Four Yugas are considered as epochs of Hinduism which reflect life during one particular Yuga.
What is a Yuga?
According to Hindu Ideology, the universe exists in four main “Yugas” – epochs or era – each comprised of thousands of human years.
According to the laws of Hinduism, this entire Universe is believed to form wholly, only to be diminished completely, once every 4.1 – 8.2 billion years to reoccur in cyclic patterns. However, all these years are just a matter of day and night to Lord Brahma, the Creator. Each of these Yugas deal with stages of evolution; in which not only nature but the mankind’s thought process and consciousness changes based upon the characteristic of particular Yuga. The entire cycle starts from its highest point, and gradually declines stage by stage, till it enters the Dark Age. This process is said to continue to finish one complete cycle. One entire cycle also signifies the time taken by the solar system to revolve around another star.
- Satya Yuga (1,728,000 years)
- Treta Yuga (1,296,000 years)
- Dvapara Yuga (864,000 years)
- Kali Yuga (432,000 years).
Each Yuga brings an opportunity to mankind to acquire universal powers of self-realization i.e. Yuga dharma.
Mahayuga or Yuga (4’320’000 years)
There are four Yugas in one cycle:
1. Satya Yuga
The best and foremost Yuga. It is the era of veracity and magnificence. This Yuga persisted with only one religion, and all humans were scholars and saints. Humans were erudite, gigantic, honest, vigorous, virtuous and youthful. The Vedas persisted as one. Every human could acquire supreme blessings. There was zero necessary for making a living through occupation, as earth yielded every rich by itself. The weather was peaceful and pleasant and people lived in prosperity. There was no division of religions. No decrepitude or fear existed. The lifespan of humans was 1 lakh years and they tend to have thousands of children. People execute penances for many years to obtain ecstasy and die.
Virtue rules supremacy. Human stature possesses 21 cubits. This golden age lasts 1,728,000 years. The self-realization is obtained by meditation of Lord.
Pious Men during Satya Yuga
This Yuga is reigned by the most benevolent Gods and also people would be in their purest and ideal nature. This era is commonly referred as “Golden Age”, as it possesses the fairest and equitable life for a human being to lead.
It is presumed that the Dharma, in the form of Bull, that represents the morality, stood on all 4 legs during this period. But as the Treta Yuga pursued, it stood on three, and two in Dvapara Yuga. Finally, it is standing on one leg in the age of Kali.
2. Treta Yuga
Is the second Yuga in order. During the age, righteousness declines moderately. During the primary stages of the age, rulers rise to exhibit predominance and vanquish the universe. Wars are stated periodically and the atmosphere tends to undergo extremities. Oceans and deserts are formed. People are slightly smaller in comparison to their ancestors. Agriculture, labour and mining are practiced rigorously. Average lifespan of humans is around 1000-10,000 years.
God Descension in Treta Yuga
It has 3 quarter righteousness and 1 quarter sin. Average human stature possess 14 cubits. It is also termed as the silver age, that endures 1,296,000 years and self-realization is obtained by performing opulent yajnas. Varna-asrama-dharma is initiated in this era.
3. Dwapara Yuga
Is regarded as the third Yuga in order. During this era, people become adulterate with ignorant qualities and are physically weaker when compared to their ancestors. Diseases turn epidemic. Humans exhibit resentment and quarrel among each other. Vedas are split into four parts. Average lifespan of humans lasts just for a few centuries.
The world is filled with 1 half virtue & 1 half sin. Normal stature of human was 7 cubits whereas the average lifespan being 1,000 years.
Sri Krishna, the 8th Incarnation of God Maha Vishnu was born in the end of Dwaparayuga.
Mahabharata during Dvapara Yuga
This yuga is considered as the bronze age, that persists for 864,000 years and the self-realization is acquired by revering deities within temples. Here man gains a comprehension of the electrical attributes, the finer forces and more subtle matters of creation.
The two pillars of religion in this era were Artha and Kama. It was in this age when Vedas were categorized into four parts, viz., Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva. Thereby the classification of different Varnas also arose in course of time.
4. Kali Yuga
This is the final age of gloom and unawareness. People lose righteousness, become slaves to their fantasies and are almost powerless when compared to their early ancestors. Society enters into disguise and people emerge as liars and deceivers. Knowledge has no place and scriptures get no attraction. Humans indulge in forbidden and unhealthy food and employ in sinful practices of sexes. The environment gets polluted, food and water become deficient. Average lifespan of people will be barely 100 years, though, it is expected to decrease as low as 20 years by the end of the era. This yuga has only one quarter virtue and the remaining is filled with sin. Human stature is lowered to 3.5.
Brahma Purana, states that Kalyug is composed of 10,000 golden years, after which there’ll be constant downfall of mankind. It also predicts the genuine date of start of Kalyug, which is on 18th February 3102 BCE according to the English date, and the end date of Kalyug will be by Feb. 6898. It is regarded that the Kali Yuga started the day Krishna left his earthly body and set towards his abode, Vaikuntha.
During this Yuga, Man’s mind is centered on the problems of material objectivity, the Avidya of Atomic Form.
The Kali Yuga is considered to prevail for about 432,000 years. This Yuga signifies the Dark Age and marks the point when human civilization faces a steep in righteousness and spirituality.
At the extreme stage of the Kali Yuga, there will arise a point when things cannot get any worse. It is believed that the Lord will incarnate again to diminish all the evil and restore the virtue on earth.
Time Duration of the four Yugas
According to the Laws of Manu, the ancient text illustrating the four yugas in detail, classify the length of each yuga as follows.
4800 years + 3600 years + 2400 years + 1200 years, which equals 12,000 years. This figure denotes only a half cycle and hence, the entire cycle takes 24,000 years to complete. This is also one precession of the equinox. Each “year” of the Yuga Cycle is composed of 360 human years.
This would also lead us to believe that the Satya Yuga lasted for 4,800×360, that is, about 1,728,000 years. The Treta Yuga, on the other hand, went on for 3,600×360 years, which works out to 1,296,000 years. Similarly, the Dvapara Yuga continued for 2,400×360, that is, 864,000 years. This era is the shortest of them all, lasting for only 1,200×360 years, which totals to 432,000 years. From the aforementioned statistic, it can be understood that the four Yugas follow a timeline ration of 4:3:2:1.
Symbolic Significance of the Four Yugas
According to Hindu philosophy, Kaala or time is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord himself. This Brahman is indivisible, timeless and eternal. Hence, the Lord contains the past, present, and future within himself. However, once the Lord creates the physical world, time becomes divisible and starts moving cyclically, thus giving rise to the Kalachakra or the Wheel of Time. God uses this concept of time in order to prevent chaos, and also to create the illusion of impermanence in Samsara – creating the cycle of life and death.
The Kalachakra makes human go through continuous cycles of joy and suffering, based on individual levels of karma. This entire story is composed of four different phases – the start, the middle and the end, after which there is a certain period of rest.
As mentioned earlier, each subsequent age is witness to a diminish in intellect, knowledge, lifespan, spirituality, wisdom in mankind as a whole. This automatically also implies decline and destruction of dharma or righteousness.
It is believed that when a certain cycle of creation concludes, God pulls out all of his vitalities within himself and lays steady for a period of time, while he is absolutely idle. After this phase of rest, God recommences his pursuit and initiates to recreate a completely new world, creating an infinite number of alternative human beings and other life forms.