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 Kali Yuga. In years of the devas, Kali Yuga lasts 1,200 years, and on Earth, it lasts 864,000 million years. The duration of Kali Yuga is described in the Vayu Purana as follows:
kaliṃ varṣasahasrantu prāhuḥ saṃkhyāvido janāḥ/
tasyāpi śatikā saṃdhyā saṃdhyāṃśaḥ śatameva ca//
“Experts conclude that Kali Yuga consists of 1,000 years, with a Saṃdhyā of 100 years and a Saṃdhyāṃśa of 100 years.” (VP 1.32.60)
We are currently in the midst of Kali Yuga, which began 5,000-10,000 years ago, at the end of Dvapara Yuga.
While Sri Krishna remained on the planet, Kali Yuga could not begin. The reason is that the presence of the Supreme Person keeps ignorance and irreligion at bay. As the Vaisnava poet Krishnadasa has written:
kṛṣṇa — sūrya-sama; māyā haya andhakāra
yāhāṅ kṛṣṇa, tāhāṅ nāhi māyāra adhikāra
“Krishna is compared to sunshine, and māyā [illusion] is compared to darkness. Wherever there is sunshine, there cannot be darkness. As soon as one takes to Krishna consciousness, the darkness of illusion will immediately vanish.” (Caitanya-caritamrta, 2.22.31)
However, shortly after the departure of Sri Krishna to His own realm in the spiritual sky, Kali Yuga broke out in full force. The social order was turned on its head. Religious and political leaders, instead of educating and protecting the populace, abandoned virtue and became the chief criminals in society.
In Kali Yuga, or the Iron Age, spirituality and morality are diminished to shadows of their former selves. Deception and hypocrisy in the name of religion is the status quo. The only process of dharma that is still practiced and effective is nama-sankirtana, or chanting the names of God, especially the maha-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
Kali Yuga is the polar opposite of Satya Yuga — the world is virtually devoid of peace. All living beings suffer material hardships as they struggle simply to survive, being deeply afflicted by fear.
In Kali Yuga, people live up to only 100 years. The Bhagavata Purana describes human beings of Kali Yuga as follows:
“In this iron Age of Kali men almost always have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and, above all, always disturbed.” (Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.10)
After Kali Yuga the cycle begins again with Satya Yuga. The transition takes place with the assistance of the Kalki Avatara, who rids the Earth of the hordes of beast-like human beings who have lost all sense of their humanness and who roam the world in packs like savage dogs. Then a small handful of sages and ascetic kings emerge from their hermitages to repopulate the Earth and commence Satya Yuga again.