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
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
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 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)