By Swami Harshananda
The purāṇas describe the universe as comprising 14 worlds. They are:
- 7 being above this bhuloka or earth
- 6 being below this earth
These six are generally given the name Pātālalokas. However, Mahātala is the fourth nether world starting with Atala just below this earth. It is supposed to be inhabited by multi-headed serpents all descendants of the sage Kaśyapa and his wife Kadru. Some of the chief ones among them are:
Though they are terrible in appearance and cruel by nature they live in eternal fear of Garuḍa the great eagle-mount of Lord Viṣṇu, an inveterate enemy of theirs.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore