Time occupies a pivotal role in the functioning of this Universe. Its importance is often understated and lost in clichés such as ‘Time and tide waits for no man’. We all know that most events in our daily life occur on the basis of time. From the ubiquitous sunrise to the birth of a baby, everything hinges on the passage of time. There is no aspect in this cosmos that does not rely on time.
Every major civilization developed a method of measuring time at various points in history. The hourglass and the sundial were amongst the most ingenious of solutions. Modern science has given us the atomic clock, powered by nuclear energy and is said to the most precise time keeping device in history. Yet, plotting the movement of the sun, the moon and the stars has always provided the most reliable methods of measuring time. Using these tools, man has always tried to guess the age of this Universe, the starting seconds of the Big Bang and even guess the time when ‘Time’ began!
The Bhagwatam gives us an accurate account of time measurement. Starting with the smallest unit of time, they reveal a journey of unimaginable proportions, leading us all the way to the age of the Universe.
The smallest particle in the Universe is a Paramanu. It is invisible to the naked eye and is a sub-atomic particle. It is impossible to divide, dissect or destroy a Paramanu. A Paramanu retains its original state / personality till it combines forces with another Paramanu.
2 Paramanus = 1 Anu (an atom)
3 Anus = 1 Trasarenu (visible to the naked eye, in sunshine)
3 Trasarenus = Truti (8/13,500th of a second)
The time taken by the Sun (or its rays) to travel through 3 Trasarenus is called a Truti.
100 Truti = Vedh
The Chaitanya Charitavali reveals that 300 Trutis make a Bodh and 3 Bodhs make a Lav.
3 Vedh = 1 Lav (8/45th of a second)
3 Lav = 1 Nimesh (8/15th of a second)
3 Nimesh = 1 Kshan (1.6 seconds)
5 Kshan = Kashta
15 Kashta = 1 Laghu (approx. 2 minutes)
15 Laghu = 1 Ghadi (also called Nadika)
2 Ghadi = Muhurth (approx. one hour)
6 or 7 Ghadi = Pahar (approx. 3 to 3 1/2 hours)
The length of a day and the night keeps varying according the solstice in which the Sun is currently in. Hence, the no .of hours in a day keep changing, depending on whether it is a long day or a short day.
8 Pahars = 1 Day and 1 Night (a full cycle of 24 hours)
7 Days / Nights = 1 Saptah (1 week)
15 days = 1 Paksh
A lunar month is divided into 2 Pakshas, of 15 days each. They are called Shukla Paksha (light half) and Krishna Paksha (dark half). It depicts the passage of time between new moon and full moon (waxing or shukla paksha) and then between the full moon and the new moon (waning or krishna paksha).
2 Pakshas = 1 month
2 months = 1 Ritu
3 Ritu = 1 Ayan
2 Ayans = 1 year
Uttarayan and Dakshinayan split a year into two equal halves. Uttarayan, known as the ‘Summer Solstice’ in the western world, marks the transition of the Sun from south to north (Tropic of Cancer), in the Northern Hemisphere. The beginning of Uttarayan is celebrated as Sankranti, in January and generally ends in July.
Dakshinayan, popularly known as the ‘Winter Solstice’ for the people of the Northern Hemisphere, marks the beginning of the transition of the Sun from north to south, towards the Tropic of Capricorn.
The two Ayans make for one full movement of the Sun from, north to south and then south to north. 1 human year constitutes a day and a night for the Devtas (Demigods). Uttarayan is the day and Dakshinayan is the night.
Endless cycle of time
The Vedas mention that creation and destruction is a cyclic phenomenon and eternal. The basic classification of time has 4 yugas.
Satyug = 1,728,000 years (4000 Devta years)
Tretayug = 1,296,000 years (3000 Devta years)
Dwaparyug = 864,000 years (2000 Devta years)
Kaliyug = 432,000 years (1000 Devta years)
The passage of each yug denotes a progressive degradation of human, moral and spiritual values. People in Satyug are very pious and spiritually evolved. Violence, crime and other negative characteristics are almost non-existent. The same cannot be said of the people in Kaliyug (the current age that started about 5100 years ago).
A full cycle of 4 yugas takes 4,320,000 years (4.32 Million years) to complete. This is known as Chaturyugi or Chaukdi. The ‘transition period’ between two yugas is known as Sandhya and Sandhyansh. At the beginning of every yug, the passage of a defined number of years is called Sandhya and the transition period at the end of that yug is called Sandhyansh.
This cycle of 4 yugas is also known as one ‘Divya Yuga’, or the passage of 12000 Devta years.
When 71 cycles of the 4 yugas are complete, a manvantar is said to have passed. A manvantar takes approximately 306,720,000 years or 308.57142 million years to complete. A partial destruction of the Universe takes place at the end / beginning of every manvantar.
The passage of 14 manvantars is called kalp. This constitutes 1 day of Lord Brahma’s life!
The total time elapsed in a kalp is approximately 4,320,000,000 years or 4.32 Billion years. This is equal to 1000 Chaukdis or 1000 ‘Divya Yugas’.
An equal amount of time (4.32 Billion years) constitutes Lord Brahma’s night. When each day in Lord Brahma’s life comes to a close, the earth planet and the three celestial adobes (Bhu, Bhuv and Swah) enter a transition stage. The Sun and The Moon cease to exist. This is called as Kalp Pralaya. The complete Universe as we know it merges into Lord Brahma during his night. When the night (4.32 Billion years) passes and a new day dawns, Lord Brahma manifests the Universe in exactly the same stage as it was before they merged into his form.
1 year of Lord Brahma’s life is 3,110,400,000,000 years or 3.11 trillion years.
100 years of Lord Brahma’s life equals 311,040,000,000,000 years 311. 04 trillion years.
The lifespan of Brahma is identical with the lifespan of this universe. After 100 years of Lord Brahma’s lifespan, the complete Universe is dissolved. This event is known as Maha Pralay, when nothing except the Supreme God exists. Everything merges (not destroyed or terminated) into the Supreme and lies in a dormant state till God manifests them again to begin the endless cycle of life and destruction.
What time is it now?
According to the Vedic scriptures, we are now in the first day of the second half of the life of Lord Brahma (he is now 50). Fifty years of Lord Brahma’s life is called Parardh.
Within this current day (kalp) of Lord Brahma, we are in the seventh manvantar (of Vaivasvata Manu), in the 28th cycle of the 4 yugas. In the 28th cycle, we have completed the 3 yugas, Satyug, Tretayug, Dwaparyug. Kaliyug started just over 5000 years ago.
In this way, it is clearly established in the Vedas that life and time ride on an endless and eternal cycle of yuga, manvantar and kalp. There is no end.