Hindu cosmology

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According to Hindu mythology and cosmology the universe is cyclically created and destroyed. The life span of Lord Brahma, the creator, is 100 'Brahma-Years'. One day in the life of Brahma is called a Kalpa or 4,320 million years (the approximate life span of the earth).[1] [2] Every Kalpa (one day in the life of Brahma), Brahma creates 14 Manus one after the other, who in turn manifest and regulate this world. Thus, there are fourteen generations of Manu in each Kalpa (one day of Brahma). Each Manu’s life (Manvantara) consists of 71 Chaturyugas (quartets of Yugas or eras).[3] Each Chaturyuga is composed of four eras or Yugas: Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali.[4]

The span of the Sat Yuga is 1,728,000 human years, Treta Yuga is 1,296,000 human years long, the Dwapara Yuga 864,000 human years and the Kali Yuga 432,000 human years.[5] When Manu perishes at the end of his life, Brahma creates the next Manu and the cycle continues until all fourteen Manus and the Universe perish by the end of the Brahma-Day. When 'night' falls, Brahma goes to sleep for a period of time equal to the lives of fourteen Manus. The next 'morning', Brahma creates fourteen additional Manus in sequence just as he has done on the previous 'day'. The cycle goes on for 100 'divine years' at the end of which Brahma Himself perishes and is regenerated.

The present period is the Kali Yuga or last era in one of the 71 Chaturyugis (set of four Yugas/eras) in the life one of fourteen Manus. The current Manu is said to be the seventh Manu and his name is Vaivasvat. [6]

According to Aryabhata, the Kali Yuga began in 3102 BC, at the end of the Dvapara Yuga that was marked by the disappearance of Vishnu's Krishna avatar. Aryabhata's date is widely repeated in modern Hinduism.

The beginning of the new Yuga (era) is known as "Yugadi/Ugadi", and is celebrated every year on the first day (Paadyami) of the first month (Chaitramu) of the 12-month annual cycle. The Ugadi of 1999 begins the year 1921 of the Shalivahana era (5101 Kali Yuga, 1999 AD). The end of the Kali Yuga is 426,899 years from 1921. [7]

Overview of Yugas:

  1. Sat Yuga (Krita Yuga):- 1,728,000 Human years
  2. Treta Yuga:- 1,296,000 Human years
  3. Dwapara Yuga:- 864,000 Human years
  4. Kali Yuga:- 432,000 Human years (5,110 years have passed; 426,890 years remain). Kaliyuga started in 3102 B.C.; CE 2008 corresponds to Kaliyuga year 5,110


[edit] Variations on Hindu Cosmology

[edit] Rig Veda

The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rigveda describes the origin of the universe. The Rig Veda's view of the cosmos also sees one true divine principle self-projecting as the divine word, Vaak, 'birthing' the cosmos that we know, from the monistic Hiranyagarbha or Golden Egg [8]. The Hiranyagarbha is alternatively viewed as Brahma, the creator who was in turn created by God, or as God (Brahman) Himself.[citation needed] The Universe preserved by Vishnu (The God of Preservation) and destroyed by Shiva (The God of Destruction). These three constitute the holy Trinity (Trimurti) of the Hindu religion. Once the Universe has been destroyed by Shiva, Brahma starts the creation once again. This creation-destruction cycle repeats itself almost endlessly as described in the section above on Brahma, Manu and the Yugas.

[edit] The Puranas

The later Puranic view asserts that the Universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years--one day/Kalpa of Brahma, the creator) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named Pralaya (Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 trillion, 40 billion human years) that represents Brahma's lifespan. It must be noted that Brahma is the creator but not necessarily regarded as God in Hinduism because there are said to be many creations. Instead, he is regarded as a creation of the Supreme God or The Brahman.

We are currently believed to be in the 51st year of the present Brahma and so about 158.7 trillion years have elapsed since He was born as Brahma. After Brahma's "death", it is necessary that another 100 Brahma years pass until he is reborn and the whole creation begins anew. This process is repeated again and again, forever.

Brahma's day is divided in one thousand cycles (Maha Yuga, or the Great Year). Maha Yuga, during which life, including the human race appears and then disappears, made of 14 Manvantarahas each has 71 divisions. Each Maha Yuga lasts for 4,320,000 years. Manvantara is Manu's cycle, the one who gives birth and governs the human race.

Each Maha Yuga consists of a series of four shorter yugas, or ages. The yugas get progressively worse from a moral point of view as one proceeds from one yuga to another. As a result each yuga is of shorter duration than the age that preceded it. The current Kali Yuga (Iron Age) began at midnight 17 February / 18 February in 3102 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar.

Both the Rigveda and Brahmanda Purana describe a universe that is cyclical or oscillating and infinite in time. The universe is described as a cosmic egg that cycles between expansion and total collapse. It expanded from a concentrated form — a point called a Bindu. The universe, as a living entity, is bound to the perpetual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth

[edit] Six Shaka-Karta kings of Kali yuga

The age named Kali yuga or the "Black Age" is now running. The age is to last 432,000 human years in all; of this number, 5,110 years have already passed (as of 2008 CE), and 426,890 years are yet to pass before the age ends.

It is prophesied in legend that six kings in Kali yuga will create new eras (Shaka's) which will be named after them. Hence, these kings may be called the "Shaka-Karta" or "era-creator" kings. These six kings are:

  1. Yudhishthira (Dharmaraja): - Ruled in Ancient Indraprastha (Modern-day Delhi) and started his own calendar in the year 3,102 B.C (Before the Christian or current Roman calendar began). He was the eldest of the five Pandavas of the Great Indian Epic, the Mahabharata. [9] His calendar continued for 3,044 years until king Vikrama, the second Shaka-Karta king broke it and started his own calendar or the new Shaka.
  2. King Vikrama: - Ruled in Ujjaini city (Present-day Ujjain city in Madhya Pradesh state of India) in the year 57 B.C. He started his own calendar by breaking the old Yudhishthira Shaka. But his dating was continued only for 135 years as the third Shaka-Karta king, King Shalivahan of the city of Paithan in Maharashtra state near the modern city of Aurangabad came to power and broke the running Vikrama Shaka. Although in North India the Vikrama Shaka is still running, it is said that some kind of understanding or truce was fixed up between these two great kings to continue both the calendars in their respective areas or kingdoms.
  3. King Shalivahana (Gautamiputra Satkarni): - Ruled in the old city of Paithan in Maharashtra state in the year 78 A.D., that is 78 years after the beginning of the Christian era. This king is mentioned in old Christian literature as it is written that King Shalivahan had met the founder of the Christian religion, Jesus Christ, himself on a trip to great Himalaya mountains. His Shaka will continue for 18,000 years that is for Eighteen thousand years. That comes around to the year 18,078. This Shalivahan Shaka will be broken or discontinued by the next Shaka-Karta king and his name is King Vijayabhinandan, who will appear on the banks of the river Vaitarna in the Thane district near the city of Mumbai in Maharashtra state. Shalivahana belonged to the "Satavahana" dynasty.[citation needed]
  4. King Vijayabhinandan (coming): - This great king's era will begin on the banks of the river Vaitarna, probably in the Thane district of Maharashtra state. This place is near the city of Mumbai. And the river Vaitarna flows in the Thane district of Maharashtra state. He will break the King Shalivahan's Shaka and start his own Shaka or calendar. This is a prophecy of Hinduism. The epoch of king Vijayabhinandan's era will occur in year 18,078 A.D. His Shaka will continue for 10,000 years. That means that in the year 28,078 A.D., his Shaka or calendar will be broken or discontinued by the next Shaka-Karta king, Nagarjuna who will appear in the state of West Bengal in India.
  5. King Nagarjuna (coming): - He will be the fifth great Shaka-Karta king of the Kali yuga. His era will start in the Bengal region of India in the year 28,078 A.D. He will terminate the Shaka or calendar of Vijayabhinandan and start his own calendar or Shaka and that will continue for 400,000 years afterward. Nagarjuna will have the longest-running calendar in the Kali yuga.[citation needed]
  6. King Kalki (coming): - He will be the last and final Shaka-Karta king of the Kali yuga. As predicted in Hinduism about there being ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu, this king Kalki will be the tenth and final Avatar of that series. He is the final Avatar of Lord Vishnu who will end the present Kali yuga and again start the cycle of Yugas. The Satya yuga will be started after this grand termination. Hindu Mythology has predicted that he will come on a white horse. This Kalki Avatar will appear in the region of Kolhapur in the state of Maharashtra in India. He will end the then running Shaka of Nagarjuna and start his own Shaka or calendar in the year 428,078 A.D. His calendar or Shaka will run for 821 years.[citation needed]

[edit] Literature

[edit] Some calendars in use in India

Several traditional calendars are in use in India today. Six of them are listed below, with information on how they correspond to the Gregorian Christian calendar:

  1. Shalivahan Shaka calendar (used in South India and Maharashtra): - year 1927
  2. Vikram Samvat calendar (used in Northern and Eastern India): - year 2061-62
  3. Shiv Shaka or King Shivaji’s calendar : - 331-32
  4. Mahavir Samvat calendar (The Jain calendar): - year 2531-32
  5. Kali yuga calendar : - year 5107
  6. Hijri (The Islamic calendar): - year 1426-27
  7. Parsi calendar (The Zoroastrian calendar): - year 1374-75

[edit] Controversies

[edit] Earth's shape

Several writers have suggested that the concept of a spherical Earth may be implicit, though with ambiguity, in the Aitareya Brahmana, an ancient Indian philosophical text dating back to the early 1st millenium BC. One of the earliest writers to make this claim was Madame Blavatsky, who suggested that the "Serpent-Mantra" of the Aitareya Brahmana refers to the Earth (ilam) as the "Queen of the Serpents" (Sarpa-rajni) who initially had a bald head but grew hair as she became vegetated:[10]

"This Mantra is that one which was seen by the Queen of the Serpents, Sarpa-rajni; because the earth (iyam) is the Queen of the Serpents, as she is the mother and queen of all that moves (sarpat). In the beginning she (the earth) was but one head (round), without hair (bald), i.e., without vegetation. She then perceived this Mantra which confers upon him who knows it, the power of assuming any form which he might desire. She "pronounced the Mantra," i.e., sacrificed to the gods; and, in consequence, immediately obtained a motley appearance; she became variegated, and able to produce any form she might like, changing one form into another."

Blavatsky has interpreted the "description of the earth in the shape of a round and bald head, which was soft at first, and became hard only from being breathed upon by the god Vayu, the lord of the air, forcibly suggests the idea that the authors of the sacred Vedic books knew the earth to be round or spherical".[10]

Subhash Kak has interpreted another verse of the Aitareya Brahmana as suggesting that the Earth's rotation may be the cause of the apparent motion of the Sun rising and setting. He cites verse 4.18, which states:[11]

"The [sun] never really sets or rises. In that they think of him “He is setting,” having reached the end of the day, he inverts himself; thus he makes evening below, day above. Again in that they think of him “He is rising in the morning,” having reached the end of the night he inverts himself; thus he makes day below, night above. He never sets; indeed he never sets."

An alternative interpretation of the verse by Shyam Singh Shashi suggests that it may be referring to the Sun having a bright side in day and a dark side in night being the cause of its apparent rising and setting.[12]

[edit] Earth's motion

According to theosophists, the earliest traces of a counter-intuitive idea that it is the Earth that is actually moving and the Sun that is at the center of the solar system (hence the concept of heliocentrism) is found in several Vedic Sanskrit texts written in ancient India.[13][10] Yajnavalkya (c. 9th–8th century BC) believed that the Sun was "the center of the lokas" as described in the Vedas at the time. In his astronomical text Shatapatha Brahmana, he states:

"The sun is stationed for all time, in the middle of the day. [...] Of the sun, which is always in one and the same place, there is neither setting nor rising."[11]

Some interpret this to mean that the Sun is stationary, hence the Earth is moving around it,[10] though others are less clear about the meanings of the terms.[14] This would be elaborated in a later commentary Vishnu Purana (2.8) (c. 1st century BC).[11]

Yajnavalkya recognized that the Sun was much larger than the Earth, which would have influenced this early heliocentric concept.[13] He also is said to have accurately measured the relative distances of the Sun and the Moon from the Earth as 108 times the respective diameters of these heavenly bodies, close to the modern measurements of 107.6 for the Sun and 110.6 for the Moon.[15] He described an accurate solar calendar in the Shatapatha Brahmana.[15]

The Aitareya Brahmana (2.7) (c. 9th–8th century BC) also states:

"The Sun never sets nor rises. When people think the sun is setting, it is not so; they are mistaken. It only changes about after reaching the end of the day and makes night below and day to what is on the other side."[10][14]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita Translation and Commentary, Arkana, 1967 p. 253
  2. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=QIvnxhasdGoC&pg=PA6&dq=hindu+cosmology&lr=&ei=g23qSeXaOIG4M9Sz6OkN#PPA8,M1 Time Scales and Environmental Change, Chapman and Driver, p.8
  3. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita Translation and Commentary, Arkana, 1967 p. 254
  4. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita Translation and Commentary, Arkana, 1967 p. 254
  5. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita Translation and Commentary, Arkana, 1990 p. 254
  6. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita Translation and Commentary, Arkana, 1967 p. 253
  7. ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003). World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5. 
  8. ^ http://books.google.com/books?q=hiranyagarba+cosmology The Philosophy of Guru Nanak, Ishar Singh, 19985, p.134
  9. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita, A New Translation and Commentary, Chapters 1-6, Arkana, 1967, p. 28
  10. ^ a b c d e Madame Blavatsky (1877), Isis Unveiled, p. 10, Theosophical University Press, ISBN 0-911500-03-0
  11. ^ a b c Subhash Kak (2000), "Birth and Early Development of Indian Astronomy", in Helaine Selin (2000), Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy, pp. 303-40, Boston: Kluwer, ISBN 0-7923-6363-9
  12. ^ Shashi, Shyam Singh (1999), Encyclopaedia Indica, Anmol Publications, p. 204, ISBN 8170418593 
  13. ^ a b Teresi (2002).[unreliable source?]
  14. ^ a b Haug (1863).
  15. ^ a b Joseph (2000).

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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