The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Puranic measurements of time which is appendix 3 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc.

Appendix 3 - Purāṇic measurements of time

Note: This appendix is extracted from a note of Chapter 39 (the greatness of Barkareśvara) of the Kaumārikā-khaṇḍa of the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa:

“Henceforth I shall narrate the measurements of Time. Understand it...”

Measures of time:

Verses 46b-64 give the measures of time: (Cf. Brahmāṇḍa 1.2.29. 5-21)

15 Nimeṣas = 1 Kāṣṭhā
30 Kāṣṭhās = 1 Kalā
30 Kalās = 1 Muhūrta
30 Muhūrtas = Day and night (24 hours)
(Ahorātra—a complete day)
15 Ahorātras = 1 Pakṣa (Fortnight)
2 Pakṣas = 1 Month
2 Months = Ṛtu (season)
3 Ṛtus = 1 Ayana (Transit of the Sun)
2 Ayanas = 1 Vatsara (Year).

The day has five Kalās of three Muhūrtas each viz. Prātaḥ (morning), Saṅgava (Forenoon), Madhyāhna (Mid-day), Aparāhṇa (Afternoon) and Sāyāhṇa [Sāyāhna?] (Evening). The years (Vatsaras) are five, viz. Saṃvatsara, Parivatsara, Idvatsara, Anuvatsara, Yuga. This is the early concept of a yuga.

Human and Super-human reckoning of Time:

Verses 54-64 give the comparison of human and super-human reckoning of Time.

1 Human month = One day of Pitṛs
1 Human year = One day of Devas (the Northern transit, the day and the Southern transit, the night)
1 year of Devas = day of Saptarṣis

Post-Vedic Yuga duration—Human years

Kṛta = 1728,000
Tretā = 1296,000
Dvāpara = 864,000
Kali = 432,000
[the above four = 1 Yuga of Devas (Divyayuga)]
71 Divyayugas = 1 Manvantara (Manu’s life span)
14 Manvantaras = 1 day of Brahmā
Brahmā’s life is his hundred years.

There is a consensus in Purāṇas and Smṛtis about this reckoning (vide I. BhP III.11.310, KP T. 5.6-19, MtP 142.4, VāP 50.168-178).

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