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Treta Yuga (Sanskrit: त्रेता युग) is the second out of the four yugas, or ages of mankind, in the religion of Hinduism. It follows the Satya Yuga and is followed by the Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. Treta means 'a collection of three arousing things' in Sanskrit, and is so called because during the Treta Yuga, there were three Avatars of Vishnu that were seen, the sixth and seventh incarnations as Parashurama and Rama respectively. The name could also be derived from the fact that the Treta Yug lasted 3,600 divine years, or 1,296,000 human years. The bull of Dharma symbolises that mortality stood on three legs during this period. It had all four legs in the Satya Yuga and two in the succeeding Dvapara Yuga. Currently, in the immoral age of Kali, it stands on one leg.
During the Treta Yuga, the power of humans diminishes slightly. Kings and Brahmins need to actively fulfill their desires instead of using mere fiat of will. People grow more materialistic and less inclined towards spirituality. Wars broke out frequently and climate changes became common place, giving rise to deserts and oceans.
Despite these seemingly negative effects, the Treta Yuga also brought knowledge of universal magnetism. This knowledge allowed humans to understand the forces of nature and the true nature of the universe. Agriculture and mining came into existence along with norms and rules to keep society under control.
Avatars of Lord Vishnu during Treta Yuga
Vishnu incarnated as the Brahman Parashurama in this era because there were too many warlike Kshatriyas plaguing the Earth, and he therefore had to wipe out most of the world's warriors. However, some of the Kshatriyas survived or more were created, and their population grew again. Eventually, the avatara of Vishnu in Parashurama ended, though it is said that he continued to live on as a mighty warrior-hermit. He confronted Rama, angrily, years later, before acknowledging the latter's supremacy and retiring. He lived on in the Dvapara Yuga, having a great duel with Bhishma for the sake of Amba. However he failed to defeat him and stopped fighting after he was forbidden by the divine sage Narada and his ancestors and learning that Bhishma had surpassed him in art of warfare. He mentored Dronacharya, teacher of both the Kauravas and Pandavas. Parashurama also taught Karna how to use the Brahmastra but when he found out that Karna had lied about being a brahmana, he cursed Karna that his knowledge of the Brahmastra would fail him when he needed it the most. He is said to be still alive today, doing penance on the Mahendragiri mountain.
The hallmark of this era was the rise of evil in the form of the demon king of Sri Lanka, Ravana. He conquered the three worlds namely, Earth, Heaven and the Netherworld (Patala) and terrorized everyone. Even the Devas were subordinate to him - his son Meghanada had earned the title Indrajit by defeating Indra, the King of heaven in battle; and even the Sun had to obey the king. In this scenario, Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as the son of King Dasharatha of the Suryavamshis or Ikshvaku dynasty and was named Rama. Due to a stepmother's jealousy, Rama was sent away to a forest in exile for 14 years, during which time he confronted and killed Ravana for kidnapping his wife, and thus stored peace on earth. He is said to have afterwards established Rama-rajya or Rama's Kingdom over the entire earth from his throne at Ayodhya for 11,000 years, before eventually returning to his Mahavishnu form.