Studying The Structure Of The Universe by Srila Sukadeva Goswami
The great sage Sukadeva Goswami said: Hereafter I shall describe the dimensions, characteristics and forms of the six islands beginning with the island of Plaksa. As Sumeru Mountain is surrounded by Jambudvipa, Jambudvipa is also surrounded by an ocean of salt water. The breadth of Jambudvipa is 100,000 yojanas (1287475 kms), and the breadth of the saltwater ocean is the same. As a moat around a fort is sometimes surrounded by garden like forest, the saltwater ocean surrounding Jambudvipa is itself surrounded by Plaksadvipa. The breadth of Plaksadvipa is twice that of the saltwater ocean in other words 200,000 yojanas (2574950 kms). On Plaksadvipa there is a tree as tall as the jambu tree on Jambudvipa which shines like gold. At its root is a fire with seven flames. It is because of this a plaksa tree that the island is called Plaksadvipa. Idhmajihva, one of the sons of Maharaja Priyavrata, governs Plaksadvipa. Maharaja Priyavrata endowed the seven islands with the names of his seven sons, allocated those islands to them, and then retired from active life to engage in the devotional service of the Lord. The seven islands (varṣas) are named according to the names of those seven sons: Shiva, Yavasa, Subhadra, Shanta, Ksema, Amrta and Abhaya. In those seven tracts of land, there are seven mountains and seven rivers. The mountains are named Manikuta, Vajrakuta, Indrasena, Jyotisman, Suparna, Hiranyasthiva and Meghamala, and the rivers are named Aruna, Nrmna, Angirasi, Savitri, Suptabhata, Rtambhara and Satyambhara. One can immediately be free from material contamination by touching or bathing in those rivers, and the four castes of people who live in Plaksadvipa – the Hamsas, Patangas, Urdhvayanas and Satyangas purify themselves in that way. The inhabitants of Plaksadvipa live for one thousand years. They are beautiful like the demigods, and they also beget children in the way of the demigods. By completely performing the ritualistic ceremonies mentioned in the Vedas and by worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead as represented by the sun-god, they attain the sun, which is a heavenly planet. This is the mantra by which the inhabitants of Plaksadvipa worship the Supreme Lord: Let us take shelter of the sun-god, who is a reflection of Lord Vishnu, the all-expanding Supreme Personality of Godhead, the oldest of all persons. Vishnu is the only worshipable Lord. He is the Vedas, He is religion, and He is the origin of all auspicious and inauspicious results. Longevity, sensory prowess, physical and mental strength, intelligence and bravery are naturally and equally manifested in all the inhabitants of the five islands headed by Plaksadvipa.
Plaksadvipa is surrounded by an ocean of sugarcane juice, equal in breadth to the island itself. Similarly, there is then another island Salmalidvipa twice as broad as Plaksadvipa (400,000 yojanas, or 5149900 kms) and surrounded by an equally broad body of water called Surasagara, the ocean that tastes like liquor. On Salmalidvipa there is a Shalmali tree, from which the island takes its name. That tree is as broad and tall as the plaksa tree, in other words 100 yojanas [1287 kms] broad and 1,100 yojanas [14162 kms] tall. Learned scholars say that this gigantic tree is the residence of Garuda, the king of all birds and carrier of Lord Visnu. In that tree, Garuda offers Lord Vishnu his Vedic prayers. The son of Maharaja Priyavrata named Yajnabahu, the master of Salmalidvipa, divided the island into seven tracts of land, which he gave to his seven sons. The names of those divisions, which correspond to the names of the sons, are Surocana, Saumanasya, Ramanaka, Deva-varṣa, Paribhadra, Apyayana and Avijnata. In those tracts of land there are seven mountains Svarasa, Shatashrnga, Vamadeva, Kunda, Mukunda, Puspa-varṣa and Sahasra-shruti. There are also seven rivers Anumati, Sinivali, Sarasvati, Kuhu, Rajani, Nanda and Raka. They are still existing.
Strictly following the cult of varṇāśrama-dharma, the inhabitants of those islands, who are known as Srutidharas, Viryadharas, Vasundharas and Isandharas, all worship the expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead named Soma, the moon-god. The inhabitants of Salmalidvipa worship the demigod of the moon in the following words: By his personal rays, the moongod has divided the month into two fortnights, known as śukla and kṛṣṇa, for the distribution of food grains to the pitās and the demigods. The demigod of the moon is he who divides time, and he is the king of all the residents of the universe. We therefore pray that he may remain our king and guide, and we offer him our respectful obeisance.
Outside the ocean of liquor is another island, known as Kusadvipa, which is 800,000 yojanas (10299801 kms) wide, twice as wide as the ocean of liquor. As Salmalidvipa is surrounded by a liquor ocean, Kusadvipa is surrounded by an ocean of liquid ghee as broad as the island itself. On Kusadvipa there are clumps of kuśa grass, from which the island takes its name. This kuśa grass, which was created by the demigods by the will of the Supreme Lord, appears like a second form of fire, but with very mild and pleasing flames. Its young shoots illuminate all directions. O King, another son of Maharaja Priyavrata, Hiranyareta, was the king of this island. He divided it into seven parts, which he delivered to his seven sons according to the rights of inheritance. The King then retired from family life to engage in austerities. The names of those sons are Vasu, Vasudana, Drdharuci, Stutyavrata, Nabhigupta, Vivikta and Vamadeva.. In those seven islands there are seven boundary mountains, known as Cakra, Catuhsrnga, Kapila, Citrakuta, Devanika, Urdhvaroma and Dravina. There are also seven rivers, known as Ramakulya, Madhukulya, Mitravinda, Srutavinda, Devagarbha, Ghrtacyuta and Mantramala. The inhabitants of the island of Kusadvipa are celebrated as the Kusalas, Kovidas, Abhiyuktas and Kulakas. They are like the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas and śūdras respectively. By bathing in the waters of those rivers, they all become purified. They are expert in performing ritualistic ceremonies according to the orders of the Vedic scriptures. Thus they worship the Lord in His aspect as the demigod of fire. This is the mantra by which the inhabitants of Kusadvipa worship the fire-god: O fire-god, you are a part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, and you carry to Him all the offerings of sacrifices. Therefore we request you to offer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead the yajñic ingredients we are offering the demigods, for the Lord is the real enjoyer.
Outside the ocean of clarified butter is another island, known as Krauncadvipa, which has a width of 1,600,000 yojanas (19312128 km), twice the width of the ocean of clarified butter. As Kusadvipa is surrounded by an ocean of clarified butter, Krauncadvipa is surrounded by an ocean of milk as broad as the island itself. On Krauncadvipa there is a great mountain known as Kraunca, from which the island takes its name. Although the vegetables living on the slopes of Mount Kraunca were attacked and devastated by the weapons of Karttikeya, the mountain has become fearless because it is always bathed on all sides by the Ocean of Milk and protected by Varunadeva. The ruler of this island was another son of Maharaja Priyavrata, named Ghrtapratha, and he was a very learned scholar. He also divided his own island among his seven sons. After dividing the island into seven parts, named according to the names of his sons, Ghṛtapṛntha Maharaja completely retired from family life and took shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord, the soul of all souls, who has all auspicious qualities. Thus he attained perfection.The sons of Maharaja Ghrtaprstha were named Ama, Madhuruha, Meghaprstha, Sudhama, Bhrajistha, Lohitarna and Vanaspati. In their island there are seven mountains, which indicate the boundaries of the seven tracts of land, and there are also seven rivers. The mountains are namedSukla, Vardhamana, Bhojana, Upabarhina, Nanda, Nandana and Sarvatobhadra. The rivers are named Abhaya, Amrtaugha, Aryaka, Tirthavati, Rupavati, Pavitravati and Sukla. The inhabitants of Krauncadvipa are divided into four castes, called the Purusas, Rsabhas, Dravinas and Devakas. Using the waters of those sanctified rivers, they worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead by offering a palmful of water at the lotus feet of Varuṇa, the demigod who has a form of water. The inhabitants of Krauncadvipa worship with the following mantra: O water of the rivers, you have obtained energy from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore you purify the three planetary systems, known as Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka and Svarloka. By your constitutional nature, you purify all sins, and that is why we are touching you. Kindly continue to purify us.
Outside the Ocean of Milk is another island,Sakadvipa, which has a width of 3,200,000 yojanas (41199206 kms). As Krauncadvipa is surrounded by its own ocean of milk, Sakadvipa is surrounded by an ocean of churned yogurt as broad as the island itself. In Sakadvipa there is a big shaka tree, from which the island takes its name. This tree is very fragrant. Indeed, it lends its scentto the entire island. The master of this island, also one of the sons of Priyavrata, was known as Medhatithi. He also divided his island into seven sections, named according to the names of his own sons, whom he made the kings of that island. The names of those sons are Purojava, Manojava, Pavamana, Dhumranika, Citrarepha, Bahurupa and Vishvadhāra. After dividing the island and situating his sons as its rulers, Medhatithi retired from administrative duties. In order to completely fix his mind upon the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he entered a forest suitable for meditation. For these lands of his sons, there are also seven boundary mountains and seven rivers. The mountains are Isana, Urusrnga, Balabhadra, Satakesara, Sahasrasrota, Devapala and Mahanasa. The rivers are Anagha, Ayurda, Ubhayasprsti, Aparajita, Paṣcapadi, Sahasra-sruti and Nijadhrti. The inhabitants of those islands are also divided into four castes namely Rtavrata, Satyavrata, Danavrata and Anuvrata which exactly resemble brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra. They practice prāṇāyāma and mystic yoga,and in trance they worship the Supreme Lord in the form of Vayu. The inhabitants of Sakadvipa worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the form of Vayu in the following words: O Supreme Person, situated as the Supersoul within the body, You direct the various actions of the different airs, such as prāṇa and āpaṇa, and thus You maintain all living entities. O Lord, O Supersoul of everyone, O controller of the cosmic manifestation under whom everything exists, may You protect us from all dangers. Outside the ocean of yogurt is another island, known as Punkaradvipa, which is 6,400,000 yojanas (82398412 kmss) wide, twice as wide as the ocean of yogurt. It is surrounded by an ocean of very sweet water as broad as the island itself. On Punkaradvipa there is a great lotus flower with 100,000,000 pure golden petals, as effulgent as the flames of fire. That lotus flower is considered the sitting place of Lord Brahma, who is a most powerful living being and is therefore sometimes called bhagavān. In the middle of that island is a great mountain named Manasottara, which forms the boundary between the inner and outer sides of the island. Its breadth and height are 10,000 yojanas (128747 kms). On that mountain, in the four directions, are the residential quarters of demigods such as Indra. In the chariot of the sun-god, the sun travels on the top of the mountain in an orbit called the Samvatsara, encircling Mount Meru. The sun’s path on the northern side is called Uttarāyaṇa, and its path on the southern side is called Daksinayana. One side represents a day for the demigods, and the other represents their night.The ruler of this island, the son of Maharaja Priyavrata named Vītihotra, had two sons named Ramaṇaka and Dhataki. He granted the two sides of the island to these two sons and then personally engaged himself in activities for the sake of the Supreme Personality of Godhead like his elder brother Medhatithi. For the fulfillment of material desires, the inhabitants of this tract of land worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead as represented by Lord Brahma. They offer prayers to the Lord as follows: Lord Brahma is known as karma-maya, the form of ritualistic ceremonies, because by performing ritualistic ceremonies one may attain his position and because the Vedic ritualistic hymns become manifest from him. He is devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead without deviation, and therefore in one sense he is not different from the Lord.
Nevertheless, he should be worshiped not as the monists worship him, but in knowledge of his individuality. One should always remain a servitor of the Supreme Lord, the supreme worshipable Deity. We therefore offer our
respectful obeisance unto Lord Brahma, the form of manifest Vedic knowledge. Thereafter, beyond the ocean of sweet water and completely surrounding it, is a mountain named Lokaloka, which divides the sunlit countries from those not lit by the sun. There also lies a tract of land as broad as the area between the middle of Mount Sumeru and the boundary of Mānasottara Mountain. In that tract of land there are many living beings. Beyond it, extending to Lokaloka Mountain, is another land, which is made of gold. Because of its golden surface, it reflects light like the surface of a mirror, and any physical article that falls on that land can never be perceived again. All living entities, therefore, have abandoned that golden land. Between the lands inhabited by living entities and those that are uninhabited stands the great mountain which separates the two and which is therefore celebrated as Lokaloka. By the supreme will of Krishna, the mountain known as Lokaloka has been installed as the outer border of the three worlds- Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka and Svarloka- to control the rays of the sun throughout the universe. All the luminaries, from the sun up to Dhruvaloka, distribute their rays throughout the three worlds, but only within the boundary formed by this mountain. Because it is extremely high, extending even higher than Dhruvaloka, it blocks the rays of the sky’s luminaries, which therefore can never extend beyond it. Learned scholars who are free from mistakes, illusions and propensities to cheat have thus described the planetary systems and their particular symptoms, measurements and locations. With great deliberation, they have established the fact that the distance between Sumeru and the mountain known as Lokaloka is one fourth of the diameter of the universe, or in other words, 125,000,000 yojanas (1609344 000 kms). On the top of Lokaloka Mountain are the four gaja-patis, the best of elephants, which were established in the four directions by Lord Brahma, the supreme spiritual master of the
entire universe. The names of those elephants are Rsabha, Puskaracuda, Vamana and Aparajita. They are responsible for maintaining the planetary systems of the universe. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the master of all transcendental opulence and the master of the spiritual sky. He is the Supreme Person, Bhagavān, the Supersoul of everyone. The demigods, led by Indra, the King of heaven, are entrusted with seeing to the affairs of the material world. To benefit all living beings in all the varied planets and to increase the power of those elephants and of the demigods, the Lord manifests Himself on top of that mountain in His spiritual body, uncontaminated by the modes of material nature. Surrounded by His personal expansions and assistants like Visvaksena, He exhibits all His perfect opulences, such as religion and knowledge, and His mystic powers such as aṇimā, laghimā and mahimā. He is beautiful in appearance and is decorated by His different weapons in His four hands. The various forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, such as Narayana and Vishnu, are always beautifully decorated with different weapons. The Lord exhibits those forms to maintain all the varied planets created by His personal potency, yogamāyā.
My dear King, outside Lokaloka Mountain is the tract of land known as Aloka-varṣa, which extends for the same bredth as the area within the mountain in other words, 125,000,000 yojanas (1609344000 kms). Beyond Alokavarṣa is the destination of those who aspire for liberation from the material world. It is beyond the jurisdiction of the material modes of nature, and therefore it is completely pure. Lord Krishna took Arjuna through this place to bring back the sons of the brāhmaṇa. The sun is situated in the vertical middle of the universe, in the area between Bhurloka and Bhuvarloka, which is called antarikṣa, outer space. The distance between the sun and the circumference of the universe is twenty-five koṭi yojanas (3218688000 kms). The sun-god is also known as Vairaja, the total material body for all living entities. Because he entered this dull egg of the universe at the time of creation, he is also called Martanḍa. He is also known as Hiranyagarbha because he received his material body from Hiraṇyagarbha (Lord Brahma). O King, the sun-god and the sun planet divide all the directions of the universe. It is only because of the presence of the sun that we can understand what the sky, the higher planets, this world and the lower planets are. It is also only because of the sun that we can understand which places are for material enjoyment, which are for liberation, which are hellish and subterranean. All living entities, including demigods, human beings, animals, birds, insects, reptiles, creepers and trees, depend upon the heat and light given by the sun-god from the sun planet. Furthermore, it is because of the sun’s presence that all living entities can see, and therefore he is called dṛgīśvara, the Personality of Godhead presiding over sight.
— Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam » Canto 5: Chapter 20 Studying the Structure of the Universe » Verse: 1 – 46.