The Worlds (Lokas)

Home / Hindu Religion / Saints / JohnWoodroffesWorks/ The Worlds (Lokas)


Written by Sir John Woodroffe, Book: Introduction to Tantra Sastra 


THIS earth, which is the object of the physical senses and of the knowledge based thereon, is but one of fourteen worlds or regions placed “above” and “below” it, of which (as the sūtra says1) knowledge may be obtained by meditation on the solar “nerve” (nāḍ i) suṣ umṇ ā in the merudaṇ ḍ a. On this nāḍ i six of the upper worlds are threaded, the seventh and highest overhanging it in
the Sahasrāra-Padma, the thousand-petalled lotus. The sphere of earth (Bhūrloka), with its continents, their mountains and rivers, and with its oceans, is the seventh or lowest of the upper worlds. Beneath it are the Hells and Nether World, the names of which are given below. Above the terrestrial sphere is Bhuvarloka, or the atmospheric sphere known as the antarikṣā, extending “from the earth to the sun,” in which the Siddhas and other celestial beings (devayoni) of the
upper air dwell. “From the sun to the pole star” (dhruva) is svarloka, or the heavenly sphere. Heaven (svarga) is that which delights the mind, as hell (naraka) is that which gives it pain.2 In the former is the abode of the Deva and the blest. These three spheres are the regions of the consequences of work, and are termed transitory as compared


1 Bhuvanajnānam ̣ sūrye saṃ yamāt, Patanjali Yoga-Sutra (chap. iii, 26).
An account of the lokas is given in Vyāsa’s commentary on the sūtra, in the Viṣ ṇ u-Purāṇ a (Bk. II, chaps. v-vii): and in the Bhāgavata, Vāyu, and other Purāṇ as.
2 Viṣ ṇ u-Purāṇ a (Bk. II; chap. vi). Virtue is heaven and vice is hell, ibid, Narakamināti = kleśaṃ prāpayati, or giving pain.


with the three highest spheres, and the fourth, which is of a mixed character. When the jīva has received his reward he is reborn again on earth. For it is not good action, but the knowledge of the Ātmā which procures Liberation (mokṣ a). Above Svarloka is Maharloka, and above it the three ascending regions known as the janaloka, tapoloka, and satyaloka, each inhabited by various forms of celestial intelligence of higher and higher degree. Below the earth (Bhah) and above the
nether worlds are the Hells1 (commencing with Avichi), and of which, according to popular theology, there are thirty-four2 though it is elsewhere said3 there are as many hells as there are offences for which particular punishments are meted out. Of these six are known as the great hells. Hinduism, however, even when popular, knows nothing of a hell of eternal torment. To it
nothing is eternal but the Brahman. Issuing from the Hells the jīva is again reborn to make its future. Below the Hells are the seven nether worlds, Sutala, Vitala, Talātala, Mahātala, Rasātala, Atala, and Pātāla, where, according to the Purāṇ as, dwell the Nāga serpent divinities,
brilliant with jewels, and Dānavas wander, fascinating even the most austere. Yet below Pātāla is the form of Viṣ ṇ u proceeding from the dark quality (tamoguṇ ah), known as the Seṣ a serpent or Ananta bearing the entire world as a diadem, attended by his Śakti Vāruṇ ī,4 his own embodied radiance.


1 Ganabheda of Vahni-Purāṇ a.
2 Devī-Purāṇ a.
3 Viṣ ṇ u-Purāṇ a
4 Not “the Goddess of Wine,” as Wilson (Viṣ ṇ u-Purāṇ a) has it.














© 2010 All Rights Reserved.