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Notes on Puranic Nine Divisions of Ancient



Sir Alexander Canningham has pointed out, in his Ancient Geography of India (p. 7), that the Mahâbhârata, the Puranas and Bhaskaracharya, the astronomer, have given names of a Nine-Division of India and that the names are Indra, Ko serumat, Tâmraparna, Gabhastimat, Kumârika, Nâga, Saumya, Vâruna and Gândharva. No clue has been given, remarks he, to their identification. But he has suggested that Indra was the eastern division, Vâruņa the western and Kumraika the middle, while Kaseru must have been the northern one.

Alberuni also has quoted this Purânic account and has added the following description :-(1) Indradvipa-the middle, (2) Kaserumat-eastern, (3) Tamraparna-south-eastern, (4) Gabhastimatsouthern, (5) Någa-south-western, (6) Saumya-western, (7) Gândharva north-western, (8)

(9) Nagırasamvritta- northeastern.

Thus the two authorities differ not only as to the location of the divisions, but as to one name also—the Kumârika of Cunningham appearing as Nagarasamrritta in the list of Alberuni who has not mentioned the 8th name,

Let us now refer to the original sources. The majority of the Parâņas agree in reading, in the Bhuvanıkosha section [Märkandeya LVII; Matsya CXIV; Vayu XLV, etc.], the first seven names of Alberuni but without giving any direction. Their eighth name is Vârunt. As for the ninth, they read

"अयं तु नवमस्तेषां हौपः सागरसंवृतः।" "And this sea-girt

» " isle is the ninth of them.” Alberuni's Nagarasamvritta is thus a corruption of Sagarasamvrita meaning 'See-girt'. The Puranas do not give any name to it and refer to it as a drtpa too well-known to require the mention of its name. Rajasekhara, however, in his

Kávyamimârsâ (Gaekwad oriental Series No. 1.) named it Kumârt and has supplied a clear clue to locate it by stating ::

"तत्रेदं भारतवर्षम् । अस्य च नव भेदाः । इन्द्रौपः [etc.] कुमारोहीपश्चायं नवमः । ......अत्र च कुमारोहोपे

विन्ध्यश्च पारिपावश्च शक्तिमातृक्षपर्वतः ।
महेन्द्रसमलयाः सप्त ते कुलपर्वताः ॥

(Page 92). And the "Sea-girt ninth dripa” has also been thus described in the Purāņas: "This dripa is a thousand yojanas from S. to N. At it. east end are the Kirātas and at the west end are the Yavanas,' [Märkandeya, LVII, vv. 5-11.]

By combining these two accounts we find that the "Sea-girt ninth dripa" called Kumārt was the tract peopled by the Yavanas (Greeks) at its west end and by the Kirātas (Mongoloid tribes) at its east end and having the mountain-chains now known as the Vindhyas, Western and Eastern Ghauts and the Nilgiris in it. It is thus the whole of India, or almost the whole of it. And it has been described as one of the nine divisions of Bhāratavarsha. But it is absurd to take the whole as equal to its part. Hence either Kumāri-dripa cannot be the whole of India or the term 'Bhāratavarsha' has been used here in a wider sense. But as the description of Kumāri is very clear, we cannot but take it as equal to almost the whole of India. So 'Bhāratavarsha' is used here in a wider sense, in the sense of Greater India, i.e. India proper and her colonies, eigbt dvipas not far from it. That the dvipus were separated from the main land of India by water is clear from the following Purāņic account: "Hear from me the nine divisions of this country of Bharata ; they must be known as extending to the ocean, but as being mutually inaccessible". [Mārkandeya, LVII, 5.]. It is also to be added in this connection that the word dvipu has been derived by Pāṇini as dvi + ap. It thus means land having water on two of its sides. Thus dupa is not identical with 'island'. It includes peninsulas and sometimes doabs also.

As for the identification of the other dvípas, it requires no comment to take Tamraparna as Ceylon, It is to the south of India Indradvipa is to be located to the east of India. For Indra is the eastern Dikpālı. The Parāṇnas also corroborate it in a passa ge which describes the courses of seven rivers rising from facute in the Himalayas—the three western rivers, Sttā, Chakshu and Sindhu the Ganga, and the three eastern rivers, Naiini, Hlādini and Pāvan One of these eastern rivers is described as rising from farHTĘ in the Himalayas, flowing to the east and then to the south and then emptying its water in the Ocean near Indradv?pa[इन्द्र-हौपसमीपे तु प्रविष्टा लवणादधिम् Matsya, OXXI. 57.] Thus Indradvipa was Burma. And this conjecture seems to be supported by so great an authority as Ptolemy. While deseribing India beyond the Ganges, Ptolemy (M’crindle, p. 219) mentions the country of Kirrhadia [ - the fattar: placed, in the Parañas, to the east end of the ninth 'dvipa'--the Sea-girt' Kumāri] producing Malabathrum ; then he locates the Silver country (Arakan] and then the "Gold country" (the Suvarnabhūmi of Buddhist literature and the śoṇâparânta of Burmese documents] And again he remarks (M'crin dle, p. 221), between the ranges of Bepyrrhos and Damassa the country furthest north is inhabited by the Aninakhai [occupying the mountain region to the north of the Brahmaputra, corresponding to a portion of Lower Assam-M'crindle's note, p. 222]; to the south of these Ptolemy places the Indaprathai. Thus in the dvipa or peninsula of Burma and just to the south of Lower Assam we hear the name of Inda or Indra. Prathai is to be connected with Prastha meaning a plain level country.


Indra-drtpa was, thus, Burma and it was to the east and Tamra parna (Ceylon) to the south of India. Hence Kuserumat which is mentioned, in the Purāņas, between them is to be located to the S..E of India. The word means “abounding in excellent Kaserus' (called Kesurin Bengali andin Kaseru Hindi) for which Singapur is famous. So I propose to identify Kaserumat with the Malay Peninsula in the Wellesley district of which was discovered a fourth century A. D. Pillar inscription of the Buddhist Sea-Captain Mahāvāvika Budhagupta of Raktamsttikā (in Murshidabad district) showing that the Hindus were acquainted with it (1).

(1) Korn’s Verspreide Geschriften, III (1915), p. 265.


The only other dvipi which I can identify with certainty is Gándhrva. It is identical with Gāndhira, the valley of the Kabuwith a small tract of land to the east of the Indus. Its position in the Puranic list of eight dvipus (In-lra (E.), K’zserum ut (S,-E), Tānra parna (S), Gabhastimat (SW), Nāja (W), Saumya (N.W.), Gnádharva (N.) and Varuna( NE)2] would suggest that it is the northern dvipa (-doab, and Indian geographers placed Gāndhára to the N. (and not NW) of India. (3)

That the country of Gāndhāra was also known as the Land of the Gandharois is clear from the following verses of the Rāmāya na: अयं गन्धर्व विषयः फलमूलापशोभितः ।।

सिन्धोस्भयतः पार्व देशः परमशाभनः ।
तं च रक्षन्ति गन्धवाः सायुधाः युद्धकोविदाः ।।

[Rāmāyaṇa, Uttarakānda, CXIII, 10-11.]
तक्षतक्षशिलायां तु पुष्कलं पुष्कलावते ।
गन्धर्चदेश सचिरे गन्धारविषये च सः ॥

[Uttarakānda, CXIV, 11.] These verses

This exceedingly charming country on both the banks of the Sindhu [ Indus ] decorated with fruits and roots is the land [fauz] of Gandhurvas. It is protected by the Gandh- . arvas who are expert in fighting. [They were defeated by Bharata, the brother of Rāma; their country was divided into two provinces, each of which was governed by a son of Bharata.] He [(Bharata) installed his son] Taksha at Takshasila and [his other son] Pushkala at Pashkalāvati [identified with modern Charsada ; Peucelaotis of classical writers] in the charming Gandharva-country (also called) Gándhára-visaya (district ). We thus sea that Gāndharva was Gāndbārā. It was, as Yuan Chwang has aptly remarked, the borderland of the Barbarians who were Indians in culture and religion (i.e.


(2) Varuna is the lord of West and so Varuna ought to be located to the wost. But the order of the dvipas as mentioned in the Puranas would suggest that it is in the N.-E.

(3) see the Bhuvanakosha of the Puranas, HOUSA, LVII; HORI,

cxiv; aty, xlv, and the fra fantom of the arctifea.

कूर्मविभाग वृहत्संहिता

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Baddhism). So it was considered as a separate dvipa included within Greater India and not as a part of India proper.

As for the four other dvipas, a search is to be made for them keeping in view their directions as suggested by the order of their names in the Puranic list. Gabh estimat, Naga, and Saumya are to be located in S.-W., W. and N.-W. respectively. And we have Laccadive, Maldive or Ernaculam in the S.-W, Salsette, Elephanta (meaning the same as Naga or Elephant), and Kathiawar in the w, and Catch in the N.-W (according to the direction of Kûrmavibhaga and Bhavanakosa). Våruņa of N.-E. seems to be the Indian colony in Central Asia the exploration and research in connection with which by Sir A, Stein and a host of Russian, French, German, English and Japanese scholars are supplying new light on Indian culture.

The above are my suggestions for the location of the eight dotpas of the Parâņas. As for the location of Indra, Tāmraparna and Gāndhara there cannot be any doubt. Tämraparna has long ago been correctly identified. The two others I identify-Indra on the authority of the Parāṇas and probably also of Ptolemy and Gāndharva on the authority of the Râmāyaṇa. As for the location of others I offer suggestions only. But what I have pointed out is enough to show that the Puranic nine divisions of Bhāratvarsba are not so many provinces of India but of Greater India.

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