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Image: Map of the human world

Title: Map of the human world

Victoria and Albert Museum
IS. 35-1971
Date of creation:
18th century
Folio number:
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
Rajasthan; copied in Srāparanagara
Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit and Gujarati
watercolour on paper
25 x 11.5 cms
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information


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'
  • proper names, for example Harīsalīlā and Harīkaṃtā are names of rivers while Vaitāḍhya is the name of a mountain.

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.

Two and A Half Continents

The outermost red ring is a mountain range called Mānuṣottara. It symbolises the limit beyond which human beings cannot live.

The two thick black rings represent two oceans. The innermost one is the ocean called Lavaṇa-samudra or 'Salt Ocean'. The second one is Kālodadhi or 'Black-Water Ocean'.

The three spaces in between these three rings form the human world, which is called Aḍhāī-dvīpa or 'Two and A Half Continents'. Starting from the centre, they are:

  • Jambū-dvīpa or 'Rose-apple Tree Island'
  • Dhātakikhaṇḍa
  • Puṣkara-dvīpa or 'Lotus Island', half of which is in the world of humans while half is the other side of the mountain range marked by the red 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. The four segments of this line on land represent a mountain range known as Iṣvākāra or 'Arrow Shaped' 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, one indicated by a green and yellow line, the other by 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, 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.

Mountain ranges and regions of Jambū-dvīpa

Mountain ranges







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 with Mount Meru at its centre. The Mahā-videha is a land of wonders, where Universal Monarchs 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 black ring around Jambū. Called Lavaṇa-samudra, it has one pot in each of the four directions. These are the 'great receptacles' – pātāla-kalaśa – 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, small black rectangles represent lakes from which a multitude of rivers flow and irrigate the land. Small yellow circles are the islands of the moons and the suns, which vary in number from place to place.


Mount Meru is the centre of the universe in Jain cosmology, at the heart of the central continent of Jambū-dvīpa. Jambū is where human beings live and is in the Middle World, which is the smallest of the three worlds that make up world space – loka-ākāśa. In world space all the souls live in the different body-forms they take according to their rebirths, in the various worlds. Outside world space is the non‑world space – aloka-ākāśa – which is endless. However, the Middle World is the most important area from the spiritual point of view because it is the only part where human beings can live.

The Two and A Half Continentsaḍhāī-dvīpa – where humans live is frequently depicted in maps or colourful diagrams. Pictures in cosmological works are not intended to be merely attractive. Spelling out in visual form the complex explanations found in the writings, these cosmological paintings form a long-established tradition of artwork in Jain heritage.

Jains cannot advance spiritually without understanding and meditating upon cosmological theories so understanding them is crucial. Certain key religious concepts run through these theories. These include the notion of a physical soul shedding karma by moving through the cycle of rebirth to eventual omniscience and liberation, along with the cyclical nature of time, the interconnectedness of the universe, and the importance of symmetry, repetition and balance.


'Lands of Enjoyment' in Sanskrit, where people do not need to make any effort because all their needs are met by wish-fulfilment trees. The Lands of Enjoyment are in Jambū-dvīpa, in the Middle World where humans live.
Sanskrit for 'universal monarch'. There are 12 in the continent of Bharata in each progressive and regressive half-cyle of time. They have 9 treasures and 14 jewels they can use to conquer their enemies and become 'universal monarchs'. The cakravartin form one of the five groups of '63 illustrious men' in Jain mythology.
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
The innermost island-continent in the Middle World, in Jain cosmology. It is divided into seven continents separated by six mountain ranges. It takes its name - 'Rose-Apple Continent' - from a rock formation that resembles a rose-apple tree, which is found on Mount Meru in the centre of the island.
Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:
  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.
Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.
Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge , where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.
There are three worlds in traditional Jain cosmology. The middle world is where human beings and animals live, and sits between the upper and the lower worlds.
Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:
  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.
To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:
  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. A Sanskrit term meaning 'world space', loka-ākāśa is a vast but limited area, where all humans, deities and all other forms of life live. Here the souls live and travel through the cycle of rebirths. Outside it is 'non-world space' – aloka-ākāśa.
The Hindi phrase for 'Two and A Half Continents' describes the only part of the universe where human beings live in the Middle World of Jain cosmology. It is made up of the central continent, Jambū-dvīpa, the second continent, Dhātakīkhaṇḍa, and Lavaṇa-samudra, the circular ocean that separates them. Kālodadhi is the ring of ocean around Dhātakīkhaṇḍa, dividing it from the 'half' continent, which is the inner part of the Puṣkara continent.
A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.
In Jain cosmology, one of the Lands of Action or karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the middle world of humans. Mahā-videha consists of 32 provinces between the Niṣadha and the Nīla mountain ranges. Thanks to the repetitive nature of Jain cosmology, there are also two Mahā-videhas on each of the continents of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa and Puṣkara-dvīpa.
Mount Meru
The cosmic axis of the Jain universe. Located in the middle of Jambū-dvīpa, the innermost continent of Jain cosmology, Mount Meru consists of three forested terraces, each smaller than the one below. When a Jina is born, the gods visit the earth, take him away and wash him in the standard birth ritual on the mountain. Jain temples often have a tower symbolising Mount Meru. Mount Meru is also the centre of the universe in traditional Buddhist and Hindu belief.

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