Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Yugas and Manvantras - Time Concepts

Introduction


The basic theme regarding time in Hindu Mythology is one of a cycle. The world gets created, various events take place and finally is destroyed, only to be created again. Different texts give slightly different accounts of the order of events and the various personages in each age. The following description has been adapted from [Bh.P.6.1.10]. As this text is primarily about Vishnu, it makes him the supreme deity who creates Lord Brahma to perform the tasks of creation. Some of the details were also added from the Padma Purana.

The basic unit is one year as it occurs in Swargaloka. This duration is different from one of our mortal years. The basic cycle is one of a Maha-Yuga, or Chatur-Yuga (Chatur=four), which consists of the Yugas (lit. eras), Krita Yuga (also called Satya yuga), Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga.

Krita Yuga lasts 4800 deva-years, Treta yuga lasts 3600 deva-years, Dvapara yuga lasts 2400 and the Kali Yuga lasts 1200 deva-years. A typical conversion factor that is used is that 1 deva-year=360 terrestrial years. This would make the four Yugas 1,728,000, 1,296,000, 864,000, and 432,000 years long respectively.

One of Lord Brahma's days consists of a thousand Chatur-Yugas, which would be 4.32x109 earthly years. The night is also of equal duration, and his lifespan is 100 such Brahma years. This time is called a Kalpa. This would make the Kalpa somewhat larger than 3x1014 terrestrial years.

In each of the Kalpas, there are fourteen Manus. Each Manu is allocated a time that is slightly greater than 71 Chatur-Yugas. The time of each Manu is named after them, called a Manvantra. Each of the Manvantras has its own Manu, Devas, Indra, and the SaptaRishis. (Note: This could account for the varying personages who constitute the Sapta Rishis in different texts). Each Manvantara may either be referred to by its number, or by the name of the Manu who presides over it.

The Manu of the first Manvantra is Swayambhuva_Manu. Vishnu was incarnated as the Varaha (boar) during his time. His wife was Sataroopa. Yama and others were the Devas. Vishnu is said to have born in the Manu's lineage and become the Indra. He also incarnated as Kapila, but this is not normally counted as one of his ten incarnations. Marichi was the foremost among the SaptaRishis.

The second Manvantra had Svarosisha, with the Manu of the same name. Rochana was the Indra. The Devas were comprised of Dushita (who is this?) and others. The SaptaRishis consisted of Stambha, Dhattatreya, Atri, Chyavana, Prana, Kashyapa and Brihaspati. Lord Vishnu was incarnated as Vibhu (again, not part of the 10 avatars) in this Manvantra. The Indra of this age was Bhanusangyak.

Uttama Manvantra is the third. Uttama is the Manu, and his sons Pavana, Srunjaya and others were the Devas. The sons of Vasishta led by Pramadha are the SaptaRishis. Satyajit was the Indra. Lord Vishnu was incarnated as Satyasena, which is not counted in his ten major avatars. Sadhyanga was the Indra.

The Manu of the fourth Manvantra is Tamasa. The Devas were comprised of a group called as the Satyakars. Jyothis, Vyoga and others made up the SaptaRishis. The Indra was Trichika. Lord Vishnu was incarnated as 'Hari', which was again not a major avatar.

Raivata was the Manu of the fifth Manvantra. The Indra was Vibhu, and the SaptaRishis were comprised of Hiranyaroman, Vedhasiras, Urthvabahu. The Lord was incarnated as Vaikuntan, which is not a major incarnation.

Sakshasha was the sixth manu. Indradhyumna was the Indra, and the SaptaRishis were headed by Havishman. The incarnation of Vishnu was called Ajita, again not a major avatar.

The seventh and present Manu is called Sratha, who is also known as Vaivasvata Manu because of he is the son of Vivasvant (Surya). He is commonly called Vaivasvata Manu. The Adityas, the Ashwini twins, the Maruts, and the Rbhus are the Devas of this Manvantra. The Indra of this Manvantra is Purandara. The SaptaRishis are: Kashyapa, Atri, Vasishta, Vishwamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadwaja. Vishnu was incarnated as Vamana, the son of Kashyapa in this age. This Manvantra is still in progress. We are in one of the Kali yugas of the Manvantra. The present Yuga started sometime after the Pandavas regained their Kingdom after the battle of Kurukshetra.

The eighth Manu will be Savarni, the ninth will be Ruchi, the tenth would be Bhautya, the eleventh will be Merusavarni, who will be followed by Ribhu, Veetdhama and Vishkvasena Manus.

There are varying accounts of the Manvantra in different texts, but they more or less match the above. The Kurma (tortoise) and Mohini (bewitching-woman) incarnations are usually allocated to the sixth Manvantra, with the following incarnations allocated to seventh.

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Last Modified At: Sun Aug 7 11:06:02 2005