The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Bhuh-mandala


BY: SUN STAFF - 1.8 2019

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 33.

Next on the Jaiva Dharma 'Glossary of Places' is Bhuh-mandala, and the sacred place following that on the list is Bhuvah. These planetary designations were mentioned in our last segment on Bhuh, Earth planet, as we began to explore how the term 'bhuh' is variously used.

As described in the 'Glossary of Places':

Bhuh-mandala - the middle planetary system within the universe.

We find no mention at all of Bhuh-mandala (or Bhu-mandala) in either of the translations of Jaiva Dharma we're working with. But as demonstrated in the last segment, the term bhuh has many connotations related to planetary spheres and systems.

Bhu-mandala is mentioned many places in Srimad Bhagavatam, particularly in the 5th Canto. It was also a topic of much discussion between Srila Prabhupada and the devotees over several days in July 1977 in Vrindavan, as they explored how best to execute artistic renderings of Jambudvipa, Bhu-mandala, etc.

The 5th Canto describes how Bhu-mandala was created:

"When Priyavrata drove his chariot behind the sun, the rims of his chariot wheels created impressions that later became seven oceans, dividing the planetary system known as Bhu-mandala into seven islands." (SB 5.1.31)

Sometimes the planets in outer space are called islands. We have experience of various types of islands in the ocean, and similarly the various planets, divided into fourteen lokas, are islands in the ocean of space. As Priyavrata drove his chariot behind the sun, he created seven different types of oceans and planetary systems, which altogether are known as Bhu-mandala, or Bhuloka. In the Gayatri mantra, we chant, om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam. Above the Bhuloka planetary system is Bhuvarloka, and above that is Svargaloka, the heavenly planetary system. All these planetary systems are controlled by Savita, the sun-god. By chanting the Gayatri mantra just after rising early in the morning, one worships the sun-god."

The history of Bhu-mandala's creation and physical characteristics are further described in 5th Canto, chapter sixteen, in the discussion between Maharaja Pariksit and Sri Sukadeva Goswami.

"While describing the character of Maharaja Priyavrata and his descendants, Sukadeva Gosvami also described Meru Mountain and the planetary system known as Bhu-mandala. Bhu-mandala is like a lotus flower, and its seven islands are compared to the whorl of the lotus. The place known as Jambudvipa is in the middle of that whorl. In Jambudvipa there is a mountain known as Sumeru, which is made of solid gold. The height of this mountain is 84,000 yojanas, of which 16,000 yojanas are below the earth. Its width is estimated to be 32,000 yojanas at its summit and 16,000 yojanas at its foot. (One yojana equals approximately eight miles.) This king of mountains, Sumeru, is the support of the planet earth." (SB 5.16 Summary)

In his Bhaktivedanta Purport to SB 5.16.1, Srila Prabhupada further explains:

"In this verse it is stated that the planetary system known as Bhu-mandala extends to the limits of the sunshine. According to modern science, the sunshine reaches earth from a distance of 93,000,000 miles. If we calculate according to this modern information, 93,000,000 miles can be considered the radius of Bhu-mandala. In the Gayatri mantra, we chant om bhur bhuvah svah. The word bhur refers to Bhu-mandala. Tat savitur varenyam: the sunshine spreads throughout Bhu-mandala. Therefore the sun is worshipable. The stars, which are known as naksatra, are not different suns, as modern astronomers suppose. From Bhagavad-gita (10.21) we understand that the stars are similar to the moon (naksatranam aham sasi). Like the moon, the stars reflect the sunshine. Apart from our modern distinguished estimations of where the planetary systems are located, we can understand that the sky and its various planets were studied long, long before Srimad-Bhagavatam was compiled. Sukadeva Gosvami explained the location of the planets, and this indicates that the information was known long, long before Sukadeva Gosvami related it to Maharaja Pariksit. The location of the various planetary systems was not unknown to the sages who flourished in the Vedic age." (SB 5.16.1)

Pariksit Maharaja requests Sukadeva Goswami to elaborate further upon the specific characteristics of Bhu-mandala, and in reply Srila Sukadeva stated the following:

"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 5.16.5)

"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 5.16.7)

"My dear King, in his orbit through Bhu-mandala, the sun-god traverses a distance of 95,100,000 yojanas [760,800,000 miles] at the speed of 2,000 yojanas and two krosas [16,004 miles] in a moment." (SB 5.21.19)