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Yuga in Hinduism is an epoch or era within a four age cycle. A complete Yuga starts with the Satya Yuga, via Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga into a Kali Yuga. Our present time is a Kali Yuga, which started at 3102 BCE with the end of the Mahabharata war.
There are four Yugas in one cyle:
- Satya Yuga, a time of truth and righteousness;
- Treta Yuga
- Dvapara Yuga
- Kali Yuga, a time of darkness and non-virtue.
Durations of the four yugas
According to the Laws of Manu, one of the earliest known texts describing the yugas, the length is 4800 years + 3600 years + 2400 years + 1200 years, for a total of 12,000 years for one arc, or 24,000 years to complete the cycle, which is one precession of the equinox). These 4 yugas follow a timeline ratio of (4:3:2:1).
According to Srimad Bhagavatam 3.11.19, which is dated at 500-1000 CE, the Yugas are much longer, namely 1,728,000 years, 1,296,000 years, 864,000 years and 432,000 years:
The duration of the Satya millennium equals 4,800 years of the demigods; the duration of the Dvāpara millennium equals 2,400 years; and that of the Kali millennium is 1,200 years of the demigods [...] As aforementioned, one year of the demigods is equal to 360 years of the human beings. The duration of the Satya-yuga is therefore 4,800 x 360, or 1,728,000 years. The duration of the Tretā-yuga is 3,600 x 360, or 1,296,000 years. The duration of the Dvāpara-yuga is 2,400 x 360, or 864,000 years. And the last, the Kali-yuga, is 1,200 x 360, or 432,000 years in total.[web 1]
While the long yuga count is the most popular, it does not correlate to any known celestial motion found in the Astronomical Almanac. The value of 24,000 years fits relatively close with the modern astronomical calculation of one full precession of the equinox, which takes 25,772 years.[note 1] Thus the yuga cycle may have some basis in known terrestrial cycles. Srimad Bhagavatam 3.11.19 describes the timespans of the demigods, in which a year of a yuga is a year of the demigods. It is this second sloka which appears to have been modified over the years.
The ages see a gradual decline of dharma, wisdom, knowledge, intellectual capability, life span, emotional and physical strength.
- Satya Yuga:- Virtue reigns supreme. Human stature was 21 cubits. Average human lifespan was 100,000 years.
- Treta Yuga: – There was 3 quarter virtue & 1 quarter sin. Normal human stature was 14 cubits. Average human lifespan was 10,000 years.
- Dvapara Yuga: – There was 1 half virtue & 1 half sin. Normal human stature was 7 cubits. Average human lifespan was 1,000 years.
- Kali Yuga: – There is 1 quarter virtue & 3 quarter sin. Normal human stature is 3.5 cubits. Average human lifespan will be 100 years. Towards the end of the Yuga this will come down to 20 years.
- This phenomenon is observed as the stars moving retrograde across the sky at about 50 arc seconds per year, and is thought to produce periods of warm ages and ice ages known as the Milankovitch cycle.
- According to Sri Yukteswar Giri, guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, The ascending phase of the Kali Yuga began in September 499 CE. Since September 1699, we have been in the ascending phase of the Dwapara Yuga. According to Sri Yukteswar, nobody wanted to announce the bad news of the beginning of the descending Kali Yuga, so they kept adding years to the Dvapara date (at that time 2400 Dvapara) only retitling the epoch to Kali.