Article: The 'Three Worlds'

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Dhātakīkhaṇḍa – the second continent
This manuscript painting of the trees and temples on the three terraces of Mount Meru demonstrates the symmetry and repetition that are notable features of Jain cosmology. Normally yellow in paintings, Mount Meru is the cosmic axis

Three terraces on Mount Meru
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The second continent is known as Dhātakīkhaṇḍa. A concentric ring of land around Lavaṇa-samudra, it is double the size of Jambū-dvīpa, but this difference never appears in paintings.

Dhātakīkhaṇḍa is split into an eastern and a western part by the mountain range named Iṣvākāra – 'Arrow-shaped'. Going from north to south, it is usually represented by vertical lines in pictures of the Two and A Half Continents. It is marked by four Jain temples, one on each side of the mountain range in the northern area and one either side of the range in the south.

The eastern and western parts have a Mount Meru each. Each part also has seven regions that have the same names as those in Jambū-dvīpa. Thus there are a total of 14 regions in Dhātakīkhaṇḍa. In addition, each part also has six mountain ranges, with the same names as those in Jambū-dvīpa, making a total of 12 mountain ranges.

Kālodadhi – the second ocean

The ocean called Kālodadhi – 'Black Water Ocean' – surrounds the second continent of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa.

Kālodadhi has no tides but has is governed by the two deities Kāla and Mahākāla, who have their seats in the western and eastern parts.

Puṣkara – the third continent
This detail of a manuscript painting shows the yellow and blue mountain range of Mānuṣottaraparvata or 'Mountain Beyond Mankind'. In Jain cosmology human beings can live only in the Two and A Half Continents, up to the inner half of the third continent.

Mountain Beyond Mankind
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The last element of the Two and A Half Continents is the inner half of the third continent, called Puṣkara-dvīpa. Only the half where human beings can live is normally included in pictures of this area.

Puṣkara is enclosed by a circular mountain barrier known as Mānuṣottaraparvata – 'Mountain beyond Mankind'. It is 1721 yojanas high and 1022 yojanas broad.

The continent is divided into eastern and western parts by the Iśvākāra mountains which pass through it. Each part has one Mount Meru.

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