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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Cosmic Cycle according to the Vedas

(Revised version)

When performing rituals, Hindus take a symbolic vow called samkalpa. When saying the mantra, you might have heard them say “ ȧ̇ḍhyabrahmanah ḍviti̅ye parardhe svetavarȧha kalpe vaivasvata manvantare”. The meaning is as follows.  “ȧ̇ḍhyabrahmanah” means “belonging to the current Brahma”. “ḍviti̅ye parardhe” means “second cycle of 1017  years” . The word kalpa stands for one day of Brahma. The current day is called svetavarȧha. Therefore, we say svetavarȧha kalpe . As we will see later, each day of Brahma is equivalent to 4,320,000 days and this is ruled by 14 kings called the manus and the name of the current Manu is Vaivasvata. Therefore, we say Vaivasvata manvantarey.

Two other clarifications. There are specific names for the 14 Manu kings. Their names are: swāyambhuva, svārociṣa, auttami, tāmasa, raivata, cākṣuṣa, vaivasvata, Sāvarṇi, dakṣasāvarṇi, brahmasāvarṇi, dharmasāvarṇi, rudrasāvarṇi, raucyadaivasāvarṇi, and indrasāvarṇi.

 There are specific names for numbers going from 10 (daśa) to 1017 (para̅ rdha). They are:

            10 daśa (see the similarity to the French deci of the decimal system)       

102   śatam

            103  sahasram

            104 ayutam

            105 lakṣam

            106 prayutam (million)

            107 koṭi (10 million)

            108 arbuda

            109 abja

            1010 kharva

            1012 mahạpadma

            1013 śamku

            1014 jaladhi

            1015 anta

            1016 madhya

1017 parạrdham

Tamizh also had specific numbering systems with names. These are known from before the days of Tholkappiam (at least 300 BCE)    

Amazing, is it not? The fact they had specific names must mean that they used them for some measurements. We know they needed numbers to measure the dimensions of the altar for the homa (fire sacrifice). They were also used in trade.

On the other end of the scale, the time it takes for 15 winks of the eye is called a Kashta. 30 Kashtas make a Kala. 30 and 1/10th Kala is called Muhurta. Thirty Muhurtas make a day and night (one full day). 30 complete days make a month and 12 months make one year.

One month of humans is equivalent to one day and night of pitris, days leading up to full moon being the day and the other 15 days making up the night.

One year of humans is equivalent to one full day of the gods, the six months of uttarayana (sun “moving” north) being the day and the other 6 months (dakshinayana) making the night. 12,000 deva years (year of the gods) is called one yuga. The cosmic cycle is divided into yugȧs, as described below. They go in cycles. In other words, there is no beginning and end, as the western traditions suggest. Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer thought this is more in line with scientific findings.

The basic four yugas are Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. (Scholars tell us that these names come from the game of dice). Krita yuga is the first, made of 4,800 years of the gods. Of these, 400 years make the morning and 400 years make the evening. The day and the night are made of 2,000 deva years each. Treta yuga is made of 3,600 deva years, of which 300 years make up the morning and 300 years make the evening. Dwapara yuga is made of 2,400 deva years, with 200 years of morning and 200 years of evening. Kali yugȧ, which is the present one has 1, 200 deva years, with 100 years of morning and 100 years of evening. Please note the arithmetic progression of the numbers of years.

One cycle of the four yugas adds up to 12,000 years of the gods (deva years) (4,800+3,600+2,400+1,200). Since 1 day of the deva is made of 1 year of 360 human days, 1 year of the devas equals 360 human years. Therefore,12,000 deva years is equivalent to 4,320,000 human years.   One cycle of 4 yugȧs is called 1 mȧhayugȧ.

One day and one night of Brahma (Not Brahman, the Primordial source, but the creator in each cycle) is made of 1,000 such mahȧyugȧs each. (We can call it the celestial day) A full day of Brahma is equivalent to 8,640 million or 8.6 billion years. During the day of one Brahma composed of 4.32 million years, the reigning kings are called Manu. There are 14 of them each ruling for 71 6/14 chathur yugȧ years. The current Manu is called Vaivasvata.

At the end of the day when Brahma goes to sleep, there is a pralaya or deluge called anvantara pralaya when only three of the seven worlds namely, bhu, bhuvah and svah cease to exist.

Each Brahma rules for 100 years, each made of 365 of brahma days.  At the end of the current Brahma there is a big deluge and all the seven worlds disappear. Then the cycle starts again, with a new Brahma and of course, new Vishnu, Siva etc. Even the Gods are not for ever!

(For the original source, please go to Book 12, Section 224 of the Sanskrit version and section 231 of the English translation by Ganguli)

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