Bhutanese thangka of Mount Meru and the Buddhist universe, 19th century, Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa, Bhutan.

Mount Meru (Sanskrit/Pali: मेरु), also known as Sumeru, Sineru, or Mahāmeru, is the sacred five-peaked mountain of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology and is considered to be the centre of all the physical, metaphysical, and spiritual universes.[1] The mountain is also mentioned in some scriptures of non-Indian based religions such as Taoism, which was influenced by the arrival of Buddhism in China.[2] There is no clear identification of Mount Meru with a particular geophysical location but it is always located in Himalayan or Aravali ranges.

Many famous Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist temples have been built as symbolic representations of this mountain. The "Sumeru Throne" 須彌座 xūmízuò style base is a common feature[citation needed] of Chinese pagodas. The highest point (the finial bud) on the pyatthat, a Burmese-style multi-tiered roof, represents Mount Meru.


Etymologically, 'meru' in Sanskrit means 'high'. The proper name of the mountain is Meru (Sanskrit: Meruparvata), to which is added the approbatory prefix su-, resulting in the meaning "excellent Mount Meru" or "sublime Mount Meru".[3] Meru is also the name of the central bead in a mālā.[4]

In other languages

In other languages, Mount Meru is pronounced:


The dimensions attributed to Mount Meru — which all refer to it as a part of the Cosmic Ocean, along with several other statements that describe it in geographically vague terms (e.g., "the Sun along with all the planets circle the mountain") — make the determination of its location most difficult, according to most scholars.[6][7]

Several researchers identify Mount Meru or Sumeru with the Pamirs, northwest of Kashmir.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

The Suryasiddhanta mentions that Mt. Meru lies at the centre of the Earth ("bhuva-madhya") in the land of the Jambunad (Jambudvīpa). Narapatijayacharyasvarodaya, a ninth-century text, based on mostly unpublished texts of Yāmal Tantr, mentions:

"Sumeruḥ Prithvī-madhye shrūyate drishyate na tu"
(Sumeru is heard to be at the centre of the Earth, but is not seen there).[15]

Several versions of cosmology can be found in existing Hindu texts. In all of them, cosmologically, the Meru mountain was also described as being surrounded by Mandrachala Mountain to the east, Suparshva Mountain to the west, Kumuda Mountain to the north, and Kailasha to the south.[16]

In Buddhism

Main articles: Buddhist cosmology and Mount Meru (Buddhism)

According to Buddhist cosmology, Mount Meru (or Sumeru) is at the centre of the world,[17] and Jambūdvīpa is south of it. It is 80,000 yojanas wide and 80,000 yojanas high according to the Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam[18][19] and 84,000 yojanas high according to the Long Āgama Sutra.[5] Trāyastriṃśa is at its peak, where Śakra resides. The Sun and the Moon revolve around Mount Meru, and as the Sun passes behind it, it becomes nighttime. The mountain has four faces — each one made of a different material; the northern face is made of gold, the eastern one is made of crystal, the southern one is made of lapis lazuli, and the western one is made of ruby.[17]

In Vajrayāna, maṇḍala offerings often include Mount Meru, as they in part represent the entire universe.[20][21] It is also believed that Mount Meru is the home of the Buddha Cakrasaṃvara.[22]

In Hinduism

Main article: Hindu cosmology

The cosmic tortoise, and Mount Meru

Hindus believe Mount Meru to be a stairway to Svarga, a heaven where the devas reside.[23] Meru is considered as the center of the universe and is described as 84,000 yojanas high, about 1,082,000 km (672,000 mi), which would be 85 times the Earth's diameter. One yojana can be taken to mean about 11.5 km (9 miles), though its magnitude seems to differ over periods — for example, the Earth's circumference is 3,200 yojanas according to Varahamihira and slightly less so in the Aryabhatiya, but is said to be 5,026.5 yojanas in the Suryasiddhānta. The Matsya Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, along with some other Hindu texts, consistently give the height of 84,000 yojanas to Mount Meru, which translates into 672,000 miles or 1,082,000 kilometers. The Sun and Moon along with all the planets revolve around Mount Meru which connects the earth with the under world and heaven with Shiva residing on top of the mountain at Kailasha.[24][25] Gods and devas are described as frequenting Mount Meru.[26]

According to the Mahabharata, Meru is located amidst the Himavat range between Malayavat and Gandhamadhana mountains. Some scriptures indicate that Shiva resides in a horn of the mountains called as Saivatra.[24] Mahabharata further states that the mountain gleans of gold when the rays of the sun fall on it and is said to contain lovely woods, lakes, rivers adorned with fruit trees, precious stones and life saving herbs. It also describes Meru as the means to reach heaven and only a being without any sins would be able to scale it.[24] Meru is also said to be the residence of Kubera who lives near a golden gate with a lake called Alaka adorned with golden lotuses and sweet tasting water from which Mandakini river arises.[24] As per the Mahabharata, the Pandavas along with their wife Draupadi, traveled towards the summit of the mountain as a means to reach the heaven but only Yudhishthira who was accompanied by a dog, was able to make it.[27]

The Hindu epic Ramayana describes Kailash and Lake Manasarovar located in the Mount Meru as places unlike anywhere in the world.[24]

Vishnu Purana states that Meru is a pillar of the world, located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus. It also states that the four faces of Mount Kailash are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli.[23] It further talks about Shiva sitting in a lotus position, engaged in deep meditation within the confines of the mountain.[28] The mountain is home to four lakes, whose water is shared by the gods and four rivers that originate from the Ganges and flow to the earth. The Vayu Purana describes similarly with the mountain located close to a lake consisting of clear water with lotuses and lilies decked with water birds.[24] Bhagavata Purana places Kailash as located south of Mount Meru. Skanda Purana mentions that the mountain is located amongst the highest peaks, perpetually covered with snow.[24] Mount Meru was said to be the residence of King Padmaja Brahma in antiquity.[16]

This mythical mountain of gods was mentioned in the Tantu Pagelaran, an Old Javanese manuscript written in the 15th-century Majapahit period. The manuscript describes the mythical origin of the island of Java, as well as the legendary movement of portions of Mount Meru to Java. The manuscript explains that Batara Guru (Shiva) ordered the gods Brahma and Vishnu to fill Java with human beings. However, at that time, Java island was floating freely on the ocean, always tumbling and shaking. To stop the island's movement, the gods decided to nail it to the Earth by moving the part of Mahameru in Jambudvipa (India) and attaching it to Java.[29] The resulting mountain is Mount Semeru, the tallest mountain in Java.

In Jainism

Painting of Mount Meru from Jain cosmology from the Samghayanarayana

Main article: Jain cosmology

According to Jain cosmology, Mount Meru (or Sumeru) is at the centre of the world surrounded by Jambūdvīpa,[30] in the form of a circle forming a diameter of 100,000 yojanas.[31][32] There are two sets of sun, moon, and stars revolving around Mount Meru; while one set works, the other set rests behind Mount Meru.[33][34][35]

Every Tirthankara is taken to the summit of Meru by Indra shortly after his birth, after putting the Tirthankara child's mother into a deep slumber. There, he is bathed and anointed with precious unctions.[36][37] Indra and other Devas celebrate his birth.


The concept of a holy mountain surrounded by various circles was incorporated into ancient Hindu temple architecture with a Shikhara (Śikhara) — a Sanskrit word translating literally to "peak" or "summit". Early examples of this style can be found at the Harshat Mata Temple and Harshnath Temple from the 8th century CE in Rajasthan, Western India. This concept also continued outside India, such as in Bali, where temples feature Meru towers.

In Buddhist temples, the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is the earliest example of the 5th- to 6th-century depiction. Many other Buddhist temples took on this form, such as the Wat Arun in Thailand and the Hsinbyume Pagoda in Myanmar.

See also


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  3. ^ C., Huntington, John (2003). The circle of bliss : Buddhist meditational art. Bangdel, Dina., Thurman, Robert A. F., Los Angeles County Museum of Art., Columbus Museum of Art. Chicago: Serindia Publications. ISBN 1932476016. OCLC 52430713.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  14. ^ Singh, M.R., Dr. (1971). India: Studies in the proto-history of India. p. 17.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ cf. second verse of Koorma-chakra in the book Narpatijayacharyā
  16. ^ a b Mittal, J.P. History of Ancient India: From 7300 BC to 4250 BC. p. 3.
  17. ^ a b Robert Beer (2003). The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. Boston: Shambhala. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-1590301005.
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  31. ^ Cort, John (2010) [1953], Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-538502-1
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