Hindu Dispensational Ages (Yuga) and the Avatars


According to the Hindu cosmology, the history of the cosmos like the reincarnation is a cycle of birth and death.  Vishnu Purana Book I Chapter III  gives a detailed analysis of the concept ages.  The cosmos goes on repeating the cycle of creation and destruction with a pralya (deluge) in between. Within one cycle of one day of Brahma there are four dispensations which will work out a total of  4320,000,000 human years.  The traditional unit is the length of one Kali Yuga which is sometimes called Charana which is 432,000 solar years. Charnas means chorus as in music which is repeated at the end of every verse.  That should give us the idea of cycles.  Here are the Four Ages (Yuga) and their corresponding lengths.


The Four Yugas

4 charanas (1,728,000 solar years)                             Satya Yuga

3 charanas (1,296,000 solar years)                              Treta Yuga

2 charanas(864,000 solar years)                                 Dwapar Yuga

1 charanas(432,000 solar years)                                 Kali Yuga


Surya Siddhanta (490 – 1091 AD)

Surya Siddhanta of Varaha as given in his Panca Siddhantika are almost the same as those of the Khandakhadyaka, it is clear that the old Surya Siddhanta was made up to date by Varaha by replacing the old constants in it by new ones from Aryabhata I's 'midnight' system. A subsequent redactor of the Surya Siddhanta changed the constant as introduced by Varaha by following Brahmagupta's teaching in his Brahmasphuta Siddhanta and the Uttara Khandakhadyaka.  Thus it has undergone several redactions.  From internal evidence alone Burgess came to the conclusion that the superior limit to its date is 490A.D. and that the lower limit is 1091 A.D. If the Avatars are related to the Surya Sidhanta Yugas the Avatar myths came into existence only after 490 AD at the earliest. This will be another indication of the date of the origin of Vaishanvism.”

Surya-Siddhanta: A Text Book of Hindu Astronomy By Ebeneezer Burgess


The Hindu cosmological time cycles as in Surya Siddhanta 1, 11–23

11). That which begins with respirations (prāna) is called real; that which begins with atoms(truti) is unreal. Six respirations make a vinādi, sixty of these a nādi.
(12). And sixty nādis make a sidereal day and night. Of thirty of these sidereal days is composed a month; a civil (sāvana) month consists of as many sunrises.
(13). A lunar month, of as many lunar days (tithi); a solar (sāura) month is determined by the entrance of the sun into a sign of the zodiac; twelve months make a year. This is called a day of the gods.
(14). The day and night of the gods and of the demons are mutually opposed to one another. Six times sixty of them are a year of the gods, and likewise of the demons.
(15). Twelve thousand of these divine years are denominated a Quadruple Age(caturyuga); of ten thousand times four hundred and thirty-two solar years
(16) is composed that Quadruple Age(caturyuga), with its dawn and twilight. The difference of the Golden (krtayuga) and the other Ages (yugas), as measured by the difference in the number of the feet of Virtue in each, is as follows :
(17). The tenth part of a (Quadruple) Age (caturyuga), multiplied successively by four, three, two, and one, gives the length of the Golden (krta) and the other yugas: the sixth part of each belongs to its dawn and twilight.
(18). One and seventy caturyugas make a Patriarchate (manvantara or Patriarchal Age of one manu); at its end is a twilight which has the number of years of a Golden Age (krtayuga), and which is a deluge (pralaya).
(19). In an Aeon (kalpa) are reckoned fourteen such Patriarchs (manus) with their respective twilights; at the commencement of the Aeon (kalpa) is a fifteenth dawn, having the length of a Golden Age (krtayuga).
(20). The kalpa, thus composed of a thousand caturyugas, and which brings about the destruction of all that exist (bhoo), is a day of Brahma; his night is of the same length.
(21). His extreme age is a hundred, according to this valuation of a day and a night. The half of his life is past; of the remainder, this is the first kalpa.
(22). And of this kalpa, six Patriarchs (manus) are past, with their respective twilights; and of the Patriarch Manu son of Vivasvant, twenty-seven Ages (caturyugas) are past;
(23). Of the present, the twenty-eighth, Age (caturyuga), this Golden Age (krtayuga) is past; from this point,reckoning up the time, one should compute together the whole number."

“The cycle repeats itself so altogether there are 1000 cycles of mahayugas 
in one day of Brahma.  However there is a difference.  

·         One cycle of the above four yugas is one mahayuga (4.32 million solar years)

·         as is confirmed by the Gita statement "sahasra-yuga paryantam ahar-yad brahmano viduH", meaning, a day of brahma is of 1000 mahayugas. Thus a day of Brahma, kalpa, is of duration: 4.32 billion solar years. Two kalpas constitute a day and night of Brahma

·         A manvantara consists of 71 mahayugas (306,720,000 solar years). Each Manvantara is ruled by a Manu.

·         After each manvantara follows one Sandhi Kala of the same duration as a Krita Yuga (1,728,000 = 4 Charana). (It is said that during a Sandhi Kala, the entire earth is submerged in water.)

·         A kalpa consists of a period of 1,728,000 solar years called Adi Sandhi, followed by 14 manvantaras and Sandhi Kalas.

·         A day of Brahma equals (14 times 71 mahayugas) + (15 x 4 Charanas)

= 994 mahayugas + (60 Charanas)

= 994 mahayugas + (6 x 10) Charanas

= 994 mahayugas + 6 mahayugas

= 1000 mahayugas

Our current date

We are currently in the 28th kaliyuga of the first day of the 1st year of the shvetavaraha kalpa of the second parardha of Brahma in the reign of the 7th Manu, Manu Vaivasvata. This is the 51st year of the present Brahma and so about 155 trillion years have elapsed since he took over as Brahma.” wikipedia

The current Kali Yuga (Iron Age) began at midnight 17 February / 18 February in 3102 BC 
There are three types of Pralaya:  "Dissolution, reabsorption; destruction; death."
A synonym for samhara, one of the five functions of Siva. Also names the partial destruction or reabsorption of the cosmos at the end of each eon or kalpa. There are three kinds of periods of dissolution:

1)    Laya, at the end of a mahayuga, when the physical world is destroyed;

2)    Pralaya, at the end of a kalpa, when both the physical and subtle worlds are destroyed; and

3)    Mahapralaya at the end of a mahakalpa, when all three worlds (physical, subtle and causal) are absorbed into Iswara.

 Maha kalpa – the Great Age 

"Truthfully, the quantities of years assigned to a Cosmic Day are symbolic. The Cosmic Night arrives when the ingathering of the perfect souls is complete, which means, when the Cosmic Day is absolutely perfected." - The Pistis Sophia Unveiled

The Age of Cosmos and Reality Check

Brahma has 2000 MahaYugas  which includes a day and a night.
There are 360 days in a year for Brahma and we are in the first day of 51st year.
So far 360 x 50= 18000 days have passed for Brahma
This is equivalent to 18000 x 2000 x 4320000 = 155,520,000,000,000 Human Years
Add the current day of Brahma which is 1,972,944,456 Humans Years
So as per the vedas, the current age of the universe is 155,521,972,944,456 Years which is about 156 Trillion years.

Using the Hubble constant and information about the expansion of the Universe from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, America have been able to measure the age of the Universe to between 12 and 14 billion years old.  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/origins/bigbang/spaceandtime.shtml) 

Of course we can always fall back on parallel universe or multiple dimensions.  Probably Indians of the 5th c AD knew better.

Buddhist concept of Kalpa

The concept of Yugas is not limited to Hinduism.  It is also found in the later Buddhism when it got interacted with the Christians and Vaishnavites and Saivites and as several syncretic forms of Buddhism came into existence.   

Buddhist Concept of Yugas- Kalacakra Tantra

The concept of Kalpa is the period of time expressed in Indian philosophy. Generally speaking, a Kalpa is the period of time between the creation and recreation of a world or universe.

One Mahakalpa (Great Kalpa) is subdivided into four Asankhyeya-Kalpas (or simply called Kalpas):

1.      Kalpa of formation (Vivarta)

2.      Kalpa of existence (Vivatasiddha)

3.      Kalpa of destruction (Samvarta)

4.      Kalpa of emptiness (Samvartasiddha)

Each of the four Kalpas is subdivided into twenty Antarakalpa (Inner Kalpa), so that a Mahakalpa consists of 80 Antarakalpa.
Each Small Kalpa is divided into a period of increasing and decreasing. In the increasing period, the length of human life increases by one year every century to 84,000 years and the length of the human body to 8,400 ft. Then it comes to the decreasing period, during which the length of human life decreases gradually to the ten years and the human body to 1 foot in height. There are other distinctions of the Kalpas. A Small Kalpa is represented as 16,800,000 years, a Kalpa as 336,000,000 years and a Mahakalpha as 1,334,000,000 years

Christian concept of Yugas - aeons

We should remember that the Surya siddhanta and Vishnu Purana were all Post Christian constructions.  It would be interesting to compare the corresponding concepts in Christianity as seen through the teachings of Jesus which were later expanded out by Paul.  Unfortunately we have no written heritage from St.Thomas.  So we cannot really comment on what Thomas brought into India.  As the theology of dispensational ages and ‘ages to come’ developed in the rest of Christendom we can certainly assume that some basic notions of it came in to India which contributed to the Yuga concept of Hinduism.

Here are some quotes related to ages as presented by Jesus:

(Mat 12:32)  And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

(Mat 13:39)  and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.

(Mat 13:40)  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.

(Mat 13:49)  So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous,

(Mat 24:3)  As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?"

(Mat 28:20)  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

(Mar 10:30)  who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

(Luk 18:30)  who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."

(Luk 20:34-35)  And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage,

(1Co 2:6)  Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. (1Co 2:8)  None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 (Eph 1:21)  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;

(Heb 6:5)  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

(Heb 9:9)  (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,

(Rom 16:25)  Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages

(1Co 2:7)  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.

(1Co 10:11)  Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.

(Eph 2:7)  that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

(Eph 3:9)  and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

(Col 1:26)  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.

(1Ti 1:17)  To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.

(2Ti 1:9)  who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago,

(Tit 1:2)  in hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised ages ago


(Rev 21:5)  And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."


One cannot fail to see that Christ and the later Apostles definitely taught about this age (the current age in which we live and die) and also about ages to come.  Jesus declares at the end of this age when the world has gone to the dogs, he will send his angels and make a separation and there will be another age opens up.  But this is not a two age picture because Paul speaks about the ages to come and John in his revelation declares that Jesus will make ALL things new.  Bible scholars have been able to talk about dispensational ages, which are usually taken as seven ages each with its own messengers, and messages, which culminated in the ultimate incarnation of Jesus, which provides redemption for ALL mankind.  But we can see only a few saved in this age. We know all about this age.  We know much about the age to come.

This Age and the Age to Come.

The Old Testament predicts the future coming of God or the Messiah; most forms of post biblical Judaism (see esp. 2 Esdras) go further and differentiate this age from the age to come, which is also known as the kingdom of God. This two-age schema is echoed in Matthew 12:32 and Ephesians 1:21, but the New Testament transforms the traditional pattern: with the coming of Christ, the blessings of the future are manifested among God’s people in the present age (cf. Heb. 6:5).  In terms of this age as a time of sin and darkness, aion is sometimes synonymous with kosmos or “the world” (cf. Mark
4:19; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20). During this time, Satan appears as the “god” of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) and sin prevails (Gal. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:12). The citizens of this age are living in darkness and must rely on the devices of their own human wisdom (Luke 16:8; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18). But so long as Christians remain in the world, they are cheered by the spiritual presence of Jesus until the close of this age (Matt. 28:20).

 Cataclysmic signs will signal the close of the present era (synteleia [tou] aionos, Matt. 24:3). According to the New Testament, the end of the age will bring the return of Christ and the judgment of the wicked (Matt. 13:39–40, 49).  When the age to come arrives, the dead will rise to inherit eternal life (Luke 20:34–35). Jewish and later Christian apocalypticists loved to speculate about the blessings of this future age, but the simple message of the Bible is that the coming age will bring a good inheritance (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). Paul’s advice to Christians is to invest for the age to come by practicing generosity and good deeds in this present age (1 Tim. 6:17–19).

---Gary Steven Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


 (Isa 64:4)  For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.


(1Co 2:9)  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.


At the end of this age only a few enters the new age where Jesus is King.  But at the end of the AGES Jesus makes ALL THINGS NEW.  This is the cycle of ages, deluges in between each age, seperation and judgment in between the ages and at the end of one kalpa everything returns to the original state of oneness in consonance with God.  Will that state remain eternally.  Yes.  If man is made into a machine.  If we still have free will – the Sons of God will still make wrong choices as Lucifer the Angel did.  The Maha Kalpa may repeat itself. But that depends on those who are in that age and is not revealed to us.  This is because we should not find an excuse for the salvificatory work required of man here and now. “Secret things belong to the Lord out God, but the things that are revealed belongs to us and to our chlldren for ever, that we may do all the words of this law”  Deu 29:29



I have presented the Surya Siddhanta in Christian terms.   The Theology of Avatara in Vaishnavism is also parallel to the way God talk to the world.


Heb 1:1-3  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;   Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,

There is a logic behind the concept based on the creative power of every man who is created in the image of God

“There are active powers within us which are ever busy with the past and the future, and which no limits of time can confine. Memory repeats and, with the aid of imagination, reproduces the past. But the mind rests not at the confines of memory, but follows onward and downward through all the historic period, and into the shadowy ages of the unrecorded and the unknown. And hope and fear, incited by the desire of immortality, lead onward and upward into the ages of the eternal future. We feel that forces and influences operating through long succeeding periods of the past have made us what we are, and that the same forces, or others adapted to our nature, will continue to develop our character and shape our destiny, and make us what we shall be in the ages to come.”

The Ages to Come: Or, The Future States,  E. Adkin