Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mt Atlas was ‘Asta-giri’ - the mountain of sunset.

It was established in the previous article, that a mountain known as “Udayagiri” located in Fiji Islands (180 degree E) was regarded as the first location of sunrise on the earth. The route towards this place from India was narrated by the Vanara king, Sugreeva and recorded in Valmiki Ramayana. This narration showed that when the sun is overhead in this location, it is dawn in the Indian subcontinent.

Two inferences can be derived from this:

(1) The Indian sub continent, known as Bharata khanda was treated as the central or pivotal region of the world geography from which the eastern limit was decided in terms of sunlight.

(2) Such delineation also established a western limit, in the west of Bharata khanda and decided in terms of sunlight.

One can find the description of the western limit in Valmiki Ramayana in the words of Sugreeva. Sugreeva gives the details of the lands to the west of India till the region where the sun sets behind Mt Astagiri (Astam Parvatam – VR 4-42). This means this region falls 90 degrees west of the Indian sub continent. This roughly coincides with Prime Meridian at Greenwich.

The figure above (taken from Wikipedia) shows one half of the globe (180 degrees) in the right which was very well known to the ancient people of Bharat. In the right side segment one can see India forming the central position. When the sun rises in the 180th degree (90 degree from India ) in the east, it was midnight in India. When the sun reaches midday there, it is sunrise in India.

Now looking at west of India, the present day Prime meridian formed the setting degree in ancient geography of India. With India at the centre, the land getting stamped by Vishnu’s first step with sun rise, forms the eastern most point. When Vishnu’s 2nd step touches the zenith in India, it is the glorious time. With the 3rd step of Vishnu, whatever gets under is pushed down into darkness. This corresponds to the region of Prime Meridian! Thus from pacific to Atlantic, one segment of sun’s travel gets over wherein Bharat khanda forms the pivotal position.

This is not to say that ancient Indians did not know the other side of the globe. The other side of globe was known to them but it did not matter to them. We do come across references in Surya Siddhanta and Siddhanta Shiromani, to place- names on the other side of the globe that experience midnight when it is midday in India. What we are discussing here is based on the views held during Ramayana times. Their view (which continues till date) is that Vishnu, with his light governs the life of people of Bharat. The starting and ending point of that light formed the limits of their geography.

Tracking Sugreeva’s narration we come across two important mountain ranges in the west after crossing river Sindhu. The first one is identified as ‘Merum Uttama Parvatam’ – the mountain range that can be qualified as Meru. And the second and last one is ‘astam parvatam’ – the mountain of sunset.

The first one suits well with the Alps Mountains. Sugreeva describes this as “giri sahasraNi” – thousands of mountains – that is, a chain of mountains with lofty peaks. Any unique mountain is recognised as Meru. In the previous article we found a similar name appearing for Mt Semeru in Java which was originally known as Mt Shishira in Sugreeva’s narration. The unique mountain in the west of India is Alps and it was recognised as Meru!

Sugreeva says that after reaching this mountain , the sun moves to ‘astam parvatam’ (VR 4- 42- 41 &42). Sugreeva gives the time taken for the sun to move from Mt Meru (Alps) to Mt Astagiri, as one and a half Muhurtha. This is equal to 72 minutes. The sun crosses 18 degrees  during this time. This gives a clue to locating Astagiri, the mountain of sunset. Another clue is that Astagiri is roughly 90 degrees west of India.

Greenwich does not find mention in Sugreeva’s narration as he talks only about a mountain behind which sun disappears. There is a mountain called Ben Nevis in Scotland at the same distance. But in the absence of a memory of a past glory to that mountain in that region, we have to look at other locations and find the description fairly coinciding with Mt Atlas in North Africa.

The farthest points between Alps and Atlas roughly turn out to be 15-18 degrees. The ideas around Atlas in Greek mythology reflect Indian views on Astagiri.

For example, Astagiri forms the western most limit of Indian geography. The Greeks also thought the Atlas formed the western edge of the world! The specific reference to that region as the western edge in Greek mythology seems to be a remnant idea of ancient Bharat as known from Valmiki Ramayana.
The Greeks thought that Atlas was stopping the sky from falling on the earth. Why should they think that the sky was falling down on the earth, unless it was a euphemism for the end of day light? As night set in, it seemed as though the sky had fallen down.

The other belief of the Greeks that the land of their departed ancestors lay beyond the Mt Atlas, is also in tandem with the view of ancient India that the world (as it mattered to India) ended with that mountain range. The Greeks had later expanded the idea by visualising a home for departed people beyond that edge.

Probing further into this, one is surprised to know that there is no convincing etymology for the name Atlas in Greek or any other European language. But it has a pre-Greek but non- European name “Thalassa”. Thalai (தலை) is the Tamil word for head. Atlas was supposed to have borne the sky on his head and shoulders. How did this similarity exist in the word Thalassa with thalai?

The mountain of Atlas is where Berbers lived. The influence of Berber language is there on the pre-Greek society. The name of Atlas is supposed to be derived from the language of Berbers, from the word ‘adrar’ which is said to mean Mountain. In Tamil “athar” (அதர்) means ‘path’ or ‘long passage’. The Atlas Mountain forms a passage between Mediterranean world of Greeks and the western edge of the word (according to them) in the place where Atlantic Ocean starts off Spain. Beyond this existed the Paradise called Elysium.  The Atlas range formed “Athar” (in Tamil) or a passageway to the other world.

The Berbers called their language as “Tamaziɣtor  Tamazigh”. Why this phonetic similarity with the name ‘Tamil’ ? Even the name Berber – having a repeat of ‘Ber’ obeys a rule of Tamil grammar called ‘irattai-k-kiLavi’. Such repeat words are common in Tamil.

Another surprise comes in the name of a place located in the west of Atlas range. It is Marrakesh.

This place was inhabited by Berbers for long. The meaning ‘Marrakesh’ is given as the “country of the sons of Kush” in the 11th century manuscript, according to the historian Susan Searight. Kush was the son of Rama who inherited the throne of Ayodhya after Rama.

One may recall that a name connected with Ramayana is still in existence near Udayagiri, the mountain of sunrise. It is Ramu river in Papua New Guinea.  In a surprising similarity, the region in the mountain of the western edge was known as the country of sons of Kush! Have the people of India spread to these two extremities of Vishnu pada, after Ramayana times?

A specific description in Ramayana needs further probe. Sugreeva says that the region between Mt Meru (Alps) and Mt Astagiri (Atlas) was supposed to have a gigantic ten leaved Date palm tree – which is golden and shines with a marvellous podium. Perhaps the landscape dotted with ranges of mountains was described like the leaves of date-palm. The picture below shows the raised landscapes between Alps and Atlas in brown colour.

It is somewhere in this region sage MerusaavarNi (मेरुसावर्णि)is residing, according to Sugreeva. Is this a veiled reference to future Manu (human race)? SaavarNi is the 8th Manu – a future progenitor of human race that supports Veda Dharma ! We are now in the period of the 7th Manu, Vaivasvatha Manu who was the progenitor of the people of India and the present Vedic culture.
Is the future Manu going to be in the western most part of the geography ancient Indians (of Ramayana times)?

There are amazing connections to the west and darkness with this Manu. For example he was supposed to be born to Surya (Sun) and his wife Chhaya. Chhaya signifies shadow or darkness. The western most Astagiri being indicative of setting sun and hence darkness, the birth to Chhaya seems to indicate the birth a future human race in this region of the world.

Bali, who was pushed to Netherlands by the 3rd step of Vishnu is going to be one of the seven sages of that Manvantara (of SaavarNi Manu). This is also in tandem with the logic that Astagiri marks the 3rd step of Vishnu.

When is this Manvantra going to happen?

Each Manvantra has duration of roughly 30 crore years (306 million years). Each Manvantra has 71 Chatur yugas and we are nearing midway, being in the 28th Chatur Yuga. So it’s a long a way to go before the next human race gets established in the region between Alps and Atlas or with Alps as Meru. Perhaps at that time Udayagiri of India is likely to become the region of global sunrise! The western point of sunset would then occur in the Mayan land in Mexico!