The Hindu Conception of Time - Yugas
Time is a very important concept for many of the world
religions, and for the Hindu tradition the concept of time is explained
through yuga. The concepts of the yugas were first
mentioned in the popular Mahabharata epic, as well as
the Manusmriti. The cycle of time is divided up into four different
sections. Each section is known as a yuga, or time period. Each
successive period brings the world into a greater state of decreased dharma,
because through each cycle the earth gets further and further away from the
Absolute. Within every subsequent era there is less order, cosmic law, and the
life expectancy of humans is shortened. A metaphor commonly used to
explain this dharma is the image of a bull. In the very
beginning of the cycle, the animal is strong and sturdy. This is the stage
closest to the Absolute (the krtayuga). At the end of each yuga,
one leg deteriorates from the bull and makes it more unsteady than it was
before. After the first yuga, the bull has only three legs (tretayuga),
in the third yuga it will only have two legs (dvaparayuga) and by the
last yuga, it will be teetering on only one leg (the most unstable time known
as the kaliyuga period). The bull will eventually collapse and
the cycle will start all over again.
The Yuga Purana
Each cycle is divided in ten parts within the
four yugas. The first yuga is known as the krtayuga and
composes the first four units, then there is the tretayuga, which
lasts three units, the daparayuga which lasts two units and finally
the kaliyuga which is only made up of one unit. Each yuga originates
from the numbers in a Vedic dice game vis-a-vis mentioned in
the Mahabharata. In the game, a krta was the
number each player needed to achieve in order to win. It was known as the best
throw. Krta was the complete throw with no remaining numbers.
Any other throw that did not result in krta had remainders of
one, two, or three dice. The treta became the next best throw
after the krta throw which resulted in three leftover dice.
After that, there was the dvapara outcome (two dice left over)
and finally the kali throw (which only had one leftover dice).
The kali throw was known as the most unfavorable throw.
Athirekhagala Yuga - Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Extremes (Kannada)
Each of the four different yugas are
combined to make one mahayuga. A mahayuga is a
massive unit where one age of the gods are made. A thousand mahayugas make
up one day of Brahma. A kalpa is one day of Brahman the
creator-god and a thousand caturyugas make up one day of
Brahman. Creation lasts until the end of a thousand caturyugas.
During the day the heavens, as well as the planets rotate to produce both
existence and destruction. It is at night that the moving planets and heavens
The first stage, the krtayuga (or satyayuga)
is a pure state in existence. It is known as the “age of truth” and the “Golden
Age” and is characterized by simplicity, timelessness and serenity. It is the
closest era to the Absolute and virtue is 100% complete. There is a sense of
eternity and fluidity and there is no sickness. Death and sin are not in
existence and people are very moral. This state of bliss lasts the longest of
the four yugas, extending for 1,728,000 years.
त्रेतायुग - The Treta Yuga (Marathi)
the second stage, begins the deterioration of existence and marks the end of
the “Golden Age”. Cosmic dharma is disturbed, however
still intact and there is a greater separation from the Absolute. Things are
still mostly pure, even though sin has been introduced and virtue is reduced to
75%. Tretayuga lasts for 1,296,000 years.
द्वापारयुग - Dwapara Yuga (Marathi)
The dvaparayuga is marked by an increase
of evil and further loss of dharmic balance. Dharma not
only decreases, but the deterioration is also accelerated in this yuga.
Virtue is decreased by ½, and the human lifespan also decreases. This stage
lasts for 863,000 years.
Journeys in the Kali Yuga (A Pilgrimage from Esoteric India to Pagan Europe)
The last stage, the kaliyuga is our
current era and lasts only 432,000 years. It is believed civilization has been
in this era ever since the Mahabharata war occurred, as well
as the death of Krsna. In this stage social order is broken down and there is a
need for royal authority to keep rules and dharma intact. The
ruled however question authority, confusing and corrupting social order. Kali
(the goddess of death and destruction) makes men deceitful and greedy. There is
an increase of human death, time goes by at a rapid pace and there is a massive
spiritual and physical breakdown in humans. There is little respect for God or
Brahman and it is the “age of strife”. It is the shortest sequence of time in
the cycle. Human virtue is decreased to ¼ and there is enormous suffering worldwide.
Kranti Yuga - Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution (Kannada)
These cycles are consistently repeated until a mahayuga is
completed (also known as a kalpa and is composed of 100 yuga cycles).
Once there is a mahayuga, the universe is destroyed (pralaya),
normally through a massive flood, before it starts at the first krtayuga once
again. This sequence is repeated endlessly and there is an idea that the cycle
really is without a beginning or an end.
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