Yuga Explained

The Yuga Calendar of IndiaThe cycle of precession was known to the Hindu Brahmans of old as the “MahaYuga” meaning “Great Cycle” or “Great Age”.

The origin of the word “Yuga” and its astrological connotation is found in the veryfirst kind of astronomy we have record of from India called Jyotisha. The Jyotisha Vedanga is the earliestdocument we have about the issues concerning the Hindu methods of studying time cycles and their parallelobservation of the celestial motions. This work is attributed to the Vedic period of Hindu history spanningfrom 1750 BC to 500 BC, so it goes a long way back into a time where Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia wereflourishing and developing their own science of astronomy that we have later inherited from those cultures inthe west through the Greeks and Romans.

The word “yuga” itself simply means “cycle” and it is used to refer to many kinds of cycles in the recordsof Vedic astronomy. The earliest uses of the term is found in the Jyotisha Vedanga, where a “yuga” isreferring to the astronomical cycle we know in the west as the Metonic Cycle. This is a cycle or period inwhich the solar and lunar periods synchronize, matching 19 solar years with 235 Lunations.

However, another form of use for the Yuga is found in later works from India such as the Mahabharata andthe Manusmrti. The later is a text better known to the English speaking audience as the Laws of Manu, andthis work is believed to have been composed between 200 BC and 100 AD.1 The Manusmrti holds referencesto yugas or time cycles lasting thousands of years and constituting a variety of divisions and subdivisions ofastronomical periods. The text itself exposes the logic behind the Yuga periods as great ages of thousands ofyears in its very first chapter where it informs the reader of a cycle lasting some 12,000 years called a DaivaYuga or “Divine Cycle”. This Daiva Yuga is actually the half portion of the Maha Yuga or “Great Cycle”which is the precessional cycle of the equinoxes we have been mentioning earlier.1 The date of composition for the Laws of Manu or Manusmrti is quite uncertain as is the case for most Hinduscriptures. The main problem is that many of these scriptures were originally oral in form: memorized through thechanting of mantras, and thus their origins in history are obscure.

This first division of the Maha Yuga or Great Cycle into two halves is based on a philosophy that considerstheevolution and devolution of humanity’s state of consciousness through time. In particular, theconsideration of “evolution” and “devolution” which have a positive and negative connotation are based onthe concept of Dharma. The Dharma is basically the Cosmic Law of Good and Evil, and thus it is related tothe more familiar term ofkarma which means “action”. The Hindu concept of Dharma is very much like theEgyptian Ma’at  or the Roman Iustitia (Justice): it is a Universal Law related to morality or ethics, but it hasdeeper philosophical meanings that will be explored further ahead in this work.

The basic idea is that mankind rises and falls into periods of psychic evolution and devolution. It is not thebody that changes or mutates, but the psychic condition of mankind which undergoes a transmutation. Theprinciple is simple: in one part of the Great Cycle or Maha Yuga mankind possesses an inborn or natural inclination towards virtue, while at the opposite side of the Great Cycle mankind is naturally inclined towardssin, and this phase of evolution and devolution by which we become more acquainted with the Dharma or lessso is governed by that long astronomical period of precession lasting about 25,920 years. But we will nowfocus on the principles related to the calendar itself, and later come to develop the philosophical consequencesof this way of understanding evolution and devolution in human affairs.

Now, the two Daiva Yugas or Divine Ages inthe Hindu calendar divide the Great Cycle intwo equal halves according to whetherhumanity’sconsciousness is on a course ofevolution, or, on the contrary, whether humanityis undergoing a phase of devolution wheregeneral consciousness is contracting and Dharma is becoming gradually unrecognized.But this Great Cycle where consciousness of Dharma is phasing over periods of about 12,000years or so also brings about smaller phases or epochs within it.

The ManusmrtiMahabharata, and Puranasof India speak of a further division of the Great Cycle into 4 basic Ages or Yugas commonlycalledCaturyuga (4 Ages). These have aparticularquality referring directly to our naturalor general state of consciousness or awareness of Dharma and these 4 ages are now ofunequal duration:As we see in the following diagram, the 4ages or yugas are divided in accordance tofractions on the base of 20 for the whole cycle.The names of the yugas or ages themselves inthe Hinducalendar system have a clear numerical implied in their very names.2 Such numerical references inthe names of the Hindu Ages link the Yugas to their appointed duration within the Great Cycle, but they alsorefer to the quality of the ages themselves with respect to the moral and intellectual condition of mankind.In the Manusmrti or Laws of Manu, there is a short but clear explanation about the duration of each ofthe 4 yugas. The 4:3:2:1 ratio for Krta, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali yugas accompany the description of theDaiva Yuga being 12,000 years long. Each age is a fraction of that period according to a 4:3:2:1 ratio. First thetext says that Krta is 4000 years, Treta is 3000, Dvapara 2000, and Kali 1000. Then it goes on to explain thateach age also has a fraction called a “twilight” (sandhi) added to them both at the beginning and end of theperiod.

Each twilight orsandhi is 1/10th of the length given for each yuga, so in the case of the Krta age, itssandhi or twilight is of 400 years. Hence there is 400 years added to the 4000 bothbefore and after  the period, whichmakes 4800 years. The same is true for the Treta, Dvapara, and Kali, and so the values for each age are givenas 4800, 3600, 2400, and 1200 years in the Manusmrti or Laws of Manu.The geometrical composition of the system only demands a division of the circle into 20 fractions and theaccording divisions of Ages as we have shown, but in order to recompose the calendar itself, we need toanchor this system with real astronomical references to the background stars in order to reveal their appointeddates. This will allow us to determine what Yuga is currently passing by, and also what kind of astronomicalcues signal the beginnings and ends of the Ages so as to determine their true duration and dates according toour Gregorian calendar.In order to come to this dating of the Yugas we have several references in Hindu literature as well asmodern literature, but there have been many mistakes made in other calculations for the duration and dates ofthe Yugas. The main problem that has lead to mistakes in dating has been the unawareness of the relationthese ages hold to the Great Cycle of precession. But even when this calendar has been related to theprecession of the equinoxes, the dating has been rather sloppy and careless. This is one of the reasons wedecided to write about this calendar, because it is a great astronomical calendar, but it has been somewhatabused and falsely dated without the care and seriousness it deserves. In order to find the correct dates for theyugas or ages of this Hindu system we will go step by step through the process that we have taken so as toillustrate how this calendar must be dated according to real and true astronomical cycles.

 The Great Clock, Chapter 4 The Yuga Calendar of India3Each twilight orsandhi is 1/10th of the length given for each yuga, so in the case of the Krta age, itssandhi or twilight is of 400 years. Hence there is 400 years added to the 4000 bothbefore and after  the period, whichmakes 4800 years. The same is true for the Treta, Dvapara, and Kali, and so the values for each age are givenas 4800, 3600, 2400, and 1200 years in the Manusmrti or Laws of Manu.The geometrical composition of the system only demands a division of the circle into 20 fractions and theaccording divisions of Ages as we have shown, but in order to recompose the calendar itself, we need toanchor this system with real astronomical references to the background stars in order to reveal their appointeddates. This will allow us to determine what Yuga is currently passing by, and also what kind of astronomicalcues signal the beginnings and ends of the Ages so as to determine their true duration and dates according toour Gregorian calendar.

In order to come to this dating of the Yugas we have several references in Hindu literature as well asmodern literature, but there have been many mistakes made in other calculations for the duration and dates ofthe Yugas. The main problem that has lead to mistakes in dating has been the unawareness of the relationthese ages hold to the Great Cycle of precession. But even when this calendar has been related to theprecession of the equinoxes, the dating has been rather sloppy and careless. This is one of the reasons wedecided to write about this calendar, because it is a great astronomical calendar, but it has been somewhatabused and falsely dated without the care and seriousness it deserves. In order to find the correct dates for theyugas or ages of this Hindu system we will go step by step through the process that we have taken so as toillustrate how this calendar must be dated according to real and true astronomical cycles.

Finding the DatesThe ancient scriptures of India provide very specific astronomical data in reference to the events that tookplace some 5000 years ago. In particular, we meet the astronomical references of the Mahabharata Epic, oneof the most ancient texts of India which holds on to a tradition spanning 5000 years.3 Fortunately, and unlikemany texts of the ancient world, the Brahmins of the time took careful note so as to recall the planetaryconfigurations in heaven when there was a shift of an Age on the calendar, and this has allowed us torecompose this calendar and fix the dates of each Yuga with good precision.

However, it has come to our attention that many false dates have been put forwards concerning thiscalendar, especially because it has been neglected that the Yugas spoken of in the Manusmrti refer to theGreat Cycle itself as an astronomical phenomenon. Other versions who have taken this into considerationhave made mistaken astronomical calculations which offer false dates for the Yugas, and the matter is all butsimple, but it is best to go over this problem for the sake of transparency and clarity concerning how it is thatwe will make this calendar work again. If we are to identify where we are in the Great Cycle and what Age orYuga we are currently transiting through, we must go over the reconstruction of this calendar step by step andobserve some mistakes commonly made concerning it in the past, both distant and recent.

The event which coincided with the turning of the age in Hindu history is the Mahabharata orGreat War ofthe Bharatas. Such is the name of the most famous Epic of Ancient India compiled into several books whichinclude the most famous of all sacred texts in India, the Bhaghavad Gita: the Gospel of Lord Krishna.The scriptures of the Mahabharata relate how the Pandava clan battled against the Kuru clan in the regionsof Northwest India known asKurushethra over 5000 years ago. The epic is the story of this battle and itsoutcomewhich concluded with the turning of a Yuga and Lord Krishna’s disappearance from our world. The scriptures state that the Mahabharata war ended with a victory forKing Yudhishthiraand thePandavas, whereas the King and the clan inherited the great kingdom of Ancient India after the unjustoccupation of the throne by Duryodhana and the Kurus.

After the war was over and the Pandavas defeated theKurus, King Yudhishthira ruled for some 26-27 years, but after this time the king decided to abandon hisKingdom and retired to the Himalaya Mountains in order to search for higher spiritual wisdom. The decisionwas carried about because Lord Krishna – the great incarnation or avatar of Vishnu –  had decided to leave thisworld after staying here for 120 years. Krishna’s departure was seen as symbolic of a higher state of consciousness abandoning the world, and the king then sought to search for higher wisdom in solitude and bythe practice of renunciation to worldly desires.Herein lays the first problem of the story as it is told in scripture.

The scriptures state that the Age whichdawned 5000 years ago was Kali Yuga: the Iron Age in western cosmology, but as we will seek todemonstrate ahead, it was not Kali Yuga but Dwapara Yuga (Bronze Age) which dawned at that time some5000 years ago, and we will have good opportunity to demonstrate why.The scriptures of the Mahabharata fortunately reveal a very particular astronomical occurrence during thetime of the war, and they also mention a peculiar sequence of solar eclipses during that time. Hence, manyhistorians of India have been interested in discovering when this could have occurred based on astronomicalcalculations, because it would enable one to date the Mahabharata war with great precision as long as theplanetary configurations described in the text are found to match the particular dispositions of the planets at agiven date. According to experts on the subject, such as Dr. S. Balakrishna, the Mahabharata war took place inthe year 3129 BC. Following the astrological descriptions of the Mahabharata text, and by following thestatements of a 27 year reign for King Yudhishthira, Balakrishna concludes that in the year 3102 BC the agewould have shifted on the Hindu calendar.

The manner in which Dr. Balakrishna fixed this date will help us get a glimpse at how astronomy plays afundamental role in determining historical dates when sufficient information is given in a given text. Firstly,there is mention in the Mahabharata texts of an anomalous 13 day interval between eclipses. Normally, a Solar Eclipse is followed by a Lunar Eclipse (or vice versa) with a 14-15 day margin, because the moon needs to make it half way around the zodiac between one eclipse and the other. In order to have a 13 day marginbetween eclipses as we find in the text, there needs to be a very specific coincidence between the geometries3 The texts of the Mahabharata are not as old as the story itself. Much of the ancient wisdom of India and themillenary traditions they embody have actually been written down in Sanskrit much later in time compared to the timesfrom which the tradition itself speaks of. For example, the Mahabharata relates an occurrence dated to around 3100 BC,but it was actually written down as late as 400 BC and made to constitute a specific book or collection of texts as late as400 AD.

 The Great Clock, Chapter 4

The Yuga Calendar of India5of the Moon, Earth, and Sun, but there must also be a very specific geographical location for the observer tobear witness to only 13 sunrises between two consecutive eclipses. It is indeed, very rare to witness twoeclipses in 13 days, but it is nevertheless something that can happen and the Mahabharata text does specifythat a rare 13 day interval between eclipses took place when the Mahabharata war occurred.With this information at hand, Dr. Balakrishna sought to reveal which date in history this event refers to.

Knowing the geodesic coordinates for Kurushethra, any modern astronomical software is capable ofsimulating the patterns of heaven for that location.Now, the Gupta Period sageAryabhata (c.476 – c.550 AD) had already made a calculation of the time ofMahabharata war and the shift of the Age by which he came up with the date of Feburary 27, 3102 BC.4 In our own days, Dr. S. Balakrishna sought to verify this dating using the latest knowledge of astronomyand modern software. So Dr. Balakrishna took all the eclipse pairs that could have served as candidates for the13 day interval and found that the Solar Eclipse of August 11, 3129 BC and the lunar eclipse of September 25of the same year were the actual dates referenced in the Mahabharatascripture. Then, 27 years later, whenLord Krishna departed from our world according to the Mahabharatascriptures, the age is said to have shiftedand so Dr. Balakrishna related his calculations to those of Aryabhata quite nicely.

The problem is that bothAryabhata and Balakrishna are unaware of the yuga’s relation to the Great Cycle of precession, and Aryabhata in particular made inaccurate calculations for the lengths of the ages.Aryabhata was a very celebrated intellectual in his days, but he actually made a gross mistake concerningthe length of the Yugas. The Manusmrti had been compiled some 400 years before the time of Aryabhata, andit clearly suggests the division of the Great Cycle as we have exposed with the 4:3:2:1 ratios for Krta, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali Yugas. Moreover, in the Manusmrti, the Kali Yuga is clearly stated to last some 1200years and no longer, but when Aryabhata went on to figure what age was actually passing by in his own time(around 400-500 AD), he was faced with a serious problem.Aryabhata knew that he was in the Kali Yuga or Iron Age from earlier references, but he could notunderstand why the scriptures spoke of Kali Yuga commencing in 3102 BC at the time of the MahabharataWar. When he calculated the time passed between his days and 3102 BC, he naturally came to a length ofsome 3600 years, and this could not be true considering that the Kali Yuga was not meant to last more than1200 years…

Thus Aryabhata could not comprehend why the Manusmrti only gave 1200 years for the length of Kali Yuga whilst the Mahabharata epic stated that Kali Yuga had begun over 3600 years from his time.There was an obvious mistake in the records, but Aryabhata failed to recognize it and instead attributed the mistake to the Manusmrti’s values for the Yugas.In this confusion, the mentioned astronomer made a further fault by imagining that the Manusmrti wasactually speaking of “years” as periods which should be multiplied by 360: a completely invented figurationwhich is still used today, most unfortunately we might add, by many scholars of Hindu texts. A reading of thepassages in the Manusmrti that mention the Yuga cycles will make it clear that this multiplication by 360 isdefinitely not a solution to the problem faced by Aryabhata, but the astronomer nevertheless multiplied theoriginal values of each age by 360, making the monstrous and absurd figures one most often finds in referenceto the yuga system today.For example, the Kali Yuga, originally measured at some 1200 years according to the Manusmrti text was,after Aryabhata’s change, supposedly 432,000 years in length !!!

It becomes obvious at this point that thecalendar loses all links to the actual astronomical cycle of precession it was originally based upon by thesemiscalculations. The Kali Yuga was originally made to be 1/10th of the Great Cycle, but after Aryabhata’smistaken multiplication by 360 for each age, the whole calendar became corrupt because it becamecompletely departed from its real astronomical origins.What Aryabhata failed to recognize was that his estimated turn of the age in 3102 BC actually commencedthe Dwapara Yuga, not Kali Yuga, and that the mistake had crept into the records of the recording of the Mahabharatascriptures

This was the problem which Sri Yuktesvar Giri, the guru of Yogananda, noticedand pointed out in the late 19th century.Surely enough, Aryabhata, after having multiplied the original values by 360 could now fit his 3600+ yearsfor Kali Yuga into the scheme quite comfortably, but through that single arithmetic maneuver he managed toruin the astronomical link between the precessional cycle and the yuga calendar, and at the same time hedelivered a completely false set of values for the ages.