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In Hinduism there are very large spans of time when yugas are considered. Is there any mention of significant Geological changes?

We see the account of a large flood as part of the Matsya Avatara, which could correspond to some effects of the ice age. But that seems to be a common theme in many religions.

Is there some note that chronicles any climate change from earlier? Hindu scriptures do believe the world to be a lot older than what some other religions (such as Christianity for example) believe.

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The tale of King Sagara seems to have support Pangea super-continent and its division into two as Laurasia and Gondwanaland.As per continental drift theory, once only one super continent existed and it was surrounded by oceans all the side:

tat gacchata vicinvadhvam putrakaa bhadram astu vah

samudra maaliniim sarvaam prithiviim anugacchata

Oh, sons, you may therefore proceed to search for the horse and its thief on this Entire Earth which is Garlanded by the Ocean. Safety upon you all. [Ramayana : 1-39-13]

Many years later King Sagara’s descendant, King Bhageeratha brought the Ganges River to the Earth planet in order to liberate the Souls of the Sons of Sagara who had been burnt to Ashes by the Sonic energy of Sage Kapila. Bhageeratha is described as guiding the Ganga into the Ocean-like Ditch created by the Sons of Sagara.

sa gatvaa saagaram raajaa gangayaa anugatas tadaa pravivesha talam bhuumeh yatra te bhasmasaat kritaah

King Bhageeratha followed by Ganga has gone to the Ocean-like Ditch which was dredged up by the sons of Sagara, and entered the subterranean regions of earth where the sons of Sagara were rendered into ashes. Thus Viswamitra continued his narration about the Descent of river Ganga. [Ramayana : 1-44-1]

According to the Ramayana, over 100,000 years earlier, the 60,000 sons of Sagara, had been born from an Egg-like guard. They were then placed for a long duration into test tubes and nurtured within them, clone-like, until they were youths.

ghrita puurnesu kumbhesu dhaatryah taan samavardhayan kaalena mahataa sarve yauvanam pratipedire

The caretakers brought up those siblings in vessels filled with ghee, clarified butter, and after a protracted [delayed] time all of the children attained youthfulness. [Ramayana : 1-38-18]

Geological Sciences refer to a time when “The Tethys Sea began dividing Pangaea into two super continents, Laurasia and Gondwana.” And “The Tethys Sea was an ocean that existed between the continents of Gondwana and Laurasia during much of the Mesozoic era, before the opening of the Indian and Atlantic oceans during the Cretaceous period.”

According to the Ramayana this dividing of the Single Earth’s landmass and the creation of Ocean-like ditches began when the 60,000 sons of King Sagara embarked on their mission to find their Father King Sagara’s Sacred Horse. Indra had taken the guise of a Demon and stolen the sacred horse. Their father King Sagara thus ordered his sons :

eka ekam yojanam putraa vistaaram abhigacchata yaavat turaga sa.ndarshah taavat khanata mediniim tam eva haya hartaaram maargamaanaa mama aajnayaa

‘Oh, sons, let each prince advance searching one square yojana of the Earth. By my order you dig up the earth until you find the horse, in your search of the thief of that horse’. [Ramayana : 1-39-14b, 15]

Thus after searching the entire Earth, which at the time was a Single Landmass Surrounded by a Single Ocean, the Princes continued seeking the Sacred Horse by digging into the Earth. In this way they Divided the Continent into sections thus signifyng the initial separation of the Continents. Based upon this feat of the Princes the Oceans were named after their father King Sagara. And thus the world’s Oceans are referred to as Sagar even today.

Note: I don't know whether humans existed in that time when Pangea is divided into two as per science, but this story seems to have support this view.

Reference

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    Yes it does seem to refer to something geological. It is interesting to read Earth being described as a single land mass garlanded by the ocean. I had earlier come to the same conclusion that the geographical distribution in Puranas actually applies to the time when earth was a single continent & not the current arrangement. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Jul 27 '17 at 5:07
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Many other instances mentioned in the scriptures can actually refer to geological events. First is the incident of Indra killing the dragon Vritra and releasing the life-giving waters which could actually be a poetic description of Indra's lightening splitting open a mountain to make way for water that had been till then perhaps dammed in the form of a lake. Check the Rig Veda Verse 1.32.10-12:

10 Rolled in the midst of never-ceasing currents flowing without a rest for ever onward. The waters bear off Vṛtra's nameless body: the foe of Indra sank to during darkness.

11 Guarded by Ahi stood the thralls of Dāsas, the waters stayed like kine held by the robber. But he, when he had smitten Vṛtra, opened the cave wherein the floods had been imprisoned.

12 A horse's tail wast thou when he, O Indra, smote on thy bolt; thou, God without a second, Thou hast won back the kine, hast won the Soma; thou hast let loose to flow the Seven Rivers.

Again Verse 1.51.4, 1.52 and Verses 1.54.1 & 10 also seem to point to a major geological change resulting from this feat of Indra:

1.51.4 Thou hast unclosed the prisons of the waters; thou hast in the mountain seized the treasure rich in gifts. When thou hadst slain with might the dragon Vṛtra, thou, Indra, didst raise the Sun in heaven for all to see.

1.52.14 Whose amplitude the heaven and earth have not attained, whose bounds the waters of mid-air have never reached,— Not, when in joy he fights the stayer of the rain: thou, and none else, hast made all things in order due.

1.52.15 The Maruts sang thy praise in this encounter, and in thee all the Deities delighted, What time thou, Indra, with thy spiky weapon, thy deadly bolt, smotest the face of Vṛtra.

1.54.1 URGE us not, Maghavan, to this distressful fight, for none may comprehend the limit of thy strength. Thou with fierce shout hast made the woods and rivers roar: did not men run in crowds together in their fear?

1.54.10 There darkness stood, the vault that stayed the waters’ flow: in Vṛtra's hollow side the rain-cloud lay concealed. But Indra smote the rivers which the obstructer stayed, flood following after flood, down steep declivities.

There are many more verses that wax eloquent on this particular feat of Indra and it could certainly be a big geological event:

R.V. 1.62.6 This is the deed most worthy of all honour, the fairest marvel of the Wonder-Worker, That, nigh where heaven bends down, he made four rivers flow full with waves that carry down sweet water.

R.V. 2.15.88 Praised by the Aṅgirases he slaughtered Vala, and burst apart the bulwarks of the mountain. He tore away their deftly-built defences. These things did Indra in the Soma's rapture.

Even the Puranas have plenty of references some of whom have been covered in the other answers. I'll share one of the biggest geological events in our history - Saraswati's arrival on earth. The Skanda Purana Section VII.1. 33. 11-100 & Chapter 34 detail the story of how Saraswati was forced to arrive on earth in order to take a terrible devastating fire to the ocean so that it would not destroy the whole world. This fire known as the Vadavagni was generated by Rishi Aurva and the verse also give an idea of the various locations associated with the river:

11-12. Ganga said: O Lord, O master of the worlds, I do not have the strength to carry Aurva. He is huge and terrific in form. This Anala (Fire) burns excessively. Thereupon the liberal-minded Lord spoke to Yamuna first, to Sindhu thereafter, and to various rivers severally.

13-15. They were asked by the excellent one among Suras and they proved unable to take (Aurva). Then Janardana, the Lord of Devas, spoke to Sarasvati: “O auspicious one, you yourself go over to the west of the briny sea. If this is carried out, all the Suras will be rid of their fear. Otherwise they will be burned by the Vadava through its refulgence. So, save Vibudhas (Suras) from this terrible fear.

21-23. On hearing the words uttered by Visnu, the Great- grandfather sniffed the head of his virgin daughter and said lovingly: “O fair lady, do go. Save all the Devas caught in the midst of fearful danger. Take this Vadava with you and cast it into the salt sea.” On hearing her father’s words she said: Sarasvati said: At your instance, O dear father, I am now setting out undoubtedly. This Vadava fire is very horrendous. He will consume my body.

24-30. It is the advent of the terrible Kali Age now on the earth. O Lord, folks of evil conduct will be coming into contact with me. What can be more painful than contact with sinners!

The next verses actually give the reason why the river disappears at certain places and resurfaces at others:

Brahma said: If you do not like the earth’s surface fully infested with sinful folks, do take the Vahni (Fire) to the great ocean con- fining yourself to the Patalatala (nether worlds).

44-48 With the rapidity of her current, she pierced the ground and came to the surface of the Earth. Whenever she (the river) became weary and got scorched by the Vadava fire, the river became visible in the mortal world. Thereupon, Praci (Eastern quarter) became scorched by the Vadava. Thereat all the Tirthas glorified by the ancient seers, O beautiful woman, the Tirthas of heaven, intermediate space and the earth asserted their presence there. On being consoled by them, the river Sarasvati went over to the nether worlds to the ocean, the abode of sharks and crocodiles. O beautiful woman among the Suras, she (river) reached Khadiramoda and there saw the ocean. Afterwards she took up the Vahni and began to proceed onwards. She thought of the fact that it was at the behest of the Lord that she had herself taken up the burden and was there- fore delighted. With a clear conscience, she went ahead facing the South.

The next verses mention how she splits into five channels just before entering the ocean. This is clearly the description of a delta formed by the river before she joins the sea:

52-56. Thereupon, she began to reflect, ‘How can I attain some merit!’ Further the chaste lady (river) was afraid of the curse (of the sages). She then turned herself into one of five channels. O lady of excellent complexion (Gauri), she propiti- ated each of the sages. Then, she had five different names on the earth. They are: HarinI, VajrinI, Nyariku, Kapila, and Sarasvati. The river Sarasvati flowing in five channels shall dispel all the five sins of men if they plunge into it or drink the waters.

The next verses even mention the destruction of a mountain standing in its path probably referring to an actual geographical event:

88-89. “I am alone and isolated. I lament. Still if you are inclined to marry me, hold this Vadava in your hands while I take my holy bath.” 89. When this was said, Krtasmara, the excellent Moun- tain, seized the Vadava handed over by Sarasvatl. Due to its contact, Krtasmara was reduced to (a heap of) ash insta- ntly.

  1. After burning Krtasmara and holding the Vadava once again, the divine lady (river) came near the sea and stood there with hairs standing on end due to delight.

I hope these references help you understand some of the geological events from ancient scriptures.

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There is one little puranic scripture mentioning geological changes happening on mountain surface. Although it’s a story about Narad , Vindhya Mountain and Meru mountain competition. It is mentioning phenomenon’s like Increase in height of mountain and change in geology of mountain etc.

We find mentioning of Increase in the height of Mountain Vindhya and the mountain changing into soft from hard (rocky) nature through a story told in Skandha Purana –Book 4 –Kashi Khanda –Section 1 :Poorvardha , Chapter one – Increase In Height of Vindhya.

Here are the excerpts-:

39 : Though the mountain was hard , he eschewed the hardness (due to being Rocky in Nature) ; he assumed softness because of sense of awe arose in him and due to the spiritual splendor (of Narada) and because his activities were like of good people.

40: On seeing the softness (of the mountain) in its two forms Narada rejoiced much.

81 : After deciding thus the Vindhya Mountain began to increase in height with the determination of good fighter. by means of his peaks , which would reach and bring about an end to the limitless firmament.

There is another story of Lord Parashurama asking sea to give some of the land to him after he gifted the entire earth to Brahmans in Skanda Purana Vol.-16 , Book 6 Nagar Kanda ,Chapter 68 , The sea recedes .

This land is a strip of land to the west of Western Ghats from Gujarat to the southern end of kerala is regarded as the land won from the sea. A mythological explanation of a geological phenomenon.

14 : After gifting the earth to brahmanas I will not take it bac from them. Hence you recede and give me some space of land.

15 : In case , O lord of the rivers you do not act according to my direction now , I will dry you up by means of fire missile and convert you into piece of land.

16: On hearing his words the ocean became frightened. He receded as far as he (Parashurama) desired that he should.

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Yes, in yoga vasistha scripture-

Sage Vasishstha asked:

You enjoy such longevity as would suggest that you have attained final liberation! And, you are wise, brave and a great yogi. Pray, tell me what extra-ordinary events you remember, relating to this and the previous world-cycles.

Bhusunda narrates such events in great details. I am mentioning only a part of the answer here.

Bhusunda said:

…I remember that once upon a time there was nothing on this Earth, neither trees and plants, nor even mountains. For a period of eleven thousand years the Earth was under lava…

…[Later] apart from the polar region, the rest of the Earth was covered by water. And then forests enveloped the Earth, and great asuras (demons) ruled.

Then there arose great mountains, but without any human inhabitants. For a period of ten thousand years, the Earth was covered with the corpses of the asuras (daityas)…”

Here daityas/asuras can mean dinosaurs!

Similar things happen in every world cycles, so that establishes the eternality of Hindu scriptures too.

In next cycle too there will be forest, lava stage, human stage, the dashavatar etc

  • Prophecies about Dinosaurs? Starts thinking that the work is a later work. – Sarvabhouma Feb 21 '18 at 6:14
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Many stories about Sage Agastya too point geological changes

We have these stories from Matsya purana https://www.kamakoti.org/kamakoti/matsya/bookview.php?chapnum=11

Where The sage is said to have absorbed the entire ocean into his kamandalam, some versions say in his cupped hands, and drank it up the waters in one gulp. This points to complete drying up of all water bodies on the earth at some point of time.

Later, according to the same Purana, Agastya refilled ocean with his urine and hence sea water is salty !!!

But as per Padma purana, http://www.kamakoti.org/kamakoti/details/padmapurana8.html, when the gods requested Agastya to fill oceans back, he expresses his inability to do so as he has digested the waters. But he prophecies that at the oceans will be filled up when Bhagirath brings Ganga down to earth. So there seems to be intevening period of severe dryness / drought.

I would say that during King Sagara's times, this dry period was continuing, because there are many versions which say that his 60000 sons dug the dry ocean beds as the searched for the lost yajna horse.

Then Sage Agastya is credited with taming the Vindya Mountain. The sage had requested the mountain to stop growing so that he may have a easy passage on his way south and stay that way till he returned back to the north from his southward journey. Since the Vindhya Mountain had deep revernce for the sage, it listened to the sage's bidding and is still waiting for him to return to north. Sage Agastya never intended to return north and stayed in the south forever.

Also, as momentos of his beloved Kailash mountains, where he had spent long periods doing penences etc, he got two hillocks - Siva giri & Shakti giri - transferred to the south. These hillocks are now supposed to be Palani Hills, the abode to Sri Karthikeya

Another geological event attributed to this Sage is balancing the earth. It is said that when guests for Shiva and Parvati's marriage assembled at Kailash, the earth tilted so badly at that point due to the weight of the assembly and all assembled people were frightened as to what would happen. Siva then requested Sage Agastya to move south and thus restore the earth's balance.

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