Turtles (and elephants) all the way down?

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Apr 6 02:34:11 UTC 2010

The notion that elephants support the Earth probably comes from 
assertions about nAgas fulfilling that role, as in HarivaMza
62.24 (CE):

...nAgAnAm upariStAd bhUH...

A nAga is a snake, but it can also  be an elephant, although in 
cosmological contexts such as this one a snake seems more likely. The 
serpent ZeSa is said in the PurANas to lie below the pAtAlas and to 
uphold them and the Earth. The nAgas are also sometimes protectors of 
the four directions, and this would further explain the assignation of 
elephants to the directions.

See Niklas Muller's 1822 cosmological rendering: elephants above a 
turtle above a snake. Viewable from Gretil (top of second illustration):



Luis González-Reimann

on 4/2/2010 9:01 AM Lance Nelson wrote:
> Many in this group, but perhaps not all, will be familiar with the 
> importance of Bedawang Nala, the world turtle of Balinese myth, who 
> supports the earth on his back and is typically portrayed in sculpture 
> at the base of the Balinese padmasana altars.
> A quick reference:
> Long ago the island of Bali drifted on the waves, as vulnerable as a 
> frail
> boat. The gods, in their mercy, decided that this would not do. They 
> removed the
> top of the sacred Mount Meru (in some versions from India, in others 
> from Java)
> and had it brought to the island by three enormous nagas-serpents with 
> crowns
> on their heads and jewels on the end of their tails-named Basuki, 
> Anantaboga,
> and Taksaka, who are commonly held to be incarnations of the deities 
> Wisnu,
> Brahma, and Siwa. The nagas lashed the mountain to the island, and 
> then anchored
> to it the cosmic turtle Bedawang, and so things still remain. Renamed
> Gunung Agung ("Great Mountain"), the mountain stabilized the land, making
> human habitation possible, and it was on or above the mountain that 
> the gods
> themselves remained.
> Doors of Perception: Power and Representation in Bali
> Author(s): Margaret J. Wiener
> Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Nov., 1995), pp. 472-508
> Cheers!  Lance
> On 4/2/2010 at 8:22 AM Toke L. Knudsen wrote:
>> Continuing with references to the earth being supporting by a single 
>> tortoise

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