Place names reflect to physical divisions of a land, mostly surrounded by a water-body. This is revealed in toponymic studies of any region. While delving into Tulu studies, one is confronted by place names, like Khandige, Kandevu, Kandy, Kanda, etc. Similar place names also exist all over India and elsewhere outside India. These names remind one to the basic truth of geographical division of land, meeting different factors, such as ethnography, topography, profession and polity. Readers may recall the legend of ‘Kandevu’ in Post- 110 (April 20, 2008) on Mukka.
Indian theological concept of the Universe revolves around such divisions. These divisions are mostly seen as physical ones, i.e. geographical. In a mystic thinking, it is understood on spiritual planes as is conveyed by Indian Puranas (Historical Scriptures). So this division could be related to either terrestrial or astral matter.
When we talk about our Universe, i.e. a cluster of stars and planets in our Milky Way, we come across Earth Planet (Dharani Mandala), the Planet we live in. Earth Planet is divided into seven divisions, known as ‘Khandas’ (Continents). In Indian Scriptures, they are described as ‘Dwipas’ (Islands).
Sapta Dwipas (Seven Islands)
Vishnu Purana gives a vivid description of formation of Seven Islands of the Earth, ruled by Priyavrata, son of Swayambhuva Manu. According to the Puranas, dwipas also refer to the seven continents of the Universe.
Priyavrata had ten illustrious sons, besides daughters. Three sons, namely Medha, Agnivahu and Putra, fully devoted to religious life, gave up worldly pleasures. So kingship of these seven islands is distributed among his remaining seven sons. Their progenies ruled this Earth for 71 Cycles.
1. Jambu Dwipa (ruled by Agnidhara), so named as Jambu (Rose Apple) trees grow in plenty there. Area: Hundred thousand yojanas (1 Yojana = 15 Km approx. Earth occupies 50 Crore Yojanas).
- Surrounded by Lavana Samudra (Sea of Salt).
2. Plaksha Dwipa (ruled by Medhathiti), so called as fig trees grow on it. Area: Twice the size of Jambu. Worship the Moon. Inhabitants: Aryakas and other castes
- Surrounded by sea of Molasses (Ikshu Samudra). This is encircled by Shalmali Dwipa.
3. Shalmali Dwipa (ruled by Vapushmat) so called because Silk Cotton (Shalmali) trees grow there. There are seven divisions, taking names of 7 sons of Vapushmat (Sweta, Harita, Jimuta, Rohita, Vaidyuta, Manasa, and Suprabha). Seven mountain ranges, four castes, seven rivers, capable of removing of all sins of people.
- Surrounded by Suroda (Wine) Ocean
4. Kusha Dwipa (ruled by Jyotishmat) so called as Kush grass grows there. 4 Castes, 7 seas, 7 continents
- Surrounded by Ghrita Sea (Ocean of Clarified Butter), which is surrounded by Krauncha Dwipa.
5. Krauncha Dwipa (ruled by Dyutiman), twice the size of Kusha Dwipa, seven Varshas (Divisions), named after seven sons of Dyutiman, King of Krauncha. People are free from fear, live along with celestials. In this Continent, the Brahamanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudra are known as Pushkaras, Pushkalas, Dhanyas and Tishyas respectively. Along with the 7 important rivers, there are number of small rivers. Here Great Janardana is worshipped in the form of Rudra. (Krauncha means heron).
- Surrounded by the Sea of Curd. Sea of Curd is encircled by Shaka Dwipa.
6. Shaka Dwipa (ruled by Bhavya), so called as Shaka (Teak) trees grow there. There are 7 boundary mountains (Meru*, Malaya, Jaladhara, Raivata, Syama, Dugdasata and Kesara), which are excellent and charming. There is a large teak tree, which is frequented by Siddhas and Gandharvas. The four castes present there are Mriga (Brahamana), Magadha (Kshatriya), Manasa (Vaishya) and Mandaga (Shudra). Shaka Dwipi Brahamans are worshippers of the Sun. They migrated to Gujarat and Bihar (Magadha). They are also known as Maga Brahamanas.
- Shaka Dwipa is surrounded by the Sea of Milk (Kshiroda) on all sides, which is surrounded by Pushkara Dwipa on all sides.
- *Note: Meru is identified with ‘Meroe’ of Sudan, or a primeval Meroe that was lost (Refer web page ‘Shaka Dwipa in Matya Purana).
7. Pushkara Dwipa, ruled by Savala (Savana?), Twice the size of Shaka Dwipa. Nyagroda (Fiscus indica) tree grows here. Only one mighty range of Manasottara, which runs in a circular direction like an armlet. Mountain is 5000 Yojanas in height and the same in breadth – circular on all sides. People here live for 10,000 years free from disease, sorrow, anger, and jealousy. There is neither virtue nor vice, no jealousy, envy, fear, hatred, malice nor any moral delinquency. The Varsha on the outside of Manasottara is called Mahavira and the one inside is called Dhataka. They are frequented by the celestials and Danavas. In Pushkara Dwipa, there is no distinction of caste or order. The people lived here do not perform any rites and the three Vedas, the Puranas, Ethics, Polity and laws of services are completely unknown.
- This Dwipa is encircled by Syaduka Sea, i.e. Sea of Fresh Water.
In conclusion, we can say that the seven insular Continents are encircled by 7 seas and each ocean and island is twice the size of that which precedes it. The water in all these oceans remains the same at all seasons, excepting dilations due to heat. Food in Pushkara Dwipa is produced spontaneously and people there enjoy life.
Relevance of Pauranic (scriptural) Geographical System
Identification of these Sapta Dwipas (7 Continents) is conceivable but it is subjective and hence at variance. Col. Wilfred has supposed these Dwipas as: (1) Jambhu – India, (2) Kusha – Kush of the scriptures or the countries between Mesopotamia and India, (3) Plaksha – Asia Minor, (4) Shalmali – Eastern Europe, (5) Krauncha – Germany, (6) Shaka – the British Isles and (7) Pushkara – Iceland.
The learned Narayan A. Bangera identifies them (Ref: Mogaveera Monthly – August 2010 Issue in his Exposition of ‘Kanakadasara Hari Bhakti Sara) as under:
Plaksha - South America, Pushkara – North America, Krauncha – Africa, Jambu – Asia including Bharat Varsha, Shaka – Europe, Shalmali – Australia, Kusha – Oceanea (i.e. several Pacific Ocean Islands, New Zealand, Melanesia, etc.)
Patala Khand (Subterranean region)
Thus, Parashara Muni explained to Maitreya the extent of surface of the Earth. He further explained the depth below the surface, which is supposedly 70,000 Yojanas. Each of the seven regions of Patala (Nether region) is called Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Gabhasmat, Mahatala, Sutala and Patala. In the Bhagavat and Padma Purana, they are mentioned as Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala. These regions are inhabited by Danavas, Daityas, Yakshas and Great Snake Gods. They lived delightfully in stately palaces. The pomp and pleasure in Patala Lokas was more than that in the Heaven. Swayamprabha Lambaka section in Brihat Katha tells stories of adventures of mortal heroes with the Naga Kanyas (Snake Nymphs).
These data, collected by us, are from Indian religious scriptures. These religious writings of sages of par excellence are sacred truths, hidden in allegories. Enlightened souls of sages of yore could concentrate, contemplate and enjoy the unknown mysteries of the Universe. Theories of these sages at different ages may vary here and there but the fundamental truth remains the same. These truths dawn upon the receptive minds of modern scientists. This unfolding, more often than not, is a mere accident. This confirms the affinity of souls of mystics of the epic days to souls of all ages to come. Super natural truths transcend through ages, thus confirming universal brotherhood. Truth, trickled down orally and spread in various tongues, was encapsulated in Vedas and their branches from time to time. Migration and communication skills of those days were instrumental in spread of knowledge – both spiritual and worldly.
- Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune.