Saturday, April 16, 2016

Yuga of Misery Yuga of Mercy

Ghor Kaliyug hai  - you may have heard this expression when someone is exasperated by the way things are happening.. ever pondered what it implies?

The Age of Kali - Kaliyug is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of Mahayugas. According to Hindu cosmology, time is cyclical and you can consider the four Yugas to be similar to the four seasons that keep recurring in perpetual eternity. 

In each successive yuga (Satya to Treta to Dvapar to Kali), all human virtues keep getting diminished including mankind's intellect, age, honesty, values etc. In this post I'll talk not just about the moral devaluation of humanity which is self-evident, but also try to highlight something that's generally missed in the narrative.

Beginning of Kaliyuga

By the calculations of Aryabhatta, the most celebrated mathematician of ancient India, Kaliyug began between the 18th to 20th of February 3102 BCE which tells us that we are currently in the 5118th year of this Era. in India we recently celebrated Ugadi/Gudi-Padwa/Navreh/Cheti-Chand  and the reason why it is called Yug-aadi is because this is the day Kaliyug began (BTW its also the day when Brahma began creation).

Brahma began Creation on the day of Ugadi

Srimad Bhagavatam [12.2.31] records Kali-yuga as having begun when the constellation of the seven sages or Big Dipper passed through the Nakshatra of Magh. This took place roughly 36 years after the battle of Mahabharat that wiped out millions off the face of the Earth. You may ask why it didn't start immediately after the war but according to Vaishnav tradition, the demon Kali could not step on the planet till the time Krishna, the Supreme Lord was present on it. It was only after Krishna's departure that Kaliyuga could descend.

Kali could not appear till Krishna remained on Earth

As I always do in each post, I am going to share with you inputs not just from Hindu mythology but also beliefs from other parts of the world that may match ours. You would be surprised to know that the last cycle of the Mayan calendar started in 3113-14 BCE, very close to the Hindu dates of beginning of Kaliyuga! Without any connection between the two civilizations, their calendars begin with only a difference of 11 years. What is also interesting is that in both these calendars, this is the last stage of the cycle.

Two civilizations at opposite ends come up with similar calendars

Scientific Basis of Yugas?

The length of Kali Yuga, the smallest of the four Yugas is believed to be 432,000 years which is the basic unit of Yuga calculation. The Dvapar-Yuga is twice this time, Treta is thrice and Satyuga is four times this period with the total adding up to 4.32 Million years. That is a staggering period and none of us would be alive to see the end but we can certainly see if such a huge number holds any significance in science.

We know that Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle but is elliptical in shape. Here I need to introduce you to the concept of ORBITAL ECCENTRICITY which states that the shape of Earth's orbit changes over time and can vary between nearly circular (low eccentricity) to more elliptical (high eccentricity). While the change is a part of nature's process, what is important from our point of view is that these variations occur over a period of 413,000 years - quite close to the basic unit of a Yuga!

Earth's orbit changes from circular to elliptical over one Yuga Unit of Time

This change in orbital eccentricity has a profound effect on the conditions prevailing on Earth including massive temperature changes but this is not all. Each Yuga is supposed to have a period of dawn and dusk that takes about 10% of its time ~ 43,000 years. Is there a scientific phenomenon that repeats during this duration? The answer is YES and that is the change in the angle of Earth's axis known as the AXIAL TILT - Earth does not rotate in space like a perfect sphere but tilts just like a spinning top giving rise to seasons. 

What is interesting is that the angle of the tilt does not stay constant rather takes approximately 41,000 years to shift between a tilt of 22.1° and 24.5° and back which again leads to massive climate change on the planet. These two phenomenon combined with PRECESSION of Equinoxes mentioned in the article {Black Holes & Bhagavatam} together form the basis of something known as Milankovitch Cycles that give rise to rapid changes in Earth's temperature heralding amongst other catastrophes, the Ice-Ages.

Milankovitch Cycles 

We saw in the post titled {Pralaya - the End of Days} the Great Deluge mentioned in various world mythologies may actually be the memory of the meltdown after the Ice-Age ends. You would remember that pralaya marks the transitions between Yugas and I believe the Milankovitch Cycles fit in quite nicely with the timelines of Yuga cycles as described in our Puranas.

On a side note, let me just mention something related to Astrology (which BTW I don't really understand too well myself). Scientists say that if Earth had been the only planet around Sun, the eccentricity of its orbit wouldn't be too much. The real reason for the huge difference is due to the effect of the gravitational fields of Jupiter and Saturn! Similarly, precession is seen due to the tidal forces exerted by the Sun and the Moon on Earth's equator. No wonder then that so much importance is given to the effect of planets especially Surya and Shani in Indian Astrology!

Descriptions of Kaliyug

Hindu scriptures mention that during the 432,000 years of Kali, humanity shall deteriorate and fall into barbarism. The world teems with fanatics and extremists and religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, physical strength and memory diminish with each passing day.

Shrimad Bhagavatam says that the demon of Kali descended as soon as Krishna had left the planet. Arjun's grandson Parikshit who was the ruler of the known world then encountered him in the form of a richly attired goon who was beating an ox mercilessly. The emperor stopped his chariot and immediately headed towards the spot to stop him but the man continued till three of the four legs of the animal were broken.

As Parikshit lifted his sword to kill the brute, he fell on his knees and begged to spare his life. He told the emperor that he was none other than Kali, the embodiment of Kaliyuga and his time on Earth had begun. In order to spread his rule he had to break the pillars of Dharma that the ox represented!

The emperor knew he could not halt the progress of Kali but he stopped him from completely maiming Dharma. The demon was allowed to reside in FOUR places - gambling houses and taverns, people with unbridled sexual desires, slaughter-houses where innocent animals are killed and in riches and gold.

No wonder then that most of the crimes we see today happen either in a state of intoxication or involve the misuse of natural resources due to excessive greed for money or take place due to uncontrolled lust and desire!!

To make it easier to understand the effect of Kali, let me share with you some bang-on descriptions about this age from Shrimad Bhagavatam, Ling Puraan, Vishnu Puraan and Mahabharat:


Kings take to seizing property, rather than protecting the citizenry. Rogues and criminals become leaders to exploit and enslave their people. In this age, merely possessing wealth is considered a sign of good birth, proper behavior, and fine qualities. Law and justice are determined by one's prestige and power.


Marriage ceases to exist as a holy union - men and women simply live together on the basis of bodily attraction and sexual pleasure. Women wander from one man to another. One's beauty is thought to depend on one's hairstyle. Monks break their vows of celibacy. Women, children, and cows - always protected in an enlightened society - are abused and killed during this age.


Men no longer look after their parents in their old age, and fail to provide for their own children. Filling the belly is said to be the only purpose in life. Cows are killed once their milk production drops. Humans give in to intoxication, fornication and killing of animals without any restraint; family structure breaks up and children are abused and abandoned. Thieves are numerous and rapes are frequent. Everyone uses vulgar language.

Farmers abandon living close to nature. They become unskilled laborers in congested cities. Many dress in rags, or are unemployed, and sleep on the streets. 


Atheism flourishes. Religious observances are performed solely for the sake of reputation. False doctrines and misleading religions spread across the globe. People prefer false ideas and do not hesitate to persecute religious preachers. Interestingly, not just Hindu but Buddhist texts also predict a decline in religion. Buddhism is prophesized to completely disappear during the Kali Yuga, and it will be virtually impossible for a person to find any opportunity for spiritual realization.

These descriptions are so apt for our society that they leave you wondering whether the authors had undertaken time-travel to visit the current age! Not only is this the exact current scenario but the accuracy of these predictions also fills one with a sense of hopelessness. However, one ray of sunshine exists in this gloom.

The Silver Lining

The Brahma-Vaivarta Puraan [4.129] records a coversation between Lord Krishna as He is preparing to leave Earth at the end of Dvapar Yuga and Goddess Ganga. Krishna tells the goddess who is distraught by the knowledge of Kaliyug's imminent arrival that she would be instrumental in delivering the souls of humans for the first five thousand years of this era and also mentions - 

Kaler dasa-sahsrani
madbhaktah samti bhu-tale
ekavarna bhavishyamti 
madbhakteshu gateshu cha

In Kaliyuga, for ten thousand years
My devotees shall remain on this planet
Only one varna shall remain
After their departure

This thus, is the 10,000 year Golden Period of Kaliyuga. Is there any scientific relevance of this 10,000 year period? 

The answer again is in the affirmative. Currently the Earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees from its orbital plane, roughly halfway between its extreme values. The tilt is in the decreasing phase of its cycle, and will reach its minimum value around the year 10,000 CE. Besides, Earth's Precession shall make the Pole Star change from Polaris or Dhruv to Vega in the next 12000 years and I am not sure what kind of changes that would bring.

Some spiritual Gurus like Yukteshwar use the 24,000 period of Precession to describe Yugas as ascending or descending but based on the scriptures I don't believe this is mentioned in any of the religious scriptures! The Yugas follow a cyclical pattern of Satya-Treta-Dvapar-Kali and at the end of Kali, the golden age of Satyuga returns again in a continuous cycle. There is no swinging back through Dvapar and Treta as believed by certain western followers of the Yogi.

The proof in support of this assessment is that ancient Hindu astronomical text Surya-Siddhanta mentions precession as Ayanamsa with its current value while simultaneously mentioning the correct duration of the Yugas with the basic unit of 432000 years.

Incorrect interpretation of Yugas based on Precession

The actual cycle of Yugas would be as shown below

Even though we are born in this Age of Darkness, we are fortunate to have been born in a time when devotion to Krishna still exists on Earth! The scriptures also mention that it has never been simpler to achieve God than it is in Kaliyug for unlike Satyug where thousands of years penance was required to even get a glimpse of God, in Kaliyug, ALL you need to do is remember His NAME!

Even in the Judaeo-Christian tradition lot of importance is given to the name of God, ever heard this statement - Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name? The sentiment is echoed by the Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji in the following verse:

In Treta one had to do elaborate rituals like the Ashwamedh Yagnya and in Dvapar the mode of worship was through huge temples but in Kaliyug, just by remembering the name of the Lord one can get deliverance from the cycle of birth and death. 5000 years have passed and five thousand more remain of this period so let us make the most of it by following good Dharma and ensuring that THIS life is the last of an infinite cycle of births and deaths.

I end this post with an invocation from the Brihan-Naradiya Puraan -

Harer naam Harer naam Harer naamaiva kevalam
Kalau na asti eva na asti eva na asti eva gatir anyatha

In this Age of Kali,
There is no other Deliverance, No other Deliverance, No other Deliverance,
Than the name of Hari!

May the Lord have mercy on all :)

Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti:

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