A yuga is a cosmic age according to the Vedic system of measuring universal time. The four yugas — Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga — comprise one full yuga cycle, and one thousand Yuga cycles is equal to a day of Brahma, also known as a kalpa.
In this article we discuss Satya Yuga, the Golden Age.
In Vedic cosmology, various regions within the universe experience time differently due to the phenomenon of time dilation. For example, one year in the realm of Svarga is approximately equal to 720 solar years on our planet Earth.
For this reason, the Vedas give two different measurements for the duration of Dvapara Yuga. In years of the devas, Dvapara Yuga lasts 2,400 years, and on Earth, it lasts 1.728 million years. The duration of Dvapara Yuga is described in the Vayu Purana as follows:
anuṣaṅgapādastretāyāstrisāhasrastu saṃkhyā /
dvāpare dve sahasre tu varṣāṇāṃ samprakīrttitaṃ //
tasyāpi dviśatī saṃdhyā saṃdhyāṃśo dviśatastathā /
upodaghātastṛtīyastu dvāpare pād ucyate //
“Tretā Yuga, which is also called the Anuṣaṅgapāda, consists of three thousand years and Dvāpara Yuga consists of two thousand years. The Saṃdhyā consists of two hundred years and the Saṃdhyāṃśa is of the same duration. Dvāpara Yuga, which is the third part of the Chaturyuga, is also called Upodaghātapāda.” (VP 1.32.58-59)
The most recent Dvapara Yuga ended approximately 10,000 years ago.
By the end of Treta Yuga, human beings began to stray from the path of dharma, or the religious way of life. Members of society exploited their positions to increase their own stature and standard of happiness at the expense of those around them. This was occurring at all levels of society, from brahmanas to sudras. Wars began to break out as ruling kings vied for power, wealth, and influence. No longer able to effectively perform collective sacrifice, human beings instead took up the worship of Vishnu in His deity form. Thousands of temples were constructed throughout the world for the worship of the Supreme Person, Vishnu, as well as His demigod expansions, such as Indra, Agni, Shiva, etc.
Dvapara Yuga, or the Bronze Age, saw the first instances of selfishness and irreligion overcoming mankind’s natural godly nature. The scales began to tip in favor of godlessness, and people became fearful and mistrusting of their leaders and fellow citizens. However, there were still many holy kings on earth who upheld justice and defended virtue. Human beings in Dvapara Yuga live up to 1,000 years.
Toward the end of the most recent Dvapara Yuga, Mother Earth became overburdened by corrupt leaders who had all but completely abandoned the path of religiosity in favor of wanton selfishness and blind violence. Mother Earth assumed the form of a helpless cow and approached Brahma, the universal creator, pleading to him to intervene on her behalf and for the welfare of the human race. Brahma then made an appeal to Vishnu, who informed him that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, would appear on Earth to destroy the evil kings and restore virtue to the world. It was at this time that Krishna made His descent and spoke the famous Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna.
LEARN MORE: The Puranas provide an advanced understanding of our universe, including descriptions of life on other planets. Check out our guide to Vedic Cosmology.
After Dvapara Yuga is Kali Yuga, the Iron Age. Kali Yuga lasts 1,200 years of the devas, or 864,000 human years. Check out our article to learn more about Kali Yuga.