The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 319,243 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes narration of the four yugas: castes and stages of life which is Chapter 31 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 31 - Narration of the four Yugas: castes and stages of life

Note: This chapter depicts the state of the society, religion, religious texts etc. in the Dvāpara Age. The deterioration and confusion of social, religious and other conditions provide a back-ground to the Chaos in the Kali Age.

Sūta said:—

1. Henceforth, I shall recount the position of the Dvāpara Age once again. When Tretā Yuga passes by, Dvāpara Sets in.

2. The Siddhi that the subjects had in the Tretā Yuga becomes defunct along with the subjects, when Tretā Yuga elapses at the beginning of Dvāpara.

3. In Dvāpara the mixture and combination of the castes begins to take place among the subjects. All activities are affected adversely (and get inverted).

4. The main activity in Dvāpara is declared as a combination of Rajas and Tamas with all these viz. the emphasis on Yajñas[1], administration of justice, pride, arrogance, forgiveness and strength.

5. The Dharma that had been in existence in the first Kṛta Yuga continues to function in Tretā Yuga. After becoming agitated and intensely affected in Dvāpara, it becomes extinct in the Kali Yuga.

6. In that Yuga, there is utter destruction of (the classification of) the castes. Similarly, the different stages of life get jumbled and mixed up. The Śruti and Smṛti come to be at variance with each other in that Yuga.

7. Owing to the difference between Śruti and Smṛti no definite conclusion can be arrived at. Because of the absence of definiteness, there is no (clear-cut) principle of Dharma.

8-10. Owing to the absence of (a specific) Dharma, there is difference of opinion even among friends. Owing to mutual difference and confusion in the points of view there is no definite conclusion such as “This is Dharma. This is not Dharma.”

The confusion in the points of view results from ambiguity and uncertainty of the causes, inconclusiveness in regard to the effects (or decisions) and difference of opinion among the people.

Hence, utter confusion and contradiction is brought about in the scriptural texts by persons with different points of view.

11. It is laid down that there is only a single unified Veda with four feet (i.e. sections, books) in the Tretā Yuga. In view of the fact that there is reduction in the span of life, the Veda is distinctly classified in the Dvāpara age.

12-13. The Saṃhitā texts of Ṛk, Yajus and Sāman are recited by the great sages differently with changes in the settings (arrangements) of Mantra and Brāhmaṇa portions and alterations in the notes, accents and letters. Changes are brought about due to the changes in the (presiding) sages and Mantras and confusion in the view-points. They are similar in certain places and altered utterly in certain places due to difference in the points of view.

14. The Brāhmaṇas, Kalpa-Sūtras and Mantra Pravacanas (different scriptural texts) and other texts as well have a similar plight. Others follow these but some oppose it and stand apart.

15. They begin to function in Dvāpara Age and recede during the Kali Yuga.

There was only one Ādhvaryava (Yajur Veda) but later it split into two.

16-18. By means of common and contradictory matters, the whole scriptural text has been confounded.

With the schools of Ādhvaryava (Yajur Veda) confused and confounded in various ways, with alternative readings in Atharva, Ṛk and Sāman Māntras, there was a lot of unrest (confusion) in Dvāpara. They had many divisions and subdivisions and alternatives. They began to function in Dvāpara and became extinct in Kali.

19. Effects of these contrary happenings take place in Dvāpara—effects such as absence of rain, then death and sickness and other calamities.

20. On account of miseries verbal, mental and physical, they have despondency and absence of interest in worldly matters. Due to despondency and dejectedness, they begin to ponder over modes of relief from misery.

21. Through the ponderings they attain disinterestedness in worldly affairs and absence of attachment. Through this detachedness they begin to see defects. Through the sight of defects there is the possibility of Ajñāna (ignorance) in Dvāpara.

22. To those Ajñānins (ignorant persons) in the first Svāyambhuva Manvantara in the Dvāpara Yuga, enemies of the scriptural texts crop up.

23. There are uncertainties and indecisive alternatives in the science of Āyurveda, in the Aṅgas (ancillary subjects), in the Jyotiṣa (Astronomy and Astrology) in the Arthaśāstra (Economics) and in Hetu-Śāstra (Science of dialectics).

24-26. There are similar alternatives in the Bhāṣyas (commentaries) and Vidyās (learning) of the Prakriyā Sūtras and Kalpa Sūtras (scriptural texts). There are different Smṛtiśāstras (Law Codes etc.) and there are separate Prasthānas (Schools and Systems). These occur in the Dvāpara Yuga because of the difference of opinion among men.

It is with very great difficulty that agricultural and other professions flourish (due to the efforts) mental, verbal and physical. In the Dvāpara, it is preceded by great physical strain of all living beings. There is greediness (in the people). The professional activity is primarily commercial. There is no definiteness in the principles.

27-28. There is the composition of scriptural tracts based on Vedas (but) there is mixing and mingling of Dharmas. The discipline of the classification of castes and stages of life come to nought. Lust and anger flourish in Dvāpara. Passion, greed and murder begin to prevail in Dvāpara. It is in Dvāpara that Vyāsa[2] classifies the Veda into four sections.

29-30. When Dvāpara comes to a close, its Sandhyā (twilight or transitional period between Dvāpara and Kali Yugas) too functions in the same manner. The characteristic feature of Dvāpara, devoid of good qualities becomes established. In the same manner the Sandhyāṃśa also functions.

(Now) Understand (the details) of Kali Yuga[3] on the basis of what remains of Dvāpara.

31-33. The acceptance (of characteristic features etc.) of the Kali age is based on the residue of the Sandhyāṃśa of Dvāpara. Violence, jealousy, untruth, Māyā (deception) and murder of ascetics—these are the characteristic features of Kali age. (Of course) the subjects achieve (certain things) and that is the entire Dharma. Dharma declines. It is doubtful whether agricultural activities flourish despite the activities, mental, eulogistic and physical. There are fatal sicknesses in the Kali age and there is the perpetual headache of hunger and fear.

34. There is terrible fear of drought. There are calamities in all the countries. In the Kali age, the Smṛti has no authority (i.e. is dot regarded as an authority) over the people.

35. In the Kali age, the subjects die at various ages. Some one dies even as a child in the womb. Another dies in the prime of youth. Some people die as old men while some people die during their childhood.

36. There is danger and fear unto the subjects owing to wrongly performed sacrifices, negligent studies (of the Vedas), evil actions, misleading religious texts and the faults in the holy rites performed by the Brāhmaṇas.

37. Violence, deception, malicious jealousy, anger, envy and intolerance occur in men in the Kali age. There is passion and greediness everywhere in every creature.

38. After reaching the Kali Yuga a great excitement is aroused At that time, the maximum age is when a thousand years are completed[4] (?)

39. The twice-born people neither study the Vedas nor worship by Yajñas. Men are annihilated, the Kṣatriyas and the Vaiśyas in due order.

40. At that time, the kings are mainly Śūdras who set in vogue all sorts of heresies. The subjects become devoid of good qualities.

41. Alliances and associations of the Śūdras and Antyayonis (Lowest-born) with Brāhmaṇas take place in the Kali Yuga, in regard to bed, seats and food-stuffs.

42. Span of life, intellect, strength, beauty and prestige of the family dwindle down and become extinct. The Śūdras take to the conduct of life of the Brāhmaṇas and the Brāhmaṇas behave and act like Śūdras.

43. Thieves adopt the customs and conventions of kings, and kings behave and live like thieves. When the close of the Yuga is mminent[?], it is only these servants who survive.

44. At the close of the Yuga, O excellent sage, the women become false and unfaithful. They misbehave. They become addicted to liquor and meat and become deceitful.

45. At the close of the Yuga, O excellent sage, the faithful wives do not survive. Beasts of prey flourish and the cattle decrease.

46. Know that at the close of that Yuga, good people turn back and keep aloof. Dharma of great consequence rooted in the pious act of charity, is very rare then.

47. Dharma in which there is no strict adherence to the system of four stages of life (but slackness therein) will prevail. In some places the land will yield but very little but in some other places it may be excessively fruitful (fertile).

48. The kings will not be protectors but the enjoyers of their share in the offerings (taxes etc.). At the close of the Yuga, they will be eagerly devoted to the act of protecting themselves.

49. Kings will cease to be protectors. Brāhmaṇas will be dependent on Śūdras. All excellent twice-born ones will make obeisance to the Śūdras.

50. The common people begin to sell boiled and cooked rice; the Brāhmaṇas begin to sell the Vedas. Young women begin to sell their bodies when the close of the Yuga is imminent.

51. In this Kali age, even excellent Brāhmaṇas become the sellers of the benefits of their penance and performance of sacrifices. Many people will turn into ascetics.

52. They say that the close of the Yuga is then, when the lord (Indra) begins to shower mysteriously in diverse ways. In the basest of the Yugas, everyone will become a trader.

53. People will begin to sell merchandise through false weights and measures. The whole society will be surrounded by hunter-like people and heretics of evil habits and conduct of life.

54. When the close of the Yuga is imminent, men will be in a minority and there will be majority of women. People will be begging of one another many times.

55. When the Yuga wanes away there will not be anyone who helps in return for another’s help. There will not be any one who does not injure and spoil others, whose words are not harsh; who is straight-forward and who is not malicious.

56. When the close of the Yuga sets in, its characteristic feature is apprehension of danger etc. Then the earth will be void without wealth.

57. Rulers will not be protectors though they are (expected) to be protectors. They will take away jewels (and valuables) of others and molest their men’s wives.

58. People will be lustful in their minds. They will be evil-minded, base and fool-hardy, addicted to criminal and reckless acts. They will be roguish with all good activities destroyed. They will keep their hairs loose and untied. They will not be sympathetic.

59-63. At the close of the Yuga, men less than sixteen will be begetting and women less than sixteen will be giving birth to children.

When the close of the Yuga is imminent Śūdras with perfectly white sparkling teeth wearing ochre-coloured robes, with clean shaven heads will subdue their sense-organs and practice piety.[5]

There will be thieves stealing plants and corn, clothes and garments. Some thieves will rob other thieves. There will be a robber taking away valuables from another robber.

When knowledge and holy rites have disappeared, when the whole world has become inactive (in religious matter), worms, rats and serpents will be attacking and harassing men.

Welfare, health and capability will permanently be difficult to obtain.

Countries afflicted by hunger and fear will be eagerly waiting for Kauśikas (persons who can find out hidden treasures). Affected by misery, the maximum span of life will be only hundred years.

64. In the Kali Yuga, all the Vedas are seen and not seen (i.e. not read and understood clearly). Yajñas afflicted only by sins and evils, become spoiled.

65. After the advent of the Kali age, many types of heretics crop up. They may be Buddhists wearing ochre-coloured robes, Jainas, Kāpālikas and others who sell the Vedas. Still others are those who sell holy centres of pilgrimage.

66. There are others who are the enemies of the system and discipline of the castes and stages of life. All these heretics are born when the Kali Age steps in.

67. Then Śūdras become experts in interpreting affairs concerning religious activities and they study the Vedas. Kings born of Śūḍras’ wombs begin to worship and perform horse-sacrifice.

68. Then the subjects accomplish something either by-killing women, children and cows or by killing one another or by robbing one another.

69. The conduct and activity in the Kali age is declared as a Tāmasa activity because of too much of affection for sinful deeds. People are short-lived with constant narrations of their own misery. Their bodies are short and lives too are short owing to sickness.

70. At that time the practice of killing children in the womb comes into vogue due to enmity. Hence, span of life, strength and beauty become reduced after the advent of Kali Yuga.

71. At that time, men attain Siddhi within a short time. Blessed and excellent twice-born ones will practise piety and devotion at the close of the Yuga.

72-73. These excellent Brāhmaṇas practise the holy rites laid down in the Śrutis and Smṛtis. They practise without any malice or envy.

In the Tretā, the Dharma practised for the whole of the year bears fruit. It is declared that the same Dharma practised for a month in Dvāpara bears fruit. The intelligent devotee practising the same for a day, attains the desired fruit in the Kali Yuga.[6]

This is the condition in the Kali age. Understand (the state of affairs) in the Sandhyāṃśa (the transitional period between two Yugas).

74-76. Siddhis prevalent during the Sandhyās of Yugas become reduced to three-fourths in the following Yugas Siddhis prevalent, in the Yugas become reduced to three-fourths in the following Sandhyās. The characteristics of the Sandhyās become stabilised in the Sandhyāṃśas after being reduced to three-fourths.

Thus when the period of Sandhyāṃśa at the end of (a set of four) Yugas arrives, (the lord appears) as their chastiser. He rises up for the purpose of slaying the wicked Bhṛgus. He is called Pramati[7] and he belongs to the Lunar race.

77-80. In the previous Svāyambhuva Manvantara, he had been born of a part of Mādhava (Viṣṇu).

For a full period of twenty years, he wandered over the Earth taking with him an army along with horses, chariots and elephants. Surrounded by hundreds and thousands of Brāhmaṇas wielding weapons, he killed all the Mlecchas all round along-with all those kings, the heretics born of Śūdra women. The lord exterminates those heretics. Everywhere he kills all those who are not scrupulously religious.

81-84. The lord who was strong and who annihilated all the Mlecchas slew these also—People who were born of parents of different castes, those who depended on them, the Udīcyas (Northerners), Madhya Deśyas (Persons of middle lands), Parvatīyas (Mountain-dwellers), Prācyas (Easterners), Pratīcyas (Westerners), those who walk about on the ridges of the Vindhya mountains, Dākṣiṇātyas (Southerners), Draviḍas along with Siṃhalas (Ceylonese), Gāndhāras, Pāradas, Pahlavas, Yavanas, Śakas, Tuṣāras, Barbaras, Cīnas (Chinese), Śūlikas, Daradas, Khaśas, Lampākāras, Katakas and different tribes of Kirātas. The powerful lord wielding the discus slew all these barbarous people.

85-86. Invisible to all the living beings, he wandered over the whole earth. The lord was born of a part of lord Mādhava. In the former birth he was very valorous and he was well known by the name of Pramati. In the first Kali Yuga, he was born in the Gotra of the moon.

87. He began (the victorious march) when he was aged thirty-two. For twenty years he continued to slay men and all other living beings everywhere.

88-89. Annihilating every thing by his ruthless activity, he made only seeds to remain on the earth. He managed to subdue the Vṛṣalas who were generally sinful, by making them angry with one another on sudden provocations. Thereafter, in the region between the Gaṅgā and the Yamunā, he established his camp of rest along with his followers.

90. Thereafter, when the Kalpa elapsed, he went back to his eternal abode along with his army after exterminating Mleccha kings by thousands.

91-92. When the period of Sanḍhyāṃśa arrived towards the end of the Yuga, only a few subjects remained here and there. They were unfortunate fellows with planets adverse to them. Many of them were greedy and they collectively struck and injured one another.

93. There. was anarchy. When the close of the Yuga was imminent, the subjects were afflicted by mutual fear.

94. They were agitated and bewildered. They left their houses, wives and relatives. They never cared for their lives.

(They were not hopeful about their ability to survive). Even without reason, they became very miserable.

95. When the Dharma based on Śruti and Smṛti became extinct, the people killed one another, devoid of bounds of decency, affection, shame and friends and allies.

96. When virtue ceased to exist, the people were afflicted and they were reduced to a size of twenty-five (as against 52 Aṅgulas in height). Agitated and distressed they found their sense-organs out of gear. They had to forsake their children and wives (and run away).

97. People oppressed by drought had to abandon their agricultural activities. They were miserable. Leaving their own native lands they began to stay in the bordering districts.

98. They were compelled to resort to rivers, marshy places, near the seas and mountainous regions. Extremely miserable, they sustained themselves by means of meat, roots and fruits.

99. They used to wear leaves, bark-garments or hides of antelopes. They observed no holy rites. They had abandoned their families. They had fallen off from the systematic discipline of the castes and stages of life. They had been adopting the terrible practice of Saṅkara (mixing of castes by means of indiscriminate inter marriage etc.). They had reached such a plight. Only a very few such people survived.

100. They were oppressed with old age, sickness and hunger. Owing to misery, they reached a stage of abject dejectedness. From this dejected state, they reached the state of pondering over the same. Pondering took them to a state of equanimity.

101. Through the state of equanimity, they had the realisation of the Ātman. Through this knowledge, they acquired piety and devotion. Thus those who survived the last stage of the Kali age, acquired tranquility and control of sense.

102. When the close of the Yuga was undergoing transformation, they became quiescent as though they were asleep or inebriated day and night after making the mind enchanted (and insensible).

103-106. Owing to the power of the inevitable future, the Kṛta Yuga set in. When the holy Kṛta Yuga began to function, the subjects pertaining to the Kṛta Yuga were born of those who survived from the Kali Yuga. Those Siddhas who remained then, began to move about invisibly. They established themselves there along with the seven sages. The Brāhmaṇas, the Kṣatriyas, the Vaiśyas and the Śūdras were those, who were remembered as seeds. (They were intended to be the nucleus for the succeeding generation). At that time they became identical with those who were born in (the closing stages of) Kali. They were devoid of any difference. The seven sages recounted Dharma to them as well as to others.

107. That (Dharma) is equipped with the conduct of life of the different castes and stages. It is of two types: Śrauta (as laid down in the Vedas) and the Smārta (as laid down in the Smṛtis). The object in the Kṛta age remained thus as persons with holy rites.

108. When the Dharmas of Śrauta and Smārta varieties had been pointed out to the people of Kṛta Yuga, some of them remained till the close of the Yuga for the sake of establishing Dharma.

109-110. The sages remain in authority over the whole of the Manvantara. The grasses of the forests are burned by the forest fires but their roots are unaffected. Just as fresh shoots of grass grow from these roots so also the people of Kṛta Yuga grow from the people of the Kali age.

111. Thus there is an uninterrupted series of Yugas, with the connection of a Yuga with another unbroken, till Manvantara comes to a close.

112. Happiness, span of life, strength, beauty, virtue, wealth and love—these are reduced to three-fourths in each of the succeeding Yugas.

113. The achievement of piety of the Yugas becomes reduced in the Sandhyāṃśas. Thus is the Pratisandhi (transition between the two Yugas) that had been mentioned by me (before), O Brāhmaṇas.

114-119. By means of this alone should all the sets of four Yugas be reckoned.

This repetition of sets of four Yugas multiplied by a thousand constitutes what is called a day of good Brahmā. The night too is declared as extending to this much period. Here there is straight-forwardness and state of being insentient in all living beings till the end of the Yuga.

This alone is remembered as the characteristic feature of all Yugas. The sets of four Yugas multiplied by seventyone and gradually transformed is called Manvantara.[8] Whatever occurs in one set of four Yugas happens in the others also in the same manner and in the same order.

In the same manner, differences also are produced in every creation. They are restricted to thirty-five and they are remembered as neither less nor more. So also the Kalpas have the same characteristic features as the Yugas. This alone is the characteristic feature of all the Manvantaras.

120. Just as the repetitions of the Yugas had come into vogue since a long time owing to the intrinsic nature of the Yuga, so also the living world (world of living beings) being transformed through decrease and increase does not remain (the same permanently).

121-124. Thus the characteristics of all the Yugas, past and future in all the Manvantaras have been mentioned succinctly. Know that, by means of the (discription of) a Manvantara, all the other Manvantaras have been explained and also one Kalpa is described by means of (the description of) another. Similarly in the future ones, inference should be carried out by one who knows. In all the Manvantaras past and future, all the beings are of equal identifications in regard to names and forms.

125. The Devas of eight classes who are the lords in this Manvantara, the sages and the Manus—all these are equal in regard to the purpose (served by them).

126-127. Thus the lord always evolves the classification of castes and stages of life in the former Yugas and arranges the intrinsic features of the Yugas.

The classifications of castes and stages of life, the Yugas and the Siddhis of the Yugas have been recounted as necessary consequence. Now, understand the creation of the Sṛṣṭi (Creation of the living beings).

I shall mention the situation in the Yugas in detail and in due order.

Footnotes and references:


Vā. P. 58.4 reads yācñā vadhaḥ paṇo ‘Begging, killing, gambling’ instead of yajñāvadhāraṇam in this text.


Vyāsa, ‘arranger’ (of Vedic Mantras into different Saṃhitās) is a. designation. Every Dvāpara has a different Vyāsa. Purāṇas mention 28 Vyāsas.


Almost all Purāṇas depict a gloomy picture of the Kali Age. Vide Mbh. Vana ch. 188, 190, Br. P. chs 229-230, Mt. P. 144. 32-47, Bh.P. XII. 1-2, VP. VI[?]. It appears that that was probably the state of the society when these Purāṇas came to be written, though unfortunately much of that description applies even today.


This line is not found in Vā.P.56.37 which is otherwise identical with this verse.


Probably a reference to Buddhist bhikṣus. There appears to be a dominance of Buddhism when this Purāṇa was written. This is confirmed in VV. 65-66 infra.


This is a relieving feature of the Kali age.


This incarnation of Vìṣṇu re-established order at the end of Kali Age. Elsewhere (in Mt. P.) he is said to have been born in the Lunar race in the Kali Age in Cākṣuṣa Manvantara. See VV. 85-86 below.


71 sets of four Yugas constitute a Manvantara. The verses that follow constitute an elucidation of Dhātā yathāpūrvam akalpayat. (The creator arranged or created everything as before.)

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