This is a short summary and some extracts from a story contained in the Tripura Rahasya.
The story caught my attention because the ideas about space and time are similar to ancient Irish stories where the Sídhe/ Shee (magical ancestors called the Tuatha De Danann) live inside hills or mounds, and where if one goes to Tír na nÓg (the Land of the Young) time is different there. While a day elapses there, hundreds of years pass in this mortal world. The fairy hordes were often said to ride out to battle having emerged from the side of a hill, the same as happens in the story of Ganda Hill.
Summary of the beginning of the story....
The characters are
Mahasena, who is the brother of Susena, the King
Gana, who is the sage
and the Sages Son...
Susena, the King, wanted to perform a horse sacrifice. The horse was let loose to roam over the Kingdom, to be followed by his army of Princes, with the intention of being brought back to be sacrificed. The Princes were so engaged in following the horse that they passed by the sage Gana, who was deep in meditation, without saluting him. Their bad manners enraged Gana's son, who kidnapped the horse and brought him inside a hill. Later the sage's son emerged from the hillside with a huge army and fought the Princes, capturing many and bringing them inside the hill.
A few who escaped went back to Susena, the King, to tell him what had happened. The king sent his brother, Mahasena, to intercede with the Sage, for the release of his Princes.
Mahasena found that Gana the Sage was deep in meditation and could not be disturbed. The sage's son appeared before Mahasena, having been impressed by the respect shown towards his father, and by his own yogic powers he brought his father out of meditation. Gana said to the boy...
'Be a good boy and return the horse and the princes immediately. Do it at once so that the sacrifice may be performed at the appointed hour.'
Directed thus, the sage's son was immediately appeased. He went into the hill, returned with the horse and the princes and released them with pleasure.
Mahasena, in wonder, asked how the horse and the Princes had been concealed within the hill. Gana told him his story. Once upon a time, Gana had been the Emperor of a vast land, but had given it all up for the life of an ascetic. He had come to live in the forest with his wife. She bore him a son, but died thereafter, and he had raised the son himself. Upon hearing that his father had once been an Emperor, the son had the desire to experience what it would be like to rule over a great empire too. Gana said to Mahasena...
I initiated him in yoga which he practised with such success that he was able by the force of his will to create a world of his own in this hill which he is now ruling.
Of course, this made Mahasena even more curious. Now he wanted to see the world within the Hill. The sage's son explained how he would have to leave his gross body at the entrance and enter inside via his subtle body, but Mahasena was frightened to throw off his human form. The sage's son (refered to now as the saint) helped him, and took his subtle body inside. Mahasena was scared by the etheric world...
"He was alarmed on looking in all directions and requested the saint, 'Do not forsake me lest I should perish in this illimitable space.' The saint laughed at his terror and said, 'I shall never forsake you. Be assured of it. Now look round at everything and have no fear.'
"The king took courage and looked all round.
He saw the sky above, enveloped in the darkness of night and shining with stars. He ascended there and looked down below; he came to the region of the moon and was benumbed with cold.
Protected by the saint, he went up to the Sun and was scorched by its rays. Again tended by the saint, he was refreshed and saw the whole region a counterpart of the Heaven.
He went up to the summits of the Himalayas with the saint and was shown the whole region and also the earth. Again endowed with powerful eye-sight, he was able to see far-off lands and discovered other worlds besides this one.
In the distant worlds there was darkness prevailing in some places; the earth was gold in some; there were oceans and island continents traversed by rivers and mountains; there were the heavens peopled by Indra and the Gods, the asuras, human beings, the rakshasas and other races of celestials.
He also found that the saint had divided himself as Brahman in Satyaloka, as Vishnu in Vaikunta, and as Siva in Kailasa while all the time he remained as his original-self the king ruling in the present world. The king was struck with wonder on seeing the yogic power of the saint.
The sage's son said to him: 'This sightseeing has lasted only a single day according to the standards prevailing here, whereas twelve thousand years have passed by in the world you are used to. So let us return to my father.'
"Saying so, he helped the other to come out of the hill to this outer world."
The sage's son walked Mahasena around the hill afterwards, showing him how it was 2 and a half miles in circumference, ad yet it had contained whole Universes. Mahasena was very upset because life as he knew it had disappeared. The sage's son said to Mahasena...
"Look, O King! the circuit of the hill is hardly two miles and a half and yet you have seen a universe within it. Is it real or false? Is it a dream or otherwise? What has passed as a day in that land, has counted for twelve thousand years here, which is correct? Think, and tell me. Obviously you cannot distinguish this from a dream and cannot help concluding that the world is nothing but imagination. My world will disappear instantly if I cease contemplating it.''
(Tripura Rahasya is said to be narrated by Dattatreya. Tripura means Three Cities, and these three cities are Waking, Dreaming and Sleeping - the three states of consciousness. Rahasya means Mystery. Tripura Rahasya is a Shakta scripture, unconventional for its time and place. It was a favourite of Ramana Maharshi.
I cannot say what is the true import or symbolism of the tale of Ganda Hill, as I am not experienced or qualified to do so. I post it here for others to ponder if they wish, and to come to their own understanding and inspiration as to the meaning behind the tale. In some ways it suggests the Universe is unreal, and yet the Shakta texts do not generally pursue that line. The Shakta texts differ from the Vedantic texts in that way - they do not dismniss the world as ''unreal''. The Goddess who has manifested as all things seen is real, and thus her creations - though they are but mirrored reflections - are real in the sense that the underlying infinite consciousness behind them is real. Well, that is my limited understanding and may be incorrect. You will have to investigate yourself...)