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.
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 Narpatijayacharyā, a ninth-century text, based on mostly unpublished texts of Yāmal Tantr, mentions "Sumeruḥ Prithvī-madhye shrūyate drishyate na tu" ('Su-meru is heard to be in the middle of the Earth, but is not seen there'). 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.
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.
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.
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:
|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 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.
According to Jain cosmology, Mount Meru (or Sumeru) is at the centre of the world surrounded by Jambūdvīpa, in form of a circle forming a diameter of 100,000 yojans. There are two sets of sun, moon and stars revolving around Mount Meru; while one set works, the other set rests behind Mount Meru.
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. The resulting mountain is Mount Semeru, the tallest mountain on Java.
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