Geographical Span of Ancient India – Jambudveepe Bharathavarshe Bharathakhande

We know the geography of earth today as shown in the world maps. though it is actually incorrect in depicting the actual geographical area distribution. We today know the seven continents, the five oceans, the land mass or water bodies they span across and so on.

We also know that the ancient vedic civilization was an advanced one with great achievements in science and technology, and so one becomes curious to know what was the geographical distribution mentioned in the vedic texts like? What were the names given to different parts of our planet Earth in these vedic texts?

This article is an attempt to answer such questions. But before that let us understand a bit about an ancient vedic practice – The Sankalpa – which is practiced even today.

The Sankalpa Determination

In the vedic way of life, Sankalpa means somewhat on lines of free will, a determination, a resolution, a kind of oath which one takes. The veda says that the entire universe itself was created because of a Sankalpa by the Supreme Consciousness (Narayana or Vishnu).

By making a Sankalpa the person becomes committed to the goal. Sankalpa is an expression by the Saadhaka (doer) about his goals (Saadhana). The Sankalpa becomes the foundation for a person who is all set to achieve a specific goal.

When a person makes a Sankalpa, he is also supposed to mention the time of the day when the Sankalpa was made, the geographical location where the Sankalpa was made, the purpose of the Sankalpa, the mode of achieving the goal, the name of the person doing the Sankalpa and so on. This is called Sankalpa Shlokha.

The Geographical Element of a Sankalpa

In the Sankalpa Shlokha, when one talks about the geography of the location, it starts as follows

Jambudveepe Bharatha Varshe Bharata Khande

and can go on to mention the specific location like

Mangalooru Nagare Svagrahe (meaning at my home which is in the City of Mangalore)

This is something that has been passed down for generations, being practised even today at the beginning of every vedic ritual. And in this article we talk about the the first three terms referring to geography which is Jambudvipa, Bharatha Varsha and Bharatha Khanda. People usually think that Bharatha Varsha and Bharatha Khanda mean the same, but they are not. The hierarchy in the Sankalpa Shlokha clearly says that Bharatha Khanda is inside Bharatha Varsha. So we shall see what they are. And we will also see what exactly is Jambudveepa.

Geography of the Ancient World

As per the ancient Indian Purana & Itihasa texts, in the very ancient times the entire landmass in the northern hemisphere was surrounded by ocean in all the directions. This giant land mass on earth was called Jambudvipa. Dvipa in Sanskrit means an Island. Jambudveepa consisted of modern Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.

This Jambudvipa was divided into nine varshas (geographical regions) of which one was Bharatha Varsha. The other eight varshas were Ketumula Varsha, Hari Varsha, Ilavrita Varsha, Kuru Varsha, Hiranyaka Varsha, Ramyaka Varsha, Kimpurusha Varsha, Bhadrasva Varsha.

Of these, Ilavrita Varsha was at the present North Pole (the Arctic Region)! More about this could be found in the fantastic research done by Lokamayna Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his book “The Arctic Home in the Vedas”

Approximate Geography of the Ancient World

Above is the Geographical Map of the very ancient times mentioned in the Vedic texts. We have an approximate depiction of Jambudvipa and the nava varshas here. North Pole was at the exact center of Ilavrita Varsha. To the west of Ilavrita varsha was said to be  Ketumula Varsha most of which is today under Atlantic Ocean. To the east of Ilvarita Varsha was Bhadrasva Varsha which is today under Pacific Ocean. On one side of the Ilavrita Varsha were Hari Varsha, Kimpurusha Varsha and Bharatha Varsha. On the other side of the Ilavrita Varsha were Ramyaka, Hiranyaka and Kuru Varsha. Kuru Varsha was hence on the opposite side of Bharatha Varsha on the globe.

It can be observed that in those times, most of South American continent, southern half of African Continent and entire Australia were submerged under water. On the other hand most of modern day Atlantic ocean and Pacific ocean, and the entire Arctic ocean were above sea level.

NOTE: What we believe to be accurate world map today is not that accurate after all either. See Incorrect Geographical Area Distribution in Modern World Map

The Ancient Greater India – Bharathavarsha

In the Ancient Times India was called Bharathavarsha and it extended in the west including modern Egypt, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Iran, Sumeria upto Caspian Sea (which was called Kashyapa Samudra in those days). Bhratahvarsha was the Greater India while Bharatha Khanda referred to the Indian Subcontinent which lies at the heart of the Vedic Civilization and extended from Himalayas in the north to KanyaKumari in the South. So the aryan invasion theory of a migration of Aryans from Central Asia to modern northern India is a baseless theory, for the entire ancient aryan civilizational geography spanned across the above mentioned regions. The very term “arya” in Sanskrit refers not to any race, but actually means a “noble person”.

The Puranas and Ithihasas are full of historical developments in the Bharatha Varsha. The now dried up Saraswati river mentioned numerous times in the vedas is the heart of this vedic civilization, and it is from here the vedic civilization spread across the Bharatha Varsha during the vedic period. The “Out of India” theory talks about this. The Saraswati river dried up at the end of the Mahabharatha Period due to geological events in the region. It was around this time that the earlier lush green area of the present Rajasthan had got converted into a desert as we see it today.

During the ancient times Arabian sea did not exist, and the land mass stretched continuously from modern India to Africa. The mighty Saraswati river born in the Himalayas flowed for over 4500 miles into Africa before entering the Oceans. This was the largest and longest river in those days. This is the most mentioned and praised river in the Veda. Of the three Ganga Yamuna Saraswati – we know the existence of the first two rivers which flow even today, and Saraswati till recent times was thought to be a mythical river. But recent satellite photographs and geological data have proved the existence of an ancient mighty Saraswati river and its geographical span.


  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Does the satellite imagery prove that Saraswathi flowed into Africa. As per the Remote Sensing Agency,Hyderabad,India,the Saraswathi River flowed from the Himalayan Glaciers through Gujarat and joined the Arabian Sea in Gujarat. It flowed parallel to river Indus (Sindhu).

    • SMK

      U can believe it or not with modern technology.

      This earth has seen many pralyas or changes and will so in future also. ur reply must be of recent i.e of million or so years.

  • c as b balchandhar

    Thanks excellent information

  • SMK

    These images shown are concurring with the fact as said in the last paragraph and other one another version of map given in this article.I think this will help.

    • Krishnan Anamika Raj

      please share which book is this?

      • MK

        manavasristhi vijnanam by kota venkatachelam

  • n.devarajan

    can you please help me with a original photo of 9

    Jambudveepe Bharatha Varshe Bharata Khande

  • Sarat Kiran

    I am surprised that a lot of people believe this gibberish!! Jambudvipa as it is told by Gurudev is not the accurate description of what was said in the puranas, which is utter non sense to begin with. there are water bodies made up of milk, wine, honey, sugarcane juice and what not. How foolish can we be to believe something like this??

  • Suresh Balaraman

    i wish,we are taught such factual truths in classes,instead of duly edited version prevailing.i basically feel sanathana dharmis are not united,so such things have got convuluted.

  • Praveen Kumar

    the more i read this blog the more my mind gets blowed off .

  • Sriram Srinivasan
  • Deven Sawant

    Don’t know about continuous landmass from india to africa but india was connected to africa..but last i remember you do not agree with continental drift..

    • Anonymous

      Where did I say I did not agree with Continental Drift? Is it unscientific to even just express a doubt about an established scientific fact? I guess science is not like religion where established facts are not to be questioned. I only put forth the growing earth observation made by somebody else in my article on continental drift. If you read the title of the article it says “Is Continental Drift Wrong?”, which I guess means a lot different from saying “Continental Drift IS wrong”.

      Also at the end of that article I have said
      “we could check for such expansions in other planets and stars as well”, which meant to enquire into this possibility of growing earth, which if true then probably other planets should be growing as well?

      So to say that I do not agree with continental drift is like considering statements which raise a question to be assertive statements which disagree with what is being questioned :)

      • Sarat Kiran

        To offer this instead of continental drift is like saying evolution is not true because earth is 6000 years old.

  • Anonymous

    Since you have been making continued attempts to submit your comment, I am approving this one. But please note that, if you make any further comments with tones like “insert any word that means filth” – then dont even waste your time typing out the comments. This is absolutely the LAST time I am going to approve any such comment from you. If you have to make a point, talk about that point, not about the person. You CANNOT substitute your logic or lack of it by targeting the person.

    Coming to the claim, where in the article did you read something on the lines of “man existed during the time of dinosaurs”? Five centuries from now (2511 CE) if somebody reads a book on geography written today(in 2011) which talks about Pangea and Gondwana, does it mean that the people of 2011 are talking about people who lived when Pangea existed or are claiming that their ancestors lived when Pangea existed?

    Today it is a SCIENTIFIC FACT that in the ancient times all continents formed a single giant land mass surrounded by oceans. And the Vedic texts ALSO refer to the ancientmost land mass as a large island (Jambu Dveepa) surrounded by oceans. So irrespective of whether man existed 250 million years ago or not, it PROVES that the ancient vedic people KNEW about the existence of a single giant land mass in the ancient history of our planet. Any person who is really interested in knowing about what the ancients knew would APPRECIATE this fact.

    Just like people today write books on history and geography, the people during the vedic times also wrote books on ancient history (not necessarily only human history). And these are called Puranas. Puranas are not only about person or dynasties, there are sthala puranas (about history of places), puranas about how universe was created and so on. Then that does not mean that humans existed ever since Big Bang or even before that.

    And as for Saraswati river, 50 years back people mocked Saraswathi river as a myth. Thanks to satellite images, the remnants of the trail of this river on land was observed till it dried up in Gujarat. And today it is no more a myth. Now the claim is that it flowed in the continuous land mass from India to Africa before the sea existed. And sometime in the future truth will come out on this too. If it didnt flow, then so be it, but if really flowed when the today’s sea was land as the texts claim, then the truth will definitely be out in the future.

    I believe the vedic texts because they have been written by people who have done researches for thousands of years. Saraswati didnt exist for the modern world a century back, they ALWAYS existed in the vedic texts.

    Vedic texts say that it dried up during the times of Mahabharatha and that is what you see in the satellite maps. But thousands of years before that it used to flow into the sea (the present Arabian sea). No river as huge as Saraswati rivers ends up somewhere on land. What you see in the satellite map is only its path during the times when it dried up. Where will all the water go of such a huge river if it ends up in the land? All huge rivers end up in water bodies like seas and oceans. Not somewhere on land.

    And in the even more ancient times, based on the above book referenced at the end of the article, based on vedic texts – Saraswati river flowed in the continuous landmass between India and Africa when Arabian Sea didnt even exist. One is open to go and explore deep below the waters of Arabian Sea to validate this claim.

    And about the claims of whether humans lived during the times of Dinosaurs, I am not sure, or to be more clear I DONT KNOW. If you say that “Science” says so, well, especially on topics like these, just a discovery of one single fossil is enough to make all related current scientific theories collapse like a pack of cards. With every fossil of Eve being discovered on this planet, the first human is getting dated back to even more ancient times. So until ALL the jigsaw puzzles of evolution and movements of land masses are perfectly solved without any mysteries and all questions answered, such a science remains still “EVOLVING”, not “ABSOLUTE”.

    • Sridhar Kaushik

      Nice one.
      i agree with you entirely.
      Thanks for a very informative post.

  • SkyAirWater

    Gurudev, I am blessed to read your article. Hope these facts were taught to us during our 1st Grade. Hari om

    • Anonymous

      So am I to write about this :)
      Yes, unfortunately our schooling is such that, we need to unlearn a lot after graduating and start learning from the scratch again – especially when it comes to history and knowledge from the past.

  • Sriharshanr

    Hi Vina,
    I don’t know whether Vedas were written in north pole or south pole or came from alien world or any such theories (I don’t care its origin). I do know very little thing that Vedas are for the entire mankind. Let us not dispute that.
    And regarding your comment on Gurudev, I think you are prejudiced. This is my only second comment in this blog, and he has promptly replied to the best of his knowledge quoting the references. I don’t think he has ignored anyone (if he has missed to reply, it may be he would have overlooked it because of other posts). So please don’t try to put such a comments in future…..

    • Anonymous

      I do attempt to reply to all the comments posted in this blog. However for comments that require a detailed reply or require some additional effort from my side like searching for some information, I reply to them when I find some good amount of free time. For other comments, I usually attempt to reply back immediately.

      The very reason I blog is to share what I know, and to know what I dont from others through interactive discussions. However what I try to avoid is difference of opinions leading to personal attacks.

  • Murthy

    A very clear explanation of the Varsha concept.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Murthy

  • Anonymous

    OK, for one last time I am approving your comment based on the condition that all your future comments will ONLY refer to the article or topic being discussed, and will not pass any personal judgments on those commenting here (including me). I dont want this site to become yet another forum where people keep fighting with each other forgetting the actual article/topic in question.

    BTW It is not I who said vedas were written in North Pole. The Book “Arctic Home in the Vedas” was written by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who is also the author of another wonderful work ‘Gita Rahasya’.

  • Sriharsha

    hi Guru,
    nice article indeed…. but I need a clarification from you. In your earlier article “Saraswati Darshan – The Revelation Of Sarasvati River”, you had mentioned that mighty Sarasvati river was flowing from Himalayas through present day Rajastan before entering into Arabian sea…. whereas in the above article you are totally disagreeing very existence of Arabian sea at the time of Sarasvati river…. which one is correct?
    Also like Sachin Kumar rightly raised his doubt, as per the findings from Geologists, Himalayan mountains are much younger compared to Western ghats and other south Indian mountains…. as Himalayan range is formed as a result of collission of Indian continent mass to Asian mainland…. so after this collission only all the rivers coming out of Himalayan mountains would have started…. 
    Please light upon these…….


    • Anonymous

      Yes Sriharsha,

      The earlier article mentioned on saraswati is about the geological evidences we have today about the existence of the Saraswati river prior to its drying up. And this was a more recent event which happened at around the end of Mahabharatha period which is somewhere around 3500-5500 BCE.

      However in the even more very ancient times as show in the map above (based on the description in the ancient texts as formulated in the research book mentioned at the end of the article) the span of the Saraswati river extended well into the continent of Africa. What is interesting to note is that even according to the continental drift theory the Indian plate was connected to the African Plate in the past before it drifted away later to join the Asian plate giving rise to the Himalayas.

      This is what even the genetically proven Out of India theory states that “All non-african humans have their roots in India”. Humans first came out of Africa into India (since land was continuous from Africa into India in those days) and from India they spread to the rest of the world.

      Regarding the birth of the river Saraswati, Rigveda talks about its birth not on some gigantic snow mountain but on a hill. Its more like river Kaveri being born on top of a hill at Talakaveri but later picking up streams and becoming a huge river.

      And this actually makes sense because if Saraswati were a river sourced at some Himalayan glacier like Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra etc then there would have been no reason for it to dry up later, because the Himalayas still exist. The reason Saraswati dried up later was these very plate tectonics which probably caused its source streams to move away from the path of Saraswati river.

      Also the geological mappings have traced the source of Saraswati not to some place in the top of Himalayas, but to Silwalik ranges which are actually the southernmost portion of the Himalayas. And it is also observed that plate tectonics in the past caused lateral shift of the Siwalik ranges which is probably the actual event that led to the drying up of Saraswati. Ref: The glaciological work of Dr. VMK Puri and Prof. Valdiya

      So the picture I can create based on what I have read so far is that, Saraswati was a mighty river of the very ancient past (based on literature in Rigvedic texts) which flowed even before the existence of Arabian Sea, when Indian plate was touching the African plate. After the formation of Arabian sea since the land mass got separated, Saraswati ended flowing into the Arabian Sea. And later plate tectonic events around the time of Mahabharatha caused the drying up of this river, and Ganga-Yamuna became prominent rivers in the contemporary history of ancient India. Which is why we see massive mentioning of Saraswati river in the very ancient vedas, and in the Mahabharatha-post Mahabharatha era the focus shifts to the then (and even today) mighty Ganga-Yamuna rivers.

      Hopefully I have replied to your satisfaction. However please note that, I am not an expert and am constantly seeking answers on all these so vast, yet so interesting topics every day and every moment :)

      • Sridhar Kaushik

        Please give a link to the ancient texts that mention that Saraswathi flowed into Africa.
        Various dates have been given for Mahabharata. There is no consistency in this again.
        Saraswathi is mentioned as a place visited by Balarama when he went on pilgrimage during the war in which he did not participate. That means it was there. Satellite data seem to suggest it dried up around 1900 BC. It was a mighty river before 3000 BC. By this alone, one can say Mahabharat happened between 1900 BC and 3000 BC. As one can see, this has a lot of flaws but this is the kind of data that scientific community will accept. Astrological data are not acceptable.

        • SMK

          Sastras don’t run on the acceptance of your scientific community.
          Thank you

        • SMK

          Sastras don’t run on the acceptance of your scientific community.
          Thank you

          • Sridhar Kaushik

            Well, then don’t blame when Western world believes this to be just a myth. A lot of research happened on Biblical stories. For example they have exact site where boat carrying Noah landed in Turkey at a place called Ararat. We need to publish papers that are acceptable in various scientific forums for the world to recognize our story. This attitude of “this is in Shastras and so does not need Scientific validation” will not do.

            • SMK

              Here u started this not me or any other. If u want research why don’t u do it by self before asking.

              P.s Prabhupadas’ comment about your
              scientific view comes to my mind.

              • Sridhar Kaushik

                I think you have a problem understanding simple English!
                I am saying the world as we know it today is run by Western Science. Science needs validation and rigorous proof. Shastras are OK at personal level. If you believe in it fine but do not tell me what is written there is proof. The world will not accept it.

                • SMK

                  I had already replied to this and think U don’t understand and it’s futile to argue with UR types

  • Sachin kumar

    I really liked the article. I have one doubt…. i have very little knowledge about Indian history and Mythology…

     According to indian mythology Parvathi was daughter of Parvatha raja who ruled Himalaya parvathas. According to scientists Himalaya mountains were formed due to continental drift.If the statement from scientist is true then part of land towards south of Himalaya was a seperate Island and Mythology of Shiva parvathi can be dated only after formation of Himalayas. which means we can trace our indian history based on formation of himalayas? i am just trying to analyze continental drift with map above. i may not be able to put my doubt properly in words but i strongly believe there is nothing Myth in puranas… whatever mentioned in scritures are all different forms of Indian history…. just we need to open our eyes and look for truth…

    • Anonymous

      You are right Sachin. Himalayan mountains are relatively very young mountain ranges and hence obviously were not there ever since the beginning. And the above maps predate this. What should be noted is that even the very ancient texts, not only talk about the happenings of their time, but also of THEIR ancient times, I mean to say history of the ancient people who wrote down these texts.

      The very term “Purana” means “of ancient times” – these are historical recordings of ancient times – not just of “history” as we defined it which is as “human history”, but much more. Will soon write an article on Puranas :)

  • Rengang

    The realistic version well presented

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Rengang

  • Dipanjan Basu

    great article.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Dipanjan

      • Ram Prakash

        are you still active?
        Can you pleasae advise me the geographical boundries of Ancient Hindustan and the meaning of:-
        “Aryavrate-Bharat Khande-Jambudweepe”