Geography in Mahabharata

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Geography in Mahabharata

Ramayana and Mahabharata are called Itihasas.

What is the meaning of Itihasa?

इतिह आस्ते अस्मिन्

A book that contains a lot of guidance and advice about how to live a fulfilling life.

The incidents of Mahabharata are real historic events.

But today we are going to see the significance of Mahabharata as far as India's ancient geography is concerned.


Before getting into that, do you know how Mahabharata is structured?

There are 1,01,253 slokas in Mahabharata, both Mahabharata and Harivamsha put together.

Harivamsha is a supplement to Mahabharata.

Mahabharata is presented in the format of a conversation between Ugrasrava Sauti and Sage Shaunaka.

Out of these, 24,000 shlokas are called Bharata.

This is embedded inside Mahabharata in which Vaisampayana is narrating the story of the Kuruvamsha to Janamejaya.

Sauti when he narrates this portion says: Vaisampayana said... or Janamejaya asked.

This narration of Bharata took place during the Sarpa yajna of Janamejaya.

Vaisampayana was Sage Vyasa's disciple.

He learned Bharata from Vyasa.

Vyasa was also present there during this narration by Vaisampayana, at the venue of Sarpa yajna.

This was 24,000 verses.

Embedded inside these 24,000 verses is the portion called Jaya which is 8,800 verses.

This is the conversation between Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra.

It starts from the second chapter of Bhishma Parva and ends in the ninth chapter of Sauptika Parva.

Vyasa gave divya drishti to Sanjaya with which he saw whatever happened in the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

This is that portion.

After the death of Duryodhana, Sanjaya lost this divine vision.


In Jaya, from the 12th shloka in the 6th chapter of Bhishma Parva to the 37th shloka of the 13th chapter, geography is described in great detail.

Sanjaya tells Dhritarashtra:

सुदर्शनं प्रवाक्ष्यामि द्वीपं ते कुरुनन्दन।

द्विरंशे पिप्पलस्तत्र द्विरंशे च शशो महान् ।

Sanjaya says that the earth looks like a wheel.

Inside this circle, this wheel, there are two portions that look like rabbits and two portions that look like leaves of Peepal tree.

Do you realize what this is?

It is a Polar Azimuthal equidistant projection of the earth.

Antarctica is at the center of this wheel and the Arctic is its rim.

The two rabbits are Eurasia and North America.

The two leaves are Africa and South America.

Isn't it amazing?

The knowledge our ancestors had about Cartography.

The Eurasia is divided into seven regions by six mountain ranges:

हिमवान्हेमकूटश्च निषधश्च नगोत्तमः।

नीलश्च वैडूर्यमयः श्वेतश्च रजतप्रभः॥

सर्वधातुविनद्धश्च शृङ्गवान्नाम पर्वतः।

Himavan, Hemakuta, Nishadha, Neela, Shveta, and Shringavan.

Himavan of course you know, the Himalayas.

The other five are Kailsa, Kunlun in China, Tien Shan in the Pamir, Altai ranges in Mongolia, and Sayan mountains in Siberia.

Shringavan means a mountain with high peaks.

Sayan indeed is a range with towering peaks.

These six mountain ranges divide Eurasia into Bharata Varsha, Himavat Varsha, Hari Varsha, Ilavrita Varsha, Shveta Varsha, Hiranyaka Varsha, and Airavata Varsha.

The legendary Mount Meru is the Pamir Mountain.

Mahabharata describes altogether 150 rivers in Bharata Varsha.

Bharata Varsha you should know is the region South of the Himalayas and to the North of the Indian Ocean.

Each and every river, big and small have been identified.

Around 220  kingdoms have been mentioned and identified.

30 forests such as Dandakaranya, and Khandava have been identified.

30 lakes have been described and identified.

Around 80 mountain ranges have been described.

300 pilgrim centers have been identified.

All journey routes have been identified and traced.

Such as Pandavas’ travel from Hastinapur to Kamyaka and Dvaita Vanas, Arjuna's travel looking for divine weapons, and Arjuna's travel from Hastinapur to Dwaraka as Dwaraka was sinking and his return, all these routes have been traced.

They are all real places.

The digvijaya yatras as part of the Rajasuya of the Pandavas, all these routes have been traced.

If you want to learn the real history of India, it is our Itihasas and Puranas that we should look into.



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Read more comments

Is world map described in Mahabharata?

In Mahabharata, there is a detailed description of the world map from the 12th sloka of the 6th chapter to the 37th sloka of the 13th chapter of Bhishma Parva. This includes a Polar Azimuthal equidistant projection of the earth.

What was India called during Mahabharata?

India was called Bharatavarsha during Mahabharata.


Who is still alive from Mahabharata?
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