My blog partner Vishwanath guided me to an interesting, illustrated and colorful post entitled “Jambudweep-the global island” by Dr Vineet Aggaraval in his blog Decode Hindu Mythology. After perusal, the Post tempted me to express and share this bloggers notion of Jambudweepa with our readers. This is just an intellectual excercize for discerning readers to ponder how different inferences can be arrived at on the same subject especially in the case of rather hazy and poorly understood historical aspects.
Vineet Aggarwal in his popular Post cited, reviews and considers description of Jambudweep (Jambu-dwipa) in our epics and scriptures and comes to the conclusion that the traditional Indian concept of Jambudweep essentially referred to the entire world (as a global island) rather than mere the region of India. Further, he explains and equates the global island to Pangea, a hundred to two hundred million years old past state of the world, when the continents of the world were huddled together over the globe as a single continental mass.
Geological History: Pangea
Vineet incidentally goes beyond the realms of human history and treads into past geological history of the Earth. Infact there is no harm in collating human history with geological history, especially when the time scales match with each other. However, most of the geological mega events are measured in terms of millions of years while the documented human history lasts merely for a few thousand years!
The theory Plate Tectonics envisages that the continents on the surface of the globe were united to form a single supercontinent some 300 million years ago.It was designated as Pangea.Further around 100 million years ago the supercontinent Pangea broke into two continents namely the northern Laurasia and the southern Gondwana.
However, the species of human beings evolved on the Earth only about 2 million years ago and they evolved into sensible cultured beings only about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Therefore, unfortunately none of our forefathers were able to witness the status of Pangea or Gondwana that occurred long before their arrival into this Earth!
Reinterpretation of Scriptural data
The Mahabharat and the Puranas were considered to have been composed during the period 500 BC to 500 CE. The oft quoted sloka describes Jambu-dweepa as alternate name for the Bharatha Khanda as in: “ jaambu dweepe bharath khande ..”. Similarly, the scriptural references cited by Vineet can be reinterpreted as below:
1.“The entire landmass of Jambu-dvipa is described as a continuous stretch of land subdivided into different continents by means of various mountain ranges with each of these divisions being governed by the 9 sons of Emperor Agnidhra, the grandson of Adam/Manu.”
-In the above quotation if you replace the word ‘continent’ with ‘region’ and interprete the ‘various mountain ranges’ as Vindhya, Satpura, Aravali, Kadapa,Sahyadri, Siwalik, Himalaya etc then again the term Jambudweepa would mean the Indian subcontinent.
2. “Markandeya Puraan describes Jambu-dvip as being depressed above and below and broad in the middle just like a Globe.”
-If you happen to stand up on the ridge of any linear mountain range like Vindhyas of Sahyadris and look towards opposite (‘above’ and ‘below’) directions you shall feel that the land is depressed on either directions.
3. “Srimad Bhagavatam points out that on Jambu-dvipa, night prevails diametrically opposite to a point where it is day and Sun sets at a point opposite to where it rises.”
- Theoritical deduction of persons who travelled rapidly from West to East .
4. “Mahabharat describes the Universe as a series of shells divided in two by an earth plane called the Bhu-mandala; Jambu-dwip is the central landmark on this plane.”
- It reflects the concept of distribution of continents and oceans on the globe as understood during that time.
5. “Jain and Buddhist cosmologies indicate Jambū-dweep at the centre of Madhyaloka or the middle part of the universe, the place where Human-beings reside.”
-Again it reflects the distribution of continents, as seen from Indian eyes as understood at that time.
6.” Various assorted texts describe Bharat Varsha or India as just one of the nine divisions of Jambu-dweep.”
-The citation envisages that the Jambudweepa, Indian subcontinent had nine divisions and one of these was known as Bharatvarsha. It can be interpreted that the “Bharatvarsha” region at that point of time probably did not cover the whole of present India but represented a regional State, a geographic part of present India, governed by or attributed to the famed King Bharata.
The Jambu fruit
The most common meaning of the term ‘Jambu’ is a light yellowish green or reddish, watery, succulent, bell shaped fruit common to India and Southeast Asia and variously known as Wax Apple, Water apple, Rose Apple, Bell Apple, Malaya guava (Syzygium sp.) and so on. It can be seen that the bell shape of the Jambu fruit in inverted form resembles the shape of the peninsular India. Since, the Jambu was a poppular and commonly known fruit in ancient India the term peninsular island in the shape of inverted Jambu fruit, appears to have known and envisaged as “Jambu dweepa”.
|Peninsular India more or less resembles the shape of a Jambu fruit.|
Markandeya Purana and Brahmanda Purana describe that Meru Parvata forms the central part of the Jambudweepa. Surya Siddanta declares that the Sumeru ( Su+ Meru) mountain is located in the centre of the Earth. It is possible that the composers of the cited Puranas had described the position of Mt. Meru based on the observations of global travallers. In ancient times, people were travelleing between Africa and India and between India and South East Asia through land and sea routes. The 4565m high volcanic mountain of Meru is actually located in Tanzania, Africa, but most of the ancient Indian texts have described the magnificient esoteric qualities of the mountain, which is considered to be the abode of Lord Brahma. Some texts also mention mountains of Sumeru and Kumeru.
The confusion is evident not only the imaginary sizes attributed in various ancient texts but also in the declaration in the astrological text of Narpatijayacharyā (ca. 9th-century CE), that mentions "Sumeruh Prithvī-madhye shrūyate drishyate na tu" (=Su-meru is heard to be in the middle of the Earth, but is not seen there). However, the same text also mentions that India is located to the East of the Meru Mountain.
DweepaThe term Dweepa (or dwipa) is normally translated as an island. However, the word as such suggests a land bounded by water on either sides (dwi =two; pa=water) whereas the term island basically refers to land area surrounded on all sides by water.
The term Jambu
Apart from the watery Jambu fruit, the term Jambu has other shades of meaning especially in Tulu language such as: (1) swollen material such as mud, clay or laterite (as in Jambittige (Kannada); or swollen baggage as in Jambuli); (2) a water course (Jambāl); (3) a marsh or stagnant water (4) sky, etc.
There are places like Jamagodu Jamakhandi etc in parts of Karnataka. Jamadagni was the father of sage Parasurama. Jambava or Jambavanta was a bear during the period of epic Ramayana. Jambha is said to be the name of of Rakshas who fought with Lord Indra and was destroyed by thunderbolt. There are caves named Jambu in Tulunadu, Maharastra and Tamilnadu, besides in Indonesia. The word 'Jamba' also means ego, pride or vanity in Kannada and Tulu.
The heritage term "Jambu dweepa" appears to have been attributed to the Jambu fruit shaped (or inverted bell shaped), peninsular India surrounded by water on three sides.