Thursday, December 26, 2013


May Indra, whose hands Thunder wield,
Be in the East thy guard and shield;
May Yama's care the South befriend,
And Varun's arm the West defend;

And let Kuvera, the Lord of gold,
The North with firm protection hold!

The above prayer is for the Four Guardians of Mount Meru - the Holiest mountain in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cosmologies and Indian equivalent of the Greek Mount Olympus. Meru is believed to be the abode of Gods and with Christmas in the air, I'm gonna try and find out its location as well as connection with the legend of Santa Claus.

Mount Meru/Olympus

The Kurma Puraan states that-

Jambudvipa lies in the middle of all Mortal Realms and in its center is the lofty Mt. Meru, bright as gold. Its height is 84,000 yojanas, and it extends 16,000 yojanas below the earth; its width at the top is 32,000 and at the base is 16,000 yojanas.

Most other ancient scriptures also describe Meru as a colossal mountain with staggering dimensions; situated bang in the middle of the planet; inversely coned; expanding upwards; stretching beyond the skies at one end; and penetrating deep into the bowels of Earth at the other.

Mount Meru jutting out of Earth's surface

The ancient Hindu astronomical text known as the Suryasiddhant, locates Meru at the 'Navel of the Earth' and describes it as 'Passing through middle of the earth-globe, and protruding on either side'. Further ahead, it mentions a Meru in the middle of Earth, a Sumeru at the North Pole and a Kumeru at the South pole (which may lead us to believe that this structure stretches from pole-to-pole)!

Tibetan Buddhism regards Meru as the Center of the Universe and believes it to be beyond the physical plane, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. Symbolic representations of Meru are frequently found in Tibetan and Bhutanese mandalas designed to aid in meditation.

Meru from a Buddhist Thanka with Brahma seated on top

Another ancient Sanskrit text, the Narpatijayacharya mentions Sumeru as being present in the middle of the Earth, but not seen there.

Interestingly, on my not-so-distant trip to AFRICA, I happened to come across a Mount Meru in Tanzania, which roughly corresponds to the geographic Center of the Earth. The Mountain is even worshipped by the local tribes as an abode of Gods!!

In the neighbouring country Kenya, we also find a town with the same name. Relation of these places in East Africa to the Meru from our Hindu texts is not clear, however it may very well be a remnant of the common legends of Humanity from early times when entire globe was a single continent Jambudveep (Details in a subsequent post).

Ancient scriptures describe Meru as the Central Pivot of the Universe, sort of like an Axis mundi, and claim that the ENTIRE COSMOS revolves around it, with the Sun, Moon and Stars paying obeisance while circum-ambulating the Holy Mountain.

Mount Meru as per the Jain Agams

So what exactly is Meru then?

Many scholars, presuming Meru to be a mountain, argue for the mountains of Kashmir or Pamirs as its location. But no mountain on the face of Earth can grow to such monstrous proportions as well as fit the vivid descriptions of the scriptures.

Is Meru really a mountain or a reference to one of the legendary Pillars of Heaven? Is it located at the Pole or at the Center of the Earth?? For that matter, is it even a physical structure or just a POETIC allegory for something else???

I had my mind twisted around this question for a long time and had to comb through a lot of material to get some sense out of the descriptions.. After a thoroughly challenging (though invigorating) analysis of various scriptural sources, I am now inclined to believe, that Meru does NOT refer to a mountain at all but instead is an allegory for the Earth's Axis of Rotation!!

Meru as Earth's Axis

Just as described in the 'Legend of Meru', Earth's Axis extends THROUGH both ends of the Globe (Sumeru-Meru-Kumeru); is NOT visible to the naked eye (beyond the Physical plain), protrudes at the POLAR regions (covers North Pole and South Pole), and from the perspective of a man standing at the Pole, the entire cosmos quite literally revolves around it as well!!

Thinking logically, either of the TWO poles could then be the right location.. However, Vārāh Mihir, the most famous Indian astronomer from ancient times, identified North Pole as the location of Meru in his celebrated work Panch-siddhāntikā.

I will give you more references clinching the Northern location, but for now, if we accept the Polar location and combine it with the description as the 'Abode of Gods', it would imply, that - North Pole is also the location of HEAVEN!!

God's City at the North Pole

Surprised??? Don't be.. at least half a dozen World Mythologies locate their sacred lands at the North Pole!

  • Japanese and Chinese Mythologies describe the Palaces of their Gods directly below the Pole Star and at the same time in the middle of the Earth (just like Meru). They talk of Meru as SHUMISEN and believe it connects the three realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell.
  • Norse myths place their 'Land of Immortality' at the North Pole and their legends talk about a World Tree called YGGDRASIL that connects Heaven, Earth and Hell just like Meru.
  • Greeks believed in a fabled perfect land which they called HYPERBOREA (above the North-wind), where the sun shines twenty-four hours a day, indicating a location within the Arctic Circle.
  • Lettish tales describe many dawns in their Heaven, a phenomenon observed only at the Poles.
  • Celtic Mythology talks of a Heaven with more than 6 months of continuous winter again suggesting a polar location.

Closer home, the Zoroastrian Avesta revered by the Persians (Parsis), mentions the Aryanam Vaijah the ancient land of Aryans as the Best-of-all-places and situated up in the North, above the other six world zones. At the beginning of the current age, the god Ahura Mazda warned of an impending fierce winter (Ice Age?!?) and advised its denizens to migrate to other locations.

Is it just me or is someone else thinking of the North Pole as well ;o)

The Denizens of Meru

The belief in the divinity of Meru was so much ingrained in the ancient minds that it was given architectural form as well. Today, this is evident in the construction of all Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples that mirror the towering spikes of Meru.

Hindu Temples at Cambodia reflecting the Towers of Meru

Sumeru and its surroundings are home not just of deities, but also other beings of popular mythology who rarely intrude on the human world.

  • Above Meru is Brahmalok or the 'Abode of Brahma' and on its various levels are present various other demi-gods.
  • The Highest Physical Heaven, Trāyastriṃśa or the 'Abode of 33 Devas', lies on its peak and is the dwelling place of Indra, the Lord of Demi-gods.
  • The Chaturmahārājikāyika or the 'Four-Guardians-of-Directions' (mentioned in the prayer in the beginning), live on its slopes.
  • Below them, is the dwelling space of other magical species such as the Apsaras, Gandharvs, Nagas, Yakshas, Siddhas, Vidyadhars and the Kumbhandas.
  • Below all these, in and around the ocean, at the base of Meru, dwell the Asuras.

Since Tavatimsa Heaven is physically connected to the world through Sumeru, the demi-gods are unable to avoid getting entangled in worldly affairs. They frequently find themselves in quarrels with the Asuras, who were expelled by the present Indra and hence, keep plotting for ways to recover their lost kingdom.

This conflict is very similar to that observed in Greek Mythology between the Titans and the Olympians.

Indra and other divinities on top of Meru

However, for me, it was difficult to envision the Arctic frigidness of North Pole supporting the 'Heaven' of our ancients..

The Arctic region today, comprises of kilometers thick sheets of Ice spread for miles together, with hardly any land or vegetation on it.. But, what if the North Pole, at some time in its history, did support land as well as vegetation???

My research, turned up evidence that North Pole INDEED boasted of a continent right until the Miocene Period which however, got submerged during the subsequent Ice-Ages (!!). According to latest geological evidence, the last Glacial period closed about 10,000 years ago and the geographical distribution of land then, was radically DIFFERENT from what it is at present..

Pre-glacial coastline of the West coast of USA

This land supported a temperate climate, extremely conducive for the sustenance of various species of plants and animals and of course Humans and semi-divine beings. In fact, in the early geological ages, the high mountains of Alps were low, the Himalayas had not yet heaved, and an equable climate had prevailed over the ENTIRE globe!

The onset of Ice-Age destroyed this genial climate and rendered polar regions unsuitable for habitation of tropical plants and animals.

Temperate climate of North Pole before the Ice-Age


The same conclusion was arrived at by the late Indian Historian and Freedom-fighter, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

In his phenomenal work titled, 'The Arctic Home of the Vedas', written in late 1800s, Lokmanya Tilak gives an extremely detailed as well as convincing account based on the literary evidence of various Shlokas from Rig Veda and the Zoroastrian Avesta that point to an Arctic Home of the ancient Aryans!!!

Lokmanya Tilak's Masterpiece

The book places the original home of Aryans at the North Pole, from which they had to emigrate due to the Ice deluge 10,000 years ago!!

Around 8000 BCE, the age of migration from the original home began when the survivors roamed over the northern parts of Europe and Asia in search of lands suitable for new settlements. If we accept this scenario, we can easily understand the legends of Noah and Manu, the progenitors of mankind in this current age. {For more on Manu, the First Man, check out the post - Creation by Brahma}.

Ancient Map of the North Pole

In my quest for knowing everything possible about Mount Meru and the North Pole, I stumbled upon yet ANOTHER startling find..

Gerardus Mercator, a Belgian Geographer and Cartographer, had prepared a 'Map of the Arctic' in 1569 which actually shows a continent at the North Pole with a mountain in its center!!

Mercator's Map of the North Pole

Compare the map with this interesting detail from Vishnu Puraan -

"The Akash Ganga, flowing from the feet of Vishnu, falls around the city of Brahma, on top of Meru. O twice-born ones, she then subdivides into FOUR rivers, dividing the land into FOUR continents.."

Is it another one of those incredible co-incidences that keep cropping up in my research or was the Map of Mercator actually based on the descriptions of Meru???

Mercator couldn't have had direct access to the descriptions as the Puranas weren't even translated from Sanskrit till that time. Probably the Legend of Meru was prevalent in some of the Pagan religions of Europe before the Church became more rigid in its approach.

Mercator, in a letter to a friend, mentions a gentleman responsible for passing him the information for this map, but stops short of naming him. I'm sharing the magnified version for all to appreciate the similarities again..

North Pole according to Mercator

For me, the most interesting part is the CENTRAL mountain which may very well represent our own Meru and the FOUR rivers running outwards from it which fit the description from Vishnu Puraan. I find the similarity quite intriguing and would like to believe that Early Europeans were more accepting of other religions' beliefs than those from the 'Witch-hunting' eras.

The Christmas Conundrum

With Christmas fast approaching, another CRAZZZZY thought has come to my INSAAANE mind!

Could it be, that Mount Meru, with its mystical significance, North Pole location, and Inexhaustible riches, was also the ORIGINAL inspiration for the legend of SANTA CLAUS!!??!!

Since around early 1800s, the tradition of Santa Claus has been prevalent in the Western World and North Pole is considered to be his fabled home where he dwells with his magical Elves. Santa is typically depicted as a pot-bellied, bearded, jovial benefactor accompanied by polar animals like Rudolph the reindeer.

Santa with his Polar companions

However, both the location and the description, bring to my mind, the legend of KUBER, the Hindu Lord-of-Riches and the Guardian-of-the-North-Pole!!

Just like Santa, Kuber is traditionally shown as a fair-complexioned, bearded, pot-bellied man with abundant wealth that he shares only with the deserving.. Like Santa again, he is accompanied by magical beings called Yakshas and is considered the Lord of mythical animals and semi-divine beings!

The reference to anthropomorphic forms could easily cover the POLAR fauna as animals like reindeer, Polar bears, Seals etc. are not found in other parts of the world and may actually seem mythical to a person seeing them for the first time!!

Kuber, the Lord of North Pole

In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, Kuber is described as Dhanadhipati or the Lord-of-Wealth and Dhanada or the Giver-of-Wealth. Buddhist and Jain mythologies also know him as Vaishravan and Panchanubhuti.

Ramayan states that Lord Brahma, pleased with Kuber's penance, conferred upon him the riches of the world; inclusion into the Deva Pantheon; and the famous flying chariot known as Pushpak Viman. Kuber then ruled in the golden isle of Lanka (which BTW is the cut top of Mount Meru!) till his step-brother Ravan defeated him and overtook all his riches..

The mention of the flying chariot Pushpak Viman is again interesting as Santa also travels on a flying sleigh!

Santa's sleigh or Pushpak Viman??

Whatever the relationship between these ancient legends, I believe the similarities deserve MORE than a passing thought. The mysteries of Meru are not easy to unfold, yet, I have tried my best to clear some cobwebs from this topic, and I hope I was able to present to my readers something new and thought-provoking..

For now, let us enjoy the CHRISTMAS revelry and stuff ourselves silly with puddings and cakes, awaiting the beginning of a New Year.. May the Heavenly Glow of Meru and the Northern Lights, keep us all warm in the coming winters :o)

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2012 from Santa/Kuber

I wish you all a very Happy upcoming New Year and conclude this post with a Christmas poem remembering the magical city at the North Pole which somehow seems quite fitting here-

Follow the North, as far as it will go,
To a city built on the Earth’s pole,
A chilly city with frost that bites,
It glitters in snow, day and night.

Gingerbread houses, peppermint trees,
Cotton candy clouds and symphonies,
Rat-a-tat-tat with lollipop sticks,
Rooty-toot-toot horns and puckered lips.

Into a garden of Love and Peace,
Where Time began and will never cease,
God’s heavenly kingdom of endless Joy,
Better than even the City of Troy.

This night is blessed for children of Peace,
For Love, Family, Angels and Trees,
For Hope for Nations; For You and for Me,
For North is further, than our eyes can see!


  1. Do you think mount altai belukha mountain is a mountain is not a single nomber.its oll up to 5 peak.altai syone mountain makes complete swastika. N there are for part one is Siberia second Gobi altai 3 one is tazakistan n fourth is Mongolian altai. difficult to climb D's mountain

  2. Check this out. Looks at Mt Meru from as interesting perspective.