The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Characteristics of Different Yugas which is chapter 272 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. This is the two hundred seventy-second chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 272 - Characteristics of Different Yugas

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: This topic is popular with Purāṇas. We find it dealt with in BhP XII.2, Kūrma 1.29, Nārada I. 41. 1-123, to mention a few. There is a remarkable similarity (even textual) in the descriptions given in various Purāṇas.

The sages said:

1-7. Your Holines [Holiness] earlier said that Lord Īśvara granted King Īśāna a span of life equal to a day of his own life. Do tell us what the magnitude of that day may be.

Sūta said:

I shall recount to you all the extent of that day of Maheśvara, O leading Brāhmaṇas.

May it be heard even as I speak out clearly: A fourth of a Nimeṣa is, a Truṭi. Two Nimeṣas make one Lava. Two Lavas make one Yava, it is said. Fifteen Yavas make one Kāṣṭhā. They say, thirty Kāṣṭhās make one Kalā. A Kṣaṇa is considered to be constituted by thirty Kalās. A Pala is said to be made up to sixty Kṣaṇas and sixty Palas make one Nāḍikā. Two Nāḍikās make a Muhūrta, it is proclaimed. Learned men declare that a day and a night together contain thirty Muhūrtas. Thirty Ahorātras (day and night) make one Māsa (month). They know that a Ṛtu (season) contains two months. Three Ṛtus make one Ayana (Sun’s transit) and two Ayanas make one year (Vatsara). The same is reiterated in the case of all men.

8. Those who are conversant with the Purāṇas say that a Vatsara (year) of men is an Ahorātra of the Devas. The Uttara (Northern) Ayana is Śukla (White) and it is the day of the Devas. The Dakṣiṇa (Southern) Ayana is the night, disapproved for performing auspicious rites.

9. Just as a sleeping man does not indulge in enjoying pleasures, so also Devas do not accept shares in the Yajñas (in Dakṣiṇāyana).

10-11. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, calculating in this way, one million seven hundred twenty-eight thousand years according to human reckoning comprise Kṛtayuga. During that period Viṣṇu who is Jagadguru (the preceptor of the universe) appeared white.

12. The people were bereft of sins. They were quiescent with full control over the limbs and the sense-organs fully conquered. All of them were long-lived and always engaged in austerities.

13. Just as a man takes birth so does he (normally) meet death. Seldom was the death of a son born seen by (their) fathers (i.e. son’s death was never seen by fathers).

14. Lust, anger, covetousness, hypocrisy and rivalry were never seen in men in that Yuga, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

15. Then follows the second one, Tretāyuga, O excellent sages. Then the terrible sin entered Dharma with a single foot.

16. Then Lord Madhusūdana turns red when a part of sin gets introduced, People become vitiated with jealousy and rivalry.

17. All people then performed Yajñas with the intention of proceeding to heaven. They performed Agniṣṭoma and many other Homas.

18. By means of their holy rites such as yajña etc., they go to the fourteen worlds of Devas (and others) starting with the first and ending with Brahmaloka.

19. Sons vitiated by rivalry, may be somewhat short-lived. But even so they never meet with death (before their fathers).

20. When father is alive (sons do not die). Lust, anger etc. may or may not occur but they are proclaimed to be of very slight defect.

21. Seeds sown once yielded excellent crops. Vaiśyas engaged in agriculture reap the harvest seven times.

22. All cows yield potfuls of milk. She-buffaloes yield four times that. Female camels yield four times more than that of buffaloes.

23. Goats and sheep yield one-fourth of the quantity (of cow’s yield). Women also are so. (People) were richly endowed with the study of Vedas. They avoid Pratigraha (money, gifts). They were capable of cursing and blessing.

24. Kṣatriyas protected the earth with the Kṣātra Dharma (duties of a real Kṣatriya). No thief is seen and no adulterer can be seen. All the different castes were primarily engaged in their own duties.

25. This second excellent Yuga consisted of one million two hundred ninety-six thousand years.

26. Thereafter, comes the third, Dvāpara Yuga, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. There the sin has two feet and Dharma (Piety) too, the same. Lord Vāsudeva is tawny-coloured then.

27. It is proclaimed as comprising eight hundred sixty-four thousand years, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

28. Then lust, anger, delusion, covetousness, hypocrisy and rivalry—all these six bad qualities along with jealousy the seventh persist there.

29. Affected by these, human beings are antagonistic to one another and commit crimes. They do not attain heaven.

30. Even there a few are, of course, born quiescent, having mastery over their limbs and conquest of their sense-organs. Not all of them (are so), O excellent Brāhmaṇas, because there is the prevalence of sin in half of the space.

31. Then Kaliyuga is mentioned (as commenced). It is the fourth one and excessively terrible. Piety stands on one foot there and sin is stationed with three feet.

32. The Four-armed Lord turns black then. Even the single-foot of piety functions only now and then.

33-34a. Afterwards it perishes itself slowly. The span of the final Yuga is stated to be four hundred thirty-two thousand years.

34b-35a. All human beings, influenced by Kali and overpowered by attachment and hatred behave so mutually and with learned people.

35b-37a. In Kaliyuga, people befriend any person who has got ample wealth in the house and beautiful wives.

In the case of widows and all the ascetics and sages both the worlds will be ruined if the mind is not pure.

37b-38a. In Kali Age, even in rainy season, people are afflicted by famine. They wander with their eyes fixed to the sky.

38b-39a. A son thinks thus: ‘If my father dies, I can become master of the house.’ A kinsman thinks about a kinsman thus.

39b-40a. A daughter-in-law thinks thus in her mind: ‘If mother-in-law dies, there shall be prosperity in the house; all the wealth shall remain with us; nothing will go elsewhere.’

40b. The Vedas are vitiated by the epics and secular poets. Sons are over-ruled by sons-in-law.

41. Kinsmen are over-ruled by brother-in-law. Ladies of noble birth are overwhelmed by unchaste ladies. Ascetics are afflicted by Śūdras. Śūdras become guides and directors of holy rites.

42. Śūdras begin to give advices to Brāhmaṇas. Clouds shower only very little rain. The earth yields very little crop.

43. Cows produce very little milk. Ghee (and fat-content) is but very little in milk. Brāhmaṇas eat everything indiscriminately. Kings are cruel. Vaiśyas are ashamed of agriculture. Śūdras become persons who make Brāhmaṇas run errands.

44. In Kaliyuga, kings very much like people who are engaged in disputations and obscene conversations.

45. Every tomorrow finds more and more sins. The earth has lost its youthful state. Auspiciousness has receded and terrible things have arrived.

46. As the Yuga advances and men and women grow in number they along with the ordinary creatures, become more and more despicable.

47. Girls begin to be united with husbands (i.e. married) in their twelfth year.

48. In their sixteenth year, men become grey-haired with receding youthful period. They abandon personal cleanliness and purity of conduct. They are devoted to selfish ends.

49. By the end of the Yuga, men will be reduced to the size of only the thumb. They will set up their abodes in rat-holes.

50. They will wear garments (of stuff) produced by worms. All the castes will be reduced into one caste. All will become barbarians, evil in conduct and defilers of pious rites.

51. When the situation turns out to be thus, a Brāhmaṇa Haripiṅgala of Kalki Gotra will kill all.

52. Afterwards, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Kṛtayuga will appear once again.

53. A day of Brahmā will comprise one thousand such Yugas. A night (of the same duration) follows then.

54. According to this reckoning, three hundred sixty days of Brahmā make his year which is equal to one day of Keśava.

55. Brahmā lives a full life-span of one hundred years according to his own reckoning, Keśava also lives a hundred years according to his own reckoning.

56. A year of Vāsudeva constitutes a day of Maheśvara. He will also live a hundred years according to his own reckoning.

57. Then he will merge into Śakti form whereby he is glorified as Akṣayī (everlasting). A hundred years of Śiva constitute the Niḥśvāsa (inspiration) of Sadāśiva. His Ucchvāsa (respiration) remains in the form of Śakti.

Sūta said:

58-59. Thus everything connected with Śiva and Śakti has been narrated to you and also the extent of human life. Earlier, O Brāhmaṇas, I was asked by you all about one day of Śaṅkara. But I have explained the same in regard to all including that of the mortals (human beings).

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