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WHERE WAS SAKADViPA IN THE MYTHICAL
WORLD-VIEW OF INDIA?
William Fairfield Warren
An article of rare interest on the above question, from the
pen of Professor W. E. Clark of Chicago University, is presented
in the October, 1919, issue of this Journal. In it is given the
result to date of long and wide researches. It must be confessed
that the result is far from satisfying. In a single sentence we
are given the largely conflicting conclusions of nine prominent
Orientalists, and then the names of fourteen other scholars who,
despairing of success in locating 'the illusive isle', simply assign it
to 'the realm of fancy.'
The present writer cannot claim linguistic qualification to take
a part in this high debate, but he has in mind a few questions,
which very possibly may aid the better qualified in discovering
one reason for the many failures of the past.
1. What kind of a region is this which we wish to locate?
Obviously it is a 'dvipa', whatever that may mean, and it must
be a place fitted to serve as the abode of certain finite intelli-
2. Is it one of the notable 'seven' dvipas which are repre-
sented as severally surrounded by one of the seven concentric
Probably, for it is often so listed.
3. Which is the first, and which the last, of the seven as
listed in the Puranas ?
The first is Jambudvipa, the last Pushkaradvipa.
4. Where does the Vishnu Purana locate the seven ?
After naming them it says, 'Jambudvipa is the centre of all
these, and the centre of Jambudvipa is the golden mountain
5. And what is Jambudvipa, according to the same Purana ?
Our Earth, ' a sphere ', the abode of living men.
6. Where does the Siirya Siddhanta locate Mount Meru ?
At the north pole of the Earth sphere.
Where was Sakadvlpa? 357
7. "What extra-terrestrial bodies, according to Plato and the
astronomers of his time, center in our Earth and revolve about it?
Seven homocentric globes, each solid, yet so transpicuous that
though we dwell inside them all, we may gaze right through the
whirling seven every cloudless night and behold the vastly more
distant stars unchangeably 'fixed' in or on the outermost of all
the celestial spheres, the eighth. Reread the memorable cosmo-
graphical passage in Plato 's Republic.
8. How were these seven invisible globes supposed to be re-
lated to the planets that we see ?
The moon we see was represented as in some way made fast
to the 'first' or innermost of the seven, and the movement of the
visibkr Luna enables us to infer that one month is the time re-
quired by the invisible 'Lunar Sphere' in the making of one
revolution. Of course, as every schoolboy should know, the
Lunar Sphere incloses the whole Earth, shutting it in on every
side. The second of the seven, far out beyond the lunar on every
side, was supposed to be the Sphere of Helios, the Solar Sphere.
Then at ever increasing distances revolved the concentric spheres
of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In each case the
luminary we study with the telescope is as distinct from the
sphere to which it is attached as a locomotive's headlight is from
the engine which bears it. Indeed, Milton calls the visible planet
the 'officious lamp' of its invisible sphere. The 'Music of the
Spheres ', as so often explained, was supposed to result from their
diverse rates of motion in revolution, and from their harmonic
adjustment as to distance from each other.
9. If now in Hindu thought the seven concentric dvipas are
(or originally were) simply the concentric invisible spheres of the
ancient Babylonian and Greek astronomers, and the seven con-
centric seas that separate them simply the intervening concentric
spaces, oceanic in magnitude, what passages in the Kurma
Purana are at once seen to need no further harmonizing ?
The passages cited by Professor Clark in last line of note on
page 218 and line following. The two ' surroundings ' by one and
the same sea are no more difficult of conception than is a sur-
rounding of the spheres of Jupiter and Mars by the sphere of
Saturn. So also it is now plain how Sakadvipa can be 'north' of
Meru and at the same time 'east' of it. It is both.
358 William Fairfield Warren
10. Has this view of the dvipas and of the seven concentric
seas ever been proposed?
Certainly, more than thirty years ago. See page 459 of Para-
dise Found, by "W. F. "Warren, Boston, 1885. Also his Earliest
Cosmologies, New York 1909, page 91, n. et passim.
11. What does Professor Clark say of the distance of Sakad-
vlpa from the abodes of men ?
' The distance was never traversed by human feet, it was trav-
elled through the air. ' Note eight, page 210.
12. When Narada starts for Sakadvipa, what direction does
he take ?
Not a northward, not an eastward, not a southward or west-
ward ; simply upward. He 'soars into the sky.' Page 231.
13. If he keeps on in his upward flight until he reaches the
last heaven this side of Pushkaradvipa what kind of tenants
will he there find ?
Beings 'white' and 'sinless.' See the description in article of
Professor Clark, pages 234ff . One statement reads : ' The efful-
gence which is emitted by each of them resembles the splendor
which the sun assumes when the time comes for the dissolution of
the universe. ' Unearthly to say the least.
14. What is the weight of the garments of one of these beings
according to the Buddhist scriptures 1
Divide one ounce into one hundred and twenty-eight parts and
one of these parts will balance the garments in weight. In the
ascending order of the heavens it is the last in which clothing of
any kind is en regie.
15. Name of this heaven, next below Pushkara, in what seems
to have been the orthodox Puranic list ?
Small wonder that our results are unsatisfactory so long as
we place polar Meru somewhere among the Himalayan ranges,
and unremittingly scan all procurable maps of Asia for a region
which is measureless miles above our heads.