Vedic cosmology, also known as Hindu Cosmology and cosmography are both interesting and inspiring. Today’s “modern” Vedic texts originated 3,000 B.C. This is not only the oldest scientific but also the oldest religious doctrine is known to human race. Our current astronomy of solar system and universe has its roots in the Vedic knowledge. It only goes to show that man has had the advanced knowledge of astronomy way before our current civilization came into existence. We are here to talk about the Vedic version of the planetary system, starting at the top from the eternal planets to the temporary planetary system within innumerable universes in the material world.
Talking about “cosmic manifestation”, we need to incorporate both spiritual and material existence. The spiritual realm of the planets is everlasting and this will forever be beyond what material universe can encapsulate. The spiritual realm belongs to “super dimensional” or “anti-material” dimension. It means that it is beyond what we can perceive, beyond the time as a linear dimension and beyond the space of our vision and perception. There are innumerable planets, all indestructible and forever lasting. That is what the Vedas say about the spiritual planets. Our concentration here is more towards the material side of things.
At some point in time, the material planetary systems are created, and at another point in time, they will be destroyed. Time and space influence the material planetary system. Both of them have the same source of energy, the “brahmajoyti” – the spiritual light. The material energy, “the mahat-tattva” covers 1/4th of the Brahmajyoti. The remaining is the eternal spiritual realm. Even inside the spiritual world, there are two realms – “Goloka-dhama” and “Hari-dhama”. The material world has only one realm, known as “Devi-dhama”.
The Goloka-dhama is the topmost planet and is where the Supreme Godhead Sri Radha-Krishna resides. Below that, Hari-dhama resides, where the spiritual planets of Vaikunthalokas are situated. And below that lies the “Mahesh-dhama or Shiva Loka ” (also known as Sadasivaloka, or the abode of Lord Shiva) where Vaikuntha planets lie. This is how the spiritual forms are separated from the material forms.
Yoga is a way to get into these worlds. With Bhakti yoga, one can enter the Hari-dhama or Goloka-dhama. With Jnana yoga, one can enter the Mahesh Dhama or Shiva Loka, and with karma yoga, one can remain in the Devi-dhama. Through this, one can go through the birth and death in the material world repeatedly.
Things you should know about Vedic Cosmology
Devi-Dhama Planetary System (Devi loka)
There is a statement in Bhagavad Gita that states the material planets of our universe are divided into three parts. Namely, they are “urdhvaloka” (highest), “Madhya-loka” (middle), and “adho-loka” (lower). Above the highest loka, the eternal realms lie. According to Vedic Cosmology, there are 14 main planetary systems in these three spheres, each with different standards of life and duration of existence. In the urdhvaloka, there are n diseases or signs of aging of the body, and fear is an unknown sense in the realm. As we move downward, the life duration decreases and there is a greater manifestation of disease and anxiety.
These planetary systems are:
“Above the planetary systems where humans live is the sky. Above the sky is the orbiting sun, which is the entrance point of the heavenly planetary systems. This is the middle of the universe where begins the planets of those elevated by great austerities and penances. The planets above these, up to Satya-loka are the residences of those advanced in spiritual knowledge. All these planets are within the material world and under the control of Devi (Goddess Durga), and therefore called Devi-dhama or Devi Loka,” a Vedic scripture “Hari-vamsa” reads.
We might not conceive the residents of heavenly planets as they are known to be deathless, amara. Even though they live for millions of years by our calculation, nobody in the material worlds can live forever in this. According to Bhagavad-Gita, one day in the heavenly world is equal to 4,300,000,000 solar years.
Thus, the sense of time is different in different planets and planetary systems. Moreover, the living beings are also different, including the vegetation. In other planets, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon, one day is equal to six months on earth. These are visible to us and are considered to be heavenly planets.
“If they are the same planets orbiting the Sun, how can that be?”
It might be hard to realize this. But one must know that different planets have different dimensions surrounding them. If we look at the other planets through our eyes, then it gives us the impression that other planets are devoid of life. But many scientists and research have shown today that there are other planets might even hold life. But what our physical eyes can’t do is enter the heavenly spears of these planets, where devas, angels, and higher beings live. They are far superior to our planet earth.
Even in our realm of existence, there are ethereal beings, some even highly advanced surrounding our earth.
Moreover, there are different type of oceans on different planets in the material world. According to Siddhanta-siromani, an ancient Vedic text, there are seven varieties of oceans:
- An ocean of salt water
- An ocean of milk
- An ocean of curd
- An ocean of ghee (clarified butter)
- An ocean of sugar cane juice
- An ocean of liquor
- An ocean of sweet water
Our is the ocean of salt, and there are six other varieties elsewhere.
Within the material universe, there are some eternal planets. But they will always be inaccessible for human beings. Laghu-Bhagavatamrita, a Vedic text, describes them as “Above Rudraloka, the planet of Lord Shiva is the planet called Vishnuloka. It is 400,000 miles in circumference, and inaccessible for any mortal living being. Above that Vishnuloka is a golden island called Maha-Vishnuloka in the ocean of salt. Brahma and other demigods sometimes go there to meet Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu lies there with Lakshmi. East of here is the “ocean of milk” where within is the island of Svetadvipa, where Lord Vishnu also resides with Goddess Lakshmi. His transcendental island is 200,000 square miles and covered with desire trees for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord.”
Dhruvaloka is what it is known as, and we see it as a polestar. This planet is 3,800,000 yojanas above the sun (one yojana is equal to eight miles). Above the Dhruvaloka is Maharloka, by 10,000,000 yojanas, further above by 20,000,000 yojanas is Janaloka, further above by 120,000,000 yojanas is Satyaloka, further beyond by 26,200,000 yojanas is Vaikuntha.
The outer covering of the universe begins 260,000,000 yojanas above the sun, according to the scriptures of “Vishnu Purana”. Below the earth, lies the planetary systems of Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, and Patala, about 70,000 yojanas below. Even below these lies the Garbhodaka Ocean where Sesa Naga lives, about 30,000 yojanas below these planets. That ocean is 249,800,000 yojanas deep. Thus, the approximate diameter of the universe is 500 million yojanas, in miles, it is 4 billion. They are calculated by using the plane of existence; the actual distance may be even more.
At the higher planetary systems, one can find the realms of devas, demigods, and angels. For ghostly spirits, there is the Bhuvarloka, and for the Nagas, there are the lower planets populated by those of the demonic consciousness. As we go up, we find the development of higher consciousness, that includes the advanced intellectuality, starting from the human beings and going beyond it.
Descriptions of Planetary Systems in Hindu Cosmology
Here, the Lord Brahma, the progenitor of the material universe, lies. In this planet, vimanas are controlled by the mantra, and not by any mechanical means. There are no gross bodies. Instead, the residents have mind and intelligence. They do not suffer from any fear or old age or death, and they have compassion for those in the lower planets. The residents have the capacity to transform their bodies into spiritual bodies and enter the eternal Vaikuntha planets. Only great yogis have found a way into the planet through the Milky Way, the highway to the planet. The life duration is expected to be 15,480,000,000,000 years.
Sanat, Sanaka, Sanandana, and Sanatana lie on this planet. To add, other great sages also advance here with their spiritual austerity. For any human, the level of enjoyment is inconceivable. When there is the final dissolution of the material planet, the residents can transform the body into spiritual one and enter the spiritual sky.
It is above the heavenly realms, and many great saints and sages reside here. It is also populated by mystics who move to higher planets after transforming their subtle bodies to spiritual when the fire of devastation consumes the material planets. These residents can move between planets by using their mystic speed that is inconceivable to us humans.
When one can sacrifice the material desire and the contamination of possession and penance, one can reach the heavenly planets. And if he can purify himself further, he can further reach the Maharloka. The greatest of sages, Bhrigu Muni for instance, live in this place. When advanced yogis reach this planet, they can live here for 4,300,000,000 solar years. They can also transport to Satyaloka when the fire of devastation reaches here. They have the capacity to transform their bodies into spirts and enter the spiritual realms.
This planet Dhruvaloka is where Lord Vishnu resides on an island known as Svetadvipa, and there is one Vaikuntha planet in every material universe. Only pure personalities can live here. In human universe, this planet is seen as the polestar and is above the planet of Seven Rishis. It is also a spiritual planet, thus is eternal and remains even when other material universes are destroyed. Other planets and material stars are said to have pivoted from this planet. The planets of seven sages are the stars that orbit the Dhruvaloka.
Astrologically, Saturn is an inauspicious planet. It conveys messages of pain and suffering. It lies 1.6 million miles above Jupiter and passes through one sign of zodiac every 30 months.
While Saturn is the inauspicious planet, Jupiter is the auspicious heavenly planet. Astrologically, this is considered to be favorable as part of the time of our births here on earth. This is where devas reside and are situation 1.6 miles above Mars.
Mars is about unfavorable influences and is said to create the lack of rainfall on earth. It lies 1.6 miles above Mercury.
Mercury is the son of the moon and lies 1.6 miles beyond planet Venus. It has the capacity to move behind the sun, in front of the sun of along with the sun. Astrologically, mercury is said to be auspicious, except when it is not moving along with the sun. When it is moving along with the sun, it can create great storms on earth.
Among all, Venus is the most auspicious and favorable planet. It is also a heavenly planet. Venus can bring rainfall on earth.
This is where demigods reside and is one of the four residences of the demigods. If one worships the demigods through sacrifice, then one can attain great material enjoyment and be promoted to the moon. The celestial, intoxicating beverage “soma” is available here. The heavenly dimensions of this planet, however, is impossible to see with the naked eyes. The moon passes through the zodiac every month (approximately). The growth of vegetation is thus in part of the Moon, and so, is considered to be the life-giver for all living beings on earth.
As we know, it is the source of light and heat. Modern science says that many other stars are also the sun, but the Veda says otherwise. It says that they are considered to be planets of different elements, but they cannot be the same as the Sun. The sun god, Surya, is, in fact, an expansion of Narayana, a form of Lord Vishnu, and it is because of the sun, the seasons are controlled on earth. It resides between the Bhuloka and Bhuvarloka, rotating through the time circle of the zodiac. Those who practice yoga worship the sun, and the demigods residing here and bodies made of fire.
Rahu is invisible and lies 80,000 miles below the sun. It is because of Rahu that solar and lunar eclipse occurs.
Siddhaloka, Caranloka, and Vidyadharaloka
They are below Rahu, 80,000 below. The residents have mystic powers and can fly too without any mechanical means. They can control gravity, time and space. The art, culture, science they possess are far superior to the knowledge possessed by humans.
Yakshaloka and Rakshahaloka
The sky called “antariksha” lies beneath the higher planetary systems. The residences of the planets are Yakshas, Rakshasas, Pisachas, ghosts, and other ethereal beings. Above this planet, there is no air.
Bhu-mandala (Middle Earth)
This is where other standards of living like us and other heavenly bodies reside on this planet. There is seven planetary system here: Jambu, Plaksa, Salmali, Kusha, Karuncha, Shaka, and Pushkara, each divided according to the seven seas. Each of the systems is twice as large as the one preceding it, and they are made of respectively: salt water, sugarcane juice, liquor, ghee, milk, emulsified yogurt, and sweet water.
The Bhumandala looks like a lotus flower, and the seven planetary systems are the petals of the lotus. The radius of the plane of this planet is 93 million miles.
Lower Planetary System in Hindu Cosmology
Seven other systems lie below the earth – Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, and Patala. They are about the same size as the earth and lie below 560,000 miles below the earth. Sunlight has zero possibility to reach the planet, the light comes through the jewels on the hoods of serpents. People with great demonic power reside here, and they live with great material enjoyment without any spiritual enjoyment. They also do not become old or diseased, and fear has no effect on them. Thus, they are called “Bila-svarga” or subterranean heavenly planets.
The residents enjoy in this planet more than the higher planets because it is all about wealth, sensual enjoyment and influence. They are known as the Daityas, Danavas, and Nagas. They don’t seek any sort of spiritual liberation. But, one can see incredible architecture in their cities, as it is embellished with valuable jewels, houses, gardens, and so on. They drink juices and bathe in herbal elixir, which destroys the anxiety or physical disease, and also the physical signs of aging. The visual beauty is well above any of the higher planets, but that is only what it is a mere physical beauty. There are no days or nights here, and there is no fear of time. Only the time of dissolution can create havoc on the planet.
The Hellish Planetary Systems – Narakaloka
Even below the Patalaloka, there is the Naraloka, slightly above the Garbhodaka ocean. The system has different degrees of suffering and is for those who have to suffer. We humans might think of the level of suffering here on earth as cruel, but the suffering there is way-way more cruel and harsh. It is for those who commit all the wrong-doings during their time as humans on earth. While the life goes on for eternity, the duration of “karmic sentence” might be only a few seconds. According to Vedas, there are about 28 different hellish planets in total.
All of the planetary systems are bound to be annihilated, and this annihilation can take place in two ways. One way is through partial annihilation which occurs every 4.2 billion solar years, or the end of each day in Satyaloka. The annihilation includes all the lower planets to the heavenly planets. The higher planets are not affected. It takes 8,600,000,000 X30X12X100 solar years for the entire cosmic manifestation to wind up. The spiritual world cannot be annihilated but instead, absorbs all the material creation. Before the days of annihilation, it is said that there will be no rain for hundreds of years, everything dries up, and the sun is 12 times as powerful as it is now. After that, there are only horrendous rains that everything is absorbed by water.
Everything mortal, the living entities, the vegetation, merges into the earth. The earth merges into fragrance, fragrance into the water, water into the quality of taste, quality of taste into the fire, fire into form, form into touch, touch into the ether, and ether finally merges into sound. All of them merge to their origins, the presiding devas and demigods, which merge into the controlling mind, the controlling mind merges into the ego in the mood of goodness, the ego merges with sound in the mode of ignorance, which then merges into the total nature. The material nature merges into the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, then they merge into the unmanifest form of nature, which then merges with time, the time with the Supreme Godhead, Maha-Vishnu. All the origin of life merges into God, the Supreme Soul. This entire process is just the reverse of the creation, and thus it is why it is said, “Everything ultimately rests within the Supreme Absolute.”