Here is the verse from Ramayana that mentions the islands of Java and Sumatra.

यत्नवन्तो यव द्वीपम् सप्त राज्य उपशोभितम् |
सुवर्ण रूप्यकम् द्वीपम् सुवर्ण आकर मण्डितम् || ४-४०-३०

The Ramayana clearly states the sea-route from Jambhudvipa (India) starting from its east coast to what is today known as Indonesia. The route mentions the islands of Java & Sumatra and Shalmali Dwipa which is identified as Australia. 

The Ramayana also states that located on the further end of Shalmali Dwipa (Australia) as we travel from India, is located a massive structure that Valmiki, the author of Ramayana, writes was constructed by the celestial architect Vishwakarma, its peak as high as that of Mount Kailash! For more about the voyage to Shalmali Dwipa and the megalithic structure constructed by Vishwakarma click here .

In the times of the Ramayana Java was known as Yava. Some sources say that Java was known for its barley terraced fields and hence its name – yava (यव) which in Sanskrit means ‘barley’.

The name Java is a distortion of Yava. Here is a quote from about the shift of the name Yava to Java, “Regarding the difference between the names of Yava and Java the word ya in Sanskrit becomes ja in vernaculars. Hence Yava became Java, as ‘simha puri’ or ‘lion-city’ became the present day Singapore”

The 9th century Prambanan Shiva Temple in Java

On this point of Yava/Java island as said in Ramayana, Sri Kedarnath Basu notes in his ‘Hindu Civilization’: ‘The reader may note here that java dwiipa described as consisting of seven kingdoms was probably the group of islands now called the Indian Archipelago, of which Java was at that time the most powerful’

Murajambi Temple, Sumatra

Sumatra was known in ancient times by its Sanskrit name of ‘Swarnadwipa’ (Island of Gold) as is mentioned in the Ramayana. Its other name was Svarnabhumi (सुवर्ण भूमि) or ‘Land of Gold’, because of the gold deposits of the island’s highland. Later the name Svarna (सुवर्ण) meaning ‘gold’ changed to ‘Samudra’ (समुद्र) meaning ‘ocean’ and finally ‘samudra’ distorted into ‘Sumatra’.

Another inhabited island in the region mentioned in the Ramayana is the ‘Rupayakam dvipa’ – which means the ‘silvern island’. Sometime in the 7th century AD, its name changed to ‘Bali’ from its name then which was ‘Jambrena’. It is said that with the arrival of a maharishi by the name Markandeya around 7th century, clearing of forests and a ritual planting of Panca Dhatu (पंचधातु) , namely the five types of elements that are believed to be able to withstand the hazards was undertaken. The Maharishi taught meditation and worship of the Gods with offerings that contained three elements: water, fire and fragrant flowers. The island therefore came to be named after the  word ‘offering’ which is ‘bali’ (बलि) in Sanskrit.

A scene from the Ramayana
in a Bali Opera


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