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Svayambhuva Manu had two sons named Priyavrata and Uttanapda. Priyavarata had a hundred sons. Ten of these were named Agnidhra, Vapushmana, Medha, Medhatithi, Vibhu, Jyotishmana, Dyutimana, Havya, Savana and Sarva. When Priyavrata decided to retire to the forest, he divided up his kingdom amongst seven of his sons. Since Priyavrata had ruled over the entire earth, this is how the earth came to be divided into seven regions (dvipas). Agnidhra inherited Jambuvipa, Medhatithi Plakshadvipa, Vapushmana Shalmalidvipa, Jyotishmana Kushadvipa, Dyutimana Krounchadvipa, Havya Shakadvipa and Savana Pushkaradvipa. Agnidhra, the ruler of Jambudvipa, had nine sons. Their names were Nabhi, Kimpurusha, Hari, Ilavrita, Ramya, Harinmana, Kuru, Bhadrashva and Ketumala. When it became time for Agnidhra to retire to the forest, he divided Jambudvipa amongst these nine sons. Nabhi inherited the region that lies to thesouth of the Himalayas. This is the region that subsequently came to be known as Bharatavarsha. (The word varsha signifies region.) Kimpurusha received Hemakutavarsha, Hari Naishadhvarsha, Ramya Nilavarsha, Harinmana Shvetavarsha, Bhadrashva Malyavanavarsha and Ketumala Gandhamadanavarsha. Ilvarita inherited the region around Mount Sumeru and Kuru the region to the north of Mount Shringavana. Nabhi had a son named Rishabha and Rishabha‘s son was Bharata. It was after Bharata that the region which Nabhi ruled over came to be known as Bharatavarsha.
Mount Sumeru (alternatively Meru) is in Jambudvipa. This has a very high altitude and gold can be found in abundance there. The eastern slope of the peak is white and is associated with brahmanas. The northern slope is red and is associated with kshatriyas. The southern slope is yellow and is associated with vaishyas. The western slope is greyish and is associated with shudras. You will remember that Brahma appeared from a lotus flower. Meru was formed out of the stalk of this flower. It is impossible to describe Mount Sumeru. The various sages who have attempted to describe it do not agree in their descriptions. This is because each sage saw, and thus described, only one part of the peak. The sage Atri described it as possessing a hundred angles; the sage Bhrigu maintained that it had a thousand angles; the sage Savarni thought it was octagonal; the sage Bhaguri‘s description suggests that it had the shape of a quadrilateral; the sage Varshayani maintained that it was as shapeless as the ocean; the sage Kroushtuki described it as circular; and the sage Gargya said that it had the shape of a woman‘s braided hair. It is only the great Brahma who can describe Mount Sumeru adequately.
But it is known that there are many beautiful valleys in the region surrounding the peak. These valleys have ponds with limpid water and lotuses bloom in thousands in these ponds. There are also many places with bejewelled pillars and golden gates. There are landing strips where the vimanas (space vehicles) of the gods can descend. Apart from the places, there are several hermitages frequented by the sages. But most wonderous of all is Brahma‘s famous assembly-hall, located atop Mount Sumeru. This assembly-hall is known as Manovati. The Vayu Purana now describes the mountans, rivers, ponds and valleys belonging to the different varshas. These we will gloss over and concentrate only on the description of Bharatavarsha.
Bharatavarasha is bounded by the Himalayas to the north and by the ocean to the south. Bharatavarsha is divided into nine regions (dvipas). The names of these regions are Indradvipa, Kaserumana, Tamraparni, Gabhastimana, Nagadvipa, Soumya, Gandharva and Varuna. This adds up to eight . The ninth region is an island that is surrounded by the ocean on all sides. It is not very easy to travel from one region of Bharatavarsha to another. The transportation problems are enormous. The southern tip of Bharatavarsha is known as Kumarika (Cape Comorin or Kanyakumari). Beyond the boundaries of Bharatavarsha live the disbelievers (that is, those who disbelieve in the Vedas). To the east live the kiratas and to the west live the yavanas. Bharatavarsha proper is populated by brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. There are seven major mountain ranges in Bharatavarsha. These are known as Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Shaktimana, Riksha, Vindhya and Paripatra. There are several other minor ranges, amongst which are Mandara and Raviataka.
Rivers abound in the region, owing their sources to the mountains. The rivers Ganga, Sindhu (Indus), Sarasvati, Shatadru (Sutlej), Chandrabhaga (Chenab), Yamuna, Sarayu, Iravati (Ravi),Vitasta, Vipasha (Beas), Devika, Kuhu, Gomati, Dhutapapa, Vahuda, Drishadvati, Koushiki, Tritiya, Gandaki, Nishchira, Ikshu and Lohita (Brahmaputra ) originate from the foothills of the Himalyas. The rivers Vedashruti, Vedavati, Vritraghni, Parnasha, Vandana, Satira, Mahati, Para, Charmanvati (Chambal), Vidisha, Vetravati, Shipra and Avanti originate out of the Paripatra range (This identifies the Paripatra as the Arvalli range.) The rivers Shona, Narmada, Mandakini, Dasharna, Chitrakuta, Tamasa, Pippala, Shroni, Karatoya, Pishachika, Nilotapa, Jambula, Valuvahini, Siteraja, Shuktimati, Makruna and Tridiva originate from the Riksha range. (This range thus seems to be the mountains around Chota Nagpur.) Tapi (Tapti), Payoshni, Nirvindhya, Bhadra, Nishadha, Venva, Vaitarani, Shitivahu, Kumudvati, Toya, Mahagouri, Durga and Antahshila are rives that owe their source in the Vindhya range. From the Sahya range there originate the rivers Godavari, Bhimarathi, Krishna, Veni, Vanjula, Tungabhadra, Suproyaga and Kaveri. (The Sahya range thus corresponds to the Western Ghats.) From the Malaya range originate the rivers Kritamala, Tamravarni, Pushapajati and Utpalavati. In the Mahendra range are found the sources of the rivers Trisama, Kratutulya, Ikshula, Tridiva, Langulini and Vamshadhara. The rivers Rishika, Sukumari, Mandaga, Mandavahini, Kupa and Palashini originate in the Shaktimana range.