In Hinduism a Yuga or "Age" is one quarter of 1/1,000th of a single day in the life of the deity, Brahma. The "Ages" are not equal in length and represent the progressive triumph of discord over wisdom.
Demarcation of the Yugas
Each period is named after the scoring of a throw in the ancient Indian game of dice.
They are as follows:
- Krita or Satya Yuga - The "Complete Age" or the "Age of Truth". This yuga lasted 1,728,000 solar years and was marked by the supreme wisdom and longevity of its inhabitants. The average lifespan in this Age was 100,000 years. In the game of dice it is the throw of four, the best throw.
- Treta Yuga - The Age of the Roll of Three. This yuga lasts 1,296,000 solar years and was marked by the need for ritualized sacrifices in order to attain the level of illumination found naturally in the previous Age. The average lifespan in the Treta Yuga is 10,000 years.
- Dvapara Yuga - The Age of the Roll of Two. This yuga lasts 834,000 solar years and is characterized by the worship of the divine in temples rather than through direct understanding. The average lifespan in the Dvapara yuga is 1,000 years.
- Kali Yuga - The Age of Conflict, the "Worst Age". This yuga is the one within which this universe is currently engaged. It will last 432,000 solar years, 5,000 of which have already passed. This Age is the age when men are said to become brutish creatures capable of any and every kind of transgression. The means to illumination with this age vary depending on sect. Those who practice the Tantras believe that it is only through the Tantras and their sometimes heretical practices that enlightenment may occur. While those that worship the Vishnu avatar, Krishna (who appeared at the very beginning of this Age) stated that only through dedication and chanting the holy names may one attain realization. The average lifespan within this yuga is said to have began at 100 years and will by the end of the Age be only 20 years.
The Life of Brahma
The Yugas when taken as a whole represent 1/1,000th of a day in the life of the god Brahma. Therefore, one day in Brahma's life equates to 2,160,000,000 solar years. At the end of this period everything save the sages, gods and tattvas is destroyed by fire in what is called the pralaya. Brahma sleeps through this evening and, upon awakening, a new world is created and the cycle begins again. There are 360 such days in one of Brahman's years, and the god is said to live for 100 of these years. At the end of his 100th year Brahma, the Universe, and all things dissolve into their constituent elements. One life of Brahama lasts 77,760,000,000,000 solar years.
- Danielou, Alain - The Myths and Gods of India, originally published as Hindu Polytheism (New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1964; rpt. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1985; 3rd edition Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1991).