelly, and rises at the southern extremity of the western Ghats. The Rishikulyá, that rises in the Mahendra mountain, is the Rasikulia or Rasíkoila, which flows into the sea near Ganjam. The Trisámá is undetermined. The text assigns another Rishikulyá to the Śuktimat mountains, but in all the other authorities the word is Rishíka. The Kumárí might suggest some connexion with Cape Comorin, but that the Malaya mountains seem to extend to the extreme south. A Rishikulyá river is mentioned (Vana P. v. 3026) as a Tírtha in the Mahábhárata, in connexion apparently with the hermitage of Vaśisht́ha, which in another passage (v. 4096) is said to be on mount Arbuda or Abu. In that case, and if the reading of the text be admitted for the name of the river, the Śuktimat range would be the mountains of Guzerat; but this is doubtful.

177:6 The list of nations is as scanty as that of the rivers: it is, however, omitted altogether in the Bhágavata. The Padma has a long catalogue, but without arrangement; so has the Mahábhárata. The lists of the Váyu, Matsya, and Márkańd́eya class the nations as central, northern, eastern, southern, and western. The names are much the same in all, and are given in the 8th vol. of the As. Res. from the Brahmáńd́a, or, for it is the same account, the Váyu. The Márkańd́eya has a second classification, and, comparing Bhárata-varsha to a tortoise, with its head to the east, enumerates the countries in the head, tail, flanks, and feet of the animal. It will be sufficient here to attempt an identification of the names in the text, but some further illustration is offered at the end of the chapter. The Kurus are the people of Kurukshetra, or the upper part of the Doab, about Delhi. The Pánchálas, it appears from the Mahábhárata, occupied the lower part of the Doab, extending across the Jumna to the Chambal. Kullúka Bhat́t́a, in his commentary on Manu, II. 59, places them at Kanoj. Kámarupa is the north-eastern part of Bengal, and western portion of Asam. Puńd́ra is Bengal proper, with part of south Behar and the Jungle Mahals. Kalinga is the sea-coast west of the mouths of the Ganges, with the upper part of the Coromandel coast. Magadhá is Behar. The Saurásht́ras are the people of Surat, the Surastrene of Ptolemy. The Śúras and Bhíras, in the same direction, may be the Suri and Phauni or Phryni of Strabo. The Arbudas must be the people about mount Abu, or the natives of Mewar. The Kárushas and Málavas are of course the people of Malwa. The Sauvíras and Saindhavas are usually conjoined as the Sindhu-Sauvíras, and must be the nations of Sindh and western Rajputána. By the Minas we are to understand the white Huns or Indo-Scythians, who were established in the Punjab and along the Indus at the commencement of our era, as we know from Arrian, Strabo, and Ptolemy, confirmed by recent discoveries of their coins, The Śálwas or, as also read, Śályas are placed by the Váyu and Matsya amongst the central nations, and seem to have occupied part of Rájasthan, a Śálwa Rája being elsewhere described as engaging in hostilities with the people of Dwaraká in Guzerat. Śákala, as I have elsewhere noticed, is a city in the Punjab (As. Res. XV. 108), the Sagala of Ptolemy (ibid. 107); the Mahábhárata makes it the capital of the Madras, the Mardi of the ancients; but they are separately named in the text, and were situated something more to the south-east. p. 178 The Rámas and Ambasht́has are not named in the other Puráńas, but the latter are amongst the western, or more properly north-western nations subjugated by Nakula, in his Dig-vijaya. Mahábh. Sabhá P. Ambas and Ambasht́has are included in the list extracted by Col. Wilford from the Varáha Sanhitá, and the latter are supposed by him to be the Ambastæ of Arrian. The Párasíkas carry us into Persia, or that part of it adjoining to the Indus. As far as the enumeration of the text extends, it seems applicable to the political and geographical divisions of India about the era of Christianity.

178:7 Enjoyment in Swarga, like punishment in Naraka, is only for a certain period, according to the merit or demerit of the individual. When the account is balanced, the man is born again amongst mankind.

178:8 A crippled or mutilated person, or one whose organs are defective, cannot at once obtain liberation; his merits must first secure his being born again perfect and entire.

Next: Topographical Lists from the Mahábhárata