Mount Meru

For the Indian peak, see Meru Peak. For the Tanzanian mountain, see Mount Meru (Tanzania).
"Neru" redirects here. For the Spanish footballer, see Neru (footballer).
Painting of Mount Meru from Jain cosmology from the Samghayanarayana
Bhutanese thangka of Mount Meru and the Buddhist Universe, 19th century, Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa, Bhutan
A mural depicting Mt. Meru, in Wat Sakhet, Bangkok, Thailand

Mount Meru is a sacred mountain with five peaks[1] in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cosmology and is considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.[2]

Meru (Sanskrit: मेरु), also called මහා මේරු පර්වතය Sumeru (Sanskrit) or Sineru (Pāli) (Tibetan: ཪི་རྒྱལ་པོ་རི་རབ་), to which can be added the approbatory prefix su-, resulting in the meaning "excellent Meru" or "wonderful Meru" and Mahameru i.e. "Great Meru" (Chinese: 須彌山 Xumi Shan; Pāli Neru; Burmese: မြင်းမိုရ် Myinmo).

Many famous Hindu and similar Jain as well as Buddhist temples have been built as symbolic representations of this mountain. The highest point (the finial bud) on the pyatthat, a Burmese-style multi-tiered roof, represents Mount Meru.


The dimensions attributed to Mount Meru, all references to it being as a part of the Cosmic Ocean, with several statements that say, "The Sun along with all the planets circle the mountain," make determining its location most difficult, according to most scholars.[3][4]

Some researchers identify Mount Meru or Sumeru with the Pamirs, northwest of Kashmir.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

The Suryasiddhanta mentions that Mt. Meru lies in 'the middle of the Earth' ("bhurva-madhya") in the land of the Jambunad (Jambudvip). Narpatijayacharyā, a ninth-century text, based on mostly unpublished texts of Yāmal Tantr, mentions "Sumeruḥ Prithvī-madhye shrūyate drishyate na tu" ('Su-meru is heard to be in the middle of the Earth, but is not seen there').[15] Vārāhamihira, in his Pancha-siddhāntikā, claims Mt. Meru to be at the North Pole (though no mountain exists there). Suryasiddhānta, however, mentions a Mt. Meru in the middle of Earth, besides a Sumeru and a Kumeru at both the Poles.

There exist several versions of Cosmology in existing Hindu texts. In one of them, cosmologically, the Meru mountain was also described as being surrounded by Mandrachala Mountain to the east, Supasarva Mountain to the west, Kumuda Mountain to the north and Kailasha to the south.[16]

Hindu legends

Mount Meru of Hindu traditions has clearly mythical aspects, being described as 84,000 Yojan high (about 1,082,000 km (672,000 mi), which would be 85 times the Earth's diameter), and notes that the Sun along with all the planets in the Solar System revolve around Mt. Meru as one unit.

One Yojana can be taken to mean about 11.5 km (9 miles) though its magnitude seems to differ over time periods, e.g. the Earth's circumference is 3,200 yojanas according to Vārāhamihira and slightly less so in the Āryabhatiya, but is said to be 5,026.5 yojanas in the Suryasiddhānta. The Matsya Purana and the Bhāgvata Purāna along with some other Hindu texts consistently give the height of 84,000 yojanas to Mount Meru which translates into 672,000 miles or 1,082,000 kilometers.

Mount Meru was said to be the residence of King Padamja Brahma in antiquity.[16]

The Puranas and Hindu epics, often state that Surya, i.e. the Sun God, along with all its planets and stars taken together as one unit, circumnavigate Mount Meru every day.

Mount Meru is also the abode of Lord Brahma and the Demi-Gods (Dev).

According to the Epic, Mahabharata, Pandavas and Draupadi climbed this mountain to attain heaven. Draupadi and other four Pandavas were cast down for their sins and died. Only Yudhishthira along with his faithful dog climbed the mountain, making him the only one to reach the Divine door.

Buddhist legends

A Korean world map centered on the legendary Mount Meru in Central Asia.

According to Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam (philosophical writings), Sumeru is 80,000 yojanas tall. The exact measure of one yojana is uncertain, but some accounts put it at about 24,000 feet, or approximately 4.5 miles, but other accounts put it between 7–9 miles. It also descends beneath the surface of the surrounding waters to a depth of 80,000 yojanas, being founded upon the basal layer of Earth. Sumeru is often used as a simile for both size and stability in Buddhist texts.

Sumeru is said to be shaped like an hourglass, with a top and base of 80,000 yojanas square, but narrowing in the middle (at a height of 40,000 yojanas) to 20,000 yojanas square.

Sumeru is the polar center of a mandala-like complex of seas and mountains. The square base of Sumeru is surrounded by a square moat-like ocean, which is in turn surrounded by a ring (noted as square in shape) wall of mountains, which is in turn surrounded by a sea, each diminishing in width and height from the one closer to Sumeru. There are seven seas and seven surrounding mountain-walls, until one comes to the vast outer sea which forms most of the surface of the world, in which the known continents are merely small islands. The known world, which is on the continent of Jambudvipa, is directly south of Sumeru.

The dimensions stated in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam are shown in the table below:

Name Width Height/Depth
Sumeru (Sineru) mountain 80,000 yojanas 80,000 yojanas
Sea 80,000 yojanas 80,000 yojanas
Yugandhara mountains 40,000 yojanas 40,000 yojanas
Sea 40,000 yojanas 40,000 yojanas
Iṣadhara (Isadhara) mountains 20,000 yojanas 20,000 yojanas
Sea 20,000 yojanas 20,000 yojanas
Khadiraka (Karavīka) mountains 10,000 yojanas 10,000 yojanas
Sea 10,000 yojanas 10,000 yojanas
Sudarśana (Sudassana) mountains 5,000 yojanas 5,000 yojanas
Sea 5,000 yojanas 5,000 yojanas
Aśvakarṇa (Assakaṇṇa) mountains 2,500 yojanas 2,500 yojanas
Sea 2,500 yojanas 2,500 yojanas
Vinadhara (Vinataka) mountains 1,250 yojanas 1,250 yojanas
Sea 1,250 yojanas 1,250 yojanas
Nimindhara (Nemindhara) mountains 625 yojanas 625 yojanas
Outer Sea 32,000 yojanas relatively shallow
Cakravāḍa (Cakkavāḷa) mountains

(circular edge of the world)

312.5 yojanas 312.5 yojanas

The 80,000 yojana square top of Sumeru constitutes the Trāyastriṃśa "heaven" (Devaloka), which is the highest plane in direct physical contact with the Earth. The next 40,000 yojanas below this heaven consist of a sheer precipice, narrowing like an inverted mountain until it is 20,000 yojanas square at a height of 40,000 yojanas above the sea.

From this point Sumeru expands again, going down in four terraced ledges, each broader than the one above. The first terrace constitutes the "heaven" of the Four Great Kings and is divided into four parts, facing north, south, east and west. Each section is governed by one of the Four Great Kings, who face outward toward the quarter of the world that they supervise.

40,000 yojanas is also the height at which the Sun and Moon circle Sumeru in a clockwise direction. This rotation explains the change from day to night; when the Sun is north of Sumeru, the shadow of the mountain is cast over the continent of Jambudvīpa, and it is night in that location; at the same time it is noon in the opposing northern continent of Uttarakuru, dawn in the eastern continent of Pūrvavideha, and dusk in the western continent of Aparagodānīya. Half a day later, when the Sun has moved to the south, it is noon in Jambudvīpa, dusk in Pūrvavideha, dawn in Aparagodānīya, and midnight in Uttarakuru.

The next three terraces down the slopes of Sumeru are each longer and broader by a factor of two. They contain the followers of the Four Great Kings, namely nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, and kumbhāṇḍas.

The names and dimensions of the terraces on the lower slopes of Sumeru are given below:

Name Height above the sea Breadth Length (on one side)
Cāturmahārājika 40,000 yojanas 2,000 yojanas 24,000 yojanas
Sadāmada 30,000 yojanas 4,000 yojanas 32,000 yojanas
Mālādhara 20,000 yojanas 8,000 yojanas 48,000 yojanas
Karoṭapāni 10,000 yojanas 16,000 yojanas 80,000 yojanas

Below Sumeru, in the sea surrounding it is the abode of the Asuras who are at war with the Trāyastriṃśa gods.

Jain legends

Main article: Jain cosmology
Depiction of Mount Meru at Jambudweep, Hastinapur

According to Jain cosmology, Mount Meru (or Sumeru) is at the centre of the world surrounded by Jambūdvīpa,[17] in form of a circle forming a diameter of 100,000 yojans.[18] There are two sets of sun, moon and stars revolving around Mount Meru; while one set works, the other set rests behind Mount Meru.[19][20][21]

Javanese legends

This mythical mountain of gods was mentioned in Tantu Pagelaran, an Old Javanese manuscript written in the Kawi language from the 15th century Majapahit period. The manuscript describes the mythical origin of Java island, and the legend of the movement of portions of Mount Meru to Java. The manuscript explained that Batara Guru (Shiva) ordered the god Brahma and Vishnu to fill the Java island with human beings. However at that time Java island was floating freely on the ocean, always tumbling and shaking. To stop the island's movement, the gods decided to nail it to the Earth by moving the part of Mahameru in Jambudvipa (India) and attaching it to Java.[22] The resulting mountain is Mount Semeru, the tallest mountain on Java.

See also


  1. "Angkor Wat : Image of the Day".
  2. Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 78.
  3. Sachau, Edward C. (2001). Alberuni's India. Psychology Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-415-24497-8.
  4. "The Devi Bhagavatam: The Eighth Book: Chapter 15". Retrieved 2012-03-02.
  5. The Geopolitics of South Asia: From Early Empires to the Nuclear Age, 2003, p 16
  6. Graham P. Chapman - Social Science; The Pamirs and the Source of the Oxus, p 15
  7. George Nathaniel Curzon; The Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism, 1968, p 184
  8. Benjamin Walker - Hinduism; Ancient Indian Tradition & Mythology: Purāṇas in Translation, 1969, p 56
  9. Jagdish Lal Shastri, Arnold Kunst, G. P. Bhatt, Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare - Oriental literature; Journal of the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, 1928, p 38
  10. K.R. Cama Oriental Institute - Iranian philology; The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, 1997, p 175
  11. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal - History; Geographical Concepts in Ancient India, 1967, p 50
  12. Bechan Dube - India; Geographical Data in the Early Purāṇas: A Critical Study, 1972, p 2
  13. Dr M. R. Singh - India; Studies in the Proto-history of India, 1971, p 17
  14. Dr Dvārakā Prasāda Miśra - India.
  15. cf. second verse of Koorma-chakra in the book Narpatijayacharyā
  16. 1 2 J.P. Mittal, History of Ancient India: From 7300 BC to 4250 BC, page 3
  17. Cort 2010, p. 90.
  18. Schubring, Walther (1995), pp. 204–246
  19. CIL, "Indian Cosmology Reflections in Religion and Metaphysics",
  20. Shah, Pravin K., Jain Geography (PDF)
  21. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal - Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1834
  22. Soekmono, Dr R. (1973). Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 119. ISBN 979-413-290-X.


Further information: Jyotiṣa bibliography
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