In the Bhagavad-Gita Gita, we find a statement that there are three divisions of material planes (regions) or planets in our universe. They are “urdhva-loka” (highest), “madhya-loka” (middle), and “adho-loka” (lower). Above the urdhva-lokas are the coverings of the material universe, beyond which lie the eternal realms of existence. Within these three spheres of existence are 14 main regions with different standards of life and duration of existence.
The 14 regions are named as follows, from highest to the lowest: 1) Satyaloka, 2) Tapaloka, 3) Janaloka, 4) Maharloka, 5) Svarloka, 6) Bhuvarloka, 8) Atalaloka 9) Vitalaloka, 10) Sutalaloka, 11) Talatalaloka, 12) Mahatalaloka, 13) Rasatalaloka, and 14) Patalaloka.
This is the abode of Lord Brahma, the progenitor of this material universe. Here, there are some types of air-planes controlled by mantra, not by any mechanical means. The residents have mind and intelligence, but no material gross bodies. They feel compassion for those suffering in the lower regions, but do not suffer from fear, old age, or death.
At the time of final dissolution of the material planets, the residents here transform their subtle bodies into spiritual bodies and enter the eternal Vaikuntha region or plane. Great yogis finally reach this highest plant through the Milky Way, which is the ”highway” to this most elevated planet, where the duration of life is calculated as 15,480,000,000,000 Years.
This is the abode of the four Kumaras named Sanat, Sanaka, Sanandana, and Sanatana. In this port of the universe, many great sages also reside due to their advancement through spiritual austerity. The enjoyment available to the residents is inconceivable to us, as it is beyond anything within our experience. When there is annihilation of the material universe, the residents here also transform their subtle bodies to spiritual and enter the spiritual world.
This planet, sill above the heavenly realms, is another abode of great saints and sages. This region is populated by mystics, who move to higher levels, and eventually transform their subtle bodies to spiritual, when the fire of devastation consumes the material possessions. These residents can move between any region within the material universe as mystic “spacemen” at speeds unthinkable to us.
When fully purified from material desire and contamination through sacrifice, penance, and charity, one can reach the heavenly planes, and if advance further can pass through the higher orbits to reach Maharloka. The greatest of sages, such as Bhrigu Muni, live in this place. It is situated beyond the “Sisumara”, which is the pivotal point for the turning of the universe.
Advanced yogis reach this region and live here for 4,300,000,000 solar years. When the fire of devastation almost reached this region, the residents transport themselves to Satyaloka where they live further before this highest plateau of region is destroyed. They then transform their subtle bodies to spiritual and enter the spiritual realms.
In every material universe is one Vaikuntha region with an ocean of milk where Lord Vishnu resides on an island called Svetadvipa. This region is Dhruvaloka. Living here are personalities completely pure. In our universe, this planet is seen as the polestar and is situated above the planes of the Seven Rishis. As it is a spiritual body, it is eternal and therefore remains when all other planes within the material universes are destroyed. It is said that this region is the pivot for the orbits of all material stars and planets.
All planets travel at high speeds in orbit, including the sun, which travels 16,000 miles per second in its orbit around Dhruvaloka. The planets of the seven sages are stars just below this plane that also orbit Dhruvaloka. They are always concerned with the welfare of the living entities within this material world and send emissaries to bring spiritual knowledge at various times and circumstances.
Saturn is considered an inauspicious planet astrologically, as it gives painful lessons to us here on earth. It is situated 1,600,000 miles beyond Jupiter and passes through one sign of the zodiac every 30 months.
Jupiter is considered the most auspicious heavenly planet and is generally considered favorable astrologically, depending on placement at the time of our births here on earth. It is a planet of devas, and situated 1,600,000 miles beyond Mars.
Mars is considered to be a malefic planet, which creates lack of rainfall on earth and almost always is capable of creating unfavorable influences. It is situated 1,600,000 miles beyond Mercury.
Mercury is said to be the son of the Moon and is 1,600,000 miles beyond the planet Venus. As does Venus, it sometimes movies behind the Sun, sometimes in front, and sometimes along with it. Generally the influence of Mercury is said to be auspicious astrologically, except when not moving with the Sun. At such times, this planet causes great storms on earth.
Beneath the higher worlds, in the sly, are the residences of the Yakshas, Rakshashas, Pisachas, ghosts, and other ethereal beings. This realm extends as far as the wind blows and the clouds move in the sky.
Venus is considered an auspicious and favourable planet. It is said to bring rainfall, another reason for it being considered auspicious to sustain life on earth.
The Moon is one of the four very important residences of the demigods. Those who worship the demigods. Those who worship the demigods through sacrifice aimed at great material enjoyment are promoted to the Moon. Here the celestial, intoxicating beverage called “soma” is available. It is not possible to enter into or even see the actual heavenly dimensions of this planet with our present human eyes. The Moon passes through the entire zodiac in approximately one month. He influences the growth of vegetation and therefore considered the life-giver for all living beings on earth.
The Sun is the sources of light and heat for our universe. Modern science considers many stars also to be Suns, but in the Vedic literature, they are considered to be planets of varying material elements, (not the centre, as is the Sun). Surya, the sun god, is considered an expansion of Lord Narayana (a form of Lord Vishnu).
Sun controls the seasons here on earth. It is situated between Bhuloka and Bhuvarloka, rotating through the time-circle of the zodiac. Yogis practicing Hatha or Ashtanga yoga, or those performing agnihotra sacrifices, worship the Sun form their benefit. The demigods belonging to the Sun region have bodies made of fire, necessary for life here.
Rahu is said to be an invisible planet, which is situated 80,000 miles below the Sun. It causes solar and lunar eclipses, as Rahu, along with Ketu, are the North and South nodes of the Moon respectively.
Siddhaloka, Caranaloka, & Vidyadharaloka
These regions are 80,000 miles below Rahu. The residents of these regions are born with natural mystic powers, including the ability to fly without mechanical means, even to other planets. They have all the mystic siddhis, and being materially perfect beings can control gravity, time, and space. Their arts, culture, and sciences are far superior to the knowledge possessed by us here as in the earthly realm.
Yakshaloka & Rakshashaloka
Beneath these higher plateaus in the sky called “antariksha”, are the residences of the Yakshas, Rakshashas, Pisachas, ghost, under the other etheral beings. This realm extends as far as the wing blows and clouds are in the sky. Above this there is no air.
All the regions in the material world will, in course of time, be annihilated. This annihilation of the material world is the exact reverse of the process of creation. Everything ultimately rests within the Supreme Absolute.
Bhu-mandala (Middle Earth)
The planetary systems of the middle of the earth (Bhumandala or Bhuloka) are abodes of both standards of living such as we enjoy on our planet, as well as some heavenly abodes, where living being may “stop” on the way to, or from, births in the heavenly planetary systems. There are seven planetary systems, which are divided by seven oceans. The names of the planetary systems are Jambu, plaksha, Salmali, kusha, Krauncha, Shaka, and Pushkara. Each system is twice as large as the one preceding it and each ocean between the systems are made respectively of salt water, sugarcane juice, liquor, ghee, milk, emulsified yogurt, and sweat water.
Bhumandala is shaped like a lotus flower and the seven planetary systems are in the whorl of the lotus. The radius of Bhumandala extends as far as the sunshine, and the limits of our vision here to see the stars and moon. As the sun shine reaches from a distance of 93,000,000 miles, this is the radius of the plane of the Bhumandala.
Below the earth are seven other systems called Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, and Patala. These lower planes are the same size as the earth and begin 560,000 miles below earth. Sunshine does not reach these areas. These regions are populated by persons of great power and opulence, yet of demoniac consciousness, who have reached here through austerity aimed at material enjoyment without spiritual development. They do not become old and diseased and fear only the time factor, which ultimately must destroyed their abodes. Therefore they are given the name of “bilasvarge”, or subterranean heavenly planets.
The residence here enjoy a standard of material comfort more opulent then even the higher planets, due to their desires for high standards of sensual enjoyment wealth, and influence. The residents are known as Daityas, Danavas, and Nagas and are all engaged in illusory material enjoyment with no thought of spiritual liberation. There are incredible feats of architecture in their cities bedecked with valuable jewels in houses, gardens, compounds, etc. All residents drink juices and bathe in herbal elixirs, which free them from any anxiety or physical disease, as well as any sigh of physical aging.
The visual beauty of these artificial heavens surpasses that of the higher planets and this sensual atmosphere completely capture the mind, allowing no thoughts but those directed toward sensual pleasure and happiness. Since time is not divided into days and night due to sunshine NOT reaching these planets, they have no fear produced by time. Only at the time of dissolution do anxiety and fear consume them.
Narakaloka, the Hell
Beneath the patalaloka, and slightly above the water of the Garbhodaka Ocean, are the Narakalokas, or the hell. These regions indicate of different degrees of suffering for those who must endure life there. Here on earth, we can see many hellish circumstances of suffering for people, but nothing like what is experienced on these planets. They are said to be a place of rectification for those who commit the most abominable actions while living as humans on the earthly plane.
Although life here seems like it goes on for an eternity, in actual fact the duration of one’s “karmic sentence” here may be only seconds or moments. There are 28 different hellish planets described in the Vedic literatures. These descriptions of the material creation, as well as the spiritual planets, may be found in several Vedic literatures to a far greater depth.
All of the planetary systems in the material world will, in course of time, be annihilated. This annihilation takes place in two ways. Partial annihilation occurs every 4,300,000,000 solar years, or at the end of each day on Satyaloka. This extends from the hellish regions through all lower planetary systems up to the heavenly planets. The highest regions are not annihilated at this time. The entire cosmic manifestation is wound up in the universal form of God every 8,600,000,000x30x12x100 solar years.
The spiritual world, which is never annihilated, simply absorbs the material creation. It is described that before the destruction, there is no rain for hundreds of years everything dries up and dies due to continuous sunshine. The sum becomes 12 times as powerful as was previously. Then there are horrendous rains that absorb everything into water. The mortal bodies of living entities, including all vegetation, merge into the earth. The earth merges into its subtle sensation of fragrance.
Fragrance merges into water, and water merges into its quality of taste. That taste merges into fire, which merges into form. Form merges into touch and touch into ether. Ether finally merges into the sensation of sound. The senses all merge into their origins, the presiding devas and demigods, then they merge into the controlling mind which merges into ego in the mode of goodness. Sound becomes one with ego in the mode of ignorance, and ego (the first of all the physical elements), merges into the total nature.
The total material nature dissolves into the modes (goodness, passion, and ignorance). These modes then merge into the unmanifest form of nature, and that unmanifest form merges into time. Time merges into the Supreme Godhead, present as Maha Vishnu, the original creator of the cosmic manifestation. The origin of all life merges into God, the unborn Supreme Soul, who remains one without a second, and from whom all creation and annihilation takes place. This annihilation of the process of creation. Everything ultimately rests within the Supreme Absolute.