Mahabharata Bhishma Parva Chapter 12:3

Mahabharata Bhishma Parva (Bhumi Parva) Chapter 12:3

They are, O best of the Bharatas, Vamana, and Airavata, and another, and also Supratika.[1] O king, with rent cheeks and mouth, I do not venture to calculate the proportions of these four elephants.[2] Their length, breadth and thickness have for ever remained unascertained. There in those regions, O king, winds blow irregularly from all directions.[3] These are seized by those elephants with the tips of their trunks which are of the complexion of the lotus and endued with great splendour and capable of drawing up everything in their way. And soon enough after seizing them they then always let them out. The winds, O king, thus let out by those respiring elephants, come over the Earth and in consequence thereof creatures draw breath and live.

Dhritarashtra said,—'Thou hast, O Sanjaya, told me everything about the first subject very elaborately. Thou hast also indicated the positions of the islands. Tell now, O Sanjaya, about what remains.

Sanjaya said,—'Indeed, O great king, the islands have all been described to thee. Listen now to what I truly say about the heavenly bodies and about Swarbhanu, O chief of the Kauravas, as regards its dimensions. It is heard, O king, that the planet Swarbhanu is globular. Its diameter is twelve thousand Yojanas, and its circumference, because it is very large, is forty-two thousand Yojanas, O sinless one,[4] as said by the learned of olden times. The diameter of the moon, O king, is stated to be eleven thousand Yojanas. Its circumference, O chief of the Kurus, is stated to be thirty-eight thousand nine hundred Yojanas of the illustrious planet of cool rays. It hath been heard that the diameter of the beneficent, fast going and light-giving Sun, O thou of Kuru's race, is ten thousand Yojanas, and his circumference, O king, is thirty-five thousand eight hundred miles, in consequence of his largeness, O sinless one. These are the dimensions reckoned here, O Bharata, of Arka. The planet Rahu, in consequence of his greater bulk, envelops both the Sun and the Moon in due times. I tell thee this in brief. With the eye of science, O great king, I have now told thee all that thou hadst asked. Let peace be thine. I have now told thee about the construction of the universe as indicated in the Shastras. Therefore, O Kauravya, pacify thy son Duryodhana.[5]

Having listened to this charming Bhumi Parva, O chief of the Bharatas, a Kshatriya becometh endued with prosperity, obtaineth fruition of all his desires, and winneth the approbation of the righteous.[6] The king who listeneth to this on days of the full-moon or the new-moon, carefully observing vows all the while, hath the period of his life, his fame and energy, all enhanced. His (deceased) sires and grandsires become gratified. Thou hast now heard of all the merits that flow from this Varsha of Bharata where we now are!



  1. i.e., with the juice trickling down from their cheeks and mouth. In the season of rut, a peculiar kind of juice issues from several parts of an elephant's body. It is believed to be the temporal-juice. The stronger and fierce the elephant, the greater the quantity of the juice that issues out its body.
  2. Tasya (singular of Tad) and sa (masculine singular of Tad) both refer to the four elephants, Gaja-chatushtaya in singular.
  3. Asamyadha lit. "Unbound" or "unrestrained," i.e. freely or irregularly.
  4. It is a remarkable fact that the ratio between the diameter and the circumference of a circle was roughly known to the ancient Hindus. The circumference is nearly, as stated here, three times and a half of the diameter. The next ratio, of course, is slightly less, being three and one-seventh.
  5. The first word of this sloka is variously read. 'Yathadishtam' is the Bengal reading, while the Bombay reading 'Yathoddishtam.' If the latter reading were adopted, the meaning would be as indicated (in the Sastras). The second line literally rendered, is "pacify thy son Duryodhana." But how Dhritarashtra is to pacify his son having listened to the geographical digression, is not easy to see.
  6. For Sadhusattamas of the Bengal texts, the Bombay edition reads Sadhusammatas. I adopt the last.