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Book 12 Hymn 1 of the Atharvana Veda is called the Bhumi Sukta, and it's dedicated to Bhumidevi the goddess of the Earth. Here is what one of the verses says:

  1. She whom the Asvins measured out, o'er whom the foot of Vishnu strode, Whom Indra, Lord of Power and Might, freed from all foemen for himself, May Earth pour out her milk for us, a mother unto me her son.

Now the "foot of Vishnu" is clearly a reference to Vishnu's incarnation as Vamana the dwarf, where one of his steps was on the earth. And I think the reference to Indra and the foemen is probably an allusion to the story of Indra's defeat of the demon Vritrasura, which is Indra's most celebrated deed in the Vedas.

But my question is, what is the story of the Ashwini Kumaras "measur[ing] out" the Earth? For those who don't know, the Ashwini Kumaras are the twin sons of Surya the Sun god and his wife Sanjana, who had taken the form of horses at the time; see the passages quoted in my answer here. They are the gods of the morning and evening star, as well as gods of medicine. People today mostly know them for their role in the Mahabharata as the fathers of the Pandavas Nakula and Sahadeva. And in the Ramayana, they were the fathers of the Vanaras Mainda and Dvivida (who ironically fought their brother Sahadeva, as I discuss in this answer).

In any case, are there any other scriptures which describe the Ashwini Kumaras measuring out the Earth? And what does it even mean to measure out the Earth? Does it mean finding out how big it is?

  • In regards to what "measure out" the Earth means, the word used in Atharva Veda 12.1.10 is "अमिमाताम्" which is a past-tense form of the verb "मा." "मा" means "measure, mark off, apportion." So it would seem that "measure out" in this case means "define, apportion, and mete out the boundaries of the Earth." So they didn't just find out how big the Earth was--the Ashwini Kumaras defined the size of the Earth. – AdityaS Feb 17 '15 at 14:49
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    @Aditya I was thinking that it may mean that the Ashwini Kumaras demarcate the Earth, in the sense that the morning star appears at the eastern horizon at sunrise and the evening star appears at the western horizon at sunset. So those are the boundaries of the visible portion of the Earth. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 17 '15 at 15:30
  • @Aditya By the way, do you happen to have a link for the Atharvana Veda in Sanskrit, preferably in Itrans or something where you can copy and paste text from it? – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 17 '15 at 15:33
  • That would make sense to say that the Ashwini Kumaras "mark" the boundaries of the Earth in the sky with the stars. – AdityaS Feb 17 '15 at 17:07
  • Yes, here's a site that offers a romanization of the Atharva Veda: titus.uni-frankfurt.de/texte/etcs/ind/aind/ved/av/avs/avs.htm. Unfortunately, you can't copy and paste from it, but it's the only transliterated version of the Atharva Veda that I could find. This is a Devanagari version: is1.mum.edu/vedicreserve/atharva_veda/atharva_veda.pdf, but you can't copy and paste from it. – AdityaS Feb 17 '15 at 17:10

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