Friday, January 19, 2018

Divya and Dharma - the two sides of the Yuga classification (Part 3)

 Previous articles:   Part 1 & Part 2

Yuga Dharma as basis for Human time scale

At several places, after the narration on Divya Yugas, the narrator switches over the Dharmic levels of different yugas. Dharma stands on all 4 legs in Krita, on 3 legs in Treta, on 2 legs in Dwapara and on only one leg in Kali yuga. The entry of a yuga is also known by the symptoms of degeneration of Dharma. For example, even though the Kali Maha Yuga of the Devas started after the exit of Krishna, the entry of Kali Purusha was stalled by Parikshit who allowed only a few sinful activities to take place. This gives rise to the opinion that (1) the exact entry date of a yuga is negotiable and (2) dharma is an indicator of yuga.

The entry date of a yuga of the Devas is non-negotiable as we know from the Sankalpa mantras. But Dharma is not fixed at all times. It oscillates thereby giving a leeway for a yuga to extend or retract. Before going into further details, let us know about a major feature associated with the end of a Divya yuga which is absent in other references to a switch over form one yuga to another.

This feature is the calamitous end witnessed at the end of a Yuga.

End of the Yuga – conflicting references.

At several places in Mahabharata we come across a description of fire, described as universal fire, samvartaka fire or Yuga fire. (MB 6-59, 7-198) This is also followed by a roar of clouds and universal floods (MB 7-142). Bheeshma describes a phenomenal fire engulfing all the worlds at the end of 1000 yugas, that is, at the end of a kalpa (MB 12-47).

Fire and deluge

The nature of fire is deduced from the reference to 2 blazing suns witnessed at the end of a yuga. Whenever two personalities were afflicted by weapons or in war with each other Mahabharata compares them with the 2 blazing suns at the end of a yuga.

(1) Krishna and Arjuna, afflicted by the arrows of Ashwatthama looked like 2 blazing suns seen at the end of a yuga (MB 8-17).

(2) Bheema and Ashvatthama looked so (MB 8-15)

(3) Nakula and Karna looked so (MB 8-24)

(4) Karna and Arjuna looked like 2 planets that arose for the destruction of the world at the end of the yuga (MB 8-87)

An understanding of what the 2nd sun stands for is known from the passage that describes the war between Yudhidhthira and Shalya. The blazing dart hurled by Yudhishthira at Shalya looked “like a large meteor falling from the skies at the end of the Yuga.” (MB 9-17)

This solves mystery of 2 suns at the end of the yuga. One of them is the sun. The other is an asteroid or meteor falling on the earth. It catches fire on falling and looks like a sun. An asteroid blazing like a sun must be huge in size and its impact will be felt globally.

This kind of catastrophic end of a yuga is not found in some other descriptions on the end of yuga!

Smooth transition between yugas.

In the passages describing the advent of Kalki Avatara, we find a smooth transition from Kali yuga to Krita yuga! There is no yuga fire or yuga flood or death and destruction at the end of this Kali yuga. Instead there is reference to reclamation of values and ethics thereby heralding the Krita yuga. The destruction is only of those that are causing the decay in Dharma.

Vishnu Purana 3-2 says, “ the end of the Kali or fourth age he (Vishnu) appears as Kalki, and reestablishes the iniquitous in the paths of rectitude.” 

Vishnu Purana 4-24 says, “By his irresistible might he (Kalki) will destroy all the Mlechchhas and thieves, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will then reestablish righteousness upon earth; and the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened, and shall be as pellucid as crystal. The men who are thus changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who shall follow the laws of the Krita age, or age of purity.”

 The same is echoed in Mahabharata in the words of sage Markandeya to Yudhsihthira (MB 3-189-190). He says that at the end of Kali yuga, Kalki will be born and

he will restore order and peace in this world crowded with creatures and contradictory in its course. And that blazing Brahmana of mighty intellect, having appeared, will destroy all things. And he will be the Destroyer of all, and will inaugurate a new YugaAnd surrounded by the Brahmanas, that Brahmana will exterminate all the mlecchas wherever those low and despicable persons may take refuge.

Having exterminated the thieves and robbers, Kalki will, at a great Horse-sacrifice, duly give away this earth to the Brahmanas, and having established anew the blessed rectitude ordained by the Self-create, Kalki, of sacred deeds and illustrious reputation, will enter a delightful forest, and the people of this earth will imitate his conduct, and when the Brahmanas will have exterminated the thieves and robbers, there will be prosperity everywhere on earth.”

The entire basis of this transition is DHARMA!

Basis of Yuga Dharma

The transgression of Dharma had happened many times in the past leading to overlapping of yugas. How was order restored in those times? A question similar to this was raised by Yudhishthira to Bheeshma in Mahabharata 12-139. In reply to this, Bheeshma quotes a dialogue between Sauvira king Satrunjaya and sage Bharadwaja.

Sauvira belongs to the Sindhu (Indus) region – the region that is now proved beyond doubt to have been a manufacturing and trading hub at the time of and after Mahabharata. Interestingly true to the nature of this region, Satrunjaya asked about the science of Profit! The questions included everything connected with trade, like acquiring an object, increasing the object, protecting the object and using the object leading to the generation of profits. How to get them all done? Bharadwaja’s reply is simple – establishment of the rod of chastisement of the king!

When the king is Dharmic, everything will fall in line.

100%  of it makes Krita yuga, 3/4th of it makes Treta yuga, ½ of it makes Dwapara yuga and ¼ th of it makes Kali yuga.

Ruler / king decides the Yuga.

Following are the references to Yuga being decided by the conduct (dharma) of the king (and therefore the people).

'O bull of Bharata's race, that Krita, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali, as regards their setting in, are all dependent on the king's conduct.'  (MB: Shanti parva -140)

'Whether it is the king that makes the age, or, it is the age that makes the king, is a question about which thou shouldst not entertain any doubt. The truth is that the king makes the age. The king is the creator of the Krita age, of the Treta, and of the Dwapara. The king is the cause of the fourth age called Kali. '  (MB: Shanti parva – 68)

'When the king properly abides by the penal code, without making any portion of it a dead letter, then that best of periods called the Krita Yuga sets in. Let not this doubt be thine, viz, whether the era is the cause of the king, or the king the cause of the era, for know this to be certain that the king is the cause of the era. It is the king that creates the Krita, the Treta, or the Dwapara age. Indeed, it is the king that is the cause of also the fourth Yuga viz, the Kali' Kunti (MB: Udhyoga parva -132)

“The king is the lord and father of the whole universe. He is time, he is Yuga and he is the creation, mobile and immobile. He is called Dharma because he holdeth all. It is Dharma that upholdeth all mankind. It is by Dharma that the three worlds are being preserved”.  (Valmiki Ramayana: 7-71)

In Kali yuga, the rule of law or Dharma is established by Kalki, thereby ushering in Krita yuga.
One must remember that this yuga scale is applicable to Bharata varsha ONLY (MB 6-10).

The Divya yuga measurement of time with destruction and deluge is applicable to the whole world at the end of each yuga and to the solar system at the end of Kalpa. But the cyclical repetition of 4 yugas measured by Dharma is applicable to Bharata varsha only. Every time a transgression of Dharma takes place Bhagawan appears (avatara) in this land only.  The identification of a yuga in terms of Dharma is reiterated by Narada, Hanuman, Vyasa and Markandeya among others which can be read in the Itihasas.

Treta yuga of Ramayana

The most important question is when did Treta Yuga of Ramayana happen?

Instant answer is that it did not happen lakh years ago as that scale pertains to Divya Yuga of the Devas and Brahma (galactic).

Thoughtful answer is that it happened some time before Krishnavatara when Dharma was 3/4th of what was in Krita yuga. Some notable features of this yuga are - there is no untimely death of kids, food is produced with little effort (like not breaking the earth but by sprinkling the seeds), kings are engaged in yajnas, presence of many Vedas, Brahmins and kshatriyas practicing emancipation etc. However overlap of yugas is reported in the Treta Yuga of Ramayana. Two such instances are found in Treta yuga that give us a better perspective on how the yugas were identified by our ancestors and sages.

Krita and Kali in the Treta Yuga of Rama.

War clouds had reached Lanka and Malyavan, the maternal grandfather of Ravana tried to convince Ravana to call for a truce with Rama. In that context Malyavan talks about Yugas being formed by Dharma!

He says that Dharma is on the side of ‘suras’ and ‘mahatman’ (high- souled Devas). Adharma is on the side of ‘asuras’ (demons) (VR:6-35-13)

When Dharma swallows Adharma, it becomes Krita yuga; when Adharma swallows Dharma, it stimulates Kali yuga. (VR: 6-35-14)

Therefore, while you (Ravana) were wandering in the worlds, Dharma was destroyed and you favoured Adharma. So the enemies are stronger than us. (VR: 6-35-15)

These 3 verses imply that in the period of Ravana, Kali yuga has appeared because Adharma was favoured by him as a king. When the king (ruler) is adharmic, the yuga is that of Kali. Though it was Treta Yuga, Kali had entered by the acts of Ravana.

But once he was over powered by Rama and Dharma was restored, that moment was Krita yuga.

Once Rama ascended to throne, it was Treta yuga dharma in place. Presence of 1/4th of Adharma in that period can be ascertained from many instances found in Uttara khanda which describe the rule of Rama. As an example, one can quote the suffering caused to a dog by a Brahman in penury (VR: 7- 70 & 71)

Krita in Treta yuga of Janaka.

There is reference to Krita yuga during the rule of Janaka of Mithila who was the father-in-law of Rama. This finds mention in Mahabharata (12-308) in a dialogue between Janaka and Sulabha, a bhikshuki about emancipation. Mahabharata says, ‘atha dharmayuge’ – in that Dharma yuga, referring to Krita yuga where Dharma is full.

The reason for this reference to the yuga of Janaka is known from the context where this appears. Yudhishthira asks Bheeshma whether there was anyone who attained emancipation without abandoning the domestic mode of life (Grahasthasrama). In reply Bheeshma picks out Janaka and starts the narration by referring to his yuga as Krita or Dharma yuga.

In Krita yuga there was no differentiation between ashramas and all Brahmins were engaged in emancipation. In Treta Yuga the ashrama differences have appeared and kshatriyas were entitled to seek emancipation. But that can happen only in the last two stages of Ashramas and not in the householder phase. But Janaka, though engaged in kingly duties and householder’s duties behaved like one from Krita yuga where these differences were nil. Janaka’s endeavour for emancipation finds a special mention in Bhagawad Gita also. His practice was that of one in Krita yuga.

This incident shows how pockets of other yugas can happen with reference to individuals. The previous case involving Malyavan shows how other yugas occur for regions when dharma is transgressed by the king.

Treta in Dwapara yuga.

Similar kind of overlap is reported in Mahabharata wherein sage Lomasa identifies a place in the river Yamuna as a junction of Treta yuga and Dwapara yuga. (MB: 3-125) The Dharma of the running yuga was Dwapara. But Treta was also noticed at that place. Looking for hints in those passages we do come across references to availability of food without effort and sacrifices done by kshatriyas like Mandhata. These two features are those of Treta yuga. The surroundings brimming with the flora is that of Treta. That continued till the times of Pandavas of Dwapara yuga when they visited that place. Sage Lomasa had identified that place as one where Treta and Dwapara co-existed.
Another reference of a similar kind is also found in Mahabharata reinforcing the idea that Yuga was identified on the basis of Dharma and there is scope for overlapping of yugas.

Kali in Treta Yuga.

In a holy spot in the region of river Narmada, sage Lomasa identifies a junction of Treta and Kali yuga (MB: 3-121) The narration takes place in Dwapara yuga and therefore Dharma had not yet declined to the level of Kali yuga then. But in that location, Kali yuga had overlapped with Treta yuga -the yuga that was supposed to be more Dharmic than Dwapara. The context lays bare the reasons for this reference.

In that place a Brahmin sage by name Chyavana was doing penance and the Kshatriya king Saryati was conducting many yajnas. These two practices are typical of Treta Yuga. The penance of Chayavana was so severe that an anthill covered him in due course. At that time the King Saryati with his family was camping at that place. The king’s daughter Sukanya was happily playing around. Everything is perfect. But the sage happened to see her through the gaps in the ant hill and kept watching her with lust and without her knowledge. This is Kali yuga Dharma! Kali had sprung in Treta yuga here.

The story goes further which can be read in Mahabharata. For our understanding another incident also happened here. Sukanya who was by now Chyavana’s wife had gone to fetch water. There she was spotted by the Aswin brothers who desired her even after coming to know that she was a married woman. Thus grave adhramic actions that are characteristic of Kali yuga were happening in Treta yuga at that location.

With all these, why that location and era came to be known as Treta Yuga? The reason is that even with all the transgressions that had happened, Dharma of the measure of Treta yuga was restored soon. Aswins regained their composure and Chayavana did a break-through yajna in which for the first time Aswins were offered Soma. Such an event can happen only in Treta Yuga.

Dwapara in kali yuga.

The overlap happened even in recent times of Kali yuga. The Vaishnavite text called ‘3000-padi Guru parampara prabhavam’ identifies four  Azhwars of the Vaishnavite tradition as belonging to Dwapara yuga. Other Azhwars were born in Kali Yuga. But it is well known from one of hymns of the four Azhwars (of Dwapara yuga), that they had lived in the former centuries of the Common Era under Pallava-rule.

One of the four Azhwars, by name Bhoothataazhwar specifically mentions about ‘Maamallai’ (olden name for Mahabalipuram) in his hymn (2nd Tiruvandhathi – 70). This name came into being only after the Pallava king. So it is very clear that this Azhwar and the other three who were his contemporaries had lived during Pallava reign in the present Kali Yuga. But why then the Acharya had written that they belonged to Dwapara yuga?

The only plausible explanation is that the reign of the Pallava king was more Dharmic with ½ in its fold as in Dwapara. Since the tradition is to identify by means of legs of Dharma, they have been identified as being born in Dwapara yuga.


In any reference to a yuga, one must look at its context, whether referring to Divya yuga or Dharma Yuga and make a rational and realistic assessment of span of life and span of yuga under consideration. The Dharma yuga also follows the same order like Divya yuga from Krita to Kali, though there is absolutely no specific time limit given by any sages anywhere in the texts for the duration of each of the Yuga in Dharma scale. The incidents of overlap of other yugas within a yuga shows that such rigid span of a yuga was not supported by the sages. The rigid span is only applicable to Divya yugas.

The Yuga is only assessed by the measure of Dharma for human beings. Though one can experience yugas of higher Dharma even in this Kali yuga by means of thought, word, action and satsang, it is for those fortunate few to enjoy the higher Dharma. For, the decider of the Yuga is the king – in today’s conditions, the rule of Law. That has an overpowering effect on our lives in this Bharata varsha.

Salutations to our sages for the knowledge of yugas given to us through which we strive to shed darkness to attain Light.    


Divya and Dharma - the two sides of the Yuga classification (Part 2)

What is Yuga?

(Continuing from Part 1) the basic unit of Jupiter cycle is known as Yuga. Every yuga in this system contains a constant number of just 5 years. Twelve such yugas constitute a cycle. The total duration of a cycle is 60 years.

There is another Yuga that is best recognized through Kali yuga. In this system 4 yugas constitute a single unit called a Maha yuga, but none of them have the same length of time. The Maha yuga forms the basis of the cycle. The total duration of a Maha yuga is 43,20,000 years.
Thus we have 2 yuga systems in vogue with clear-cut variations between them.

What are those variations?

(1) The foremost variation is palpable from the very meaning of Yuga.
Yuga means a ‘pair’ and yuga also means an ‘aeon’. One yuga is a pair of ascending and descending measures of time and the other refers to a very long measure of time and has no ascending and descending phase.

(2) One yuga has equal number of years and the other has unequal number of years.

(3) One finishes a cycle within man’s life span of 100 years and the other finishes a cycle in just half a day in the life of Creator Brahma.

The Yuga as a pair

The word Yuga is derived from the word ‘Yugma’ which means a double or a twin or a pair. Whenever an ascent and a corresponding descent exist together, it is known as a Yuga.

A day is a Yuga, because it constitutes a day time and a night time.

A month (lunar) is a Yuga, because it constitutes waxing and waning phases of moon.

A year is a Yuga, because it constitutes 2 ayanas.

Similarly there is a 5 year period having two 2 and a half year periods. This is based on equalizing the solar and lunar months.

The sun takes 365.25 days to move from one star and to reach the same star which makes a year.
But the moon finishes this round in 354 days in a year.

The difference between these two is 11.25 days.

In this way the moon finishes an extra month of 29.15 days in every two and a half years.  This extra month is known as Adhika masa.

One round of Adhika masa coupled with another round of adhika masa, makes it a Yuga, This is the 5-year Yuga used in Vedic culture, known as “Pancha varshatmaka Yuga”

This is the yuga identified by Vedanga Jyothisha,- for fixing the time for doing rituals. A completion of 7 rounds of this yuga (7 X 5 = 35) makes one cycle. On the 36th year Jupiter will be in Kumbha rashi starting a fresh cycle. It is because a fresh cycle starts on the 36th year, Gandhari’s curse on Vrishnis came into effect on the 36th year – after the completion of the running cycle. There is reference to the start of a new Era or Yuga every 36th year, in the Panchavimsa Brahmana of Sama veda when a yajna was performed. This yuga scale was in use in Vedic culture and continued during Mahabharata times also.

This cycle is related to the movement of Jupiter. But sometime later, this cycle was substituted by Kumbha Mela. The 4 Kumbha Melas in the 12-year round of Jupiter coincide with the end of completed (Pancha varshatmaka) yugas and the mid points between them (Details here).

This Yuga system must have become redundant soon after the Uttarayana started slipping backwards to Sravana. It is because Dhanishta (the next star of Sravana) has an important place in the Jupiter cycle. It is in Dhanishta Jupiter re-appears after conjunction with sun. The currently available Vedanga Jyothisha authored by Lagadha containing the details of this 5-year Yuga was written when the winter solstice (Uttarayana) was at Dhanishta.  

This yuga system would have held relevance throughout the ascending period of Uttarayana when the winter solstice started to shift from Mula 3 degrees to Dhanishta – 20 minutes (beginning of 2nd pada). At that maximum extent of Uttarayana, the Northern Equinox (Vishu) will be at the 1st pada of Krittika at 20 minutes. That is the maximum the ‘ayana-chalanam’ or the oscillation of the equinox goes. (The ayana-chalanam or oscillation of the equinox spreads to the extent of 27 degrees on either side of zero degree Aries)

Now the ayana-chalanam, i.e., the oscillation of the equinox (precession) is left-ward or southward or downward, crossing backwards through Capricorn. It coincided with zero degree Capricorn in the beginning of the Common Era. In this downward movement, Vedanga Yuga ceased to exist but the 60 year Jupiter cycle was retained having the same names as before. The names of 60 years currently in vogue throughout India originally belonged to this Jupiter cycle of 60 years made by 12 times the 5 year yuga. We have lost the memory of this yuga in due course.

The Yuga as an aeon

The Yuga as a ‘pair’ was explained above. There is another Yuga which refers to a long duration of time. It just means aeon. This is not a pair because there is no ascending and descending measure of time in this system. There are only 4 divisions of unequal length by names Satya or Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. After the completion of the last division namely Kali yuga, there is no reversal by a descending order. Instead the next cycle begins from the 1st division namely Krita yuga.

Thus one can find two important variations between the two yugas in vogue in the Vedic culture. The former is a pair, while the later is not. The former has fixed number of years (5 years) for each division of the Yuga whereas the later has 4 divisions of unequal length.

The 3rd variation is that the former was the time keeper of the Vedic life.
The later has two applications, one for Devas of the celestial realms and another for Dharma for human beings. Clarity between these two would solve any question on Yugas and related issues.

Maha yuga of Devas.

Many texts of Vedic Thought talk about the span of Brahma in terms of 4 yugas, krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. All of them begin from the solar year that is easily understood by us. But as they progress they bring in “Divya” year or year of Devas. ‘Div’ means light. It is about the stars that emit light. And Purusha is recognised as having ‘Nakshatrani rupam’. Therefore whenever we come across the term Divya term, we must understand that it is about galactic scale.

In this system,
1 solar year = 1day of Devas
360 days of Devas = 1 year of Devas = 360 solar years.
360 years of Devas = 1 day of Brahma = 1 night of Brahma (each known as Kalpa)

When Brahma’s day time is going on, creation of life takes place. When Brahma’s night Kalpa is on, there is no activity of life.

The age of Brahma is 100 years based in this scale of Kalpa that refers to the day and also the night. Two Kalpas make one day of Brahma. 360 days in this scale make 1 year of Brahma, 100 such years is the longevity of Brahma!

One half of this age is over now. That means the present Brahma has completed 50 years of age. He is now in his 51st year and the current Kalpa is the first Kalpa in this 51st year.

Given below is the split-up of this yuga scale upto a Kalpa (a day of Brahma) as given in Surya Siddhantha and repeated in Puranas.

1 souramana (solar year) = 12 month sojourn of the Sun around the zodiac.
4,32,000 souramana = Basic unit of a Yuga
4,32,000 x 1 = Kaliyuga = 4,32,000 souramana (includes 2 sandhi of 1/6th duration of itself)
4,32,000 x 2 = Dwapara yuga = 8,64,000 souramana ( ” )
4,32,000 x 3 = Treta yuga = 12,96,000 souramana (” )
4,32,000 x 4 = Satya yuga = 17,28,000 souramana (” )

Total = 43,20,000 souramana = 1 chatur Maha Yuga = 4 yugas (satya + treta + dwapara + kali)
71 Chatur Maha Yugas = 30,67,20,000 souramana = 1 Manvanthra

(since every manvantra is followed by a period called sandhi which is equivalent to 1 satya yuga),

1 manvantra + 1 sandhi = 30,67,20,000 + 17,28,000 = 30 84,48,000 souramana

Like this,

14 sandhi + 14 manvantra = 4,31,82,72,000 souramana

1 kalpa = (14 sandhi + 14 manvantra) + 1 kalpa sandhi

= 4,31,82,72,000 + 17,28,000

= 4,32,00,00,000 souramana (= 1000 Chatur Maha yuga)

= 1 kalpa = a day of Brahma deva = a night of Brahma deva.

This is roughly equivalent to 20 rounds of the Sun around the Galactic center
(Modern science calculates 1 round to be roughly around 220 million years)

This yuga classification running into millions and billions of years is suitable to express the life span of stars (nakshathras which are considered to be Devas )

The same span is differently told by sage Markandeya in Mahabharata.

Markandeya on Yuga.

In Mahabharata (3-187) sage Markandeya says the following to Yudhishthira. The sandhi is 10% of the respective yuga and is added before and after the respective yuga.

Krita Yuga = 400 + 4000 + 400 = 4,800 (years)
Treta Yuga = 300 + 3000 + 300 = 3,600
Dwapara    = 200 + 2000 + 200 = 2,400
Kali Yuga  = 100 + 1000 + 100 = 1,200
Total                    = 12,000 (years)

This gives rise to an opinion that these years refer to solar years applicable to earth. No, it is not so, when we see the next line of this description.

After saying that Krita yuga dawns again after Kali yuga, and “a cycle of the Yugas thus comprised a period of twelve thousand years”, Markandeya goes on to say,

A full thousand of such cycles would constitute a day of Brahma”.

A Brahma means a Kalpa which is equal to 4,32,00,00,000 solar years.

Here the cycle he has given contains only 12,000 years. There is no reference to whether they are solar years or Divya years. A 1000 of this cycle makes it 120,00,000 years only which is not the duration of a Brahma or Kalpa.

But if we take the 12,000 years of this cycle as Divya years we get 12,000 X 360 = 43,20,000 solar years which is the duration of a Chatur Maha yuga.

1000 times that duration is 4,32,00,00,000 solar years which is nothing but the span of a Kalpa.
Therefore 12,000 year cycle containing the split-up of the 4 yugas as given by Markandeya applies to Devas only.

Vasishtha on Yuga.

The same as above is repeated by sage Vasishtha to King Karala of Janaka’s race, found in the narration by Bhishma to Yudhishthira in Mahabharata (12-302). When asked by Karala what is destructible and what is indestructible, Vasishtha refers to Brahma identified by the Chatur Maha Yugas as destructible. He says,

Twelve thousand years, according to the measure of the celestials, make a Yuga, four such Yugas taken a thousand times, make a Kalpa which measures one day of Brahman. Brahman's night also, O king, is of the same measure when Brahman himself is destroyed.”

Vasishtha also refers to the 12,000 years as given by Markandeya but refers to it as the measure of Devas. The four yugas put together make 12,000 years of Devas. 1000 times of this measure is the day of Brahma. It is also the same measure for the night of Brahma when he goes to sleep when everything gets destroyed. This narration emphasises that it is wrong to apply  the 12,000 year split-up for human life.

Narayana on Yuga.

In another place in Mahabharata we find a reference by Markandeya himself concurring with this scale of Divya yuga . (MB 3-188) In the narration of Markandeya, Narayana as the Universal Atman says that “for a period measured by a thousand times the length of the Yugas, I who am the Universal Soul sleep overwhelming all creatures in insensibility.”

This refers to the night time Kalpa. The reference to 1000 times the length of the Yugas could only be about 12,000 year Divya yugas multiplied by 1000 giving rise to the extent of a Kalpa (4,32,00,00,000)

So wherever the Yuga scale appears in terms of Divya years or with the basic unit of 4,32,000 years or 43,20,000 years (Chatur Maha Yuga) or 12,000 years which goes upto 1000 times, one must understand it is on galactic scale.

Today this Yuga scale is greatly misunderstood and confused with avatars and human life. People think that Rama was born in the Treta Yuga of this scale, which in scientific terms occurred after early man started walking upright (Homo eructus) and before Homo sapiens evolved.

One must also know that the Manvantra of this scale roughly constituting 30 crore years represent the early period of formation of the Himalayas when the Indian plate started colliding with the Eurasian plate. The kind of human species that formed since then have evolved into what we are today – this is the inference we gain from the concept of Manvantra.

The above two ideas must convince people not to cling on to the Chatur Maha yuga scale for human life and avatars.

Then, what for this scale is valid?

Utility of Chatur Maha yuga of Devas in mundane life:

The Chatur Maha Yuga is primarily used in the context of dik, desa and kaala.

Dik (direction), desa (country) and kaala (time) are the most important factors in any work.

When someone wants to say or convey something, he / she will say the place and time from where he / she is speaking or communicating. This is about desa.

Dik is also important as desa, because the division of earth into north and south in terms of ayana makes a difference to the other two, namely, desa and kaala.

Dik is important for another reason too as it is relative to desa and time (night or day). So any religious rite that has to be done, is carried out first by stating the place of performance in terms of dik, desa and kaala.

Kaala is not just about day or night at a place. It is about a time in the month (solar / lunar month), in the paksha, in the ritu, in the ayana, in the 60 years rotation (prabhavaadhi) of the sun (Jupiter cycle), in the divya yuga, in the manvantra, in the kalpa and in the context of Para (parama ayuL of Brahma).
This line of progression from the lowest unit to the highest unit is reversed in practice and is said from the highest to the lowest, for, only then it will make sense!

It is like how it is said that I am the great grandchild of so and so, grandchild of so and so and child of so and so. We start from the higher unit or that which forms the Whole and deduce from that, our relationship or position at the bottom level. It is from the Whole, the location of the Part is known.

Any religious rite starts with a sankalpa or vow in this way by identifying oneself with dik, desa and kaala. The running yuga of the running Kalpa forms the backdrop of Sankalpa in which one commits to do a religious act. Since the religious act is directed towards Devas, the Sankalpa is done in the Kala-parimaaNa of Divya Yugas. This cannot become the justification for yuga scale for humans, for another reason, that at human level Yuga-cycle is known by Yuga dharma only.

(To be continued) 

Divya and Dharma - the two sides of the Yuga classification (Part 1)

Part 2 & Part 3

Vishnu Purana declares that “Knowledge is of two kinds, that which is derived from scripture, and that which is derived from reflection...the knowledge that is derived from reflection breaks upon the obscurity like the sun.” (VP: 6-5) Such knowledge is ‘discriminative knowledge’ that can analyse and make a distinction between what is right and what is not right. This is told in the context of analysing and understanding the word “Brahman” in the scriptures (VP: 2-12). In current times there is another word that needs to be understood through discriminative knowledge. That word is “YUGA”!

There are misconceptions about Yuga doing rounds, the implications of which threaten the very rationale behind the Yuga concept. This article addresses the issues around yuga including the length of life of man in different yugas. To begin with let us see the issues around them and the inconsistencies found in those issues. 

Issues and inconsistencies:

The following are the basic and the most commonly aired views on Yugas and related issues. The issues themselves look untenable in the face of the inconsistencies ingrained in them.

Issue 1: When we say ‘yuga’, many people think that it is about the four yugas namely, Satya or Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali maha yugas each running into lakhs of years. Of these we are in the Kali Maha yuga, something well established in the Sankalpa mantras. The preceding yuga of Dwapara must have gone on for 8,64,000 years and Ramayana must have occurred before that as it had happened in Treta Yuga.

Inconsistency: To say that Rama was born anytime before 8, 64,000 years sounds completely irrational, because the Homo sapiens that we are, have evolved only 3, 15,000 years ago. So by this Yuga scale we are putting Ramayana in an unrealistic time period when man was not yet born. This issue also derides the wisdom of the rishis, in that, those who had  conceived  the yuga scale running into millions of years that match with reality, could not conceive the time period of man.

Issue 2:  This unrealistic time frame makes Ramayana a myth rather than a reality. It is not even possible to claim historicity of Ramayana as everything from geological to climatic conditions could have been different from now and from the description given in Ramayana. In this background, nothing related to Ramayana including the Janma bhumi can be claimed to be authentic.

Inconsistency: The fact is that Ramayana is an Itihasa – a true chronicle of the life of Rama. This is not possible if Rama was to have lived lakhs of years ago when the geography, flora and fauna explained by Valmiki could not have existed. On the other hand the flora, fauna and monsoonal description found in Valmiki Ramayana match with the current era of Holocene.

Issue 3: The long years of life attributed to Rama and Dasaratha match well with long life attributed to people of those former yugas. Rama had ruled for 11000 years and Dasaratha had lived for 60,000 years. And this concurs with Sanjaya’s version to Dhritarashtra on span of life in different yugas. 3000 years was the measure of life in Treta Yuga when Rama lived.

Inconsistency: There are two inconsistencies in this issue: 1. the human body can’t exist for that long. 2. If Rama had ruled for 11,000 years, it also means that all his three brothers had lived that long. They were born around the same time and departed along with him at the same time. Why is there no mention of the same life span for Lakshmana and other brothers in Ramayana? Similarly if Dasaratha had lived for 60,000 years, what was the life span of his three spouses who outlived him? Why is there no mention about them?

A look at these issues and inconsistencies show that somewhere there is a mismatch between our understanding of the Yuga-scale and the age of man with what has been originally told by the rishis. So let us begin from what the rishis had actually said about the life span of man.

The life span of man according to Vedic culture

Vedic Thought assigns basic life-span of 100 units for the Creator God, that is, the Four-faced Brahma. Brahma lives for 100 years of age. The duration of each year is measured by Yuga.
The same 100 units are assigned to human beings also, but the duration is measured by years and seasons.

(1) From RV 1-89 -9.
The famous Shanti mantra “Bhadram karNebhi” found in Mundaka, Mandukya and Prasna Upanishads belongs to Rig Vedic mantra on Visvadevas seeking mainly healthy and long life. And how long the Rishi had asked for? It is for 100 autumns! Within that time scale the body decays and the children would have become fathers. Let there be no intervention within this life span so that one may live a full life of 100 years. 

 “śatamin nu śarado anti devā yatrā naścakrā jarasaṃ tanūnām |
putrāso yatra pitaro bhavanti mā no madhyā rīriṣatāyurghantoḥ

“A hundred autumns stand before us, O ye Gods, within whose space ye bring our bodies to decay;
Within whose space our sons become fathers in turn. Break ye not in the midst our course of
fleeting life.”

What do we infer from this?

The human body decays within 100 years and it is not possible to pull on beyond that. Issue no 3 is addressed here. Vedic Thought is practical to the core and does not assign 1000s of years to people on earth.

(2) Mid-day prayers to Sun.
Of the three time salutations to the Sun known as Sandhyavandana, the mid-day vandana prays for a life time of 100 autumns or years, nothing less and nothing more. The prayer is to see the sun for 100 years, live for 100 years, live with joy and fame for 100 years, hear good words for 100 years and live without being won by bad deeds for 100 years. Everything that one can aspire for is asked for duration of 100 years only.

(3) Valmiki Ramayana 5-34-6
Sita also echoes the longevity of 100 years in her dialogue with Hanuman at Ashoka vana. On seeing Hanuman having come to redeem her from distress she utters an adage of her times, “yehi jivantam aanandho naram varsha shathaath api”. It means ‘Happiness rushes to the surviving man even though (it be) at the end of a hundred years”. Coming from Sita, this dialogue and adage cannot be ignored as she lived in Treta Yuga when Dasaratha was said to have lived for 60,000 years and Rama ruled for 11,000 years.

(4) Chandogya Upanishad 3-16.1 to 16.7
Human life is a yajna consisting of 3 phases. The morning phase consists of 24 years, the noon phase consists of 44 years and the evening phase consists of 48 years. Having known this, the sage Mahidasa also known as Aitareya conquered diseases and lived for 116 years. One who realises this lives for 116 years. 

All the above shows that there was no confusion among the ancient rishis on how many years man can expect to live. It is for 100 years. There are other verses in addition to the above but they don’t exceed 120 years. Parasra foresees a maximum of 120 years for human beings in his work, Brihad Parasara Hora Sastra. But the general life expectancy is 100 years of age that is well established in the hymn of blessing - ‘Shatamaanam bhavathi shataayu: purusha:…’ Anything other than this span of life cannot be taken at face value. One must apply discriminatory sense of knowledge to understand such passages.

Contradiction to 100 years of age.

Having known that Vedic Thought had pitched for only 100 years of life, any passage to the contrary must be understood without transgressing this notion. Rishis were always fond of telling things secretly. They had not given us everything as ready-made. They had wanted us to think, imbibe and churn out thoughts that are in consonance with what they had given. In this backdrop, the verses from Mahabharata on life span in the 4 yugas must be studied.

Sanjaya tells Dhritharashtra in Mahabharata (6- 10), that 4000 years is the measure of life in Krita Yuga; 3000 in Treta yuga and 2000 in Dwapara Yuga. There is no fixed duration of life in Kali yuga. Some people tend to interpret this as actual life span of a person in those yugas which is against Nature and also against Vedic wisdom – some of which were outlined above. When we look at these verses along with the context, the context unravels the mystery of the numbers of other yugas.

While expressing the number of years in Kali yuga, Sanjaya does not give a number but just says that people die in the womb and also as soon as after birth. This is not so in the other yugas, where men get children in hundreds and thousands. Dying in the womb or at an young age means that the lineage gets ended with them. This means two things (1) the physical valour, energy and heath are low in Kali yuga to procreate and sustain life after birth and (2) there is no continuing lineage of a person for many generations in Kali yuga. One can witness lineages being short or coming to an end abruptly in Kali yuga. That is the import.

This was not so in the earlier yugas with Krita yuga leading on top. Begetting progeny in hundreds and thousands cannot be taken to mean literally but could mean that there was an unbroken and continuing lineage in those yugas. In the Rig Vedic verse quoted above, the prayer was to live for 100 years within which time sons become fathers. This verse visualizes a continuing thread of the lineage.  At the most the lineage continued unbroken for 4000 years in Krita yuga. It was so for 3000 years in Treya Yuga when Ramayana happened. The list of ancestors of Rama and Sita narrated at the time of their marriage shows how their family tree had continued to exist before them uninterruptedly. This is not the case with people born in Kali yuga.  

 Have people lived across Yugas?

There is another issue in this context of people having lived across yugas. Persons like Hanuman and Muchukunda had appeared in different yugas. There are others too who are supposed to live permanently for ever (chiranjeevi). Is this possible? What do texts say about this?

Hanuman of Treta Yuga appeared to Bheema of Dwapara yuga in Mahabharata 3:145-148. (In his dialogue with Bheema, Hanuman describes the yuga system). His appearance in another yuga as an evidence of continuing existence makes some people think that here is a case of long life of 1000s of years of those yugas.

In this context let me draw the attention of readers to a similar incident reported in recent times. Many would have heard about Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the ‘Father of Modern Yoga’. The Yoga as we know today has sprung up from him. How did he get his knowledge about Yoga? It was from his distant ancestor Nathamuni, the first Acharya of Srivaishnava tradition. Nathamuni himself had received all the hymns of Divya Prabhanda from Nammazhwar of by-gone times, who appeared in person before him cutting across time. 

In a somewhat similar way Natahmuni appeared to Krishnamacharya and imparted his composition on Yoga sastra. (Read “The Yoga of the Yogi: The Legacy of T. Krishnamacharya” by T. Krishnamacharya’s grandson Kausthub Desikachar). In today’s language we can say that Nathamuni did a time travel to the 20th century and imparted his knowledge to Krishnamacharya. In traditional language of the Vedic culture it can be said that Nathamuni 
continues to live across Time.

Similar instances like this have been reported from time to time. The appearance of Hanuman and Muchukunda in different time periods can also be explained in this way. There is a textual authority for this kind of long life cutting across Time.

In his book Brihad Parasara Hora sastra, sage Parasara does mention about the probability of very long life to those born under certain planetary conditions. Certain combinations in Dasa varga give rise to limitless longevity, living till the end of a yuga and living the life span of a sage. (Verses 55-58 in the chapter on ‘Longevity’). These combinations give rise to yogis and siddhas who live beyond their destructible physical form and appear as they are and at will to those to whom they want to appear.

By having appeared to Krishnamacharya a century ago, we may say that sage Nathamuni had lived for a definite span of 1000 years. Hanuman will live for as long as Rama nama lives on earth. His yogic power and determination will make him live across the millennia and appear to those whom he wants to.

What is implied is that some persons are endowed with a very long life span, and are not bound by physical laws. But they are exceptions. They cannot be quoted as examples for long life supposedly associated with yugas. 

People living for 1000s of years – myth or reality?

There is a basic measure of life for man (quoted above) and Vedic culture identified it as 100 years. This is true scientifically too. But there is also a tradition in the same Vedic culture to assign numerous numbers of years to a person. Particularly kings have been praised as having 1000s of years of life. King Dasaratha lived for 60,000 years; Rama ruled for 11,000 years; and in the Tamil lands, the Pandyan king Maakeerti in whose court Tolkappiyam of the 3rd Sangam age (started around 1500 BCE) was inaugurated, was in throne for 24,000 years.

Though all this looks like poetic exaggerations, there is a calculation behind them. This is known from the Tamil Sangam composition called ‘Paditru Patthu’, in which the poet ‘Perum kundrur Kizhar’ gives the following equation for the age of the Cheran king ‘Kudakko Ilanjeral Irumporai’. (verse 90)

1 day in King’s life = 1 month
1 month = 1 year
1 year = 1 Oozhi (duration not known, but it refers to deluge)
1 Oozhi = 1 Varambu (duration not known, but could refer to deluge after a Mahayuga)

Similar view is echoed in Mahabharata wherein Bheema says that for an exalted person observing certain difficult vows of Vedic culture, one day (ahorātraṃ) is equal to one year. Yudhsithira was one such exalted person. At the expiry of first thirteen days after they commenced exile, he is deemed to have completed 13 years in exile. Therefore they can go back to Kauravas and reclaim their lands.

21 tathā bhārata dharmeṣu dharmajñair iha dṛśyate
     ahorātraṃ mahārāja tulyaṃ saṃvatsareṇa hi
 22 tathaiva veda vacanaṃ śrūyate nityadā vibho
     saṃvatsaro mahārāja pūrṇo bhavati kṛcchrataḥ
 23 yadi vedāḥ pramāṇaṃ te divasād ūrdhvam acyuta
     trayodaśa samāḥ kālo jñāyatāṃ pariniṣṭhitaḥ )
(Mahabharata 3-49).

This tradition if applied to Rama, equates 11,000 years of his rule to 31 years. The same applied to Pandyan king Maakeerti shows that 24,000 years of his rule was actually for 66.6 years.
The same rule if applied to Dasaratha who was supposed to have ruled for 60,000 years comes to an unrealistic span of years. So here we have to apply discriminatory sense of understanding. The king was old and was in throne for a long time. It appeared that even 60 years of his age or rule looked like 60,000 years!

The underlying idea is that time is relative with respect to experiences and perceptions! The period of 14 years of exile was not expressed as a long period in Ramayana. But the one year of confinement in Lanka could have been felt like an aeon by Sita. In this connection one can quote a story involving sages Vasishtha and Vishwamitra in which a second of satsanga offered by Vasishtha was able to hold the weight of the world held by Adisesha, than 16,000 years of tapas of Vishwamitra!

True nature of things, if can be known better by long measures of time, then rishis have indulged in such kind of talks. It is for us to understand their messages without violating the basic norms set by them.  

Rule of Rama for 11,000 years.

In Valmiki Ramayana, Narada tells Valmiki that for 11,000 years “Ramo rajyam upaasitva Brahma lokam prayaasyati” (VR 1-1-97). There is an incongruity in this verse.

Does this verse convey that Rama lived for long as to be in the throne for 11,000 years? It is not possible, for, this is contrary to the 100 year concept of Vedic culture.

Then how to reconcile the incongruity?

The reverence to Rama and Rama rajya (Rama-rajyam upaasitva) continues to exist till this date in this country.

Before entering the Sarayu Rama tells Hanuman, “As long as my story is spoken off in this world, till then bear your praana as per my commands" (VR:7- 98-25)

So Hanuman continues to be around, as Rama-nama is still being chanted. So the Rama rajya of 11,000 years is not yet over.

When Rama is completely forgotten, that marks the end of 11,000 years of Rama’s rule. At that time Rama in the form as the king of Ayodhya would have faded from memory – thereby implying that it had reached the realms of Brahma Loka. Within this period of 11,000 years, Rama can appear to anyone whom he wills. Beyond that period, He can still appear in any form to those who aspire to see Him, for, He is Brahman. This feat is possible for Brahman anytime and at all times, in the grand scale of Time

Next we will move on to what is Yuga and what is meant by the long years associated with Yugas.

Time scale in vogue in the 19th century

We generally believe that the Chatur Yuga system was in vogue all these days. This is based on the Sankalpa mantra in which time is counted from Kali yuga that started in 3102 BCE in the Gregorian calendar. But there were different yuga systems in use in different parts of India at the time of British occupation. Prominent one was Parasurama yuga of 1000 year duration followed in the regions of Malaya from Mangalore to Cape comorin. (See here). In south Indian regions including Madurai, Grahaparivrithi cycle of 90 years was in use. In other regions, the eras named after kings were in use.

However the 60 year cycle of Jupiter era was widely in use across India and also in Tibet. A modified form of it was in use in China. The names of the years of this cycle of Jupiter continue even now throughout India (Prabhava etc). These 60 years keep repeating endlessly in this system. This system of Jupiter has its origins in Vedanga Jyothisha of Rig Veda. Its basal unit consists of 5 years which was originally called as a YUGA!

(to be continued)