Description of the earth. The seven Dwipas and seven seas. Jambu dwipa. Mount Meru: its extent and boundaries. Extent of Ilavrita. Groves, lakes, and branches of Meru. Cities of the gods. Rivers. The forms of Vishnu worshipped in different Varshas.
Maitreya. You have related to me, Brahman, the creation of Swayambhuva; I am now desirous to hear from you a description of the earth: how many are its oceans and islands, its kingdoms and its mountains, its forests and rivers and the cities of the gods, its dimensions, its contents, its nature, and its form.
Parasara. You shall hear, Maitreya, a brief account of the earth from me: a full detail I could not give you in a century.
The seven great insular continents are Jambu, Plaksha, Salmali, Kusa, Krauncha, saka, and Pushkara: and they are surrounded severally by seven great seas; the sea of salt water Lavana(), of sugar cane juice Ikshu(), of wine Sura(), of clarified butter Sarpi(), of curds Dadhi(), of milk Dugdha(), and of fresh water Jala() 1.
Jambu dwipa 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 lotus of the earth 2.
The boundary mountains (of the earth) are Himavan, Hemakuta, and Nishadha, which lie south of Meru; and Nila, sweta, and sringi, which are situated to the north of it. The two central ranges (those next to Meru, or Nishadha and Nila) 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. They are two thousand Yojanas in height, and as many in breadth 3. The Varshas or countries between these ranges are Bharata (India), south of the Himavan mountains;
next Kimpurusha, between Himavan and Hemakuta; north of the latter, and south of Nishadha, is Harivarsha; north of Meru is Ramyaka, extending from the Nila or blue mountains to the sweta (or white) mountains; Hiranmaya lies between the sweta and sringi ranges; and Uttarakuru is beyond the latter, following the same direction as Bharata 4. Each of these is nine thousand Yojanas in extent. Ilavrita 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 5. 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, Gandhamadana; that on the west, Vipula; and that on the north, Suparswa 6: on each of these stands severally a Kadamba tree, a Jambu tree, a Pipal, and a Vata 7; each spreading over eleven hundred Yojanas, and towering aloft like banners on the mountains. From the Jambu tree the insular continent Jambu dwipa derives its appellations. The apples 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 odours, to decrepitude, nor organic decay. The soil
the banks of the river, absorbing the Jambu juice, and being dried by gentle breezes, becomes the gold termed Jambunada, of which the ornaments of the Siddhas are fabricated.
The country of Bhadraswa lies on the east of Meru, and Ketumala on the west; and between these two is the region of Ilavrita. On the east of the same is the forest Chaitraratha; the Gandhamadana wood is on the south; the forest of Vaibhraja is on the west; and the grove of Indra, or Nandana, is on the north. There are also four great lakes, the waters of which are partaken of by the gods, called Arunoda, Mahabhadra, sitoda, and Manasa 8.
The principal mountain ridges which project from the base of Meru, like filaments from the root of the lotus, are, on the east, sitanta, Mukunda, Kurari, Malyavan, and Vaikanka; on the south, Trikuta, sisira, Patanga, Ruchaka, and Nishadha; on the west, sikhivasas, Vaidurya, Kapila, Gandhamadana, and Jarudhi; and on the north, sankhakuta, Rishabha, Naga, Hansa, and Kalanjara. These and others extend from between the intervals in the body, or from the heart, of Meru 9.
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 10. The capital of Brahma
is enclosed by the river Ganges, which, issuing from the foot of Vishnu, and washing the lunar orb, falls here from the skies 11, and, after encircling the city, divides into four mighty rivers, flowing in opposite directions. These rivers are the sita, the Alakananda, the Chakshu, and the Bhadra. 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 Bhadraswa to the ocean: the Alakananda flows south, to the country of Bharata, 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 Ketumala: and the
[paragraph continues] Bhadra washes the country of the Uttara kurus, and empties itself into the northern ocean 12.
Meru, then, is confined between the mountains Nila and Nishadha (on the north and south), and between Malyavan and Gandhamadana (on the west and east 13): it lies between them like the pericarp of a lotus. The countries of Bharata, Ketumala, Bhadraswa, and Uttarakuru lie, like leaves of the lotus of the world, exterior to the boundary mountains. Jathara and Devakuta are two mountain ranges, running north and south, and connecting the two chains of Nishadha and Nila. Gandhamadana
and Kailasa extend, east and west, eighty Yojanas in breadth, from sea to sea. Nishadha and Pariyatra are the limitative mountains on the west, stretching, like those on the east, between the Nila and Nishadha ranges: and the mountains Trisringa and Jarudhi are the northern limits of Meru, extending, east and west, between the two seas 14. 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), sitanta and the rest, are exceedingly delightful. The vallies embosomed amongst them are the favourite resorts of the Siddhas and Charanas: and there are situated upon them agreeable forests, and pleasant cities, embellished with the palaces of Vishnu, Lakshmi, Agni, Surya, and other deities, and peopled by celestial spirits; whilst the Yakshas, Rakshasas, Daityas, and Danavas 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 Bhadraswa, Vishnu resides as Hayasira (the horse headed); in Ketumala, as Varaha (the boar); in Bharata, as the tortoise Kurma(); in Kuru, as the fish Matsya(); in his universal form, every where; for Hari pervades all places: he, Maitreya, is the supporter of all things; he is all things. In the eight realms of Kimpurusha and the rest (or all exclusive of Bharata) 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 Krita, Treta, or any succession of ages. In each of these Varshas there are respectively seven principal ranges of mountains, from which, oh best of Brahmans, hundreds of rivers take their rise.