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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

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Measure of time. Moments or Kásht́hás, &c.; day and night; fortnight, month, year, divine year: Yugas, or ages: Maháyuga, or great age: day of Brahmá: periods of the Manus: a Manwantara: night of Brahmá, and destruction of the world: a year of Brahmá: his life: a Kalpa: a Parárrdha: the past, or Pádma Kalpa: the present, or Váráha.

MAITREYA.--How can creative agency be attributed to that Brahma, who is without qualities, illimitable, pure, and free from imperfection?

PARÁŚARA.--The essential properties of existent things are objects of observation, of which no foreknowledge is attainable; and creation, and hundreds of properties, belong to Brahma, as inseparable parts of his essence, as heat, oh chief of sages, is inherent in fire 1. Hear then how

p. 22

the deity Náráyána, in the person of Brahmá, the great parent of the world, created all existent things.

Brahmá is said to be born: a familiar phrase, to signify his manifestation; and, as the peculiar measure of his presence, a hundred of his years is said to constitute his life: that period is also called Param, and the half of it, Parárddham 2. I have already declared to you, oh sinless Brahman, that Time is a form of Vishńu: hear now how it is applied to measure the duration of Brahmá, and of all other sentient beings, as well as of those which are unconscious, as the mountains, oceans, and the like.

Oh best of sages, fifteen twinklings of the eye make a Kásht́há; thirty Kásht́hás, one Kalá; and thirty Kalás, one Muhúrtta 3. Thirty Muhúrttas

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constitute a day and night of mortals: thirty such days make a month, divided into two half-months: six months form an Ayana (the period of the sun's progress north or south of the ecliptic): and two Ayanas compose a year. The southern Ayana is a night, and the northern a day of the gods. Twelve thousand divine years, each composed of (three hundred and sixty) such days, constitute the period of the four Yugas, or ages. They are thus distributed: the Krita age has four thousand divine years; the Tretá three thousand; the Dwápara two thousand; and the Kali age one thousand: so those acquainted with antiquity have declared. The period that precedes a Yuga is called a Sandhyá, and it is of as many hundred years as there are thousands in the Yuga: and the period that follows a Yuga, termed the Sandhyánsa, is of similar duration. The interval between the Sandhyá and the Sandhyánsa is the Yuga, denominated Krita, Tretá, &c. The Krita, Tretá, Dwápara, and Kali, constitute a great age, or aggregate of four ages: a thousand such aggregates are a day of Brahmá, and fourteen Menus reign within that term. Hear the division of time which they measure 4.

p. 24

Seven Rishis, certain (secondary) divinities, Indra, Manu, and the kings his sons, are created and perish at one period 5; and the interval, called a Manwantara, is equal to seventy-one times the number of years contained in the four Yugas, with some additional years: this is the duration of the Manu, the (attendant) divinities, and the rest, which is equal to 852.000 divine years, or to 306.720.000 years of mortals, independent of the additional period 6. Fourteen times this period constitutes

p. 25

a Bráhma day, that is, a day of Brahmá; the term (Bráhma) being the derivative form. At the end of this day a dissolution of the universe occurs, when all the three worlds, earth, and the regions of space, are consumed with fire. The dwellers of Maharloka (the region inhabited by the saints who survive the world), distressed by the heat, repair then to Janaloka (the region of holy men after their decease). When the-three worlds are but one mighty ocean, Brahmá, who is one with Náráyańa, satiate with the demolition of the universe, sleeps upon his serpent-bed--contemplated, the lotus born, by the ascetic inhabitants of the Janaloka--for a night of equal duration with his day; at the close of which he creates anew. Of such days and nights is a year of Brahmá composed; and a hundred such years constitute his whole life 7. One Parárddha 8, or half his existence, has expired, terminating with the Mahá Kalpa 9 called Pádma. The Kalpa (or day of Brahmá) termed Váráha is the first of the second period of Brahmá's existence.

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this page consists entire of footnotes


21:1 Agency depends upon the Rája guna, the quality of foulness or passion, which is an imperfection. Perfect being is void of all qualities, and is therefore inert:

Omnis enim per se divom natura necesse est
Immortali ævo summa cum pace fruatur:

but if inert for ever, creation could not occur. The objection is rather evaded than answered. The ascribing to Brahma of innumerable and unappreciable properties is supported by the commentator with vague and scarcely applicable texts of the Vedas. 'In him there is neither instrument nor effect: his like, his superior, is nowhere seen.' 'That supreme soul is the subjugator of all, the ruler of all, the sovereign of all.' In various places of the Vedas also it is said that his power is supreme, and that wisdom, power, and action are his essential properties. The origin of creation is also imputed in the Vedas to the rise of will or desire in the Supreme: 'He wished I may become manifold, I may create creatures.' The Bhágavata expresses the same doctrine: 'The Supreme Being was before all things alone, the soul and lord of spiritual substance: in consequence of his own will he is secondarily defined, as if of various minds.' This will however, in the mysticism of the Bhágavata, is personified as Máyá: 'She (that desire) was the energy of the Supreme, who was contemplating (the untreated world); and by her, whose name is Máyá, the Lord made the universe.' This, which was at first a mere poetical personification of the divine will, came, in such works as the Bhágavata, to denote a female divinity, coequal and coeternal with the First Cause. It may be doubted if the Vedas authorize such a mystification, and no very decided vestige of it occurs in the Vishńu Puráńa.

22:2 This term is also applied to a different and still more protracted period. See b. VI. C. 3.

22:3 The last proportion is rather obscurely expressed: 'Thirty of them (Kalás) are the rule for the Muhúrtta.' The commentator says it means that thirty Kalás make a Ghatiká (or Ghari), and two Ghatikás a Muhúrtta; but his explanation is gratuitous, and is at variance with more explicit passages elsewhere; as in the Matsya: 'A Muhúrtta is thirty Kalás.' In these divisions of the twenty-four hours the Kúrma, Márkańd́eya, Matsya, Váyu, and Linga Puráńas exactly agree with our authority. In Manu, I. 64, we have the same computation, with a difference in the first article, eighteen Nimeshas being one Kasht́há. The Bhavishya P. follows Manu in that respect, and agrees in the rest with the Padma, which has,

15 Nimeshas

= 1 Kásht́há

30 Kásht́hás

= 1 Kalá

30 Kalás

= 1 Kshańa

12 Kshańas

=1 Muhúrtta

30 Muhúrttas

= 1 day and night.

In the Mahábhárata, Moksha Dherma, it is said that thirty Kalás and one-tenth, or, according to the commentator, thirty Kalás and three Kásht́hás, make a Muhúrtta. A still greater variety, however, occurs in the Bhágavata and in the Brahma Vaivartta P. These have,



= 1 Ańu



= 1 Trasareńu



= 1 Truti



= 1 Vedha



= 1 Lava



= 1 Nimesha



= 1 Kshańa



= 1 Kásht́há



= 1 Laghu



= 1 Náriká



= 1 Muhúrtta

6 or 7


= 1 Yama, or watch of the day or night.

Allusions to this or either of the preceding computations, or to any other, have not been found in either of the other Puráńas: p. 23 yet the work of Gopála Bhat́t́a, from which Mr. Colebrooke states he derived his information on the subject of Indian weights and measures (A. R. 5. 105), the Sankhya Parimáńa, cites the Varáha P. for a peculiar computation, and quotes another from the Bhavishya, different from that which occurs in the first chapter of that work, to which we have referred. The principle of the calculation adopted by the astronomical works is different: it is, 6 respirations (Práńa) = 1 Vikalá; 60 Vikalás = 1 Dańd́a; 60 Dańd́as =1 sydereal day. The Nimesha, which is the base of one of the Pauráńic modes, is a twinkle of the eye of a man at rest; whilst the Paramáńu, which is the origin of the other, and apparently more modern system, considering the works in which it occurs, is the time taken by a Paramáńu, or mote in the sunbeam, to pass through a crevice in a shutter. Some indications of this calculation being in common currency, occur in the Hindustani terms Reńu (Trasareńu) and Lamhu (Laghu) in Indian horometry (A. R. 5. 81); whilst the more ordinary system seems derived from the astronomical works, being 60 Tilas = 1 Vipala; 60 Vipalas = 1 Pala; 60 Palas = 1 Dańd́a or Ghari. Ibid.

23:4 These calculations of time are found in most of the Puráńas, with some additions occasionally, of no importance, as that of the year of the seven Rishis, 3030 mortal years, and the year of Dhruva, 9090 such years, in the Linga P. In all essential points the computations accord, and the scheme, extravagant as it may appear, seems to admit of easy explanation. We have, in the first place, a computation of the years of the gods in the four ages, or, p. 24






















































































[paragraph continues] If these divine years are converted into years of mortals, by multiplying them by 360, a year of men being a day of the gods, we obtain the years of which the Yugas of mortals are respectively said to consist:

4800 x 360

= 1.728.000

3600 x 360

= 1.296.000

2400 x 360

= 864.000

1200 x 360

= 432.000


4.320.000 a Maháyuga.

[paragraph continues] So that these periods resolve themselves into very simple elements: the notion of four ages in a deteriorating series expressed by descending arithmetical progression, as 4, 3, 2, 5; the conversion of units into thousands; and the mythological fiction, that these were divine years, each composed of 360 years of men. It does not seem necessary to refer the invention to any astronomical computations, or to any attempt to represent actual chronology.

24:5 The details of these, as occurring in each Manwantara, are given in the third book, c. 1 and 2.

24:6 'One and seventy enumerations of the four ages, with a surplus.' A similar reading occurs in several other Puráńas, but none of them state of what the surplus or addition consists; but it is, in fact, the number of years required to reconcile two computations of the Kalpa. The most simple, and probably the original calculation of a Kalpa, is its being 1000 great ages, or ages of the gods: ### Bhavishya P. Then 4.320.000 years, or a divine age, x 1000 = 4320.000.000 years, or a day or night of Brahmá,. But a day of Brahmá is also seventy-one times a great age multiplied by fourteen: 4.320.000 x 71 x 14=, or less than the preceding by 25.920.000; and it is to make up for this deficiency that a certain number of years must be added to the computation by Manwantaras. According to the Súrya Siddhánta, as cited by Mr. Davis (A. R. 2. 231), this addition consists of a Sandhi to each Manwantara, equal to the Satya age, or 5.728.000 years; and one similar Sandhi at the commencement of the Kalpa: thus p. 25 4.320.000 x 71 = 306.720.000 + 1.728.000 = 308.448.000 x 14 = 4318.272.000 + 1.728.000 = 4320.000.000. The Pauranics, however, omit the Sandhi of the Kalpa, and add the whole compensation to the Manwantaras. The amount of this in whole numbers is 1.851.428 in each Manwantara, or 4.320.000 x 71= 306.720.000 + 1.851.428 = 308.571.428 x 14 = 4319.999.992; leaving a very small inferiority to the result of the calculation of a Kalpa by a thousand great ages. To provide for this deficiency, indeed, very minute subdivisions are admitted into the calculation; and the commentator on our text says, that the additional years, if of gods, are 5142 years, 10 months, 8 days, 4 watches, 2 Muhúrttas, 8 Kalás, 17 Kásht́hás, 2 Nimeshas, and 1/7th; if of mortals, 1.851.428 years, 6 months, 24 days, 12 Náris, 12 Kalás, 25 Kásht́has, and 10 Nimeshas. It will be observed, that in the Kalpa we have the regular descending series 4, 3, 2, with cyphers multiplied ad libitum.

25:7 The Brahma Vaivartta says 108 years, but this is unusual. Brahmá's life is but a Nimesha of Krishńa, according to that work; a Nimesha of Śiva, according to the Saiva Puráńa.

25:8 In the last book the Parárddha occurs as a very different measure of time, but it is employed here in its ordinary acceptation.

25:9 In theory the Kalpas are infinite; as the Bhavishya: 'Excellent sages, thousands of millions of Kalpas have passed, and as many are to come.' In the Linga Puráńa, and others of the Saiva division, above thirty Kalpas are named, and some account given of several, but they are evidently sectarial embellishments. The only Kalpas usually specified are those which follow in the text: the one which was the last, or the Pádma, and the present p. 26 or Váráha. The first is also commonly called the Bráhma; but the Bhágavata distinguishes the Bráhma, considering it to be the first of Brahmá's life, whilst the Pádma was the last of the first Parárddha. The terms Maná, or great Kalpa, applied to the Padma, is attached to it only in a general sense; or, according to the commentator, because it comprises, as a minor Kalpa, that in which Brahmá was born from a lotus. Properly, a great Kalpa is not a day, but a life of Brahmá; as in the Brahma Vaivartta: 'Chronologers compute a Kalpa by the life of Brahmá. Minor Kalpas, as Samvartta and the rest, are numerous.' Minor Kalpas here denote every period of destruction, or those in which the Samvartta wind, or other destructive agents, operate. Several other computations of time are found in different Puráńas, but it will be sufficient to notice one which occurs in the Hari Vanśa, as it is peculiar, and because it is not quite correctly given in M. Langlois' translation. It is the calculation of the Mánava time, or time of a Menu.


divine years

= a day and night of a Menu.


Mánava days

= his fortnight.


Mánava fortn.

= his month.


Mánava months

= his season.


Mánava seasons

= his year.

Accordingly the commentator says 72000 divine years make up his year. The French translation has, "dix années des dieux font un jour de Menu; dix jours des dieux font un pakcha de Menu," &c. The error lies in the expression "jours des dieux," and is evidently a mere inadvertence; for if ten years make a day, ten days can scarcely make a fortnight.

Next: Chapter IV