The Yugas


Apr 15, INDIA (SUN) — A two-part study of the yugas.

A Yuga means a joining or an alignment of planets and/or stars and/or their apogees and perigees.

1. Chandramana Yugadi:

Kannadigas and Telugu people celebrate a Chandramana (Lunar) Yugadi, and Tamils celebrate a Souramana (Solar)Yugadi, once a year, in spring. Yugadi means, the beginning of a Yuga. In Telugu, it is frequently called Ugadi, with ‘y’ dropped by scholars and laymen alike.

This Yuga is 1 year long. It is the time it takes for the earth to complete 1 orbit around the sun. In other words, it is the time the sun takes to finish one Uttarayanam and one Dakshinayanam and to come back to the same place.

But what does ‘the same place’ mean? It is the same place with reference to the earth’s orbit, and it is slightly off from the same place with respect to the stars. Why is this? Not only are we spinning around the sun, the earth is dragging us around the galactic center. It takes one sidereal year for the sun to align with the same stars.

Obviously all this alignment requires a perspective - the question is - from where? Let us say from Ujjain, or New Delhi or Rajahmundry. But from the same place of observation. I like to think Ujjain, because of its historicity.

What is a lunar year? Clearly, a lunar month has to do with the moon going around the earth once. But there are many variations based on your frame of reference.

A sidereal month is the time it takes for the moon to line up with the same star. This takes 27.321661 days (27 d 7 h 43 min 11.5 s). A synodic month is 29.53 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 2.8 seconds) and is measured from New Moon to New Moon. There are many other kinds of lunar month. You can look them up. I will not go into it now.

A lunar year is usually 12 lunar months long, ie 354.36 days if you are using synodic months or 327.8599 days if you are thinking sidereal months. Every 3 years an Adhika Masam is added, to make up for the difference in the lengths of the solar and lunar years. (It is like adding a leap day into the solar calendar once in 4 years). But now you have added 4.5 days too many. So the Sun, Moon and Stars are not perfectly aligned as before yet. There is a lot of complex arithmetic, which tells you when to add months and when not to. Some lunar days are a little shorter than others and many other corrections are to be made. This is what the Jyotisha Sastra Vedanga is all about. It takes a lot of effort to learn.

But what did we learn then? We have learned that Yugas have to do with alignment and the more celestial bodies that have to line up, the more time it is going to take and the more corrections it is going to take. Rishis of different times used different Yuga definitions. Therefore they meant different lengths of time, when they used the same word. A yuga of the Revati Nakshatra and the Sun (that accounts for the precession), is about 27,000 years long. So we have one kind of a Yuga that is a year long, and another kind which is 27,000 years long.

2. Vedic Yugas: Vedanga Jyothisham: Pitamaha Siddhantam: 5 years:

(In the Uttarakanda of Ramayana, the word 'Pitamaha' is used to indicate Brahma, unless specified.)

In the Ramayana, when the word Pitamaha is used without qualification it means - Brahma. 1,830 solar days, 1,860 lunar tithis, 62 lunar months, and 60 solar months. There are 2 adhikamasas, 30 tithikshayas, 67 traverses of the moon among the stars, i.e., each star ‘occurs’ 67 times. (When the moon aligns with a star, it is a star ‘occurence’, nakshatram vacchindi.)

The Yuga starts when Dhanishta is in Amavasya. (This will require a correction of 4.685 days in 5 years, which is done using a complex method, which we shall attempt on another day). The names of the years are: Samvatsaramu, Parivatsaramu, Idaavatsaramu, Anuvatsaramu, Idvatsaramu. Place: As per this Sastra, on the day of Katakayanam (arrival of cancer), the night was 2/3rds of the day. This happens in Gandhar and Kashmir. Time: ‘Prapadyate Sravishthadou, Suryachandramasavudak, sarparthe, dakshinarkasthou, magha sravanayo sada. When Dhanistha Amavasya occurs, Surya is in the North, and when Asleshartha amavasya occurs Ravi (Surya) is in the South. This lead to a date of 3500 years ago. (Translated and explained from Vijnana Sarasvamu, 9th Samputamu, Page 548-551).

3. Markandeya Yugas, as per the Mahabharata: What Markandeya told Yudhisthira. Translation by Kisari Mohan Ganguli - the best I have seen so far!

Markandeya replied, "…..O best of kings and pre-eminent of men, after the dissolution of the universe, all this wonderful creation again comes into life. Four thousand years have been said to constitute the Krita Yuga. Its dawn also, as well as its eve, hath been said to comprise four hundred years. The Treta-Yuga is said to comprise three thousand years, and its dawn, as well as its eve, is said to comprise three hundred years. The Yuga that comes next is called Dwapara, and it hath been computed to consist of two thousand years. Its dawn, as well as its eve, is said to comprise two hundred years. The next Yuga, called Kali, is said to comprise one thousand years and its dawn, as well as eve, is said to comprise one hundred years. Know, O king, that the duration of the dawn is the same as that of the eve of a Yuga. And after the Kali Yuga is over, the Krita Yuga comes again. A cycle of the Yugas thus comprised a period of twelve thousand years. A full thousand of such cycles would constitute a day of Brahma. O tiger among men, when all this universe is withdrawn and ensconced within its home-the Creator himself-that disappearance of all things is called by the learned to be Universal Destruction."

4. 1000 year Chaturyugas: derivation based on the Revati-Raivata time loss story. That gives 400 years of Krutha Yuga, 300 years of Thretha Yuga, 200 years of Dwapara Yuga and 100 years of Kali Yuga.

5. SaptaRishi Yuga: 2700 years. Vishnu Purana also states that the Saptarshis, which are supposed to move @ one Nakshatra for every 100 years (IV.24) had moved 10 Nakshatras from Magha to Purvashada during this interval, between the war and Mahapadma Nanda’s accession, which therefore comes to 10×100 = 1000 years”

6. Romaka Siddhantam: 2850 years

7. Poorva Surya Siddhantham: 180,000 years or 1,800,000 years

8. Surya Siddhantam: 4,320,000,000 years

9. Gavam Ayanam: 4 years. As per an article by ShamaSastry the Gavam Ayanam, was in use from 3101 BC to 1260 BC. The word ‘Go’ refers to an intercalary day (like the extra day in a leap year).

One solar orbit takes 365 and 1/4 days. A quarter is called a pada. The modern way consists of taking 365 days in an ordinary year and 366 days in a leap year.

One Vedic method was to take exactly 365 and a pada days. The first year was called Kali or Ekata and it started in the evening and ended at midnight after 365 days and a pada. The second year was called Dwapara, or Dwita and started at midnight and ended in the morning after 365 days and a pada. The third Yuga was thretha or tritha, started in the morning and ended in the afternoon after 365 days and a pada. These 3 are called the Visnu padas. The fourth Yuga was called Krta or complete Yuga because it started in the afternoon but ended in the evening after 365 days and a pada. Since it ended properly in the evening, it was also called Satya or Rta Yuga.

10. Naveena Siddhanthams: 4,320,000 years: “All the planets started their journeys at one common point in the sky.” That is, in the beginning, all the planets were lined up along a ray drawn from the Sun. Then they began circling (the Sun) at different speeds; different speeds because they are located at different distances. Then the Indian astronomers suggested that the common point in the sky be identified as the location where we find the star “Aswini,” the first of the twenty seven stars (really, constellations) of the Hindu calendar. Stated differently, they imagined a time when all the nine planets (mercury, venus, earth, mars, jupiter, saturn, and the two shadow planets Rahu and Ketu), the apogees of their orbits, and their nodes (i.e., the points where their orbits intersect the path of the Sun are all near the star Aswini (or the modern Beta of Aries). They suggested that we use that instance as the beginning of time for calendar purposes. Now suppose we count the periods of orbital revolutions of the planets, roundoff the periods to the nearest integers, and find their least common multiple (LCM). That number turns out to be approximately 4.320 billion years, a number not too far from the length of a Kalpa, defined earlier. One thousandth of this is 4.32 million years or a Maha Yuga. A tenth of this Maha Yuga is the duration of Kali Yuga.

Let us begin at the present time and work backwards. The current era is called Kali Yuga. According to tradition, this era began with the death of Krishna, about 5,000 years ago. According to the ancient sages of India, Kali Yuga will last for 4,32,000 years.

Immediately prior to Kali Yuga was a stretch of time called Dwapar Yuga; it was twice as long as Kali Yuga, or 2 x 4,32,000 years. Prior to that was Treta Yuga of 3 x 4,32,000 years. Before that, it was Krita Yuga with a duration of 4 x 4,32,000 years. All these four yugas together is a Maha Yuga, the Great Era. So a Maha Yuga is 4.32 million years, ten times as long as Kali Yuga. Incidentally, the beginning of the latest Maha Yuga coincides roughly with, what modern science calls, the emergence of humanoids. Twenty seven Maha Yugas is one Pralaya. Seven Pralayas is one Manvantara. Finally, six Manvantaras is a Kalpa. That is, one Kalpa is 27×7×6 = 1,134 Maha Yugas. This works out to 1134 x 4.3 million = 4.876 billion years. And, according to modern science, that is the approximate age of the planet Earth.” Quoted from this site.

11. Aryabhatta was a genius. He worked out the time it would take for a very large number of planets, the stars and the sun and the moon to align. That is why the Yuga and Kalpa lengths that he calculated are of the same order of magnitude as the big bang. He was able to do this because, he was a brilliant astronomer and mathematician and he had also figured out that it is the earth that goes around the sun and not vice versa.

Aryabhatta did this a VERY long time before Copernicus. Just as Markandeya had worked out the precession of equinoxes a VERY long time before Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Exactly how long ago, you will ask? And how can you prove what you say? For this, I will have to put you on hold for a little while. I shall have to work out.

    1. Which Yuga System was Vyasa was using? We know that Aryabhatta lived after Vyasa and could not have influenced him. We know this because of a statement that Aryabhatta made. He said that he lived 6×60 years after Kali Yuga started. (Some people say that he said 60×60 years after Kali started... is the word shahtyabdanam shadbhih or is it shastyabdanam shahstih..? : Page 70; 9th samputamu, Vijnana Sarvasvamu, Telugu Encyclopedia) We believe that he lived 360 years into kaliyuga and not 3600 years after. Either way, he lived after Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharatam from 1 year Kali to 4 year Kali.

    2. When did Vyasa live? We know that Markandeya and Vyasa were contemporaries. In the Mahabharata, Vyasa gives Markandeya’s explanation of the Yugas and Markandeya talks to the Pandavas, etc.

We all accept that Ptolemy was 150 AD and Copernicus was 16th century AD by western accounts.

Some data points:

  • Ravana’s grandfather, Pulastya was of Krutha Yuga (Uttarakanda, Ramayanam)
  • Ravana annoyed Vedavathi in the Krutha Yuga and was killed by Sri Rama in the Tretha Yuga. It is also said that Krutha Yuga ended at the time of Vedavathi’s death. (Uttarakanda - Ramaynana)
  • Sri Rama who killed Ravana and was younger to him, was of Threta Yuga.
  • Sri Krishna was of Dwapara Yuga. His death marked the beginning of Kali Yuga (Mahabharatam and Bhagavatham)

In part two, a study of the timing of Kali Yuga.


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