Indian Cosmography

Early 19th Century

Kalakriti Archives

Kalakriti Archives

In Jain texts the universe is divided into three worlds – the upper occupied by the gods, the middle by mortals and the lower belonging to the damned. The most significant is the middle world, manushya-loka (world of the mortals), where liberation from the chain of rebirth is possible and where the Jinas (of saints and devotees) are born. Paintings of the phenomenal world therefore have remained popular in the Jain tradition and survive from the fourteenth century through to the present day.

The world of mortals is abstracted as a diagram of concentric circles. The blue circles and narrow streamer like (often symmetrical configurations) that traverse these represent water whilst the buff in-between areas represent landmasses. The central circle is of particular significance as it depicts Jambudvipa (the island of the wood apple trees) which includes the Indian sub-continent with the cosmic Mount Meru at its the very centre.

The inner-continent is encircled by two oceans and two further continents; the outer most landmass ends amorphously with a chain of mountains and shrines with sages or Jinas at the four quarters. This is why such depictions are often called adhaidvipa pata or paintings of the two-and-a half continents.

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  • Title: Indian Cosmography
  • Date Published: Early 19th Century
  • Location Created: London
  • Physical Dimensions: 26.4 x 21.2 cm
  • Type: Document
  • Medium: Copper engraving
  • Title (Original): A Map of Jambudweepa or the Earth according to the Hindoo Geography