The Yuga cycle in Hindu Mythology
Humans came as early as 6 to 2 million years ago. The human cycle is a tremendous race evolving day by day. From the first wheel invention to supercars, humans indeed had come a very long way. The first human fossils were believed to be found in Africa as old as 6 million years. But when we try to segregate them into different categories, the result is almost the same each time- cosmological, geological, anthropological, and historical. But that’s not entirely the same as what Hindu Mythology believes. The Hindu classification of human age seems quite a fascinating subject to know about.
‘Yuga’, ‘युग’ or an epoch is the Hindu mythological age cycle that represents human age in four different ages. These four epochs are named Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapar Yuga, and Kali Yuga. Hindu believes creation is a never-ending cycle that always unfolds in four different epochs. Understand this through a ‘Kalpa’ or an eon which is the period of time between the creation and recreation of the world. Each time when god creates human or ‘human age’ in specific, four Yugas take place starting from Satya yuga and ending at Kali-yuga.
Understanding the Yuga cycle in different periods
“Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and wherever there is a predominance of unrighteousness. I incarnate on earth”- Lord Vishnu, Bhagavad Gita 4:7.
Lord Vishnu sworn of incarnates 10 times on earth to end unrighteousness. The first four avatars or manifestations took place in Satya yuga, three in Treta yuga, eighth and ninth in Dwapar Yuga, and the tenth incarnation is believed to come before the end of the present yuga also known as Kali Yuga.
Satya Yuga or Krita Yuga is the starting of all yugas also mentioned as ‘the age of truth’. It is the period governed by Hindu gods and is also remembered as the golden age. It is the Satya Yuga where the Hindu gods used to rule over humans. It lasted for 4800 divine years (one divine year equals 360 solar years). Knowledge, meditation, and penance are of key importance to this yuga. The four pillars of goddess Dharma – austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness, and kindness remained intact during this time, the total establishment of Sanatan Dharma.
According to Hindu myth, it was a time where everyone was happy. The humans were free from all worldly greed, illusion, or pleasure. Every manifestation or work done was due to the unblended ideal and humanity which would allow goodness to rule foremost. The people of this yuga were kind, happy, tolerant, peaceful, and merciful. Anything could be obtained through the power of will and even gods personally visits humans whenever called upon. The marriage between Lord Shiva and Sati took place in the Satya Yuga. The gods were referred from several names such as Amala, Paramatma, or Yogesvara.
The Treta yuga was the second yuga after Satya yuga. It is called Treta because three incarnations of Lord Vishnu took place in this era- Vamana, Parashuram, and Rama. The word Treta also symbolizes the three legs of goddess Dharma, which were four in Satya Yuga. It means that by the emergence of the second yuga, Dharma lost his one leg or pillar. The Hindu myth Ramayana took place in the Treta Yuga. Treta yuga lasted for almost 3,600 divine years.
The Lord Vishnu has two Dwarapalaka meaning watch-person, Jaya and Vijaya. Both of them were cursed by few Brahmins that either they will bear on earth 10 times as ultimate Devotee of Vishnu or 3 times as rivals of Vishnu. The duo chooses the latter. In Satya yuga, they were born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. However, in the Treta yuga, one of the reincarnations was Ravana. So, it’s easy to understand why Ravana was a rival of Rama.
Kshatriyas is one of the Varna or caste in Hinduism, that were plaguing the earth in Treta yuga. Initially, warriors were known as Kshatriyas in the Hindu yuga cycle. Thus, in order to end these warriors damaging the earth, Lord Vishnu reincarnated as Parashuram to end all of them. However, some Kshatriyas survived maintaining the generation.
Dwapar Yuga is the third on the list. Only two legs of Dharma remained in Dwapar yuga- compassion and truthfulness. The people of Dwapar yuga are no longer the same as Satya yuga, they were ambitious, full of hatred, greed, and worldly desires. The Hindu mythology Mahabharata took place in Dwapar yuga and the Lord Vishnu was reincarnated as Lord Krishna. The story of Lord Krishna is mentioned in Krishna Charita including the famous tale of Radha-Krishna. Shishupala and Dantavakra in were manifestation of Jaya-Vijaya in Dvapara Yuga.
Each varna or class had different things to perform. These varnas are classified as Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, or Sudra. The Brahmins were basically teachers, sage, or saints. While Kshatriya’s were full of valor and courage and were normally warriors or kings. Vaisya’s were landowners and merchants. While the Sudra’s were farmers and other workers that require heavy physical strength. Each person performed their duties as required by their caste. For instance, no Brahmin was allowed to be a warrior, whereas no Kshatriya was allowed to be a farmer.
The Dwapar yuga lasted until Lord Krishna returned to his eternal being, who survived for 35 years more after the war of Kurukshetra (almost 2400 divine years).
Kali-yuga is the last Yuga of the Yuga cycle. It started at the twilight of 18 February 3102 BCE according to Surya Siddhanta, the exact time when Lord Krishna returned to its celestial abode. Hinduism believes that this Yuga is the evilest in all yugas. Only one leg of goddess Dharma remained- truth. The truth itself is heavily eroded in this era.
The last heir of Hastinapur after the war of Kurukshetra, king Parikshit managed to establish the four pillars of Dharma by banishing Kali. But Kali kept on asking him a place to stay, thus king Parikshit agreed to stay but on limited space. He petitioned him to gambling, drinking, prostitution, gold, and animal slaughter. He also warned everyone that whoever comes in contact with the above four desires will find himself surrounded by the negative effects of Kali.
Sadly, today’s era destroyed all four pillars of Dharma. Now Kali resides everywhere, and humans can be witnessed at their worst. Dramatically enough, the Kali-yuga let us ponder that if it’s really the last age of time epoch!