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Friday, January 19, 2018
Two types of Yugas (Part 2)
Divya and Dharma - the two sides of the Yuga classification (Part 2)
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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,
thousand of such cycles would constitute a day of Brahma”.
A Brahma means a Kalpa which is equal to 4,32,00,00,000
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
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
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
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.