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Loka in Hinduism


Loka is a Sanskrit word for "world". In Hindu mythology it takes a specific meaning related to cosmology.

Hindu tradition

In the Puranas , and already in the Atharvaveda , there are fourteen worlds, seven higher ones ( vyahrtis ) and seven lower ones ( patalas ), viz. bhuu , bhuvas , svar , mahas , janas , tapas , and satya above and atala , vitala , sutala , rasaataala , talatala , mahaatala , patala and naraka below.

The scholar Deborah Soifer describes the development of the concept of lokas as follows:

The concept of a loka or lokas develops in the Vedic literature. Influenced by the special connotations that a word for space might have for a nomadic people, loka in the Veda did not simply mean place or world, but had a positive valuation: it was a place or position of religious or psychological interest with a special value of function of its own.
Hence, inherent in the 'loka' concept in the earliest literature was a double aspect; that is, coexistent with spatiality was a religious or soteriological meaning, which could exist independent of a spatial notion, an 'immaterial' significance. The most common cosmological conception of lokas in the Veda was that of the trailokya or triple world: three worlds consisting of earth, atmosphere or sky, and heaven, making up the universe."

There are 14 Lokas (worlds; not to be confused with planets). Seven higher worlds (heavens) and seven lower ones (underworlds). The earth is considered the lowest of the seven higher worlds.

The higher worlds are the seven Vyahrtis: Bhuu, Bhuvas, Svar, Mahas, Janas, Tapas, and Satya above.
And seven Paatalas (lower worlds) are: Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasaataala, Talatala, Mahaatala and Paatala Loka.
  1. Satya-loka: Brahma's loka. Satya-loka planetary system is not eternal. Abode of Truth or of Brahma, where atman are released from the necessity of rebirth.
  2. Tapa-loka: Abode of tapas or of other deities. Ayohnija devadas live here.
  3. Jana-loka: Abode of the sons of God Brahma.
  4. Mahar-loka: The abode of great sages and enlightened beings like Markendeya and other rishies.
  5. Svar-loka: Region between the sun and polar star, the heaven of the god Indra. Indra, devatas, Rishies, Gandharvas and Apsaras live here: a heavenly paradise of pleasure, where all the 330 million Hindu gods (Deva) reside along with the king of gods, Indra.
  6. Bhuvar-loka (aka Pitri Loka): Sun, planets, stars. Space between earth and the sun, inhabited by semi-divine beings. The a real region, the atmosphere, the life-force.
  7. Bhur-loka: Man and animals live here. The Vishnu Purana says that the earth is merely one of thousands of billions of inhabited worlds like itself to be found in the universe.

    Different realms of Patala are ruled by different demons and Nagas; usually with the Nagas headed by Vasuki assigned to the lowest realm. Vayu Purana records each realm of Patala has cities in it.
  1. Atala-loka: Atala is ruled by Bala - a son of Maya - who possesses mystical powers. By one yawn, Bala created three types of women - svairi?is ("self-willed"), who like to marry men from their own group; kami?is ("lustful"), who marry men from any group, and the pu?scalis ("whorish"), who keep changing their partners. When a man enters Atala, these women enchant him and serve him an intoxicating cannabis drink that induces sexual energy in the man. Then, these women enjoy sexual play with the traveller, who feels to be stronger than ten thousand elephants and forgets impending death.
  2. Vitala-loka: Vitala is ruled by the god Hara-Bhava - a form of Shiva, who dwells with attendant ganas including ghosts and goblins as the master of gold mines. The residents of this realm are adorned with gold from this region.
  3. Sutala-loka: Sutala is the kingdom of the pious demon king Bali.
  4. Talatala-loka: Talatala is the realm of the demon-architect Maya, who is well-versed in sorcery. Shiva, as Tripurantaka, destroyed the three cities of Maya but was later pleased with Maya and gave him this realm and promised to protect him.
  5. Mahatala-loka: Mahatala is the abode of many-hooded Nagas (serpents) - the sons of Kadru, headed by the Krodhavasha (Irascible) band of Kuhaka, Taksshaka, Kaliya and Sushena. They live here with their families in peace but always fear Garuda, the eagle-man.
  6. Rasatala-loka: Rasatala is the home of the demons - Danavas and Daityas, who are mighty but cruel. They are the eternal foes of Devas (the gods). They live in holes like serpents.
  7. Patala-loka: The lowest realm is called Patala or Nagaloka, the region of the Nagas, ruled by Vasuki. Here live several Nagas with many hoods. Each of their hood is decorated by a jewel, whose light illuminates this realm.



The 14 Lokas/Worlds Of Hinduism

In many Hindu scriptures there are 14 worlds/levels that are generally talked about. They are divided into two groups of seven each. The first group is said to be above earth,i.e, related to human elements directly. While the second group is said to be part of the nether world,i.e, below the earth. I would like to clarify that the word 'level' does not mean status here and is instead used as a  means to physically represent these various worlds (like the levels/floors of a building). The names of the worlds are given below along with the name of the deity/element who accommodates that level.

Bhuvarloka - Sky/Akaash
Swarloka - Lord Indra
Maharloka - Lord Vishnu
Janarloka - Humans
Thapoloka - Saints/Sages
Satyaloka - Lord Brahma
Athathala - Vala the son of Lord Yama
Vithala - Lord Paramashiva
Suthala - King Mahabali
Rasathala - Asuras /Demons
Thalathala - Mayamayi
Mahathala - Sarpa
Pathala - Naga


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