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Yuga (Devnāgari: युग) in Hindu philosophy refers to an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages: the Satya Yuga (or Krita Yuga), the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. The cycles are said to repeat infinitely within a greater time-cycle of the creation and destruction of the universe.
 The spiritual states of civilization in each yuga
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In Hindu tradition, the world goes through a continuous cycle of these epochs. Each ascending phase of the cycle from Kali Yuga to Satya Yuga is followed by a descending phase back to Kali Yuga, then another ascending phase and so on. Alternatively, it is sometimes supposed that at the end of the descending Kali Yuga, the world will return to the Satya Yuga, and begin a new decline.
The descent from Satya to Kali is associated with a progressive deterioration of Dharma (righteousness) manifested as decrease in length of human life and quality of human moral standards. In the Vishnu Purana, for example, the Kali yuga is described thus:
"In the Kali Yuga, there will be numerous rulers vying with each other. They will have no character. Violence, falsehood and wickedness will be the order of the day. Piety and good nature will dwindle slowly... Passion and lust will be the only attraction between the sexes. Women will be the objects of sensual pleasure. Dishonest will be the bottom line of subsistence. Learned people will be ridiculed and put to shame; the word of the wealthy person will be the only law."
The traditional virtues accorded highest value in the four epochs are
- Satya Yuga or Krita Yuga - dhyana (meditation)
- Treta Yuga - yajna (sacrifice)
- Dvapara Yuga - archana (worship)
- Kali Yuga - daana (alms)
- In the highest yuga, the great majority of the people can experience spirituality by direct intuitive realization of truth. The veil between the material and the transcendent realms becomes almost transparent. According to Natya Shastra, there is no Natya performances in the Krita Yuga because it is a period free from any kind of unhappiness or misery. Satya Yuga is also called the Golden Age.
- Treta Yuga is the mental age, mental power is harnessed and men are in power(Inventions are characteristic of both Dvapara and Treta yugas.)
- In Dwapara Yuga, science flourishes, people experience the spiritual in terms of subtle energies and rational choices, inventions are abundant, particularly those that dissolve the illusion of distance (between people and between things), and power is mostly in the hands of women. The end of this age is associated with the death of Krishna, and the events described in the Mahabharata.
- In the lowest phase, Kali Yuga, most people are aware only of the physical aspect of existence, the predominant emphasis of living is material survival, and power is mostly in the hands of men. People's relationship with the spiritual is governed predominantly by superstition and by authority.
Temples, wars, and writing are hallmarks of Dvapara and Kali yugas. In the higher ages (Treta and Satya), writing is unnecessary because people communicate directly by thought; temples are unnecessary because people feel the omnipresence of God; wars are rare but they do occur; one such war is described in the Ramayana.
The traditional timescale of the yugas is as follows:
- Satya Yuga or Krita Yuga - 1,728,000 years
- Treta Yuga - 1,296,000 years
- Dvapara Yuga - 864,000 years
- Kali Yuga - 432,000 years
Rishis of the yore recognized that time runs faster during night time than it is during day time. The aeon Kalpa designates a day and night for Lord Brahma - it lasts 4,320,000 years. This Kalpa consists of 10 parts of 432,000 years. The Krita Yuga lasts for 4 parts; the name has the same consonants T and R of the word Chatur (four). The Threta Yuga consists of Tri (three) parts as it is apparent in the name 'Treta'. The Dvapara Yuga lasts for Dva (two) parts as it is apparent in the name 'Dvapara'. The Kali Yuga lasts for Eka (one) part; the consonant K appears in the name Kali.
Upon conclusion of seventy-one circuits of this cycle, there is a period equally long during which the world is inundated; then the cycle begins again.
 Sri Yukteswar's teachings on the yugas
In his book, The Holy Science, Sri Yukteswar explains that the descending phase of Satya Yuga lasts 4800 years, Treta Yuga 3600 years, Dwapara Yuga 2400 years, and Kali Yuga 1200 years. The ascending phase of Kali Yuga then begins, also lasting 1200 years; and so on. The ascending phase of Kali Yuga began in September of 499 AD. Since September 1699, we have been in the ascending phase of Dwapara Yuga, according to Sri Yukteswar.
In The Holy Science, Sri Yukteswar writes that the traditional view is based on a misunderstanding. He says that at the end of the last descending Dwapara Yuga (about 700 BC) "Maharaja Yudhisthira, noticing the appearance of the dark Kali Yuga, made over his throne to his grandson [and]...together with all of his wise men...retired to the Himalaya Mountains...Thus there was none in the court...who could understand the principle of correctly accounting the ages of the several Yugas."
According to Sri Yukteswar, nobody wanted to announce the bad news of the beginning of the ascending Kali Yuga, so they just kept adding years to the Dwapara date (at that time 2400 Dwapara). As the Kali began to ascend again, scholars of the time recognized that there was a mistake in the date (then being called 3600+ Kali, although their texts said Kali had only 1200 years). "By way of reconciliation, they fancied that 1200 years, the real age of Kali, were not the ordinary years of our earth, but were so many daiva (or deva) years ("years of the gods"), consisting of 12 daiva months of 30 daiva days each, with each daiva day being equal to one ordinary solar year of our earth. Hence according to these men 1200 years of Kali Yuga must be equal to 432,000 years of our earth."
Sri Yukteswar also writes that our sun has a 'star for its dual', with an orbit around this star. As our sun moves through this orbit it takes the whole solar system closer to and then further from the "grand centre" of our solar system called 'Vishnunabhi', which is the seat of the creative power, 'Brahma', [which]...regulates...the mental virtue of the internal world." He states that the proximity to this grand centre determines which yuga it is.
- The Holy Science, Swami Sri Yukteswar. Published by Self-Realization Fellowship.
- Year Yuga Calendar (Broken Link, Need a replacement source)
- Vishnu Purana — translation
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, Anna L. Dallapiccola (Thames & Hudson, 2002)