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As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa which summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. (You can read the Brahma Sutras here.) But the Vedanta school didn't always have the dominant position in Hindu philosophy; before the time of Adi Shankaracharya the dominant school of Hindu philosophy was the Purva Mimamsa school, which I discuss here. In contrast to the Vedanta school which is devoted to analyzing the Jnana Kanda of the Vedas, i.e. the Upanishads, Purva Mimamsa focused on analyzing the Karma Kanda of the Vedas, i.e. the Samhitas and Brahmanas.

Now as I discuss in this question, in this excerpt from Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa Sutras, the defining text of the Purva Mimamsa school, Jaimini discusses the question of whether Sanskrit words used in the Vedas have the same meaning that they have in ordinary usage, or whether they mean something entirely different. The Purvapakshin or opponent makes the argument that they have a different meaning, on the basis of the following quotation:

Uttana vai devagava vahanti

Cows that belong to the deities move on their backs

This statement appears in the Apastamba Shrauta Sutras, but in this question I argue that it must have originally come from the Vedas. In any case, the argument is that the word cow as it is used in the Vedas refers to an animal which walks on its back, whereas in ordinary discourse the word cow refers to an animal that walks on its feet. Jaimini refutes this by saying that this quote is an Arthavada. For those who don't know, the Purva Mimamsa school believed that the Vedas consist primarily of two kinds of statements, Vidhis or injunctions concerning Dharma, and Arthavadas or statements that were just intended to glorify the actions prescribed in the Vedas. The Purva Mimamsa school even classified the Upanishads' statements about Brahman as Arthavada, as I discuss here and here. So Jaimini thinks that the statement about cows of the gods were just intended to glorify some action, perhaps Yagnas did in honour of the gods.

But in this excerpt from Kumarila Bhatta's Tantra Vartika, a commentary on Purva Mimamsa Sutras, Kumarila Bhatta gives an alternative interpretation of the quote, namely that it refers to how as the Earth makes its revolution, sometimes it appears to the residents of Devaloka like the ordinary cows that are on Earth are upside down:

Or, the passage [of the Purva Mimamsa Sutras] may refer to the fact that it is the ordinary cows of the Earth that are referred to in this [Vedic] passage, as appearing to walk on their backs, owing to the revolutions of the Earth together with all the three worlds, as described in the Puranas. That is to say, just as we see the gods above us, so too, when in the course of revolution the Earth reaches a point above the abode of the gods, they see the things on the Earth as above them; hence, it is only natural that to them the cows walking on the Earth should appear to be walking on their backs.

Kumarila Bhatta, by the way, was the guru of Mandana Mishra, the Purva Mimamsaka whom Adi Shankaracharya defeated in a debate as I discuss here. And apparently Kumarila Bhatta is considered by some to be an incarnation of Shiva's son Kartikeya, aka Skanda or Muruga.

But my question isn't about Kumarila Bhatta and his interpretation, but rather his statement that "the revolutions of the Earth together with all the three worlds" are described in the Puranas. My question is, where do the Puranas describe the revolutions of the three worlds? And does the Earth ever "reach[] a point above the abode of the gods" as Kumarila Bhatta says?

The Brahmanda Purana may be a good place to start, since I recall it having a lot of information about Hindu cosmology.

  • Vishnu Purana mentions in great scientific detail how the Sun revolves around the Earth with different paces at different times, indicating an elliptical model. If you change the frame of reference, it can be also seen as Earth revolving around the Sun. – Amit Saxena May 3 '16 at 4:25
  • @AmitSaxena Where does the Vishnu Purana mention elliptical orbits? In any case, I'm looking for specific Puranic statements about the revolution of the Earth and how it relates to the revolution of the three worlds. I find Kumarila Bhatta's assertion that the Earth sometimes goes above Devaloka rather strange. – Keshav Srinivasan May 11 '16 at 11:40
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    I said it indicates, not mentions. If I remember right, it mentions increasing/decreasing speeds of Sun as Uttarayana comes closer. From this, a non-circular orbit can be easily derived. – Amit Saxena May 11 '16 at 11:50

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