The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Jambudvipa


Yantra of Jambudvipa, c. 1725

Apr 25, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 67.

Next on the list of sacred spots comprising the Jaiva Dharma 'Glossary of Places' is Jambudvipa:

    "Jambudvipa - the innermost of seven concentric islands which form the divisions of Bhu-mandala. Jambudvipa is itself divided into nine varsas, or tracts of land, the most famous of which is Bharatavarsa (India). According to some opinions, this roughly corresponds to Asia (Gaudiya-Vaisnava-Abhidhana)."

Jambudvipa has the distinction of being the very first sacred place mentioned in Jaiva Dharma, where the opening paragraph of the book contains the only mentions of it:

    Chapter One
    Jiver Nitya O Naimittik Dharma (The Soul's Eternal and Temporary Natures)

    "Of all earthly realms, Jambudvipa is the best. O fall places in Jambudvipa, Bharata-varsa is the best. Of all places in Bharata-varsa, Gauda-desa is the best. Of all places in Gauda-desa, Sri Navadvipa-mandala is the best. In one part of Sri Navadvipa-mandala, on the Ganga shore, the beautiful village of Sri Godruma is splendidly manifested eternally. In ancient times many bhajananandi devotees made their homes in the gardens of Sri Godruma."

In a 17-part Sun Feature series entitled "The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa" (April/May 2013), we presented a serial study of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing therein.

The mahajanapadas, or sixteen Great States of Jambudvipa, are among the most important topics of study in ancient geography. The word mahajanapadas means 'great realm', from maha (great) and janapada (foothold of a tribe or country). as mentioned in ancient Buddhist texts, these states are the kingdoms that existed during the 6th to 3rd Centuries B.C. Other sastric references, however, indicate their greater antiquity.

The age of Jambudvipa itself cannot be constrained to a timeline of such relatively modern political divisions. As stated in Srimad Bhagavatam 5.16.5:

    "The planetary system known as Bhu-mandala resembles a lotus flower, and its seven islands resemble the whorl of that flower. The length and breadth of the island known as Jambudvipa, which is situated in the middle of the whorl, are one million yojanas [eight million miles]. Jambudvipa is round like the leaf of a lotus flower."

In the 5th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, chapter sixteen, we find 'A Description of Jambudvipa':

    "SB 5.16.5: The planetary system known as Bhu-mandala resembles a lotus flower, and its seven islands resemble the whorl of that flower. The length and breadth of the island known as Jambudvipa, which is situated in the middle of the whorl, are one million yojanas [eight million miles]. Jambudvipa is round like the leaf of a lotus flower.

    SB 5.16.6: In Jambudvipa there are nine divisions of land, each with a length of 9,000 yojanas [72,000 miles]. There are eight mountains that mark the boundaries of these divisions and separate them nicely.

    SB 5.16.7: Amidst these divisions, or varsas, is the varsa named Ilavrta, which is situated in the middle of the whorl of the lotus. Within Ilavrta-varsa is Sumeru Mountain, which is made of gold. Sumeru Mountain is like the pericarp of the lotuslike Bhu-mandala planetary system. The mountain's height is the same as the width of Jambudvipa -- or, in other words, 100,000 yojanas [800,000 miles]. Of that, 16,000 yojanas [128,000 miles] are within the earth, and therefore the mountain's height above the earth is 84,000 yojanas [672,000 miles]. The mountain's width is 32,000 yojanas [256,000 miles] at its summit and 16,000 yojanas at its base.

    SB 5.16.8: Just north of Ilavrta-varsa -- and going further northward, one after another -- are three mountains named Nila, Sveta and Srngavan. These mark the borders of the three varsas named Ramyaka, Hiranmaya and Kuru and separate them from one another. The width of these mountains is 2,000 yojanas [16,000 miles]. Lengthwise, they extend east and west to the beaches of the ocean of salt water. Going from south to north, the length of each mountain is one tenth that of the previous mountain, but the height of them all is the same.

    SB 5.16.9: Similarly, south of Ilavrta-varsa and extending from east to west are three great mountains named (from north to south) Nisadha, Hemakuta and Himalaya. Each of them is 10,000 yojanas [80,000 miles] high. They mark the boundaries of the three varsas named Hari-varsa, Kimpurusa-varsa and Bharata-varsa [India].

    SB 5.16.10: In the same way, west and east of Ilavrta-varsa are two great mountains named Malyavan and Gandhamadana respectively. These two mountains, which are 2,000 yojanas [16,000 miles] high, extend as far as Nila Mountain in the north and Nisadha in the south. They indicate the borders of Ilavrta-varsa and also the varsas known as Ketumala and Bhadrasva.

    SB 5.16.11: On the four sides of the great mountain known as Sumeru are four mountains -- Mandara, Merumandara, Suparsva and Kumuda -- which are like its belts. The length and height of these mountains are calculated to be 10,000 yojanas [80,000 miles].

    SB 5.16.12: Standing like flagstaffs on the summits of these four mountains are a mango tree, a rose apple tree, a kadamba tree and a banyan tree. Those trees are calculated to have a width of 100 yojanas [800 miles] and a height of 1,100 yojanas [8,800 miles]. Their branches also spread to a radius of 1,100 yojanas.

    SB 5.16.13-14: O Maharaja Pariksit, best of the Bharata dynasty, between these four mountains are four huge lakes. The water of the first tastes just like milk; the water of the second, like honey; and that of the third, like sugarcane juice. The fourth lake is filled with pure water. The celestial beings such as the Siddhas, Caranas and Gandharvas, who are also known as demigods, enjoy the facilities of those four lakes. Consequently they have the natural perfections of mystic yoga, such as the power to become smaller than the smallest or greater than the greatest. There are also four celestial gardens named Nandana, Caitraratha, Vaibhrajaka and Sarvatobhadra."

    (Srimad Bhagavatam 5.16.5-14)

    Bhaktivedanta Book Trust


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