Thursday, March 7, 2024

Ramayana – 16: Did Rama live in Treta Yuga lakhs of years ago?

 There is an opinion that Rama lived lakhs of years ago because he was supposed to have lived in Treta Yuga which was running some twelve lakh years ago. Those who believe this, must think for a moment the implications of this view. If this view is true, then we cannot find traces of Rama's life. It is impossible to pinpoint a place saying that he was born in that place. The landscape would have changed over lakhs of years. Even mankind would have changed over such a long period, giving a nagging doubt on whether mankind with developed cultural and linguistic traits had existed so long ago. There is also the issue of how an elaborate story of Rama could have been retained and transferred through lakhs of years. Insistence on such an old time for Rama will at best be rejected as a myth or an imagined story. But we say that Ramayana was a true story, accurate to the core because it is an Itihasa which by its very meaning implies – ‘it happened thus’. So, there must be something more than what meets the eye in interpreting Rama’s birth in Treta Yuga.

Treta Yuga is three times the duration of Kali Yuga. The duration of Kali Yuga is 4,32,000 years. The previous yuga, namely, Dwapara Yuga was two times the duration of Kali Yuga. It was 8, 64,000 years long. Treta Yuga was present before Dwapara Yuga. At present, 5,124 years have passed in Kali Yuga. Adding the duration of Dwapara Yuga, 8,69,124 years elapsed before Treta Yuga ended. If Rama lived before that, surely it would not be possible to find traces of Rama's time. If the Ramayana was written that long ago, then many unanswered questions will arise as to what was spoken then, whether it was spoken only in Sanskrit and how it was preserved. The story of what is said to have happened at that time cannot be true but only hearsay. No place called Rama’s Janmasthan can be claimed as the birthplace from such a period. There can be no such thing as a bridge (Setu) built then. The Ramayana itself will be considered a myth.

However, it has been told in the texts that Rama lived in Treta Yuga. Can the Rishis who have told so be wrong? To know the truth, we must check the contexts to see what the rishis have told. In the Mahabharata, sage Suta narrates the Ramayana period to the sages in Naimisharanya. He does not directly mention the period of the Ramayana but talks about the destruction of the Kshatriyas by Parashurama, a contemporary of Rama. Sage Suta says that Parasurama destroyed the Kshatriyas at Samantapanchaka in Kurukshetra at the junction of Treta and Dwapara Yuga. (MB: 1-2-3).  In the same conversation, he continues to say that the Mahabharata war took place at the junction of Dwapara and Kali Yuga at the same place called Samantapanchaka (MB: 1-2-9).

Samantapanchaka refers to five tanks filled with the blood of the Kshatriyas killed by Parashurama. It is in Kurukshetra where the Mahabharata war had taken place. The presence of Samantapanchaka in the Mahabharata period shows that there is not much time difference between the time of Parashurama and the Mahabharata. But the sage has called Parasurama's period as Treta-Dwapara junction and Mahabharata period as Dwapara-Kali Yuga junction.

Correspondingly, there is a mention about Parashurama in the Tamil Epic poem called Manimekalai. The Chola king felt threatened by the furious pledge of Parashurama to annihilate the kshatriyas, that he installed his son born to a concubine on the throne and fled to the abode of sage Agastya in the western ghats taking refuge in his ashrama. Only in that period, river Kaviri started flowing. Agastya was none other than the same sage who met Rama during his exile. This kind of cross-reference indicates that the story of Parashurama hunting the kshatriyas was true. The incident written in the Tamil Epic was not about an event in the remote past but in a recognisable past. Linking it with Suta’s version, this Chola history had happened in Treta- Dwapara sandhi period (junction).

Kali Yuga in Ramayana.

It seems that we have not properly understood the application of the word Yuga. Yuga is mentioned in many places depending on the dharma of the age. For example, in the Ramayana, which was supposed to have occurred in Treta yuga, it is said that Kali Yuga was running then. On hearing about Rama having reached Lanka after crossing the ocean, Mālyavān, the maternal grandfather Ravana rebuked Ravana with harsh words.

Malyavan rebukes Ravana

He said that when dharma swallows adharma, Krita yuga would occur. When Adharma swallows Dharma, Kali Yuga would occur. Mālyavān continued that wherever Ravana went, there adharma had sprung up. That this conversation had occurred in Treta Yuga must make us realise that a Yuga is dependent on Dharma.

Another well-known character is Nala who also lived in Treta Yuga, the yuga when Rama lived. Kali entered Nala’s s life and caused numerous troubles. How could that be possible if it was Treta Yuga? Similarly in the Mahabharata we come across verses by Vyasa saying that Dwapara lived with Duryodhana and Kali lived with Shakuni. In another context of the Mahabharata, Krishna told Karna about change of Yugas based on dharma. Krishna said that in a war, there would be no Krita, no Treta, no Dwapara; only Kali would be there. If the age in which he lived was Dwapara Yuga, how come he say no Krita, no Treta etc, since the time was not of Krita or Treta at all?

Krishna to Karna 

Similarly, after Krishna disappeared and Kali Yuga started, it is said that Kali tried to enter during the reign of Parikshit. How could it happen if Kali yuga was already running? The story goes that Parikshit stopped Kali from entering his country. When Kali Purusha insisted that he should be given a place because it was his Yuga, Parikshit allowed Kali to reside in five places, says Srimad Bhagavatam. This story reveals that there is a distinction between Kali as a calculatable period and Kali as a dharma.

From the words of Mālyavān and the references found in the Mahabharata, it is known that if the king is a righteous person, there will be Krita Yuga. Ravana was not righteous and therefore there was Kali Yuga in his place whereas we say that Rama, his contemporary lived in Treta, because he was righteous.  Kunti also says the same thing in the Mahabharata – that the yuga depends on the king, on whether he is righteous or not. Bhagavatam describes this by the story of a cow standing on four legs wherein the cow is a metaphor for Dharma.

If the cow stands on all four legs, it is called Krita Yuga. It means that there is a full-fledged fourfold dharma. It is also called the Satya Yuga. If one leg is injured and it stands on three legs, it means that there is Treta Yuga with three-fourths of the Dharma. If two legs are injured and it stands on two legs, Dwapara Yuga takes place; It means that dharma is only half. If three legs are injured and the cow stands only on one leg, it means Kali Yuga. There is only one-fourth of dharma.

This kind of yuga based on amount of Dharma is discussed in detail in the Vayu Purana and the Brahmanda Purana. The measure of dharma can be found in many ways. For example, if people are Saatvik, it is Krita Yuga; if seen with Rajasic qualities, it is Treta Yuga. If Rajasa and Tamasa are combined, it is Dwapara Yuga. If there is only Tamasa, it is Kali Yuga.

In this scale, Rama was born at the end of the Treta Yuga, when Rajasa was high. Parasurama destroyed the kings because they were overpowered with Rajasic tendencies. The Dwapara Yuga that followed was mixed with Tamasa. When kings committed many mistakes with tamasic nature, like, staking the wife in a dice game, disrobing cousin’s wife and turning a Nelson’s eye to the humiliation done to the daughter-in-law in the open court, Dwapara gets stained by Tamasa that it becomes a junction period between Dwapara and Kali yuga. At that period, the Mahabharata war took place. Both in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, we find only such kind of dharma based yugas getting mentioned. For example, when Bheema met Hanuman in the Mahabharata, Hanuman explained him the nature of the four Yugas in terms of Dharma only.

The Dharma based Yuga consists of two parts, namely, Yuga Sandhi and Yuga Sandhyamsa. When the character of a yuga begins to decrease to such a level that the Dharma of that yuga becomes one- fourth, the Yuga- sandhi or junction is said to have begun. For example, the Dharma of Treta yuga becomes a quarter of itself in Treta Sandhi. That will go on for some time. Rama lived in Treta sandhi when Rama himself was sent out of country by a greedy stepmother and Sita was seen with suspicion by the people for no fault of hers. There was early death of children without proper causes. All this happened in Treta- Dwapara Sandhi period.  When one-fourth of Treta Yuga dharma at the Sandhi period further deteriorated to become one sixteenth of Treta Yuga dharma, then it is said that Yuga Sandhyamsa had set in. This becomes the yuga dharma of Dwapara Yuga.

When that Dwapara dharma is weakened and becomes a quarter part itself, there brings in Dwapara- Kali Sandhi. During such a period the Mahabharata war had taken place. There was an increase in Tamasa in such Yuga sandhi. After 35 years of the war, Krishna went to Vaikuntha. From that day ‘Kali Maha Yuga’ began. This Maha Yuga is known through planetary combinations.  The planetary conjunction on the day of Krishna's departure to Vaikuntha will repeat only after 4,32,000 years. That is why it is used as a time calculator and a calendar. The age of Rama's birth is not mentioned in this account.

Krishna left and Kali Maha Yuga began 

Moreover, the very concept of this kind of Maha Yuga is discussed in the Mahabharata only and not in the Ramayana. Only the 5-year Yuga was in vogue in the Ramayana period and the Yugas were mentioned in terms of Dharma only. The planet-based Yuga calculations seemed to have been perfected only after Krishna’s departure when the sages had seen for the first time in the memory of mankind, the congregation of all the planets at the beginning of Aries. Using that as a marker, they extrapolated to past in such a way that even Brahma Deva’s life span is expressed in terms of this planet-based Yugas when planets and solar system had not yet come into existence.  

We should also remember that though Kaliyuga began on the day Krishna left, Parikshit was able to stop Kali Dharma. At that time the Dwapara-Kali junction was going on. It should deteriorate further to 1/16th for Dwapara Sandhyamsa to set in. Only after that Kali Dharma Yuga had begun.

Beginning of Kali Dharma Yuga

The Bhagavata Purana clearly mentions that when the Nanda dynasty started ruling this country, Kali Purusha entered completely. In the same context it also says that Kali Maha Yuga began when Krishna left this world. Thus, there are two different calculations of yugas. Kali Maha Yuga started in the year 3101 BCE when Krishna left. However, by repeating that Kali dharma began in the time of the Nandas, the Bhagavatam makes it clear that the Kali Dharma Yuga is different from the Maha Yuga measured by the planets. Kali Dharma yuga started in 575 BCE implying that Dharma is standing on only one leg.

Kali Yuga will transform into Kali-Krita Sandhi when Kali Dharma (adharma) becomes one-fourth. This means reduction in adharma and increase in Dharma. There is no time limit for when this will happen. The message of the Mahabharata in many places is that if the king (ruler) is good, if the administration or justice system is good, then Krita Yuga will be born. Based on this one gets the impression that the period of the Alwars was mentioned in Dharma Yuga scale. For example, we find the word 'Mamallai' in the verse sung by Bhoothathalvar (Thiruvandhadhi 2 - 70) which was named after a Pallava king, indicating that this Alwar lived in the beginning of the Common Era. But the Guru Parampara accounts put his time in Dwapara Yuga. This must be based on the rulership of the Pallavas which was high on Dharma than what one finds in Kali Dharma yuga.


Dharma Yuga and Maha Yuga.

The Brahmanda Purana (1-2-230) and the Vayu Purana (1-8-79) state that the Treta Yuga began with the arrival of rains. Research suggests that the monsoon occurred 10,000 years ago after the end of Ice Age and when the current period called Holocene began. Agriculture was started and Kshatriyas were formed to protect the produce. The rivers of the Deccan plateau had just been formed. It was during this period that the snow melted, and the Ganga was formed. It was only after that that Rama was born.  

A major difference between Dharma based Yuga and Planet based Yuga is that a Dharma Yuga is followed by Sandhi and Sandhyamsa. In comparison, Maha Yuga has only Sandhi period, which occurs before and after the Yuga. It is always 10% of the previous Yuga. That is, Dwapara Yuga of 8,64,000 years has the sandhi period of 10%, i.e., 86,400 years. In the Maha Yuga, there are no accounts of Sandhi and Sandhyamsa. Only in the case of Dharma Yuga, Sandhi and Sandhyamsa of that Yuga occurs. With rainfall being a marker to start a cycle of Yugas, we can understand how 28 cycles of Yugas have occurred. Scientific data shows that the world had passed through Ice ages periodically. There will be no rainfall during the Ice age. Only after insolation starts, monsoon winds will be stirred. In this way 28 cycles of Yugas have come up. This is not possible in Maha Yuga calculations that come in millions of years.

The Ramayana did not take place in such an age. Rama was born in Treta Yuga in terms of Dharma. The evidence of Ram Setu coming up 7000 years ago and presence of Kavatam, the capital of the second Sangam Age with an upper limit at 5500 BCE, we can be sure of Rama’s Treta Yuga on the 6th millennium BCE only. Correspondingly, we got the birth time of Rama on January 9, in the year 5114 BCE.

The Mahabharata took place almost 2000 years later. The Tiruvalangadu plates of Rajendra Chola also give such the Dharma Yuga classification while mentioning the list of past Chola kings. In that, Treta Yuga ended with Suraguru and Vyaghraketu. Suraguru was Nabhaga, the great-grandfather of Rama. Dwapara Yuga ended with Uparicaravasu. These copper plates refer to the beginning of Kali Yuga with Perunarkkilli. This is in tune with the Kali Dharma Yuga that started from the Nanda period. The rainfall period coming after the Ice Age is found to be classified into Treta, Dwapara and Kali Dharma Yugas. In other words, the present period of Holocene is divided into Treta, Dwapara and Kali. Rama was born in Treta Yuga of this period.



Snehal Trivedi said...

Does it mean 28 cycles of ice age took place after which rainfall happened?
And is this cycle repeated?
Like many Rama and Krishna lived in past.
Or it is only happening once?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

It is true that the earth experienced many Ice ages in the past. Infact we are supposed to be in the Ice age even now. So accumulation of ice and the availability of sun light to trigger monsoon rains had alternated in the past. Mankind had existed in 28 such cycles. That is the derivation. Not necessary that the avataras repeated every time. However, geological avataras such as Matsya (triggered by floods after Ice melted), Varaha (land rising from water) and Vamana (land going under water) could have happened in all the cycles.