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Lalla's Shishyavriddhida Tantra is a Hindu astronomical work dating to the 8th century. In this excerpt from the Shishyavriddhida Tantra, Lalla describes the geography of Bharatavarsha, i.e. the Indian subcontinent:

There are (nine) parts of (the country of Bharata), viz., Aindra, Kaseru, Tamraparna, Gabhastimat, Kanya, Saumya, Naga, Varuna and Gandhaarva. There are seven principal mountains (in Bharata), viz. Mahendra, Shulti, Sahya, Vindhya, Pariyata, Malaya and Riksha. Kumarika (Kanya) has all four castes (as inhabitants); the remaining eight parts of only the outcastes.

My question is, what is the Kanya region of India which the Shishyavriddhida Tantra identifies as the only place where the four castes live, at least as of the 8th century?

Considering that it is known as both "Kanya" and "Kumarika", I think it may refer to Kanyakumari, which is the Southern tip of Tamil Nadu. If so, it would be consonant with what the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Vedanta Desikan says in this chapter of his Rahasyatraya Sara:

Holy regions like Aryavarta have, owing to the nature of the Yuga (Kali) become unfit for abode, owing to the rites of varna and ashrama getting mingled.... [W]e are also told about places where Bhagavatas live in Kali Yuga: "In Kali Yuga there will be born, here and there, noble souls who consider that Narayana is the supreme object of attainment. They will be born in number in Tamil Nad on the banks of the Tamraparni, of the Kritamala, of the Palar, of the renowned Cauvery and of the river which flows westwards[.]" ... As stated in these passages, it is these places inhabited by Bhagavatas, that are suitable for the residence of the prapanna in this Kali Yuga.

In any case, are there any commentaries on the Shishyavriddhida which shed light on this?

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  • During the time of Mahabharata, bhArata varsha referred to the entire globe. Aindra khanda is modern day America. It could be that the author is referring to the various continents/khandas. Gabhasthimat may refer to the land of the rising sun ( my speculation) and tamraparna to the nordic regions. BTW, is it lalla devi of kashmir? – user1195 Apr 26 '17 at 12:19
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    @moonstar2001 If you read the rest of the chapter, he's very clearly talking about India. He talks about what mountains and oceans make up its boundaries, it's location within Jambudvipa etc. America is Krauncha Dvipa Aindra Kanda, not Jambudvipa Bharatavarsha Aindra Kanda – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 26 '17 at 13:18
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    @moonstar2001 And no, this isn't Lalla Devi, this is a male astronomer named Lalla who lived in the 8th century: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lalla – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 26 '17 at 13:20
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1. From the Skanda Purāṇa

The Kumari region being referred to, is Bharata Khanda or the Indian subcontinent. The reference above matches with puranic geography, which too illustrates these 9 divisions, but the Skanda Purana gives it in detail.

Let’s see what Suta says in the Skanda Purana:

This varṣa of Bharata is known as Bhārata. Eight sons with a daughter were born to Bharata. Bharata divided this Bhāratavarṣa into nine. He the intelligent one and conqueror of foes, gave these to all his children. The countries of those sons are known as Mleccha. This country of that daughter is known as Kumārīkhaṇḍa, which is spread over 1000 yojanas and where live those who perform their karma properly. Here the pure Bhāgirathī (Ganges), the Godāvarī and likewise the Yamuna, the Saraswatī, the Kauśikī, the Kāveri and likewise the Narmada. Oh great Brahmins, in this way many other pure rivers flow here. Seven mountains are famous viz. Mahendra (the eastern ghats), the Malaya (in Kerala), the Mānuṣa, Pāriyātra, Śukti, Vindhya (the Vindhyas) and the Sahya (Western Ghats). Starting from Kāśī (Benares, Varanasi) and Kāñcī (Conjeevaram, Kanchipuram) there are also 7 main centres. Oh Brahmins, there are 1008 pilgrimage centres of Lord Shiva, many villages and houses of Brahmins. People here follow the path expounded by the Vedas.

Skanda Purāṇa, Śaṁkara Saṁhitā, Śivarahasya khaṇḍa, Dakṣa kāṇḍa, Chapter 40, verses 7b - 18a

The Skanda purana was narrated by Sūta to the sages assembled in the Naimisha forest in the same land (Bharata khanda) where the Ganges came on Bhagiratha’s bidding, as is evident from verse 22-26 of Chapter 1 of the Sambhava kāṇḍa of the Śivarahasya khaṇḍa of the Śaṁkara Saṁhitā. Thus while narrating the Purana, when Suta refers to this country is known as Kumari khanda’, he means the Indian subcontinent in which the sages are assembled in Naimisharanya to hear the Purana.

After Suta says ‘this country’ he goes on to elucidate the rivers like Ganges, Cauvery, etc. of the Indian subcontinent, while saying (as quoted above) something like, “here, the Ganges, Cauvery and other pure rivers flow.” He also details the main mountain ranges of the subcontinent.

Hence Kumari refers to the Indian subcontinent.


2. Others supporting points

  • The sankalpa read during any rituals goes:

    ”jambūdvīpe bhāratavarṣe bharatakhaṇḍe”
    Translation:- In Jambudvipa, in Bharatvarsha, in the division known as Bharata Khanda....

    This indicates that Bharata khanda is among the nine divisions of Bharata varsha, the name often kept silent in other Puranas (eg. Matsya Purana Chapter 114) but referred to by the narrator as - this khanda being the ninth - pointing to bharata khanda). The same names for the other eight (as above), except Kumari are found in the description of Bharata Varsha in the Puranas. This shows us that the unnamed khanda is Kumari Khanda mentioned above which is the same as Bharatakhanda, or the Indian subcontinent.

  • Another one I’m not backing by scriptural reference is the common interpretation of mother Bharati or Bharata Mata. This Bharati refers to the daughter of Bharata (like Sitaji is called Jānakī being daughter of Janaka) of Bharatavarsha, the same Bharata, her father, who gave one of the nine divisions to her i.e. Bharatakhanda or Kumari Khanda.

Therefore Kumari is the Indian subcontinent and we don’t need any commentary on the book cited.


Note: it does not refer to Kanyakumari which is only a small city at the tip of India and got its name owing to Devi Parvati’s avatara there.

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  • Nice answer, yet the OP Asks: "are there any commentaries on the Shishyavriddhida which shed light on this?". In that way it's an answer but not what OP specifically demands though. – peace May 19 at 3:33
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    @Vivikta cool. May god bless the answer! – Archit May 19 at 5:48

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