VEDIC CONCEPT OF TIME & YUGA CYCLE

                                       (Interactive session on 16.9.2015)

Keynote address by Asish Kumar Raha

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Somnath Sarkar, Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Mr. A.K.Sengupta, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Dr. Kalyan Chakravarty & Dr. Suhas Majumdar)

Anchor: Mr. Ramesh Chandra Chanda

Opening Song: Mr. Basudeb Shandilya

 

 INTRODUCTION

 Can there be any unit of time without a timekeeper? To be more precise, how is it possible to measure, count, quantify or calculate time in hours, minutes or seconds without a watch, and when there was no watch, how the ancients were reckoning time in India during the Vedic period or thereafter? Yet the greatest puzzle for us is that the distinctive units of time were known to Vedic people not merely in terms of hours, days and nights, but in units that are fractions of a second, even smaller than milliseconds, as is evident from ancient texts like the Vedas and Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. Is it merely speculative or imaginary to speak of division of time in such miniscule units, which even today beats a modern man except with the help of a highly sophisticated watch? But the point is that each such fractional unit was given a specific distinctive name for calculation of time when there is no evidence of a tool or mechanical equipment existing during the Vedic period or even much later. There ought to be a satisfactory answer to the above puzzle.

At the macro level, yuga cycle was envisaged in terms of several millions of years with two fundamental axioms. First, the four yugas viz. Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali, each lasting for specific time span of several thousand years, move on cyclically. Second, earth-time relatable to the sun and the moon is different from space-time. As for instance, the Vedic people made the equation as follows: 1 day in Deva Loka (realm of the gods) = 360 earth days. 1 day in Brahma Loka (12 hours period) = 1000 maha yugas (1 maha yuga = 4 yugas). The above equation smacks of the concept of relativity of time prevailing in Vedic India, which on the face of it would sound like an absurd proposition. A satisfactory explanation for this also is absolutely necessary.

 

COMPUTATION OF TIME – MODERN CONCEPT

 The scientific standard of time at micro level, on a scale of second – minute – hour, was based on the earth’s period of rotation until 1955. The computation of second was determined based on the above standard as 1/86,400 of the mean solar day. However, scientific researches revealed that the earth’s rate of rotation was irregular and was slowing down, which made it necessary for the International Astronomical Union to revise the definition of second as 1/31,556,925.9747 of the solar year in progress at the noon of December 31, 1899. The international Committee on Weights and Measures adopted the above standard in 1956. The high precision caesium-beam atomic clock, constructed in 1955, made it possible to measure time accurately by utilizing the frequency of a special line produced by the caesium-133 atom. The official definition of the measurement of the second in the International System of Units, available since 1967, was based on the duration of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.

Scientific researches in the current century have led to the construction of Quantum Clock to eliminate error. In the process minutest units of time have been scientifically established, known as femtosecond, which is to a second what a second is to about 31.71 million years and an attosecond, which is to a second what a second is to about 31.71 billion years. However, the accuracy of experimental quantum clocks has since been superseded by experimental optical lattice clocks (2013) containing about ten thousand atoms and not differing in time. The optical clock, made in the current year (2015) is expected to neither gain nor lose a second in more than 15 billion years.

 

COMPUTATION OF TIME – VEDIC CONCEPT

As against atomic calculation being the basis of modern computation of time, beginning middle of the 20th century, the Vedas and Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana refer to ‘Paramanu’ or sub-atomic level to determine the base unit of time.

In Discourse XI of Bhagavata Mahapurana (approx. 3070 BC, based on Hindu calculation of Kaliyuga commencing from 3102 BC), the sage maithreya describes units of time as follows:

“The measure of time which flits across the smallest particle of matter is called a Paramanu; while that which extends over the whole life-span of the universe is the longest measure of time.”

Bhagavata goes on from the level of Paramanu as follows. Two Paramanus make one Anu (atom), Three Anus make one Trasarenu, three Trasarenus make a Truti, hundred Trutis make a Vedha, three Vedhas make a Lava, three Lavas make a Nimesha (the twinkling of an eye), three Nimeshas make a Ksana (moment), five Ksanas make a Kastha, fifteen Kasthas make a Laghu, fifteen Laghus make a Nadika, a couple of Nadika make a Muhurta, six or seven Nadikas (depending on the length of day or night) make a Prahara (one quarter of a day or night). A day comprises four Yamas (six hours period), fifteen days constitute a fortnight, bright and dark alternately, two months make a Ritu, six months constitute an Ayana, known southerly and northerly by turn, following the course of the sun, and two Ayanas constitute a day and night of the gods. The year on earth is variously known as Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idavatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara, calculated on the basis of the revolution of the sun, the Jupiter and the moon.

The equation of Vedic time vis-à-vis modern time units at micro level is given below in tabular form.

1 paramanu 60,750th of a second
1 truţi = 29.6296 microseconds
1 tatpara = 2.96296 milliseconds
1 nimesha = 88.889 milliseconds
45 nimesha = 1 prāņa 4 seconds
6 prāņa = 1 vinādī 24 seconds
60 vinādīs = 1 nadī 24 minutes
60 nādīs = 1 ahorātra

 

TIME ACCORDING TO SURYA SIDDHANTA & VEDIC ASTRONOMY

SURYA SIDDHANTA of Hindu tradition contends that the time is born out of Sun. The time, according to this tradition, starts from Nimesha (twinkling of an eye), while Truti is referred to as a quarter of the time of falling of an eyelid. The computation of time, according to Surya Siddhanta, is given below in tabular form.

 

100 truti (atoms) = 1 tatpara (speck)
30 tatpara (specks) = 1 nimesha (twinkling)
18 nimesha (twinklings) = 1 kashtha (bit)
30 kashtha (bits) = 1 kala (~minute)
30 kala (minutes) = 1 ghatika (~half-hour)
2 ghatika (half hour) = 1 kshana/muhūrta (~hour)
30 kshana/muhūrta (hour) = 1 ahorātra (~day).

According to Vedic astronomical texts, units of time can be broadly divided into two categories; (i) mūrttakālah (manifested time) meaning the units that are manifested by the nature and (ii) amūrtakālah (unmanifested time) meaning the units that are created by man. To be precise, ahorātra, prāņa & nimeşa are mūrttakālah and the rest are amūrttakālah.

 

VEDIC HORA INTO ENGLISH HOUR & VEDIC NAMES OF WEEK DAYS

The famous Hindu astronomer Varaha Mihira divided a day and night into 24 Horas. It is generally believed that from this Hora system the modern world has adopted the system of 24 hours a day. Etymologically, it is quite possible that from Sanskrit Hora came Greek Ora (ωρα), Latin Hora and English Hour. According to one school, the names of the seven days in a week have been derived from the Hora system, while it is predominantly believed that the names of the days in a week have come from Vedic astronomy, which assumed a lord for first Ghatika (half an hour) of the day. Vedic names with corresponding modern names of the dayare given below in tabular form.

surya sunday
soma monday
mangala tuesday
budha wednesday
guru thursday
shukra friday
shani saturday
rahu & ketu eclipse

According to the Vedic system, the sun or Ravi, being the most powerful among the planets, has been honoured to be the lord of first ghaţika of the first day of the week. Hence it is named Ravivāra or Sunday. Vedic astronomers divided a day and night into 60 ghaţikas or 60 daņdas, which were later reduced into 24 Horas. That the names of the days owe their origin to Vedic astronomy is further evident from a verse (1/296) of Yājňavalkya Samhitā (approximately 3150 BC), wherein the names of the planets are given exactly in the order of present weekdays.

 

MOON THE BASIS OF FORTNIGHT & MONTH

While the larger Units of time like fortnight, month and year in modern age are based on solar system, during the Vedic period moon or the lunar system was the basis for those units. The words “aruņo māsakŗvikah’’ in Rig Veda have been interpreted by Āchārya Yāska in his commentary as follows: “aruņo arocano māsakŗņmāsānām cārddhamāsānām ca kartā bhavati” or “the moon is the creator of months and fortnights”. The moon is called chandramas in sanskrit and the word māsa is a derivative from the syllable ‘mas’ of chandramas. It is thus established that during the people during the Vedic period counted months and fortnights according to the phases of the moon, since it was quite tedious to calculate the duration of a solar month but much easier to calculate lunar month based on visual observation. The concept of solar months came into being much later.

 

CONCEPT OF SAMVATSARA & CYCLE OF SIXTY YEARS

Samvatsara means ‘year’ in Sanskrit. According to Hindu tradition, there are sixty Samvatsaras, which rotate in cyclical order. These sixty Samvatsaras are divided into three groups of 20 Samvatsaras each, the first 20 being attributed to Brahma, the next 20 to Vishnu & the last 20 to Shiva.

 

CONCEPT OF YUGA & YUGA CYCLEPOPULAR BELIEF

The Sanskrit term yuga has been derived from yoga and yoga from samyoga, or conjunction (of heavenly bodies). So yuga implies conjunction of the heavenly bodies in the cosmos. Hindu astronomy speaks of the yugas and the mahayugas that last for five to several thousand and even millions of years. Let us concentrate here on the well-known four yugas, namely Satya (Krita), Treta, Dvapara and Kali. The mahayuga, also known as chaturyuga (four yugas combined), comprising all four yugas rotate in cyclical order in the ratio of 4:3:2:1. To be precise, the length of Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali yugas is in years 4800, 3600, 2400 and 1200. There is controversy as to whether those years are Deva years or earth years and we must address this controversy.

It is popularly believed that the duration of the yugas is in terms of Deva years and not earth years. Therefore, the term of each yuga is to be multiplied by 360. When so done, the duration of the yugas in terms of earth years will work out as follows:

 

yuga human years ratio
krita-yuga 17,28,000 years 4
treta-yuga 12,96,000 years 3
dvapara-yuga 8,64,000 years 2
kali-yuga 4,32,000 years 1

 

1 chatur yuga (mahayuga) 43,20,000 human years

As we progress from Satya through Treta and Dvapara to kali yuga, there is a decline of man in all respects, physical, mental, moral, spiritual and intellectual. Accordingly, Satya yuga is known as the golden age, Treta yuga as the silver age, Dvara as the bronze age and Kali yuga as the iron age. As the Mahayuga moves on cyclically in descending and ascending order, from kali we progress upward in ascending order through Dvapara and Treta to satya yuga. While in ascending order man goes on excelling in all respects till he reaches the pinnacle of development in Satya yuga. This cyclical process goes on ad infinitum.

One thousand Mahayuga period is called Kalpa, or a day of Brahma, the creator of the universe. Another one thousand mahayugas constitutes Brahma’s one night. Thus a cosmic day and night of Brahma comprises two thousand Mahayugas or two Kalpas. It is said that 71 cycles of Mahayugas constitute one Manvantara, at the end of which there is massive devastation and also further creation. We are believed to be in the 7th Manvantara (named Vaivasvata after the name of Manu of this cycle), and 7 more Manvantaras will be coming in order to complete one day of Brahma. Each Manvantara has been named after the Manu being the first ruler of each Manvantara, beginning with Svaayambhuva Manu (son of the self-born) and ending with Indra-Saavarni Manu (son of Indra).

Each of the Devas and Brahma have been assigned hundred years of age in their respective domain in the given ratio of 1 day and night of Brahma = 2000 Mahayugas, and 1 day of the Devas = 360 days on earth. Brahma’s life span is known as Mahakalpa, at the end of which, all the universes are completely destroyed. In the next cycle, another Brahma comes into being and thus the cycle goes on at all levels, both micro and macro.

Are we in 5117th solar year of Kali yuga?

According to Surya Siddhanta, the current Kali yuga began at midnight of 18th February in 3102 BC in Julian Calendar. In the current year of 2015, we are in the 5117th solar year, according to Kaliyuga calendar. At the grossest macro level, it is believed that the current Brahma is in his 51st year of age. Considering that his one day and night is equal to 2000 Mahayugas, each Mahayuga comprising 43,20,000 earth years, according to popular belief, it would surely be mind-boggling to calculate how many earth years have elapsed since Brahma in the current cycle of Mahakalpa was born.

 

ALTERNATE VIEW ON YUGA – KALI YUGA HAS ELAPSED

Alternate view on the calculation of yuga and yuga cycle is based entirely on Manu Samhita without treating the duration of the yuga and yuga cycle in terms of Deva year, which is 360 times of earth year. According to Manu Samhita, the duration of yuga proper for Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali are 4000, 3000, 2000 and 1000 years respectively and each yuga proper is preceded by one-tenth and succeeded by another one-tenth of its above respective duration as transition time, thus working out to 4000+400+400 (4800) for Satya, 3000+300+300 (3600) for Treta, 2000+200+200 (2400) for Dvapara and 1000+100+100 (1200) for Kali.

Going by the above calculation, and given the accepted date of Kali yuga of current descending cycle beginning 3102 BC, Kali yuga is supposed to have elapsed long ago, even after combining it with Kali yuga of ascending cycle. To be more precise, if we add 1200 years of descending Kali with another 1200 years of ascending Kali, with effect from 3102 BC, the combined Kali yuga even then elapsed in 702 BC.

 

Are we in 317th or 117th year of Treta?

According to scholars and astronomers, it was a mistake committed sometime in the fifth century AD to treat the prevailing century as Kaliyuga by treating the period of 1200 years of Kaliyuga (which commenced from 3102 BC) as Deva years and arriving at an absurd figure of 4,32,000 earth years by way of multiplying 1200 years by 360. In case Kaliyuga indeed commenced from 3102 BC, as stated in Mahabharata and accepted by Surya Siddhanta, it ought to have ended long ago going by its normal span of 1200 years in descending cycle, combined with another 1200 years of ascending cycle (totaling 2400 years), as has been pointed out above. Going by this calculation, Dvapara is supposed to have already begun in 702 BC and having lasted for 2400 years, have ended in 1698 AD. Accordingly, we are now supposed to be in the 317th year of Treta yuga.

In case 3102 BC is taken as the end of Dvapara proper and the beginning of Dwapara transition time of 200 years before the advent of 100 year transition time of Kali yuga in 2902 BC, we should now be in 117th year of Treta yuga.

 

Are we in 315th year of Dvapara?

In The Holy Science, written in 1894 by Swami Sri Yukteswar (spiritual master of Swami Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi), an entirely different conclusion based on astronomical data and mathematical calculation has been reached. According to his calculation, descending Treta and Dvapara yuga started from 6701 BC and 3101 BC respectively. In 701 BC, descending Kali yuga of 1200 years began, and 499 AD marks the beginning of ascending Kali yuga of 1200 years, which ended in 1699 AD, whereupon ascending Dwapara has begun. Accordingly, we are now in 315th year of Dvapara yuga (in 2015). Thus it will be seen that Sri Yukteswar differs from the traditional date of 18th February, 3102 BC, as the beginning of the descending Kali yuga.

It is, however, doubtful whether the traditional date of February 18, 3102 BC, as the beginning of the descending Kali yuga can be dismissed notwithstanding a clear mention in Mahabharata that the Kali entered the arena of time with the death of Sri Krishna, which is believed to have happened on the aforesaid date.

 

UNRAVELLING MYSTERY OF CYCLICAL UPS & DOWNS

While Manu Samhita and several other Puranic texts describe Satya yuga as the golden age and the Kali as the period of extreme degeneration, logical explanation for such cliché is often lacking. Sri Yukteswar, however, made an attempt to explain the above phenomenon from astronomical perspective in his book ‘The Holy Science’.

According to Sri Yukteswar, the sun revolves around another sun or its dual, along with its planets and their moons, taking 24000 earth years to complete one revolution. The sun and its dual also revolve around a Grand Centre called Vishnu Nabhi (the navel of Vishnu), situated at the centre of the universe, which happens to be the seat of Brahma and also the source of universal magnetism. During its rotation, when sun with its planets comes closest to Vishnu Nabhi, the intellect of the man gets fully developed so as to comprehend the mysteries of the nature and the spirit. When the sun gets farthest from Vishnu Nabhi, degeneration of intellect and morality gets at the lowest. In-between, Treta and Dwapara yugas witness either descending or ascending degree of human intellect and morality, as the case may be.

From the above it is deduced, when  the sun gets closest and farthest to the Grand Centre or Vishnu Nabhi, while on rotation, it affects the earth. When it gets closest, the intellect and virtue of the man reaches the highest point of development, and when it gets farthest, the same get to the lowest point. At its highest point, the man comprehends the attributes of Divine Magnetism and unravels the mystery of the universe and life. According to Sri Yukteswar, in ascending Treta yuga, the man will be able to comprehend Divine Magnetism which is a higher discovery than electro-magnetism. At its lowest point, the man loses much of his intellectual faculty, and cannot grasp anything beyond the gross material world.

 

DECIMAL & ZERO IN CALCULATION OF TIME

Calculation of time and yugas without the aid of decimal and the number zero was clearly not feasible, particularly for calculation of astronomical numbers involving determination of Brahma’s day (Kalpa) or longevity (Mahakalpa), and also for inventing sub-atomic time units. It is no wonder that India is credited with the invention of decimal as also zero (both as a number and a symbol).

The earliest documentary evidence of the use of decimal system in India is available from a Jain astronomical work, viz. Lokavibhaga (parts of the universe), written on 28th August, 458 AD (Julian calendar). Mathematician Aryabhatta, however, is credited with the invention of modern decimal-based value system in 498 CE, when he stated “Sthanam sthanam dasa gunam” or “place to place is ten times in value”. We have a record of this value place assignment in a donation charter of Dadda III of Sankheda in Bharukachcha region in 594 CE, and a recorded inscription of decimal digits, and also number ‘0’ at the Chaturbhuja temple at Gwalior, dated 876 CE. In the latter inscription, number ‘0’ was used in ‘50’ and ‘270’ to describe the number of garlands. It is also evident that Sanskrit numerals including zero with a base 10 system were well known during the Gupta period (c.320-540 CE), when Egypt, Greece or Rome did not have a place value number system. The Mayans, who were well known for their mathematical talent in astronomical calculation, as also Babylonians found zero as the symbol and not as the number. China invented place value without zero as the number, till a Buddhist astronomer from India showed them in 718 CE how zero could be used as a number.

Incidentally, it is believed that zero was conceptualized first by Indian philosophers as a symbol to represent ‘nothing’ or complete void, as ‘Shunya’ or ‘Purna’. Later, the mathematical value of zero as a number was invented. It was Brahmagupta who was perhaps the first mathematician to write down the rules for the use of zero, as also negative numbers and the algebraic rules, in 628 CE in his book ‘Brahmasphutha Siddhanta’ (The opening of the Universe).

It is by now well known how the knowledge of zero as a number in mathematics travelled from India to the Arab world and thereafter to Europe. Interestingly, the use of zero and decimal was initially viewed with extreme suspicion in Europe, deeming the decimal arithmetic as dabbling in occult, which was potentially punishable with death.

It is, however, an admitted fact that Indian astronomy and mathematics were far older than the written evidence of the use of decimal and zero, as stated above.

 

RELATIVITY OF TIME – WAS IT KNOWN TO VEDIC PEOPLE?

In Book nine, Discourse 3, verses 29-36 of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, the following interesting anecdote of space travel has been recounted.

Kakudmi, son of Revata and the king of Anarta (modern Gujarat) with capital at Kushasthali (known as Dwaraka in Krishna’s time), could not find a suitable match for his beautiful daughter Revati. He short-listed names of prospective groom, and travelled with his daughter to Brahmaloka (the place of Brahma) to ask the Grandsire as to who among them would be the ideal match for his daughter. On his arrival he found that Brahma was busy listening to musical performance of the gandharvas. He, therefore, waited till the music session got over. After the performance was over, he bowed to Brahma and requested him to advise him about the most suitable groom for his daughter on the earth. Brahma burst into laughter, saying that during the time he was patiently waiting with his daughter for the music to get over, 27 Mahayugas on earth rolled by, and not only her prospective suitors, but also his kingdom and all his progenies had disappeared. By the time he would get back to the earth, it would near the end of Dvapara, and her suitable match would be Balarama, to whom Revati should be married. Bhagavata says that on return to earth Kakudmi truly found that nothing relating to his time survived. He came across Balarama and Krishna and married his daughter to Balarama. We find the same story in Mahabharata and in some Puranas as well.

What is striking in the above narrative is not the story as such, but the fact that it was known to the people in ancient time that there was a difference between space time vis-à-vis earth time, and that the time-difference depended upon the distance from the earth. As for instance, the equation between deva’s time and earth time was 1 day : 360 days, while the equation between Brahma’s time vis-à-vis earth time was 1 day: 1000 Mahayugas (1,20,00,000 years). If 27 Mahayugas passed by when king Kakudmi was waiting in the court of Brahma during the performance of the Gandharvas, it only meant that 3,24,000 earth years rolled by, which was equal to just about 19.5 minutes of Brahma. It is patently clear that Kakudmi himself was not aware of the time difference between Brahmaloka and the earth. How he performed the space travel is also not explained in the Bhagavata or Mahabharata. Thus it is reasonable to doubt the above episode of space travel. However, all contemporary literature including Mahabharata mention that Balarama indeed married Revati, daughter of Kakudmi, from a different yuga cycle. We find it difficult to reconcile the fact of the said marriage to the fiction of space travel. Even if we dismiss the space travel of Kakudmi and Revati as figment of imagination, we cannot surely rule out the knowledge of the ancients about the relativity of time on earth and space.

That the ancients had the knowledge of relativity of time gets further support from verse 8.17 of Gita where Krishna tells Arjuna that those who know that Brahma’s one day is equal to one thousand Mahayugas on earth and his one night is equal to another one thousand Mahayugas, are the true knowers of day and night. The above verse, no doubt, is a conclusive proof of the knowledge of relativity of time during the period of Mahabharata (4th millennium BC, going by Kali yuga calendar).

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

In our introduction we raised a poser whether the miniscule time units that the Indians in Vedic period envisaged were merely speculative or imaginary. We also felt that there should be a satisfactory answer to the query whether ancient Indians were aware of the concept of relativity of time. Let us deal with the above two questions herein.

As to the first poser, we can reasonably refer to Vedic concept of murttakala, meaning the time manifested by nature, and amurttakala, meaning un-manifested time, essentially man-made. Vedic astronomical texts make it clear that barring ahoratra (one day and night of 24 hours), prana (time derived from heart beat) and nimesha (time derived from twinkling) all other time units are man-made. Obviously, Paramanu (sub-atomic unit) and anu (atomic unit), which are the minutest time units denoting 60,750th and 30,375th of a second respectively, fall in the category of man-made time units. Were these time units astronomically derived? Pertinently the question is, when the reference was made to anu and paramanu as time units, why such miniscule time units should not have been based on the vibration of those tiniest particles, like our latest quantum clock and optical clock timing are based on? When the ancients took the name of anu (atom) and paramanu (sub-atomic particle), there is no reason to think that those names were imaginary and speculative and had no bearing on reality. However, it is undeniable that during Vedic time there was no concept of watch or clock, even though it was known that a day (ahoratra) was made of 24 horas (hours), a week was made of seven days, a month was made of 30 days, and a samvatsara (year) was made of twelve months. One may say that it was primitive to calculate time with reference to twinkling or heartbeat, but in the absence of timekeeper, it was perhaps the best possible means to determine time. But we cannot reconcile this primitive method of time calculation to the concept of minutest time units called paramanu and anu. Did those minutest time units belong to the domain of astronomy or space time, where an anu or paramanu, a few light years away, may mean a sizeable time span on earth? We may leave this issue with a big question mark.

Let us now take up the second poser, viz. whether Vedic Indians knew the concept of relativity of time? Preponderance of probability based on the story of kakudmi and Revati in Bhagavata and Mahabharata, together with verse 8.17 of Gita and the Vedic time equation of Devaloka and Brahmaloka vis-a-vis earth would strongly suggest that the Vedic people were generally aware of relativity of earth time and space time. This awareness, however, does not suggest by any stretch of imagination that the story of space travel by Kakudmi and Revati is reliable. As a matter of fact, we find it inexplicable how kakudmi with his daughter Revati could have travelled to Brahmaloka, which must have been several light years away, given the time equation of 1 day :1000 mahayugas or 12,00,00,00 earth years. There is no mention of spacecraft as the means of transport. They could not have travelled with subtle bodies (one of the known yogic modes of travel) leaving their gross bodies behind, which would have surely perished by the time they returned. They could not have converted their gross bodies into light and travelled with the speed of light, which highly advanced yogis are believed to have been doing, inasmuch as it would have taken several light years to reach Brahmaloka. Given the time equation and the nature of query that Kakudmi had in mind, such travel to Brahmaloka would have been undertaken only if Kakudmi knew how to travel faster than light. In the light of Brahma’s statement that 27 Mahayugas rolled by when Kakudmi was waiting in Brahma’s court, Kakudmi may be reasonably taken as preceding Balarama’s era by approximately 1.5 lakh earth years. It is rather far fetched, if not absurd, to believe that the humans knew how to travel faster than light at that time or at any time, including the current age. However, it is not deniable that Mahabharata and Bhagavata state that Balarama married Revati, the daughter of king Kakudmi, from an earlier yuga cycle. Thus it will not be permissible to dismiss the marriage of Balarama and Revati as imaginary. This being the case, we find it difficult to reconcile the above fact of marriage of Balarama with Revati to Revati’s space travel with her father Kakudmi, about 1.5 lakh years before.

As is stated above, the veracity of the story of space travel by kakudmi and Revati (or lack of it) is not critical to our inference that the Vedic people were aware of the relativity of earth time vis-à-vis space-time.

 

 

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41 Responses to VEDIC CONCEPT OF TIME & YUGA CYCLE

  1. Kushal Shah says:

    Asishji, thanks a lot for sharing such interesting details about this topic. Here are my comments:

    1. Its not clear what the Yuga cycle actually refers to. If we read Indian history, morality seems to have been a mixed bag at all times. It is not at all clear if people in India were really more moral during Satya Yuga. It is also not clear if the Yuga cycle applies only to India or to the rest of the world also. The idea of morality in the western world definitely seems to be a lot better now than what it was during ancient times. If we also believe in modern evolutionary theory, humans started showing non-animal traits only about 50k years ago. Before that, there is no question of any morality coming into the picture.

    2. The story of Revati-Balaram is surely bizarre! It seems quite clear that Devaloka and Brahmaloka are not physical locations in this visible universe. One reason that we can think of is that in ancient times, people used to chant mantras in order to call the Devas. This hints towards a mental process instead of something physical. There are also other traits that a physical location must have (decay, ageing, etc) which are not present in those lokas. So, in all likelihood, Revati’s story could not have been that involving an actual travel to a physical location and back. But as you said, even a mental process is hard to accept since the physical body would decay on earth by that time. The only conclusion that I can draw from here is that it was not a historical event that happened but a story used by Vyasa to elucidate a deep concept that he was aware of. Now what exactly was Vyasa aware of is another question that doesn’t seem to have any clear answer.

    Thanks,
    Kushal.

  2. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, I am really impressed by your quick grasp and inquisitive mind. Here is my response to your observations/posers.

    “If we read Indian history, morality seems to have been a mixed bag at all times. It is not at all clear if people in India were really more moral during Satya Yuga.”

    Response: That morality has always been a mixed bag at all times, not only in the world of humans, but also in the world of devas (gods) stands vetted by verse 18.40, Gita, wherein it is stated that there is no entity in the world or heaven which is free from the three Gunas or attributes, viz. Sattva, Rajas & Tamas, that produce mixed bag of virtue & vices. The difference lies in degree and not in kind. In other words, one of the Gunas or attributes may predominate in respect of an individual, community, race or species at a given time or place.

    “It is also not clear if the Yuga cycle applies only to India or to the rest of the world also.”

    Response: There is no authority in the Vedas to restrict yuga cycle to India only instead of the whole of the world. It may be a fact that inhabitants in various regions of the world may vary widely in terms of development, but then yuga is an astronomical reality and never an abstract concept. In every yuga, there has been highly developed and erudite humans, side by side with uncultured brutes with demonic instinct & faculty. Even the present time is no exception.

    “If we also believe in modern evolutionary theory, humans started showing non-animal traits only about 50k years ago. Before that, there is no question of any morality coming into the picture.”

    Resonse: There is a fundamental difference between Darwin’s evolutionary theory and Vedantic theory of involution in that the former is a linear theory, while the latter is a cyclical one. Vedanta talks of evolution and involution going on cyclically in the sense what is evolved will get involved, and what is involved shall be evolved. It is like saying, the full grown human with all his attributes is involved in genes, and genes evolve into full grown humans. Vedanta applies that to Brahman as well, stating that Brahman evolves into universes and multifarious lives and the said evolved state gets eventually involved back into Brahman (at the time of dissolution). Going by this theory, there have been several civilizations in the past, traces of which have been lost in pralaya or great flood. Therefore, the presumption that humans started showing non-animal traits only about 50k years ago may be valid in the current cycle of evolution but may not be valid for all times, unless human existence on earth is ruled out beyond a time, considering the earth’s physical properties and atmosphere.

    “The only conclusion that I can draw from here is that it was not a historical event that happened but a story used by Vyasa to elucidate a deep concept that he was aware of. Now what exactly was Vyasa aware of is another question that doesn’t seem to have any clear answer.”

    As I mentioned in concluding remarks, we find it difficult to reconcile the space travel of the father-daughter duo about 1.5 lakh years ago to the factum of the daughter Revati’s marriage to Balarama, as depicted by Vyasa, the sage known for his truthfulness. There ought to be some explanation which is beyond the grasp of our intellect at present. However, the story is just incidental to drive home our inference that it was a clear pointer to the knowledge of the Vedic people about relativity of time.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, thanks a lot for the appreciation!

      “there is no entity in the world or heaven which is free from the three Gunas or attributes, viz. Sattva, Rajas & Tamas, that produce mixed bag of virtue & vices. The difference lies in degree and not in kind.”

      Yes, I understand that. But its not clear if there was a preponderance of sattva in earlier times (eg. Ramayana time) as compared to current times. To me it seems that the various attributes of sattva/rajas/tamas have got more mixed now in all people and earlier we could more clearly tag people as being sattvic or rajasic or tamasic. So it seems to be more a case of increasing entropy rather than increasing negativity. As Vivekananda also says that the sum total of the world always remain zero.

      “As I mentioned in concluding remarks, we find it difficult to reconcile the space travel of the father-daughter duo about 1.5 lakh years ago to the factum of the daughter Revati’s marriage to Balarama, as depicted by Vyasa, the sage known for his truthfulness.”

      I think in the highest sense, the term ‘truth’ can never be used for ‘facts’ but only for ‘eternal principles’. Facts are what the senses tell us which can always be faulty. But principles are revealed through a very different process. So, I think our rishis were more concerned with eternal principles which they wanted to convey through various forms. And when it comes to conveying principles to common people, nothing is more effective then stories (again, which need not be factual). Another example is the story of Nachiketa and Yama. Its very hard to believe that a boy actually went in flesh and blood to a place called Yamaloka and had a real conversation with Yama. But this does not mean that the writer of Katha Upanishad indulged in falsehood. The writer wanted to convey an eternal principle and used the medium of story-telling (which was very common in ancient India).

      “However, the story is just incidental to drive home our inference that it was a clear pointer to the knowledge of the Vedic people about relativity of time.”

      Thats what the question is! What is it that the rishis were aware of? What is meant by Brahmaloka time and Devaloka time? Is hell-time same as heaven-time? Are there any stories of people going to hell for some time (without dying) and coming back to earth in the same way as Arjuna went to heaven and returned during the exile?

  3. RKGupta says:

    An excellent and well researched discussion on the Vedic concept of time and yuga cycle. It has been very well brought out how those people had access to such scientific and accurate knowledge of the subject.
    Though there is nothing much to add on the subject, as far as the physical aspect of time is concerned, I wish to introduce the philosophical aspect of time. In the discussion Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana has been referred to. I wish to quote from the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana itself for the philosophical aspect of time, including the concept of relativity.
    The scriptures mention that being the Supreme Consciousness and the treasure house of all knowledge, the God creates the world by His mere thought, which reflects in the form of Cosmic Intelligence and sets in the process of creation. The Holy Qur’an mentions;

    ‘Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is: Be! And it is’-Qur’an, 36:82. The Holy Bible also mentions in Genesis, Chapter 1 the command of the God as ‘let there be’ and ‘it was so’. Similarly, it is mentioned in the Srimadbhagwat Mahapuran-Pratham Skandh Adhyay 3 Shloka 1 that “in the beginning of the creation, the God desired to create the universe and at once He revealed Himself in the form of the Adipurusha accompanied with ‘Mahtatva’ (‘Chitta’ or the faculty of thought) etc. at His command.”
    The Adipurusha (Satpurusha, as He is referred to in most of the scriptures) accepted the condition of the Adimaya in order to create the world. He started to look around, but there was nothing to be seen, as He Himself was the all encompassing shining self. This very faculty of differentiating the Seer from the scene was the first manifestation of the ‘Karya Kaaranrupi Maya’ (Maya in the form of cause and effect), with the help of which the God created the world.
    This concept of the ‘seer’ and the ‘scene’ is the mother of the concepts of relativity. The God desired to manifest in the form of manifold creation and that creation to be be full of bliss. This desire that the manifold creation should be blissful contained the seed of ‘Kaal’ (time) in it. It is the Kaal that sets in the process of differentiation, movement, action and ultimately dissolution of everything in its essence, which alone could lead one to the state of bliss. So long there is a feeling of separation bliss cannot be complete. It is only through dissolution of the self and merger of the self with the Source that one could experience the eternal bliss.
    The subtle time is reckoned by the differentiation of the trigunas of the Maya-Nature. The Rajogun, the Satvagun and the Tamogun represent the trigunas of the Prakriti (the three modes of Nature) i.e. the three-fold energy, the creative energy (Rajas energy), the preserving energy (Satvik energy) and the dissolution energy (Tamas energy).
    Interaction between the three-fold energy and time gave rise to various elements. The Satvik energy (or the pure-causal energy) was transformed into the Manas (mind-heart) and the governors of the organs of senses and action. The Manas (mind) is the treasure house of all desires and it acts as the fountainhead for the senses. The Rajas (or the subtle) energy got transformed into the power associated with the organs of senses (i.e. the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose) and the organs of action (namely, the speech, hands, feet, the genitals and anus), Buddhi (intelligence) and Prana (breathing). The Buddhi confers capability to acquire knowledge of the matter and guides the senses; it is the basis for acquiring knowledge. Prana on the other hand is the basis for all actions; it supports all the organs and leads them to activity. Lastly the Tamsik (or the gross-material) energy got transformed into the gross-material existence. At the level of contingent beings, the eyes, the sight or vision and the Sun (light) represent an example of the transformation of the three forms of energy where the eyes are the gross organs, sight or vision is the power to see and the Sun (light) is the governor of this power enabling one to see.
    All the gross elements arose from the Tamas energy and Kaal. The interaction between Tamas energy and Kaal created mass (matter) in the form of the most fundamental particle (called Paramanu in the Hindu mythology) setting up a two-fold motion in the fundamental particle i.e. around its own axis, as well as in the space. This motion was set up in the particles as the effect of the energy that caused the matter to be created. It is a universal principle that all that is an effect of anything carries an impression, in some form or the other, of that which has caused its existence. The particles, therefore, carried the impression of the energy, which was exhibited in this two-fold motion, which also caused the matter to spread in the space at a tremendous speed and thus creating space in the form of Aakash (ether). This movement so caused in the fundamental particles resulted in the big bang. This was the moment when the matter in its physical form came into existence, for the first time. With the passage of time, the matter has kept on moving farther and farther in space, resulting in the expansion of space. This is also explained by the physical formula E=mc2. The energy E causes mass ‘m’ to move in space ‘d’ with an acceleration ‘d/t2’ (c2 can be taken as dxd/t2, where ‘d’ stands for distance-or space and ‘t’ stands for time, d/t2 represents acceleration). The action of time also keeps on dissolving the matter back into energy in such a manner that the energy, matter and space co-exist maintaining a dynamic balance.
    The time taken by the Paramanu to complete one revolution around its own axis is the fundamental or the basic unit of time measurement. Each particle in the universe has its own time, because of which the principle of relativity (i.e. the seer and the scene) is set up in the material world. In our Solar system the time taken by the earth in making one revolution around its axis is known as a day. Similarly, the time taken by the moon in making one revolution around its own axis is known as a moon-day, which is much shorter than the day on the earth. However, the time is zero (or infinite-depending upon the way one looks at it), i.e. non-existent at the very center of the Paramanu, and similarly at the poles of the cosmos. There is no time or mass at the very center of the fundamental particle; there is nothing at the inner most core. It is this ‘nothingness’ (the nonbeingness), which is the symbolic presence of the Truth in all that exists, as stated in the Srimadbhagwat Gita in Adhyay 13 Shloka 14 that ‘He dwells in the universe, pervading everything’.
    In regard to time, the Srimadbhagwat Mahapuran-Tratiya Skandh, Adhyay 11 Shloka 4 mentions that ‘the time pervading the Paramanu is extremely minute and the time that enjoys the universe from the moment of its creation through its dissolution is supremely great’. Similarly in Shloka 1 of the same Adhyay, it is stated that ‘the minutest particle of the bodies like earth, which cannot be divided any further, and which has not reached the state of effect of any material action and which has not combined with other particles (Paramanus), is known as Paramanu. As a result of combination of Paramanus and due to illusion people look upon them as a different body’. Combination of Paramanus in different ways produces various materials. The gross elements in the universe, therefore, appear to have been created in an orderly fashion as a result of various modes of combination of the same fundamental particle with other similar particles and so on. This combination of Paramanus is a reflection of the Primordial Determination (to create the universe), and the movement set by the Kaal is again a reflection of the same Primordial Determination (to enjoy the same state of bliss). The movement set in by the Kaal does both, it allows the Paramanu to exist and simultaneously it sets in the process of dissolution. If there were no movement (and hence no centrifugal force), the whole creation would have collapsed. On the other hand, this very movement causes dissipation of energy and thereby resulting in the dissolution of the matter ultimately.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      > This movement so caused in the fundamental particles resulted in the big bang.

      Fundamental particles did not exist before the big bang and so they couldn’t have caused it. What caused the big bang is not yet clear. Its not even clear if the word ’cause’ can be used in relation with big bang, since the notion of ‘before big bang’ is not understood.

      > With the passage of time, the matter has kept on moving farther and farther in space,
      > resulting in the expansion of space. This is also explained by the physical formula
      > E=mc2. The energy E causes mass ‘m’ to move in space ‘d’ with an acceleration ‘d/t2’
      > (c2 can be taken as dxd/t2, where ‘d’ stands for distance-or space and ‘t’ stands for time,
      > d/t2 represents acceleration).

      This is incorrect. In E=mc^2, c represents the velocity of light in free space which is a universal constant. It should not be confused with the usual velocity of other particles (v=dx/dt). E=0.5mv^2 is the kinetic energy of particles in the classical Newtonian mechanics and has a very different meaning as compared to mc^2.

  4. RKGupta says:

    Essentially there is no difference in matter and energy. It is the One fundamental Transcendental principal which manifests in all forms. The creation can be considered to have manifested in the form of consciousness, intellect, energy and matter in that sequence and essentially these are not different but only different states of the One.
    In my humble understanding, energy is capability of matter to work (change its relative position). Intellect is to choose a particular course of action,i.e. choosing between various options and to decide upon, making a determination, which activates the energy and consciousness is being aware-being aware of the very existence, which is the characteristic quality of Soul. The only real existence is the soul, which is indescribable.
    Even in scientific terms, matter cannot be defined. No one knows what matter is? Scientists are trying to find particle(s) which constitute matter and then whether those particles are condensed energy form, no one knows. It is, therefore, difficult to say that the energy did not condense in the form of particles setting movement therein. and then if there is no vibration or motion how any bang or sound or movement could be produced?
    As regards ‘c’ how does it matter whether it is speed of light or any other speed? The idea which I have tried to project is that energy, matter and space exist in a dynamic balance, with the space ever expanding, expanding with the ‘thought’. All the space that is there outside is only a reflection of the space within. The speed of thought is almost infinite, one moment one’s thought is fixed here and the next moment it is fixed at things millions of light year away.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      “energy is capability of matter to work (change its relative position)”

      Please note that this is true only in the classical Newtonian sense and this energy is denoted by 0.5mv^2. The concept of mc^2 discovered by Einstein is totally different and has no relation to work. mc^2 is the energy that a mass possesses just by virtue of its existence even if its not moving.The total energy of a particle is a combination (not a simple sum) of this ‘rest energy’ (mc^2) and the kinetic energy (0.5mv^2).

  5. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji & Guptaji, I am indeed thankful to both of you for taking our discussion to a new level of philosophy and science. Let me respond to some of the thoughtful observations cum posers of Kushalji.

    Observation:
    “As Vivekananda also says that the sum total of the world always remain zero.”

    Response:
    The above postulate of physical science is understood differently in spiritual science. If Brahman as Nirguna & Nirakara (Without attributes & form) is taken as zerosome, the expanded form of Brahman that encompasses all universes and lives must also be taken as zero, as nothing comes out of nothing. After all, what is evolved will get involved. Vedanta says, in the beginning when there was nothing except Brahman, the three Gunas (attributes), viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas were in perfect equilibrium, viz. in the zero state. There was no motion, no vibration. When Brahman got into expansion mode, the balance in the there Gunas got disturbed, which led to motion and vibration (spandan), which in turn led to the coming into being of matter (particles) and individual consciousness. In the state of dissolution, all these will get involved in Brahman, returning to the state of perfect equilibrium. Vedanta describes the process as cyclical, i.e, evolution – involution – evolution ….. What happens at macro level applies to micro level, viz. in respect of individuals. The liberation of soul, according to Vedanta, happens when all three Gunas get into perfect equilibrium. That state of mind is called equanimity in Gita and Upanishadas. In that state, the soul has no motion or vibration, and the same gets dissolved in Brahman. However, if the soul has any desire or mission left, even including the wish to serve the humanity, there will be vibration and motion in the soul that will bring it to the phenomenal world for fulfilling its mission. It may so happen that a realized/liaberated soul with equipoise may opt not to get it merged in Brahman, but to continue with its identity so as to manifest time and again at will in the phenomenal world for the good of humanity (read living beings in any form). Those souls are called avataras, messiah or prophets. Eventually, even those liberated but distinct souls shall get involved in Brahman and lost in zero, at the time of dissolution (Mahakalpa)

    Poser:
    “What is meant by Brahmaloka time and Devaloka time? Is hell-time same as heaven-time? Are there any stories of people going to hell for some time (without dying) and coming back to earth in the same way as Arjuna went to heaven and returned during the exile?”

    Response:
    Brahmaloka time is mentioned in verse 8.17 in Gita and also in various texts including Vedas, Bhagavata Mahapurana, Mahabharata, and several other Puranas. Though Gita does not refer to Devaloka time, all other texts, named above bring out the equation between Devaloka time and earth time. As for hell time, unfortunately no separate equation is available. But once we remember that the Hindu texts do not believe in eternal heaven or eternal hell like the Abrahamic religions do, and go by the maxim of proportionality, i.e. a soul will be in hell for his wrongs and heaven for his good deeds for the duration as warranted by their karma (action), it will be permissible to think that both heaven and hell operate on the same timescale. But the question is, can we take Devaloka as heaven?

    On the question of identification of Devaloka visited by Arjuna during the exile of the Pandavas, as the heaven to which they were eventually elevated after death, there is reasonable doubt. And the reason are as follows:

    i) In the last chapter of Mahabharata dealing with ascendance of the Pandavas to the heaven, Narada told Yudhisthira, he was the first human who was permitted to come up to the heaven with his mortal body. Obviously then Arjuna’s visit of Devaloka to help the Devas defeat some asuras and demons, or Krishna’s invasion of Devaloka to snatch Parijata plant from Indra, when Krishna was accompanied by his wife Satyabhama, cannot be confused with the heaven to which no mortal has access with his body. It is important to note that even Yudhistira was directed to leave his body after taking bath in the holy river, for final entry into the heaven.

    ii) It is stated in Gita that even Devas are not free from the three Gunas and are not immortal. They also die and get reborn.

    iii) Vedavyasa revealed in Mahabharata that all five Pandavas were Indra in some of their previous incarnations. Even Nahusha, an ancestor of the kauravas/Pandavas was re-born as Indra but cursed by a sage for insulting him. He died as Indra and took re-birth as a python. All these stories go to prove that Indra did not rule heaven but a phenomenal world called devaloka which was like the earth, and was distinctive from humans as a species.

    iv) There is reference in Mahabharata to Indra coming in his chariot to escort Yudhisthira to heaven after all his brothers and Draupadi died. This happened on mount Sumeru, which was believed to be the resort of the Devas on earth. The Pandavas obviously believed that the road to the heaven lay on mount Sumeru, and decided to climb the said mountain when one after another, barring Yudhisthira, dropped dead. What Yudhisthira in his mortal body was shown as heaven and hell was Maya or illusory as was explained in Mahabharata. Eventually he had to shed off his mortal body when the time for his entry into heaven came.

    v) Yudhisthira was clearly told that with anger, jealousy, desire or hatred nobody can be elevated to heaven. These are the baggage from earth, which they have to leave behind. Arjuna’s episode clearly reveals that he was taken to Devaloka at the instance of Indra so that he could destroy Indra’s enemies in battle. When he did so, Arjuna was given several divine weapons by Indra. Such sense of enmity was uncharacteristic of heaven-dwellers as was stated in the last chapter of Mahabharata.

    vi) Indra in heaven need not be the Indra in Devaloka visited by Arjuna, just as Krishna on earth need not be Vishnu in Vishnuloka. In other words, it is not correct to assume that when Vishnu takes incarnation he vacates Vishnuloka. It is explained that fraction of his infinite power is transmitted to an embryo or a new-born child (this also was explained by Vedavyasa in Mahabharata). Just as there were several Vishnu avataras living simultaneously on earth, viz. Parasurama, Balarama and Sri Krishna, there were several Indras at different points of time, born with the fraction of power of Indra in heaven. It is an extremely complex phenomenon.

    vii) None can enter heaven or hell with his body and return. There is no mention in Katha Upanishad that Nachiketa went to Yamalaya (hell) with his body and returned. If that was so, he need not have asked for the boon to return to life on earth. Surely if he could travel to hell with his body, he could have returned to earth with his body with Yama’s permission. That was surely not the case. He obviously left his mortal body and went to Yamalaya with his astral body. Yudhisthira also eventually entered heaven with his astral body leaving behind his mortal body. Heaven and hell may be accessible to those sages and the yogis who are capable of travelling with their astral body. We do not find any mention of a yogi or sage visiting heaven in mortal body.

    viii) Like Devaloka is not heaven, Brahmaloka is also not heaven. These are locations in outer space, may be a planet or a star, the former being much closer to the earth compared to the latter, as can be inferred from the given time equation.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, the idea of Devaloka being different from heaven is really a very interesting concept! It makes so much sense. Now, the main question is : where is this Devaloka? Since in the Mahabharata there is no mention of space-travel and given the elaborate equipment required for space-travel which was most probably not available at that time, it is safe to assume that Devaloka is not a location in outer space but on this planet itself. As you mentioned, one day of Devaloka is said to be 360 days of earth time. Now, in our scriptures, the word ‘earth’ was often used to denote India and not the entire planet. And we know that beyond the Arctic/Antarctic circle, the length of day/night is very long and almost spans the whole year (~360 days) as we get closer to the North Pole or South Pole. So, it seems quite possible that the word ‘Devaloka’ was used to denote regions close to the extreme North/South of the planet.

  6. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, there has been some speculation about antarctic and arctic regions being the probable habitat of the Devas, and Tilak subscribed to this theory. However, scientific researches have revealed that those two regions were not habitable during the time of Mahabharata or even long before, and could not have been the seat of an advanced civilization of unparalleled opulence as we make out from the description in Mahabharata and other contemporary texts. Moreover, there is no evidence of prolonged war in those regions, like what we read in the epics referring to constant battles and friction between the Devas and the Asuras. Last but not the least, mount Sumeru has been often mentioned as the place where Devas were camping on earth, situated north to the Himalayas, which the Pandavas saw from the Himalaya, and tried to reach in a bid to ascend to heaven. Surely Sumeru could not have been in arctic or antarctic.

    As for description of space travel, Aranyaka in Mahabharata contains a description of Arjuna’s space travel and his fight with demons from space, when he narrated his travel and achievements to Yudhisthira on his return. You may go through those details from a reliable text. He also attempted to demonstrate the divine weapons that he received from Devas, when the sages stopped him, as otherwise such demonstration would have destroyed innocent lives on earth. On a careful reading of the above description, it appeared to me that Arjuna undertook a space travel, courtesy Indra. to Devaloka, which was not Sumeru mountain, arctic or antarctic, but some location in outer space. It is not necessary for you to agree with me, but for every disagreement, there must be some cogent reasons based on scrutiny.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, our current scientific understanding of space travel is on a much more firm footing than that of history, geography, archaeology and habitation. So, if we rule out the north pole conjecture based on science, ancient space travel gets ruled out automatically. So, in the absence of a third possibility, the north pole conjecture is much more likely to be true. As for description of Arjuna’s fight in space, I think its important to note that use of hyperbole is a common technique in all literary works. Taking it literally might be misleading.

  7. RKGupta says:

    Let me take the liberty to add another dimension to the discussion. It is well accepted principle both spiritually and scientifically that nothing can be destroyed or created. It is only a change in form. Now, the Hindu philosophy believes in creatures possessing three bodies-causal body, subtle body and the physical or the sthool sharir. The causal body makes subtle body to unite with a suitable physical body (in accordance with the theory of karma), which is called birth and their separation is called death. After death, the physical body is disposed off according to the tradition of different religions in different manners. The question is what happens to the subtle body. As I mentioned above, the subtle body is not destroyed, though it gets dissolved in the causal elements, which in Hindu terminology is called liberation or ‘Moksha’, but till that happens, the subtle body exists. This subtle body rests in ‘lokas’ suitable to its existence, where it enjoys or feels pain according to karma theory, which is not in physical sense but in subtle sense. It also communicates, but without words through feelings. The subtle body can also make astral travels and since it is subtle, at speed suitable to it, beyond the physical restrictions. Depending upon the spiritual evolution of the subtle body and its capabilities, these are also capable of assimilating physical particles to appear in the form of physical bodies, though such physical appearances would have limitations. I may also add that I am not ruling out the possibilities of existence of aliens in different sort of physical bodies, which may also be more advanced than us.
    Considering the above possibility, some of the scriptural references may have to be given a more serious thought before rejecting the same as absurd. We do not know the real purport thereof. I am not advocating a blind belief but putting a question mark to things we do not yet understand.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      The possibility of aliens is actually a very interesting proposition and needs to be carefully evaluated. Here are some of my thoughts in this regard:

      1. Devas and Asuras are known to sexually mate with humans and hence cannot be considered another species going by the biological definition. Also, as per the puranic description, Devas, Asuras and most other intelligent beings seem to have the same body structure as humans. Only Hanuman, Jamavant and other such characters have a mix of animal and human bodily traits. But its clear that they were not aliens.

      2. Our scriptures say that human birth is the highest possible form of life. So, if there are intelligent aliens, it poses a serious threat to human birth being the highest. Why should aliens not be eligible for Moksha?

      3. It is also not clear if the Devas were actually more advanced than humans since they used to feel threatened every time a human started performing deep tapasya. They also don’t display any strength of character and seem to spend all their time in drinking, making merry and fighting with Asuras. Some of the Asuras (eg. King Bali of Vamana Avatara) actually display a higher strength of character than any of the Devas.

      4. After the Mahabharata times, we don’t seem to have any story of interaction between Devas, Asuras and humans. They couldn’t have just vanished. Even if they suddenly vanished, there should have been some story related to this disappearance.

      My guess is that Devas and Asuras were just different human civilisations living in different parts of this planet. And one of them was not morally superior to the other. Perhaps Devas and Indians were allies (hence Devas were considered to be higher) and Asuras were strong enough to need no allies.

  8. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, comparing current space technology with the ancient transportation system limited to charioteering, is like comparing ice cream with natural ice. Indians in Mahabharata time were not much developed in technological knowledge. Even their language was known to be deva bhasha. Arjuna’s chariot with horses, Gandiva and two quivers, as also his lethal weapons were all god-gifted. The palace of the Pandavas at Indraprastha was also not man-made. Obviously, the people in Mahabharata time were not aware of space technology and their entire knowledge was borrowed from Devas or asuras as the case may be. Arjuna only narrated his experience of space travel and heroics to Yudhisthira with naivety of a simpleton & science-illiterate person. The divine weapons used to be discharged with some coded words which they used to mug. Karna forgot the codes and consequently those weapons were of no use to him. Arjuna also forgot the codes when escorting the women of Krishna household after latter’s demise, and failed to resist the dacoits from abducting young women. The story of Mahabharata bears a testimony of close interaction with highly advanced Devas with scientifically not so developed humans. But the latter were morally strong, perhaps stronger than present generation on an average. Having regard to above perspective, you have to consider how much of the Mahabharata can be accepted as facts, and how much as fiction. In all likelihood, it was a mixed bag of facts and fiction, facts exaggerated to look like fiction.

    Guptaji, I am indeed thankful for your elucidation.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Yes, I agree that Indians were not technologically advanced during Mahabharata times. But the point is that Devas could have been humans living in other countries. In section 37 of vana parva, its mentioned that Arjuna started walking northwards in order to reach Devaloka and that this place was on the mountains. In section 56 of vana parva, the qualities of Devas described by Damyanti seem to be quite exaggerated and hard to believe. In this section, Nala describes Devas as being the epitome of virtue but we know for sure that it’s untrue.

  9. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, Arjuna’s launching, if you have noticed, was from mountain Himalaya, and his landing was also on Gandhamadana mountain. For launching and landing of a space craft, mountain was the ideal location, in the absence of a launching station specially prepared for the purpose. In this instance, it was the Himalaya & Gandhamadana, which were very much in Aryavarta, and not in a foreign territory. Arjuna did not start on foot to reach Devaloka. It was Matali, Indra’s charioteer, who landed on the mountain to take Arjuna on board at Indra’s instruction.

    Now pl. read the description of Indra’s chariot. Arjuna said that it was driven by ten thousand invisible horses. The chariot was a 2-seater presumably, meant only for Arjuna and Matali. To drive it, surely 10k horses were not only exaggerated but totally absurd. Those were invisible horses. In all probability, Arjuna was told that the chariot was driven by 10k horses instead of 10k horse power as it was perhaps futile to make him understand what an engine of 10 k horsepower meant. Now, the question is whether 10k horse powered engine was sufficient to make a 2-seater aircraft a space craft. You may check it from someone conversant with aeronautics and space science. I’ve verified it from an expert in the field who gave me to understand that with dead-weight of a 2-seater, 10k engine was sufficient to make it into a space craft.

    As for Damayanti Swyambara, devas in guise of Nala were identified by Damayanti with reference to their distinctive characteristics, well known by that time. These were, 1) without shadow, 2) unwinking, 3) not perspiring despite humidity, 4) feet not touching the ground, and 5) their garlands looking garden-fresh despite long waiting. Human Nala on the other hand was looking different on all scores. Those distinctive criteria between a human and devas, as stated in Mahabharata, are noteworthy. It corroborates that devas were not human but different species.

    Virtue or vices of devas are besides the point, given the fact that even devas are stated to be under 3 Gunas. Only difference was that while humans were controlled predominantly by Rajas, devas were controlled by Sattva predominantly.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, I don’t have access to the critical edition of Mahabharata but in the Ganguli edition, it is mentioned that Arjuna walked till he crossed Himavat and Gandhamadana mountains. Then he met Sakra who advised him to do tapasya to please Shiva. Then after many months of austerities, Shiva finally gave darshan to Arjuna in the form of Kirata and granted him the Pasupatastra. Then after Shiva disappeared, all the Gods appeared and granted him various celestial weapons. Then finally, Matali appeared in the celestial chariot in order to take Arjuna to Amravati. Matali says this about Indra’s chariot, “He that hath not ascetic merit is not competent to even see or touch this car, far less to ride on it. O blessed one, after thou hast ascended, it, and after the horses have become still, I will ascend it, like a virtuous man stepping into the high-road of honesty.” Now a normal space ship based on scientific principles does not require one to be an ascetic to use it. Also, someone traveling through space for the first time will be totally in awe of viewing earth from a height and will see many other fantastic sights. There is no description of any such things. Arjuna only seems to describe ascetics, gandharvas and other such people on his way to Amravati. And on reaching there, he sees flowers and trees. Now, a different planet would have had a different evolutionary history and should have very different kinds of creatures. There is no such description available. And Devas also have all human like features. The description of Devaloka actually matches very well with certain regions of Himalayas (eg. Valley of Flowers).

      As for the ten thousand horses, it is not really clear what it means. There are instances where kings have been said to have lived for thousands of years. This could just be a way of showing how powerful the chariot was. Its very strange that humans were considered worthy enough to be imparted the highest philosophical ideas of Vedas but not intelligent enough to understand the mechanics of celestial chariots and weapons. And at the same time, Devas are said to be scientifically very advanced but not considered worthy enough of attaining Moksha. This doesn’t much sense.

      “These were, 1) without shadow, 2) unwinking, 3) not perspiring despite humidity, 4) feet not touching the ground, and 5) their garlands looking garden-fresh despite long waiting.”

      Yudhisthira is also said to be always floating few inches above ground due to his truthfulness and seems to have touched ground only after the trickery which killed Drona. Now this is clearly not to be taken literally but is only a metaphor for stressing on his qualities. Similarly, the above qualities of Devas are also metaphors and should not be taken literally. “Without shadow” could mean effulgent due to their fairness. “Unwinking” could mean extremely attentive. I also know some people whose perspiration rate is much less than normal.

      “Only difference was that while humans were controlled predominantly by Rajas, devas were controlled by Sattva predominantly.”

      If Devas were so sattvic, why were they not entitled for Moksha or for higher tapasya? And what were all those apsaras doing in Devaloka with all the wine and myriads of sensory pleasures?

  10. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, here is my response:

    “Now a normal space ship based on scientific principles does not require one to be an ascetic to use it. Also, someone traveling through space for the first time will be totally in awe of viewing earth from a height and will see many other fantastic sights. There is no description of any such things.”

    I agree that Arjuna did not describe his novel experience of space flight in great detail. This was because his mission was not to have an adventurous space flight, but to receive divine weapons from Indra & other Devas in exchange of his service to them. Yudhisthira’s question was focussed on that and Arjuna’s answer was in response to his question, even though he briefly described his flight experience to him. What stands out from the details contained in Mahabharata in this regard are as follows:

    1) Indra’s chariot driven by Matali landed on mountain Gandhamadana to pick up Arjuna, flew from said mountain into the sky. On return journey also, it landed on the same mountain to drop back Arjuna. It stands to common sense that mountain is the most unsuited place to drive a conventional chariot, or even for a normal aircraft that needs runway. It is suited only spacecraft.

    2) Read carefully as to how the chariot was seen as landing from the sky on the mountain, it gives a clear idea of spacecraft. It is stated as follows in critical edition of Mahabharata: the Pandavas while waiting eagerly for the return of Arjuna on mountain Gandhamadana, “they suddenly saw Mahendra’s chariot approach, like a flash of lightening, and yoked to tawny horses. It suddenly blazed in the firmament, like a giant meteor hidden in the cloudsor like the flaming crest of a fire that has no smoke.” Barring the reference to tawny horses which seem mysterious and inexplicable, rest of the description agrees with spacecraft landing on a mountain which is otherwise intractable by horse-driven chariot.

    3) Arjuna described his experience thus to Yudhisthira: First, Matali advised him to attain perfection before he boarded the chariot. After he went through usual rituals to steady his mind, he ascended the chariot and Matali drove the chariot “with the speed of the mind and the wind. On seeing me seated steadily though the chariot was swinging, the charioteer was surprised and wonderingly said, ‘Today, this seems to me to be wonderful and extraordinary. You are seated in this divine chariot, but have not moved even a foot. When the horses make their first movement, I have noticed that even the king of the gods loses his balance. But you are seated in this fashion, though the chariot is swinging. It seems to me that that your powers have surpassed those of Shakra.Having said this, Matali soared up into the sky” This explains why a steady & controlled mind was considered necessary for the space flight as otherwise, there was every possibility of the warrior in Arjuna getting frightened beyond wits, consequently failing to engage in the battle with demons in space. Only asceticism or yoga makes the mind steady and Arjuna was advised to attain perfection through yoga before taking space flight. Even today astronauts go through arduous training drill before undertaking space flight. It is not mentioned whether Arjuna was given a space suit, but divine armour was mentioned which Arjuna took for shield to protect him from the weapons of demons in the battle. In all likelihood. the divine armour was nothing but space suit.

    4) Arjuna met his father Pandu and forefathers as re-born in Devaloka. It is believed that after death, a man can be re-born on earth or in any other loka including Devaloka. The difference is that in Devaloka the memory is not lost while on earth the memory is lost, unless the same is restored by yoga. This also clearly suggests that Devaloka was not on earth.

    5) After gifting divine weapons, Indra told Arjuna, now even gods will not be able to defeat you in battle, what to talk of humans. This clearly brings out the fact that gods were different from humans as a class or species.

    “Yudhisthira is also said to be always floating few inches above ground due to his truthfulness and seems to have touched ground only after the trickery which killed Drona. Now this is clearly not to be taken literally but is only a metaphor for stressing on his qualities. Similarly, the above qualities of Devas are also metaphors and should not be taken literally. “Without shadow” could mean effulgent due to their fairness. “Unwinking” could mean extremely attentive. I also know some people whose perspiration rate is much less than normal.”

    That Yudhisthira was floating few inches above ground due to his truthfulness is not found in any reliable text of Mahabharata, let alone the critical edition. There were more truthful characters than Yudhisthira in Mahabharata itself, such as Vedavyasa, Suka, Bhishma and the host of sages to whom Yudhisthira used to bow for guidance and blessings.
    The context in which the distinctive characteristics of Devas vis-a-vis humans were brought out is important to note, i.e. when Devas tried to hide themselves being in disguise, and their unmistakable differentia revealed them. This is not comparable with extra-ordinary features of some exceptional humans, mostly by freak of nature, or at times by yogic feat.

    “If Devas were so sattvic, why were they not entitled for Moksha or for higher tapasya? And what were all those apsaras doing in Devaloka with all the wine and myriads of sensory pleasures?”

    Devas are good souls re-born in a higher loka to enjoy the fruits of their karma. There were sages in davaloka striving for Moksha, and quite a few of them are mentioned in Bhagavata at a time when earth after pralaya was yet to be inhabited. Prithu in the current cycle was the first to make the earth habitable. He was a human probably from another planet. Thus the presumption that devas were not entitled to moksha is not supported by ant text.
    Nothing prevents Apsaras from predominantly sattvik. Wine and sensory pleasures are, no doubt, Rajasik, but devas were a mixed bag of Sattva, Rajas & Tamas, as stated in Gita.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, the only conclusion I can draw is that the scriptures are too confusing on this aspect. There are surely statements that hint towards space-travel but there are other statements that hint towards Devas being humans living in Himalayas or other countries. We will perhaps never be able to settle this argument since we don’t have any later stories regarding Devas or any story regarding their disappearance. What adds to the confusion is that the word ‘Deva’ has been used in our scriptures rather casually even for highly respected Indians. So, though I disagree with some of the above points, I would not like to offer any counter-arguments since they will just take us around in circles without moving forward.

      Thanks a lot once again for your patient responses! I look forward to the next blog on this site. 🙂

  11. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, identity of Deva remains a mystery which can be unravelled if researches are made with open mind. We are still working on hypotheses, based entirely on available texts. You will find mention of deva or gods in other religions and civilizations, like Greece, Rome, Egypt, Israel, Persia etc. who were distinguished from humans. One common feature with those gods was that they were landing on mountains and camping there, such as Sumeru for Hindu Devas and Olympus for Greek and Roman gods. However, as you said, to take our discussion forward we need more material and evidence which are wanting at present.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, when there is so much controversy about the historicity of much more contemporary figures like Christ, the probability of establishing the real identity of Devas seems too low. There must be a strong reason why none of our enlightened saints made any efforts to rectify the historical facts.

  12. RKGupta says:

    There are references of Maharaj Dashrath fighting for lord Indra and Rama also being provided chariot by Indra to fight against Ravana. I am not drawing any inferences but it is just for information.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      I was just going through Vivekananda’s views on Mahabharata and came across two interesting points:

      1. He mentions use of ‘magic arrows’ run by mantras and canons but not to any scientifically advanced weapons.

      2. He does mention Indra descending from sky in his chariot on Meru at the end of Mahabharata when all Pandavas except Yudhisthira have fallen off. But there Indra says that Yudhisthira has to give up his human body in order to enter heaven. Its clear that in ancient India, ‘Deva’ was a common term used to denote any man who was far above average in virtues and also to the Lords of heaven (region for departed souls). That’s a mixup we can never hope to unmix.

      For more details, please see:
      http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_4/lectures_and_discourses/the_mahabharata.htm

  13. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, scholars today are of the view that devas were human and Aryans only, notwithstanding the contra view in Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vedas and Gita. Obviously when we draw our conclusion and close our mind on a contentious issue, the need for research gets no priority. Vivekananda in his ‘Thoughts on Gita’ in CW-4 has lamented lack of research or scrutiny as to credibility of our epics from historic point of view. Therefore, he did not rule out any possibility, even the possibility of non-existence of Krishna and Arjuna. He was right from his perspective.

    However, the perspective of a researcher is not to have a negative hypothesis, such as Mahabharata & Ramayana are fictions and there is no credibility of Valmiki & Vedavyasa. A researcher on the contrary, particularly if he is an archaeologist, must begin his research with the hypothesis that what all were mentioned in those texts may be historic, and then only he would have the necessary motivation to find facts based on available texts. This is precisely how Trojan civilization (16th-14th century BC) and Cretan civilization (approx. 2000 BC) were excavated and established in late 19th and early 20th century by Schliemann and Evans respectively. They proceeded on hypotheses that available texts were not fictitious but real. Based on their finds, the so-called myth of Minotaur, the ‘half bull half man demon’ placed at the centre of Cretan labyrinth now finds some credence as a creature being a freak of the nature. The infamous labyrinth, known as a death trap for victims, which was generally believed to be a fiction has also been dug out by Evans in 1900 AD. Considerable research is afoot to trace Noa’s arc and some archaeologists have even claimed to have traced it. Researches on Jesus’s identity and antecedence have been continuing unabated. Compared to that, not much efforts have been made to research into historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata, except some sporadic, inadequate and unsatisfactory attempts, purportedly on account of paucity of fund. On identity of Devas, we seem to have already concluded that they were Aryans and what all are said to the contrary in ancient texts are rubbish. Therefore, the need for any research in the matter is never felt. With this approach, it is doubtful whether we will ever be able to establish historicity of any event or character(s) of Ramayana or Mahabharata, let alone Vedas which are far older.

    My attempt was to present facts as these were in the ancient texts, together with hypotheses that could be reasonably drawn from those texts (without rejecting or dismissing any character, concept or event as imaginary or fictitious). It is quite possible that the thing that looks highly improbable from our present perspective may turn out to be real upon extensive and intensive researches. What is important is to keep our mind open to conviction.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, it will certainly be foolish to label our scriptures as pure fiction. But it is also quite obvious to me that the ancient Indian writers didn’t have respect for historicity. So one is left with no choice but to label certain parts of our scriptures as fiction. Now which parts we label as fiction can either be based on proper archeological research or theoretical analysis. Till the former gives any conclusive answer, the later is the only option. Also, all research begins with a hypothesis which may certainly prove to be wrong later on. Having a hypothesis is not a sign of being closed. As for Devas being scientifically advanced aliens, there are too many contradictory statements in our scriptures. Spacecrafts and advanced scientific weapons don’t exist in a vacuum. It requires existence of a vast amount of scientific knowledge for which there are no signs in our scriptures. We may say that the Devas never shared that knowledge with humans but I think the human craving for knowledge was much more than their desire to fight wars. And we can’t also say that humans were not capable to understand that advanced knowledge since we at least had a few people of very high intellect even in those times.

  14. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, the problem is, we don’t find any contradictory statements in Ramayana or Mahabharata on the identity of Devas. To be precise, no ancient text of India describes devas as human. On the contrary, the texts describe them as distinctive from humans. Even while Devas gave weapons to Arjuna, they alerted him not to release these on any human as it may lead to mass destruction. True to his promise, Arjuna did not use those weapons during the battle of Kurukshetra, but used some of these weapons, including Pashupata against asuras to help devas.

    Besides, there may be controversy about inadequacy of the technological knowhow of aircraft-making as recorded by sage Bharadwaja. But that by itself does not negate the familiarity of the ancients about the use of aircraft by devas. We do not find any contradiction in the texts in the sense that in some places use of aircraft was stated to known while in some other it was stated to be non est.

    Besides, it has to be borne in mind that outside Aryavarta, people were not only called non-Aryans, but given various undignified names such as Mlechchas, Yavanas etc. and it was nowhere mentioned in ancient texts that devas were earth-dwellers and non-Aryans. It was not mentioned either that they were Aryans. In sum, they were called neither Aryans, nor non-Aryans, but a non-human species.

    In case you have found a single reference in any reliable ancient text that devas were Aryans, and human, I shall be thankful. Even if you fail to get any such reference, you are at liberty to go with the popular view that devas were human, whether Aryans or non-Aryans, and the burden to prove otherwise is on those who do not accept the said popular view. But such approach is strictly not logical. We are still working on hypotheses and are not in a position to come to any finding.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, here are some questions:

      1. Aren’t both Devas and Asuras considered to be sons of Kashyap Rishi, who I think was a human?

      2. Why would Indra ride an elephant if he has such advanced cars?

      3. Why do our scriptures use the exact same description for Devaloka and heaven, including the common landing spot on earth and also for Devas living in both these regions? The only difference seems to be that one can enter Devaloka with human body.

      4. Even if we believe that initially humans, Devas and Asuras were different species, wouldn’t the differences get washed away in few generations since there was so much inter-species marriage/breeding taking place? For example, should Pandavas be considered human or Deva? Vali was also Indra’s son.

      5. Why is there no description of outer space travel in any of our scriptures?

      6. In our scriptures, humans used the same mantras to call Devas from both heaven and Devaloka. How could this be?

  15. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, each question of yours is apt and calls for research. At present we only have hypotheses and no firm answer. Nevertheless, my seriatim response is as follows.

    1.Not only devas and asuras but birds & snakes are also stated to be offsprings of sage kashyapa through her wives Vinata and kadru respectively, daughters of Daksha. How would you explain that? This reminds me of Vivekananda’s observation that humans have a tendency of humanizing even gods. Assuming for a moment that cat is as intelligent and advanced as humans, surely all gods to them would have looked like cats with cat’s attributes. Hindus in ancient India humanized nature, such as rivers, mountains, ocean, forest and even earth, not to talk of birds, snakes, monkeys, beasts and plants. This humanization bid can be dismissed as fantasy ab initio. This is the first hypothesis. The second hypothesis is that the concept of an inner soul of the nature and every living entity, capable of communicating with humans, may be genuine and worth examination. However, such hypothesis cannot be subject of historic research.

    As to whether Kashyapa, son of Marichi and grandson of Brahma (non-biological – created out of mind), and his wives, daughters of Daksha, were human, is a grey area, considering the time of their existence. it is believed that they were living in the beginning of present Vavasvata Manvantara, which happens to be the 7th one, each lasting for 8,52,000 earth year (each Manvantara comprises 71 Mahayugas of 12000 years each). Currently we are believed to be in 27th Mahayuga in 7th Manvantara, leaving behind approximately 3,20,000 years approximately in the current Manvantara. It is extremely doubtful whether 3 lakh years back, there was any homo sapien sapien, Thus there are both the probabilities, that Kashyapa and his wives were human and also that they were non-human. Only extensive and intensive research into Vedic texts may throw some light in the matter. No such research has taken place, to the best of my knowledge.

    2. Indra’s Airavata may be a living elephant in ordinary sense or a robotic machine, fully equipped for battle with nuclear weapons. This also requires in-depth study.

    3. Hindu Puranas often make this confusion. After death, souls of both men and devas are consigned to astral planes, called heaven or hell, pitriloka (plane of fathers) and pretaloka (plane of spirits) as the case may be. All these lokas have multi-layers to accommodate departed souls, according to their karma. The souls exist there with their memory for a term fixed as per their karma. Heaven is the place where they can make their own world for enjoyment, and fulfill their desire. It is distinct from spiritual level, which is still higher than heaven. Ramakrishna on return from one of his trances said that Vivekananda belonged to the plane where even devas and devis have no access. In heaven there is no karma. After their term is over, souls take re-birth on material plane which include devaloka and prithviloka (earth). It is believed that humans with predominantly sattva guna may take birth in devaloka after their term in heaven is over. Devas do not suffer loss of memory like humans do. They remember their past incarnations. Each Pandava happened to be devas (Indra) in some of their previous incarnations but were demoted to human existence for their lapses and failings.

    From the above, it will be seen that the heaven where souls are consigned is prima facie distinctive from devaloka which is described as a phenomenal world where fights and turmoil, as also sensual pleasure are described as parts of life.

    4. What you have stated here is a distinct possibility. However, the only feature or characteristic that appears to distinguish devas and asuras from humans is the inherent power of the former to change their form into human, beast or bird for sexual pleasure or to serve their design or mission. This power the humans lacked. It is also stated in Mahabharata that Rakshasa grows up immediately into adult after their birth (refer to Ghatotkacha’s birth).

    5. Outer space travels have been frequently referred to, but not described in detail. Arjuna’s travel to sky originating from a mountain and return to same mountain could not have been anything but space travel.

    6. Mantras, it is believed, establish a link to astral world and also phenomenal worlds at the level of souls. While ordinary souls of mortals cannot be accessed by mantras, it is believed that higher souls of sages, devas, and departed souls who have untied the bondage of earth, can be accessed by mantra. I’ve already mentioned that there have been several Indras and other devas in the past, their average life cycle being mentioned in ancient texts as 100 deva years. While there is a ruling Indra in devaloka, and some previous Indras as mortals on earth and other lokas as well, the soul of a departed Indra will also be in heaven like Vishnu in heaven and Vishnu avataras on earth may simultaneously exist. When mantras to invoke Vishnu are chanted in Yajna, it is Vishnu in heaven that is believed to answer, and not the avataras on earth or devas in devaloka. As for devas in devaloka, it is believed that though they are mortals like humans, they have the capacity to receive the vibration or signal of mind and to respond to the call through mantra. When the purpose of yajna is some material gain, the devas from devaloka are invoked. For spiritual liberation, devas are not invoked. It is Vishnu or Mahadeva who are usually invoked for blessings.

    The question how the mantras enable one to access the astral world is again a matter of deep research. Kriya yogis like Yogananda have given us some inkling but not the complete analysis, apprehending misuse.

    In the end, I am thankful to you Kushalji for raising these pertinent questions which need to be thoroughly researched into for satisfactory answer.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, thanks a lot for the response. Here are my further comments:

      1. This is exactly why research in Indian historicity seems so hopeless. I wish our ancestors had a little more control over their imaginations.

      2. Verse 10.27 of Gita clearly mentions Airavata as an elephant.

      3. From what I have read, even the highest yogis cannot remember more than a few previous births.

      4. This ability to change forms at will only shows that the power of Devas was through ‘mantra-tantra’ which is very different from scientific advancement. There is also ample evidence in our scriptures about the power of mantras. The fact that we are trying so hard to find elements of science in ancient history is actually a big compliment to science and shows how much it has captured our imaginations! But as I said earlier, scientific advancement does not take place in a vacuum. Lot of things need to be in place for which I don’t see any evidence.

      5. Travel to sky does not necessarily mean space-travel. Even current day helicopters take off the way the ascent from Meru is described. But again, this doesn’t mean that Devas had helicopters. It only means that we need to be more careful while analysing these texts.

  16. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, my response to your comments is given below:

    “Verse 10.27 of Gita clearly mentions Airavata as an elephant.”

    Response: When Krishna can call himself Sumeru, Himalayas etc. what’s wrong with Airavata known universally as an elephant, but may be a robot in reality. However, this is only a conjecture.

    “From what I have read, even the highest yogis cannot remember more than a few previous births.”

    Response: Highest yogis you have in mind are humans. If we are working on a hypothesis that devas are not humans, the same standard does not apply there.

    “This ability to change forms at will only shows that the power of Devas was through ‘mantra-tantra’ which is very different from scientific advancement. There is also ample evidence in our scriptures about the power of mantras.”

    Response: The ancient texts like Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata or Bhagavat Mahapurana nowhere mention that devas use mantra to change form. Not only devas but Rakshasa and Asuras are said to have that power. They were not sages but savages. As for example, Hidimva, the Rakshasi who married Bhima and Surpanakha who was attracted to Rama changed them into beautiful women instantly, and the texts do not mention that they did it by mantra. It is true that some humans also acquired that power after great austerity, but devas, asuras, etc. are believed to have that power inherently. Besides, while humans invoked devas by mantra, have you read in any text that devas were invoking humans by mantra?

    “The fact that we are trying so hard to find elements of science in ancient history is actually a big compliment to science and shows how much it has captured our imaginations! But as I said earlier, scientific advancement does not take place in a vacuum. Lot of things need to be in place for which I don’t see any evidence.”

    Response: It is accepted undisputedly that India was scientifically most advanced in contemporary world up to middle ages (up to 10th century AD), and this was perhaps possible because Indians had the opportunity to come in close contact with devas. Hence, to imagine that there was a vacuum in scientific knowledge in ancient India is not a correct appraisal of ancient India. India in Vedic period was far advanced in yoga and spirituality compared to modern time. Quite a few scientific inventions of modern age such as relativity of earth time vis-a-vis space time, the earth’s rotation time and sun’s rotation time, the concept of zero and decimal in mathematics, among many others, were known to Indians during the vedic period. The yogic feat of astral travel and transmigration of soul are seemingly beyond the scope of modern science.

    “Travel to sky does not necessarily mean space-travel. Even current day helicopters take off the way the ascent from Meru is described. But again, this doesn’t mean that Devas had helicopters.”

    Response: From the description of launching and landing of Indra’s chariot, it looks like spacecraft. Besides, when the space travel took Arjuna to a place where one day was counted as one year, it could only be a location in space and not on earth, particularly when the vedic people had a clear concept of day, night, week, month and year. As for helicopters, the possibility of their use by devas cannot be ruled out. Pandu, father of Pandavas happened to see a number of aircrafts parked at a secluded region in Himalayas, as mentioned in Mahabharata. It is also mentioned that devas watched the Kurukshetra battle from sky in their small aircrafts. Those were possibly used by devas to fly short distances from Sumeru mountain, adjacent to Himalaya. It is no wonder that sage Bharadvaja recorded the knowhow of aircraft making in the Vedas, what he possibly heard from devas. In view of oral tradition, it is possible that some important links in the recorded knowhow are found to be missing by modern scientists. But the fact that such technology had been recorded in Vedas, with detailed instruction for air navigation is no doubt a pointer to the knowledge of the ancients of the said scientific phenomenon that we could translate into reality in 20th century only . Here also, I would not like to make a conclusive statement, but would leave it as a hypothesis for research.

  17. RKGupta says:

    In this learned discussion, I wish to make a simple comment in the capacity of a layman. We have both Suras (gods) and Asuras (demons) and both of the groups are highly accomplished, powerful and possessing various strange weaponry and other things. The difference was in the fact that the group helping humans was called Suras and those in confrontation with humans as Asuras. The Suras and Asuras were also fighting against each-other for conquering their habitats. Cannot we take them as aliens, residing at different planets in the cosmos and frequently visiting earth and interacting with human-beings? There is also a mention of one Asura by the name ‘May’ in the Srimadbhagwatmahapuran, who had built such a place in space ‘Maynagari’, which could be accessed only when a particular alignment of planets took place and this was destroyed only at one such occasions by Shiva?

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji and Guptaji, the main problem with our discussion is that we are basing our arguments on texts which are an intricate mix of fact and fiction. In order to make progress, we first need to find a way of deciding which of the statements in scriptures are facts and which are fiction. But I am also convinced that no such proper separation is possible. So, whatever we believe about Devas will always remain an unprovable hypothesis.

      For now, I would only like to respond to the comments regarding science:

      1. Einstein’s relativity theory has nothing to do with earth time and space time. According to this theory, any time-rate ratio between two clocks can be achieved on this planet itself without having to go to outer space.

      2. Bharadvaja’s ideas of spacecrafts have no relation to modern aircraft technology. The Vaimanika Sastra has been analysed by scientists and here is what they say, “If the craft is taken to mean what the drawing and the text say, it can be stated that the craft is a decided impossibility”
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaim%C4%81nika_Sh%C4%81stra

      3. We are certainly free to ascribe all our ancient scientific knowledge to a gift from Devas in the same way as modern historians want us to believe that all the Indian Vedic knowledge was brought in by Aryan invaders. I don’t believe in either of these theories.

  18. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, your inputs and the poser are quite relevant to our ongoing discussion.

    Kushalji, your conviction and belief, as you have been frank about, are no different from the age-old approach to the epics and the Vedas. Once we are convinced that facts are inseparable from fiction, we will simply not be interested in research of any sort. This attitude of ours has proved to be the greatest impediment to historic research relating to Vedic period. Even the battlefield of Kurukshetra where several lakhs of people together with horses and elephants are stated to have been killed is yet to be identified and established. As against that, the Greek epic Iliad has by now been established as historic beyond doubt, thanks to impulsive obsession of archaeologists to find out facts, based entirely on the narrative of Iliad.

    As for sage Bharadvaja’s Vaimanika Shastra, the craft may be a ‘decided impossibility’ based on what is available from the text now. Incidentally, the text is claimed to have been retrieved only in last century and many scholars doubt its authenticity. Historically, a copy of Vaimanika Shastra existed in Nalanda University but got destroyed by the then Afghan invaders. We have to remember that in the time of Bharadvaja it was oral tradition and whatever he orally composed in his time may have been memorized and carried forward from mouth to mouth by his disciples without much understanding of science. It was reduced into writing about three millenniums later. Therefore, it is doubtful whether the original text is available. Even if we accept what is now available as part of the original text, and some vital links or inputs are found missing that make the technology unworkable, does that warrant a conclusion that the entire concept of aircraft dealt in Vaimanika Shastra was a fiction and unreliable. This, no doubt, is a sweeping statement., primarily because, apart from Vaimanika Shastra, Rig Veda also refers to various types of aircraft in use, such as Jalayan, a vehicle operating in air and water (6.58.3), Trichakra Ratha, a three-wheeled vehicle designed to operate in the air (4.36.1), Vayu Ratha, a gas or wind-powered chariot (5.41.6) and Vidyut Ratha, a vehicle that operates on power (3.14.1). Besides, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda also mention ‘Vimana’ being used.

    In Mahabharata, we find mention of Vimana (aircraft) in about 41 places. Of these the air attack of Salva on a large aircraft, called Sauva Pura, on Dwaraka deserves special mention. Maya Asura made the said aircraft for him. Salva nearly destroyed the city by launching missiles from the aircraft. However, Krishna finally destroyed it by his Sudarshana Disc and killed him. The broken parts of the craft fell into the sea. Salva was not a deva. The question here is how the aerial attack of Salva and the exchange of missiles and ray weapons could be narrated so brilliantly if the same did not actually happen? Was it all out of imagination? It needs to be answered.

    As for Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is no body’s case that Vedic Indians knew the same. It was only pointed out that they were aware of relativity of earth time vis-à-vis space-time on the principle that earth time was governed the rotation time of the earth while outer space time was governed by some other principle. The equation that they made of earth time and devaloka time smacks of their knowledge of relativity of time (refer: verse 8.17, Gita).

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, you had mentioned that ancient texts from other parts of the world also mention Gods landing on mountains on their aircraft. Has any historical research been able to find any evidence for this? If not, what hope is there to find such a thing in India?

      And as for Indian historical research, the greatest impediment is not our attitude towards scriptures but our attitude towards research itself. Even scientific research, which has obvious practical relevance, is of such poor quality (except for few pockets of excellence). Research in general is unfortunately not considered to be a very respectable profession in India. Unless we can change this attitude, there is hardly much hope for even scientific progress let alone historical research.

  19. akraha1948 says:

    I am aware that researches in western countries are in progress regarding the hypothetical possibility of god(s) in Abrahamic, Greek, Roman and Egyptian religions being alien from outer space, with reference to available texts as also existing and fresh archaeological evidence. Evidently, no definite conclusion in the matter has been reached as yet. It is time that we undertake similar researches in India as well, considering availability of huge mass of old texts referring to Devas (‘gods’ in sanskrit) and the clear distinction being made in those texts between devas and Brahman (GOD).

    I agree with your observation that the greatest impediment is the attitude to research itself, particularly if it concerns ancient texts.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      I was reading about this and came to know that this line of research is called ‘ancient astronaut theory’ and was proposed in the 1950s. But by the 70s it was no longer taken seriously by mainstream historians. Its also highly unlikely that this theory will be taken up seriously in the future. As for Indian history, I would personally like these 2 questions to be answered more than anything else:

      1. What took so long for Indians to develop a proper writing system when other cultural and knowledge systems were so advanced?

      2. How did Indians discover Vedic knowledge? Vague answers are surely available but something more concrete would be great.

  20. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, your questions are quite pertinent. Before I attempt to answer the posers, I am providing a link to a ppt that brings out India’s contribution to the world in science & technology among various other subjects: http://www.slideshare.net/sainathvolam/ancient-indian-technology.

    “1. What took so long for Indians to develop a proper writing system when other cultural and knowledge systems were so advanced?”

    Sumerian and Indus scripts, both being over 3 millennium BC, are considered as the oldest scripts by historians. However, Indus script is yet to be deciphered. Inscriptions, no doubt, bear testimony of a written script, but it presupposes that we have necessary evidence in form of inscription-bearing rocks, stone, pillars or seals. The absence of those do not by itself nullify the existence of a written script. It is known that Taxila (Taksha-sheela) university was founded in 7th century BC, and over 12000 students from remote countries were enrolled there to study different subjects. It is inconceivable that a university was teaching students orally. The university was vandalized with all its assets & written records destroyed, just as Nalanda university with its famous library was destroyed by Afghan invaders at the onset of the 13th century. It is said that entire Mahabharata was dictated by Vedavyasa to Ganesha who wrote it down. Unless there was a known script, even the thought of taking down the dictation would not have arisen. But most unfortunately, we do not know the script, though many linguists subscribe to the view that Sanskrit is the mother of all ancient languages, such as Greek, latin etc. Inscriptions and edicts of emperor Asoka were written in Pali, which happened to be a derivative of Sanskrit.

    “2. How did Indians discover Vedic knowledge? Vague answers are surely available but something more concrete would be great.”

    There was a continuity of teaching, though not of the same standard, even after the destruction of universities by foreign invaders. The faculty who were teaching in those universities returned to their villages and started teaching villagers from their small hutments. It was precisely the reason why Sir Monier William noted that the rate of literacy in India was the highest in the world. However, the situation slowly changed when English started replacing sanskrit as the medium of education and official business in 20th century, and sanskrit consequently was discarded as a dead language. Eight centuries of subjugation had its toll on the vedic civilization that was nearly forgotten. It was only during the 19th and 20th centuries, when the Vedas and the upanisadas were partially retrieved through the efforts, patronage and researches of the scholars like Maxmuller who were astounded by its high philosophical/spiritual content. India’s contribution in science & technology to the world unfolded around this time, thanks to the untiring efforts of some foreign intellectuals.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Asishji, thanks for the response.

      1. Yes, it sounds perplexing that India had such elaborate knowledge systems which were passed down only orally. It seems highly likely that a proper writing system was indeed present which was lost in due course of time.

      2. Yes, I am aware about the developments over the last few millenia. My query was regarding the origin of Vedas. How and when did Vedic knowledge first get discovered?

  21. akraha1948 says:

    Kushalji, here is my response:

    “My query was regarding the origin of Vedas. How and when did Vedic knowledge first get discovered?”

    There is no indication in the Vedas as to when it was first composed. As a matter of fact, a large number of sages have contributed to the Vedas over a period time spanning over a few millenniums, mostly to record what they experienced and/or learnt, so as to benefit posterity. While western historians are inclined to put 1500 BC as the starting point of early Vedic period, based primarily on the premises that around that time only iron and horses came to be known in India and that the Vedas refer to these two frequently, present researches reveal that horses of Indian origin were domesticated in India a few millenniums before (around 7th-8th millennium BC) and that the sanskrit word ‘ayas’ taken as meaning ‘iron’ could also mean Bronze the use of which in weaponry and chariot wheels etc. was quite common in ancient India. Some Vedic scholars are inclined to fix the beginning of the early Vedic period as far back as 8th millennium BC. With Aryan invasion theory now being debunked, and geological evidence of Saraswati river originating from the Himalayas and merging into the sea, being in full spate from 8th m. BC up to 5th m. BC, corroborating the condition in which Rig Veda describes it, the preponderance of probability is that the earliest verses of the Vedas were composed around 8th-7th m. BC. Recent archaeological excavations at Mehergarh (Pakistan) and Bhiranna at UP-Rajasthan border establish the antiquity of Indian civilization at 7k BC and 7.5k BC respectively by radio carbon dating (by far the oldest among all known civilizations). There are few hundreds of sites in the region of Haryana, UP, Rajasthan and Gujarat following the course of the now extinct old Saraswati river, earmarked by Archaeological Survey of India for excavation in near future. When these excavations are completed, we may be in a better position to fix definitively the period of early Vedic period.

    • Kushal Shah says:

      Yes Asishji, 1500 BCE certainly seems too late. By astronomical calculations, Rama seems to have been born in 5114 BCE and the Vedic developments must have certainly started much before that. 7-8k BCE actually sounds quite appropriate since it takes a couple of millennia for the seed of thought to develop into a mature tree.

  22. akraha1948 says:

    Yes, Kushalji, astronomical calculation is one of the important determinants to fix the time of Rama & Mahabharata inasmuch as both Ramayana and Mahabharata describe stellar position for every major event or incident.

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