This is the traditional representation of the world inhabited by human beings in Jain cosmology. It is made up of alternate concentric rings of continents, mountains and oceans.
Like any map, this one has captions, which are of two types:
- geographical features, for example nadī for ‘river’, kūṭa for ‘mountain peak’
- proper names, for example Ayodhyā is the name of a town and Raktāvatīnadī is the name of a river.
Each part of the Jain world has named rivers, mountains, towns, caves and so on. Since symmetry and repetition are two of the major organising principles of the Jain world, the names are often the same in different regions.
At each of the four angles of the picture is a Jain temple with worshippers. This is intended to show that the Jinas‘ teachings are everywhere in the world.
On each side of these temples, there are lines of text written in small script. They provide additional detail about the Jain universe, describing each component, giving dimensions and occasional quotations from scriptures.
Location in painting
Bottom left-hand corner:
Bottom right-hand corner
measurements of Kālodadhi and Puṣkara-dvīpa
Top right corner
Top left corner
measurements of the Lavaṇa-samudra
Two and A Half Continents
The outermost pale pink ring is a mountain range called Mānuṣottara. It symbolises the limit beyond which human beings cannot live.
The two textured grey rings represent two oceans. The innermost one is the ocean called Lavaṇa-samudra – ‘Salt Ocean’. The second one is Kālodadhi – ‘Black-Water Ocean’.
The three spaces in between these three rings form the human world, which is called Aḍhāī-dvīpa – ‘Two and A Half Continents‘. Starting from the centre, they are:
Half of Puṣkara-dvīpa is in the world of humans while half is the other side of the mountain range marked by the pale pink circle. This is why the complete map of the human world is called ‘Two and A Half Continents‘.
The thick red vertical line divides the Dhātakīkhaṇḍa and the Puṣkara-dvīpa into two halves, eastern and western. There are four Jinas sitting within the line. The four segments of this line on land represent a mountain range known as Iṣvākāra – ‘Arrow-like’ – because it is perfectly straight. Its name is written on the lowest segment.
The five yellow disks going horizontally across the centre represent the central mountain, called Mount Meru. The Jambū-dvīpa has one in its middle while both the two other continents have identical Mount Merus in each half.
Either side of each Mount Meru are two semicircles, indicated by one green and yellow line, the other a red and white line. They are the boundaries of two regions. The northern one is called Uttara-kuru, the southern one Deva-kuru. These regions are the Lands of Enjoyment, where people get all they need from ‘wishing trees’ – kalpa-vṛkṣas – and do not need to make any effort. Couples made up of twin boys and girls live in the Lands of Enjoyment.
The first continent, in the centre, is Jambū-dvīpa. It is divided into parts separated by mountain ranges.
From north to south there are eight mountain ranges. They are shown as double horizontal lines as they cross the Jambū-dvīpa from east to west. Here, the first and eighth are not coloured. The second, third, sixth and seventh are coloured in yellow. The most conspicuous on all maps are the fourth and fifth, respectively always green and red.
The names of all these mountains are not given in this map, but they are well known among Jains. Between these mountain ranges are seven regions. From north to south, the mountains and regions separating them are listed in the table.
Hairaṇyavata – identified on the map
Ramyaka – identified on the map
Mahā-videha – see below
Bharata – identified on the map
Across the centre of Jambū is a large rectangular strip marked out by a green line in the north – the Nīla mountain range – and a red one in the south – the Niṣadha mountain range. This is the Mahā-videha, which has Mount Meru at its centre. The Mahā-videha is a land of wonders, where Cakravartins go and where Jinas preach.
The Mahā-videha is divided into 32 provinces, distributed as eight groups of four, equally in the north-east, south-east, north-west and south-west. They are always shown as small rectangles, like here.
The first ocean, starting from the centre, is the thick grey ring around Jambū. Called Lavaṇa-samudra, it has sets of pots in each of the four directions. These are the ‘great receptacles’ – pātāla-kalaśas – that cause the tides.
There are two horizontal yellow lines ending with double hook shapes shown in the north and south of this ocean. These are two mountain chains that end with double pairs of ‘tusks’ jutting out into Lavaṇa-samudra. These tusks carry the 56 islands known as Antara-dvīpas. The islands are divided into seven groups of eight, although they are not shown on this map.
Everywhere on this map, a multitude of grey rivers flows and irrigates the land. Small yellow circles are the islands of the moons and the suns, which vary in number from place to place.