The Fourteen Worlds

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 11 Apr 2011 12:43 and updated at 25 Feb 2012 13:49

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The Fourteen Worlds (Lokas) described in the ancient Indian Puranas are the following:- 1.Satyaloka, 2.Tapoloka, 3.Janaloka, 4.Maharloka, 5.Suvarloka, 6.Bhuvarloka 7.Bhuloka, 8.Atala, 9.Vitala, 10.Nitala, 11.Rasatala, 12.Mahatala, 13.Sutala and 14.Patala. The Puranas usually describe these worlds as different regions of the observable universe (the planet Earth, Earth's immediate neighborhood and regions far beyond). Bhagavata Purana has many passages that describe these worlds as inhabited planets with movement of people between them through some kind of inter planetary travel.

My analysis of the original texts led me to conclude that equating 'Lokas' to inhabited planets could be a simplistic view. If described accurately, they are regions of space one containing the other. The notion that one is 'above' or 'below' the other may be mistaken or a distortion. Such distortions do occur when people with scientific knowledge tries to explain concepts to laymen. The Puranas are authored by ancient people ranging from those with high level of scientific knowledge (such as those with a sound understanding of astronomy and space-science) to those with ordinary knowledge about these things.

Ancient Indian Astronomers


A group of sages called the Valikhilyas are counted as among the most ancient astronomers of India. They were descendants of the sage Kratu. Sage Kratu is etymologically connected with Crete in Greece, the the centre of the Minoan civilization. Valikhilyas were experts in analyzing the motion of the Sun (across the sky of Earth) and in creating a solar calendar based on it. These calenders were used by people to predict seasonal changes, arrival of rains, finding the best time to saw seeds and to harvest crops. Ancient Indian kings adopted this solar calender from the Valikhilyas and by doing so they were called Solar Dynasty kings.

The Ikswakus were prominent among the Solar Dynasty Kings. A calendar based on the motion of Sun (as against that based on the motion of Moon) tend to be more accurate in the southern latitudes. This could mean that the Valikhilyas and the Ikshwakus, who adopted their solar calender, could be originally from the souther parts of India, such as from the Godavari river valley and coastal Andhra Pradesh. Lunar calender based on the motion of Moon was popular in northern India due to difficulty in observing the motion of Sun accurately in these higher latitudes. The kings who adopted Lunar calender later became known as the Lunar Dynasty kings. The Purus, the Bharatas and the Kurus were Lunar Dynasty kings.

Danava Maya

Maya was a great architect who construct buildings, cities, vehicles (boats, ships and Vimanas). Mahabharata mentions that he even created space-crafts that orbit around Earth. He belonged to the Danava tribe. Definitely his architectural skill also required him to get familiarized with astronomy and mathematics (including trigonometry). He has done several astronomical calculations, arriving at the orbital periods of visible planets, their distance from Earth and their diameters. He is credited with the Surya Siddhanta, a work dealing with astronomy where he had described about the results of his analysis. 'Surya' means 'Sun' and 'Siddhanta' means 'theory'. Thus Surya Siddhanta could mean the Theory of Sun or the Theory of Solar System.

Some of the interesting conclusions of Surya Siddhanta, whose original author was Maya but which was subsequently updated by later astronomers of India are the following:-

  1. The average length of the tropical year as 365.2421756 days, which is only 1.4 seconds shorter than the modern scientific value of 365.2421904 days but more accurate than the value given by the Gregorian calendar (which gives the average length of the year as 365.2425 days)
  2. The average length of the sidereal year, the actual length of the Earth's revolution around the Sun, as 365.2563627 days, which is virtually the same as the modern scientific value of 365.25636305 days
  3. Estimate for the diameter of Mercury is 3,008 miles, an error of less than 1% from the currently accepted diameter of 3,032 miles.
  4. Estimate for the diameter of Saturn as 73,882 miles, which again has an error of less than 1% from the currently accepted diameter of 74,580
  5. Estimate for the diameter of Mars is 3,772 miles, which has an error within 11% of the currently accepted diameter of 4,218 miles.
  6. Estimate of the diameter of Venus as 4,011 miles and Jupiter as 41,624 miles, which are roughly half the currently accepted values, 7,523 miles and 88,748 miles, respectively went wrong

Probably he could not correctly gauge the relatively high brightness of planet Venus and Jupiter, affecting their diameter estimates; similarly Mars is a dull red planet affecting its diameter estimate.

It is learned that the original Surya Siddhanta contained the description of the spherical shape of Earth (that the Earth is not flat but a sphere), the rotation of Earth on its own axis as well as its revolution around Sun. If proved right this will be first recorded instance of Helio-Centric theory in human history. What makes things difficult is that most of the verses of the Surya Siddhanta is lost (only half available now) and that the older versions of the Siddhanta too is lost or modified. Most of the information that we have about this text and its contents is from secondary sources like the works of Aryabhata and Varahamihira who were inspired by this text and its findings.

Danava Maya's connection with the Meso American Mayans

It is impossible to ignore the etymological similarity of Maya with the Mayans of Meso America. The Mayan civilization is known for their astronomical systems (like the Mayan calender) and predictions based on them. Researchers are still not sure if there is any connection between Maya Danava and the Mayans of Meso-America. My analysis shows that the term 'Maya' was not just the name of a person but that of a tribe (the Maaya tribe / the Maayas) but applied to the members of this tribe who lived at different period of time.

There are also many direct and indirect evidence showing the interaction of ancient Indians with Meso America through ancient sea-trade networks in huge Indian ships capable of carrying 500 or more people. Besides this, Human Genome Project shows a north-eastern migration starting from India, through Tibet, Mongolia, Russia, North America, Meso America and South America.Analyzing the ancient Indian literature, this migration could be identified with the Naga-Suparna, Danava-Deva migration from ancient India in the north-eastern direction mentioned in the Indian scriptures. This will be discussed in a different article.


Parasara was a contemporary of Maya. He was also the father of Vyasa, the author of the great epic Mahabharata. Parasara is well known as an astronomer of ancient India and his treaties on astronomy called Parasara-Samhita (Parasara-Hora-Sastra) is still preserved. His works on astronomy and cosmology had somehow got its way into some of the Puranas authored after his life time. Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana are some among these Puranas. Vishnu Purana is one of the 18 major Puranas of ancient India and the most authentic among them as per many scholars.

Parasara's definitions on Bhur, Bhuva and Swar Lokas

Vishnu Purana: Chapter 7:- Parasara Said:- The sphere of the earth (or Bhúr-loka), comprehending its oceans, mountains, and rivers, extends as far as it is illuminated by the rays of the sun and moon; and to the same extent, both in diameter and circumference, the sphere of the sky (Bhuvar-loka) spreads above it (as far upwards as to the planetary sphere, or Swar-loka).

The solar orb is situated a hundred thousand leagues from the earth; and that of the moon an equal distance from the sun. At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations. The planet Budha (Mercury) is two hundred thousand leagues above the lunar mansions. Śukra (Venus) is at the same distance from Mercury. Angáraka (Mars) is as far above Venus; and the priest of the gods (Vrihaspati, or Jupiter) as far from Mars: whilst Saturn (Sani) is two hundred and fifty thousand leagues beyond Jupiter. The sphere of the seven Rishis (Ursa Major) is a hundred thousand leagues above Saturn; and at a similar height above the seven Rishis is Dhruva (the pole-star), the pivot or axis of the whole planetary circle. Such, Maitreya, is the elevation of the three spheres (Bhúr, Bhuvar, Swar) which form the region of the consequences of works. The region of works is here.

A theory close to the theory of Gravitation

Some of these descriptions seems to be plain wrong (like Moon being father than Sun, distance of Mercury being same as that of Venus) by what we know from modern astronomy but some are astonishingly true (like the distance towards Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn)! Parasara seems to have based his estimate of the distance of a planet upon the time the planet takes to complete one revolution (orbital period). Orbital revolution of planets is an observable phenomenon. Longer the orbital period, farther the distance. Thus Parasara was very close to discovering the theory of gravitation which states that orbital period is inversely proportional to the square of distance. This might also lead him to misjudge the distance of the Sun in comparison to the Moon. The apparent orbital period (1 day) of Sun is shorter than that of Moon (1 month). The apparent orbital periods of Mercury and Venus is almost equal; hence he concluded they are of the same distance.

The Source of the Astronomical Knowledge

It is possible that some space-faring civilization passed on astronomical information to ancient India which appeared in the Puranas in a partially distorted form. It is also possible that these were invented by ancient Indian sages like Parasara and Maya with some assistance from the space-faring civilization. Since the three worlds were mentioned as the region of the consequences of works and the region of work, it could mean that these three worlds were the domain of work for this civilization as they interacted with the human civilization and subtly interfered with them. It also seems to be the places where the human-souls are re-engineered (after death?). For details see:- alien-presence-during-mahabharata.

Bhu Loka (The Earth)

Vishnu Purana: Chapter 7:- Wherever earthy substance exists, which may be traversed by the feet, that constitutes the sphere of the earth (Bhu Loka), the dimensions of which I have already recounted to you.

Amongst the 14 worlds thus mentioned, the 7th one viz. Bhu-loka is usually identified with planet Earth. 'Bhu' means 'Earth' and 'loka' means 'world'. Sometimes Bhuloka is identified only with the surface of planet Earth, where humans live.


Bhuvar Loka (The Geospace)

Vishnu Purana: Chapter 7:- The region that extends from the earth to the sun, in which the Siddhas and other celestial beings move, is the atmospheric sphere (Bhuvar Loka), which also I have described.

The 6th one viz. Bhuvar-loka is identified with Earth's atmosphere and sometimes with the space which is in the immediate neighborhood of Earth. In other words Bhuvarloka is the near-Earth space including Earth's atmosphere. This is the region were all the aircrafts fly and where all the artificial-satellites and space-stations that orbit around the Earth are situated. This region can re equated to the Geospace, the space dominated by Earth's magnetic field.



Related Articles

  1. Alien Presence During Mahabharata
  2. The Fourteen Worlds
  3. The Fourteen Worlds Part2
  4. The Fourteen Worlds Part3
  5. The Fourteen Worlds Part4
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