Yugas are, according to Hindu philosophy, the four eras in which the evolution of life is divided:
The world is in an uninterrupted cycle of these eras. Each ascending phase in the cycle from Kali Yuga to Satya Yuga is followed by a descending phase back to Kali Yuga. Another theory is that at the end of a descending Kali Yuga, the world will return to Satya Yuga and then begin another decline. The four yugas together are called a mahayuga (great yuga).
The decline from satya to kali is associated with an ever-increasing decline of dharma (sincerity). Each yuga therefore has its own dharma, the yugadharma, which manifests itself as a decrease in human longevity and in the quality of moral standards. The satya yuga is the most perfect yuga, in which man is ruled by the gods and in which everyone adheres to the dharma. There was no distinction here between the people and there was therefore only a varna and an asrama. At the beginning of treta yuga the four varnas and asramas are created. In the treta yuga there was only one Veda, after which in the dwapara yuga a subdivision came into four.
Satya yuga, according to ancient Hindu philosophy, lasts 1,728,000 years. Visualized as a sacred cow, Dharma stands on all four legs during this period. Later in the treta yuga three, later still two in the dwapara yuga. In the immoral, selfish era of Kali Yuga, it stands on one leg only.
Temples, wars and scriptures are characteristics of Dwapara and Kali. In the higher ages, treta and satya, writing is unnecessary because people communicate directly through thoughts. Temples are unnecessary because people experience God as omnipresent. Wars are scarce but still occur. One of these wars is described in the Ramayana.
After 71 cycles of mahayugas have been completed, another period of time follows: pralaya, to laya (dissolution). In the pralaya the world is flooded. Then the unity Shiva and Kali rules like a flame in the water. This can be interpreted symbolically, the fire as consciousness and the water as undifferentiated energy. Then the cycle starts again: this cycle is called manvantara, after Manu. Manu controls this period and is a model for all human beings who can then come to perfection from demons. A thousand mahayugas form a kalpa, which consists of 14 manvantaras and 15 interregnums (periods between the governments of the manus, together six mahayugas long, 25,920,000 years), together 4,320,000,000 years. A kalpa is “a day of Brahma.”
The most appreciated virtues during the yugas are:
satya yuga, dhyana (meditation)
treta yuga, yajna (sacrifice)
dwapara yuga, archana (worship)
kali yuga, daana (alms)
In the traditional time period of the yugas, a year of the demigods (Deva Vatsara) corresponds to 360 years according to the human era. First the duration for the demigods, by the way the human years. The yugas relate to each other as 4: 3: 2: 1 and form a chaturyuga or mahayuga of 4,320,000 years.
satya yuga, 4,800 years (1,728,000 years)
treta yuga, 3,600 years (1,296,000 years)
dwapara yuga, 2,400 years (864,000 years)
kali yuga, 1,200 years (432,000 years)
A NEW VISION
According to the Bengali holy swami Sri Yoekteswar (1855 – 1936), guru of the legendary Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952) who was the author of the spiritual bestseller ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’, we are living in the Dwapara era right now. The year in which he wrote his booklet ‘The Sacred Science’ was according to Yoekteshwar 194 Dwapara (1894 AD). The Dwapara Yuga is said to have started in 1700 AD, according to Yoekeswar. Yoekteswar wrote his booklet for his guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, (1828 – 1895), who in turn was a student of the mysterious Babaji.