If we step back and take some time to observe the natural world, it is obvious that nature operates in cyclical patterns. Seeds germinate, sprout, grow into plants and trees, and these in turn produce more seeds which then undergo the same process again.
All forms of life, from viruses to human beings, follow a similar cycle of birth and death, creation and destruction. As the sun sets only to rise again for a new day, every aspect of nature similarly undergoes its own circular pattern.
Only recently did scientists start to realize that our universe follows the same pattern. Physicists such as Paul Davies have introduced a hypothetical scenario called “the Big Crunch,” wherein all the matter in the universe collapses back into itself, like a Big Bang in rewind.
However, the Vedic Puranas have contained this information for many thousands of years. In fact the Puranas even provide a date for when the present universe will again collapse into a point of singularity, known in Sanskrit as pradhana. According to the Puranas, the “death” of our current universe will take place in roughly 333 trillion years.
Some scholars argue that the concept of linear time, or viewing history as a line progressing from creation to fulfillment, first appeared in Judeo-Christian religious culture. In his book The Gifts of the Jews, author Thomas Cahill argues that the Western notion of linear time that is prevalent today finds its origin in Judaism.
Although modern science has mostly discarded theistic views, many scientists today still view history as an “arc of progress,” rather than as a circle in which universal events unfold in repeating cycles. Interestingly enough this seems to come more from Jewish and Christian thought, and not from any relevant scientific research.
However, as we learn more about the universe, it is likely we will find that the Puranic view of a cyclical universe holds more credibility than that of a universe which somehow appeared out of nowhere, and which will one day disappear into nothing, forever.
Our research team at Popular Vedic Science has found a number of correlations between the Puranas and the contemporary scientific community regarding historical dates for major events on our planet Earth and within the larger universe.
The Age of the Universe
Author and researcher Sidhartha Chhabra has published his findings in a book called The Big Bang and the Sages. One of the most significant data points is the Puranic age of the universe. For the past several thousand years or more, the Puranas have contained elaborate descriptions of the history of our universe as well as its date of origin. When the Vedic time units are translated into Western time, the Puranic date for the beginning of the universe is 13.82 billion years.
For the past one hundred years, scientific research has gradually approached the Puranic date. Most recently, cosmologists estimate that the universe is 13.801 billion years.
The Origin of our Solar System
In addition to describing the creation of the universe, the Puranas also contain information regarding the formation of our solar system. The Puranas state that the sun came into being 4.563 billion years ago.
Physicists first came upon a reasonably reliable date for the origin of the sun in the 1950s, but it took another 50 years before they refined their data to the most recent estimate. Astro-physicists say that our sun was first created 4.567 billion years ago.
The Permian Mass Extinction
Life was flourishing on the Earth about 250 million years ago. Then, during a brief window of geologic time, nearly all of it was wiped out. The Earth’s greatest mass extinction, known as the Permian Mass Extinction, looked like a scene from the apocalypse. According to the latest paleontological analysis, the Permian extinction occurred 251.9 million years ago.
Although the Puranic scholars did not have access to modern tools of excavation or paleontological analysis, they were well aware of this mass extinction event. The Puranas state that the biggest pralaya or the mass extinction happened 251.2 million years ago, at the end of reign of King Satyavrata.
Now that we’ve seen the big picture of Vedic time, let’s take a closer look at the four yugas.
In Satya Yuga, human beings were adept in meditation and possessed unbelievable strength and longevity. The Vedic texts state that humans during Satya Yuga, or the Golden Age, lived for up to 100,000 years. There was no disparity among cultures. Everyone enjoyed worldly comforts and lived in perfect harmony with the natural environment. There was no war, famine, or conflict among the human race. It was a time of complete peace on Earth.
However, as time progressed, people became less inclined toward spiritual practices and wished to augment their material comforts beyond their needs. A spirit of competition arose among men and as a result the system of varnasrama, or class-based society, was introduced. This ushered in the Dvapara Yuga, or Silver Age.
In Treta Yuga, the Silver Age, human beings engage in nonviolent religious sacrifice as a means of propitiating the gods and ultimately pleasing the Supreme Person, Vishnu. As Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita:
saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā purovāca prajāpatiḥ
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vo ’stv iṣṭa-kāma-dhuk
“In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Viṣṇu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajña [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation.’”
devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ
parasparaṁ bhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha
“The demigods, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you, and thus, by cooperation between men and demigods, prosperity will reign for all.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.10-11)
In order to facilitate collective sacrifice, human society was divided into four classes of men: brahmanas (intellectuals), kshatriyas (administrators), vaishyas (merchants), and sudras (workers). The brahmanas studied the Vedas and guided society with spiritual wisdom, the kshatriyas served as rulers, politicians, and army generals, the vaishyas worked in commerce and industry, and the sudras served the other three classes. However, there was not a spirit of envy or condescension among the four classes. Rather, each member of society sacrificed for the good of the whole and for the satisfaction of Sri Vishnu.
In Treta yuga, human beings were extremely dutiful, moral, and compassionate toward their fellow living beings. They lived life spans up to 10,000 years. Although there was some division among society, it was nevertheless a time of overarching peace and prosperity.
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.
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)
How many years are left in Kali Yuga?
Kali Yuga began approximately 5,100 years ago and lasts for a total of 864,000 years. This means that there are roughly 858,900 years remaining in Kali Yuga.
How will Kali Yuga end?
By the end of Kali Yuga, religiosity and basic human decency will have all but disappeared. Krishna will again appear in His avatar of Kalki to kill the wicked, beast-like kings who are terrorizing the people. In this way, Kalki brings about an end to Kali Yuga. Then a small handful of sages and ascetic kings will emerge from their hermitages to repopulate the Earth and commence Satya Yuga again.
Do the four yugas repeat forever?
Yes. According to the Puranas, time is eternal. It has neither a beginning nor an end. This material universe will eventually be annihilated, and in its place another one will manifest. The four yugas will repeat in an endless cycle.
What yuga comes after Kali Yuga?
After Kali Yuga ends, Satya Yuga begins again.
What avatars come in Kali Yuga?
The avatars in Kali Yuga are:
- The Bhagavata Purana (Incarnation of the Book)
- Lord Buddha (the Atheist Incarnation)
- Lord Chaitanya (Incarnation of Mercy)
- Lord Kalki (Incarnation of Justice)