The Vishnu Purana

by Horace Hayman Wilson | 1840 | 287,946 words | ISBN-10: 8171102127

The English translation of the Vishnu Purana. This is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. It is one of the eighteen greater Puranas, a branch of sacred Vedic literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the cr...

Chapter III - Measure of time, Moments of Kashthas, etc.

Measure of time. Moments or Kāṣṭhās, &c.; day and night; fortnight, month, year, divine year: Yugas, or ages: Mahāyuga, or great age: day of Brahmā: periods of the Manus: a Manvantara: night of Brahmā, and destruction of the world: a year of Brahmā: his life: a Kalpa: a Parārrdha: the past, or Pādma Kalpa: the present, or Vārāha.

Maitreya said:—

How can creative agency be attributed to that Brahma, who is without qualities, illimitable, pure, and free from imperfection?

Parāśara said:—

The essential properties of existent things are objects of observation, of which no foreknowledge is attainable; and creation, and hundreds of properties, belong to Brahma, as inseparable parts of his essence, as heat, oh chief of sages, is inherent in fire[1]. Hear then how the deity Nārāyāna, in the person of Brahmā, the great parent of the world, created all existent things.

Brahmā is said to be born: a familiar phrase, to signify his manifestation; and, as the peculiar measure of his presence, a hundred of his years is said to constitute his life: that period is also called Param, and the half of it, Parārddham[2]. I have already declared to you, oh sinless Brahman, that Time is a form of Viṣṇu: hear now how it is applied to measure the duration of Brahmā, and of all other sentient beings, as well as of those which are unconscious, as the mountains, oceans, and the like.

Oh best of sages, fifteen twinklings of the eye make a Kāṣṭhā; thirty Kāṣṭhās, one Kalā; and thirty Kalās, one Muhūrtta[3]. Thirty Muhūrttas constitute a day and night of mortals: thirty such days make a month, divided into two half-months: six months form an Ayana (the period of the sun's progress north or south of the ecliptic): and two Ayanas compose a year. The southern Ayana is a night, and the northern a day of the gods. Twelve thousand divine years, each composed of (three hundred and sixty) such days, constitute the period of the four Yugas, or ages. They are thus distributed: the Krita age has four thousand divine years; the Tretā three thousand; the Dvāpara two thousand; and the Kali age one thousand: so those acquainted with antiquity have declared. The period that precedes a Yuga is called a Sandhyā, and it is of as many hundred years as there are thousands in the Yuga: and the period that follows a Yuga, termed the Sandhyānsa, is of similar duration. The interval between the Sandhyā and the Sandhyānsa is the Yuga, denominated Krita, Tretā, &c. The Krita, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali, constitute a great age, or aggregate of four ages: a thousand such aggregates are a day of Brahmā, and fourteen Menus reign within that term. Hear the division of time which they measure[4].

Seven Ṛṣis, certain (secondary) divinities, Indra, Manu, and the kings his sons, are created and perish at one period[5]; and the interval, called a Manvantara, is equal to seventy-one times the number of years contained in the four Yugas, with some additional years: this is the duration of the Manu, the (attendant) divinities, and the rest, which is equal to 852.000 divine years, or to 306.720.000 years of mortals, independent of the additional period[6]. Fourteen times this period constitutes a Brāhma day, that is, a day of Brahmā; the term (Brāhma) being the derivative form. At the end of this day a dissolution of the universe occurs, when all the three worlds, earth, and the regions of space, are consumed with fire. The dwellers of Maharloka (the region inhabited by the saints who survive the world), distressed by the heat, repair then to Janaloka (the region of holy men after their decease). When the-three worlds are but one mighty ocean, Brahmā, who is one with Nārāyaṇa, satiate with the demolition of the universe, sleeps upon his serpent-bed—contemplated, the lotus born, by the ascetic inhabitants of the Janaloka—for a night of equal duration with his day; at the close of which he creates anew. Of such days and nights is a year of Brahmā composed; and a hundred such years constitute his whole life[7]. One Parārddha[8], or half his existence, has expired, terminating with the Mahā Kalpa[9] called Pādma. The Kalpa (or day of Brahmā) termed Vārāha is the first of the second period of Brahmā's existence.

this page consists entire of footnotes

Footnotes and references:


Agency depends upon the Rāja guna, the quality of foulness or passion, which is an imperfection. Perfect being is void of all qualities, and is therefore inert:


This term is also applied to a different and still more protracted period. See b. VI. C. 3.


The last proportion is rather obscurely expressed: ‘Thirty of them (Kalās) are the rule for the Muhūrtta.’ The commentator says it means that thirty Kalās make a Ghatikā (or Ghari), and two Ghatikās a Muhūrtta; but his explanation is gratuitous, and is at variance with more explicit passages elsewhere; as in the Matsya: ‘A Muhūrtta is thirty Kalās. In these divisions of the twenty-four hours the Kūrma, Mārkaṇḍeya, Matsya, Vāyu, and Liṅga Purāṇas exactly agree with our authority. In Manu, I. 64, we have the same computation, with a difference in the first article, eighteen Nimeṣas being one Kaṣṭhā. The Bhaviṣya P. follows Manu in that respect, and agrees in the rest with the Padma, which has,


These calculations of time are found in most of the Purāṇas, with some additions occasionally, of no importance, as that of the year of the seven Ṛṣis, 3030 mortal years, and the year of Dhruva, 9090 such years, in the Liṅga P. In all essential points the computations accord, and the scheme, extravagant as it may appear, seems to admit of easy explanation. We have, in the first place, a computation of the years of the gods in the four ages, or, p. 24


The details of these, as occurring in each Manvantara, are given in the third book, c. 1 and 2.


'One and seventy enumerations of the four ages, with a surplus.' A similar reading occurs in several other Purāṇas, but none of them state of what the surplus or addition consists; but it is, in fact, the number of years required to reconcile two computations of the Kalpa. The most simple, and probably the original calculation of a Kalpa, is its being 1000 great ages, or ages of the gods: ### Bhaviṣya P. Then 4.320.000 years, or a divine age, x 1000 = 4320.000.000 years, or a day or night of Brahmā,. But a day of Brahmā is also seventy-one times a great age multiplied by fourteen: 4.320.000 x 71 x 14=, or less than the preceding by 25.920.000; and it is to make up for this deficiency that a certain number of years must be added to the computation by Manvantaras. According to the Sūrya Siddhānta, as cited by Mr. Davis (A. R. 2. 231), this addition consists of a Sandhi to each Manvantara, equal to the Satya age, or 5.728.000 years; and one similar Sandhi at the commencement of the Kalpa: thus p. 25 4.320.000 x 71 = 306.720.000 + 1.728.000 = 308.448.000 x 14 = 4318.272.000 + 1.728.000 = 4320.000.000. The Pauranics, however, omit the Sandhi of the Kalpa, and add the whole compensation to the Manvantaras. The amount of this in whole numbers is 1.851.428 in each Manvantara, or 4.320.000 x 71= 306.720.000 + 1.851.428 = 308.571.428 x 14 = 4319.999.992; leaving a very small inferiority to the result of the calculation of a Kalpa by a thousand great ages. To provide for this deficiency, indeed, very minute subdivisions are admitted into the calculation; and the commentator on our text says, that the additional years, if of gods, are 5142 years, 10 months, 8 days, 4 watches, 2 Muhūrttas, 8 Kalās, 17 Kāṣṭhās, 2 Nimeṣas, and 1/7th; if of mortals, 1.851.428 years, 6 months, 24 days, 12 Nāris, 12 Kalās, 25 Kāṣṭhas, and 10 Nimeṣas. It will be observed, that in the Kalpa we have the regular descending series 4, 3, 2, with cyphers multiplied ad libitum.


The Brahma Vaivartta says 108 years, but this is unusual. Brahmā's life is but a Nimeṣa of Kṛṣṇa, according to that work; a Nimeṣa of Śiva, according to the Saiva Purāṇa.


In the last book the Parārddha occurs as a very different measure of time, but it is employed here in its ordinary acceptation.


In theory the Kalpas are infinite; as the Bhaviṣya: ‘Excellent sages, thousands of millions of Kalpas have passed, and as many are to come.’ In the Liṅga Purāṇa, and others of the Saiva division, above thirty Kalpas are named, and some account given of several, but they are evidently sectarial embellishments. The only Kalpas usually specified are those which follow in the text: the one which was the last, or the Pādma, and the present p. 26 or Vārāha. The first is also commonly called the Brāhma; but the Bhāgavata distinguishes the Brāhma, considering it to be the first of Brahmā's life, whilst the Pādma was the last of the first Parārddha. The terms Manā, or great Kalpa, applied to the Padma, is attached to it only in a general sense; or, according to the commentator, because it comprises, as a minor Kalpa, that in which Brahmā was born from a lotus. Properly, a great Kalpa is not a day, but a life of Brahmā; as in the Brahma Vaivartta: ‘Chronologers compute a Kalpa by the life of Brahmā. Minor Kalpas, as Samvartta and the rest, are numerous.’ Minor Kalpas here denote every period of destruction, or those in which the Samvartta wind, or other destructive agents, operate. Several other computations of time are found in different Purāṇas, but it will be sufficient to notice one which occurs in the Hari Vaṃśa, as it is peculiar, and because it is not quite correctly given in M. Langlois' translation. It is the calculation of the Mānava time, or time of a Menu.

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