In reading Theosophical literature one is often confronted by the words Mahayuga, Kaliyuga, Manvantara, Kalpa, etc. No doubt all of the older members of the T.S. are perfectly familiar with the words and their meaning, but it may be of help to recent members, or those who have not time or opportunity to dig down into ancient eastern chronology, to see the principal points clearly set forth.
It has been taught that there was no true understanding of the stellar or solar system until the time of Copernicus, some four hundred years ago, but to any student it is evident he built his system upon that of the Pythagorean school of two thousand years before. The Chinese have some astronomical annals, which they claim go back about 3000 years B.C.; they do not record much but comets and eclipses, and many of their predictions of the latter cannot be verified by modern calculations.
The Egyptians taught astronomy to the Greeks, and they no doubt had very close knowledge of the solar system; their year was of 365 days, with methods of correcting. Although they have left us no observations, the north and south position of the Pyramids has led to a supposition that the Egyptians used them for astronomical purposes. The Zodiac of Denderah is one of their relics, and it is worth noting that upon it the equinoctial points are in the sign of Leo. If it was constructed at that time, it would carry us back nearly 10,000 years.
The Chaldeans, according to Diodorus, had long observed the motion of the heavenly bodies, as well as eclipses; they had the metonic period, or cycle of 19 years, also three other astronomical cycles, the Saros of 3600 years, the Neros 600 and the Sosos of 60 years. Simplicius and Porphyry relate that a series of eclipses, preserved at Babylon, were transmitted by Alexander to Aristotle and contained the observations of 1903 years preceding the conquest of Babylon by the Macedonians, and although crude, they were sufficiently correct to enable Halley to discover the acceleration of the Moon’s mean motion. There have also been discovered in the ruins of Palenque, among the Toltecs and Aztecs, planispheres, on one of which were inscribed symbolical figures corresponding nearly to the signs on the Chinese planispheres, and (Humbolt) “that the name of the first day is also the name of Water, and that the symbol consists of undulating lines similar to that of Aquarius in the Egyptian and Greek Zodiacs.
The Hindus have possessed astronomical knowledge for thousands of years, and their calculations today are found to be singularly correct; the question in regard to them is, whether an astronomical system of advanced character, which certainly was found among them, is as old as they assert it to be. It is claimed that they may have obtained their knowledge from the Arabians or Egyptians; but, on the other hand, the remarkable correctness of their tables, and the known character of the people in question, whose advances in mathematics cannot be doubted, and whose habits have throughout recorded history induced them to repel all connection with foreigners, are urged in favor of the originality of their system. We have their calendars annexed to the Vedas, which date back according to Colebrooke 1400 years B.C. They include a solar year of 365 days and are so composed as to determine it correctly. The Zodiac of Vereapettah and that described by Sripeti in the Sanskrit, are believed to be older than Denderah. (Sir William Jones.)
The “Bones of Napier,” an ingenious instrument used in making long calculations, before the discovery of logarithms, was used in a slightly different form by the Hindus long before.
As with nations of the present, the Hindus referred to two principal meridians, Lanca and Ramissuram. Lanca is supposed to have been an island (no longer existing) under the equator, somewhat southwest of the island of Ceylon. It was one of the four cities, Yavacoti, Lanca, Bornacoti, and Siddhapuri, which are supposed to lie under the equator 90 deg. distant from each other. Ramissuram is a small island situated between Ceylon and the continent of India at the entrance of Palks passage in the straits of Manaar. It is famous for its ancient Pagoda and Observatory. The meridian of Lanca is supposed to run through two other towns on the continent of India, Sanahita-saras and Avanti, now Oogein. The Shastras state that “in the north on the same meridian as Lanca there are two other cities, Avanti-Rohitaca (the mountain) and Sannihita-saras, which in former times were the seats of colleges and observatories.” I mention these facts simply to show the possession by the Hindus from remote times of an extensive knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. We now come to their division of time.
The Tamil solar year is sidereal, i.e., the space of time during which the Sun departing from a star returns to it again. Their Zodiac is divided into 12 signs, or mansions, Mesha, Vrisha, Midhuna, et al, corresponding to our Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. Each solar month contains as many days and parts of days as the sun stays in each sign. They divide the year into six seasons, called Ritu, in the Sanskrit, of two months each, the first of which, Chaitram or Vaisacha, corresponds to our April. The Saran or natural day is the time included between two consecutive sun risings. The names of the days are as follows:
|5.||Thursday||Guru||Jupiter—also Teacher’s day.|
They also divided time into a number of cycles or yugas, the meaning of which has been interpreted in various ways; the most accepted holds that the word yug, or yuga, properly means the conjunction or opposition of one or more planets. It is generally used however to express long periods of years at the expiration of which certain phenomena occur. It is probably more particularly referred to the revolution of Jupiter, one of whose years is about twelve of ours, five revolutions or sixty years being equal to a Vrihaspati chacra or cycle (literally a wheel) of Jupiter. In this Vrihaspati cycle there are contained five other cycles of twelve years each. The names of these five cycles or yugas are:
|1.||Samvatsara||Presided over by||Agni|
The use of these yugs is prehistoric, at least to outsiders. In each Mahayug, reckoning from the past, we have four lesser yugs, as follows:
|1.||Satya yug||or Golden age||1,728,000 years|
|2.||Treta yug||or Silver age||1,296,000 years|
|3.||Dvapar yug||or Brazen age||864,000 years|
|4.||Kali yug||or Iron age||432,000 years|
So that a Mahayug consists of 4,320,000 years.
The sun performs 4,320,000 Bag-hanas, or sidereal revolutions, in a Mahayug.
There are also the Ayanas, or librations of equinoctial points, 600 in a Mahayug.
A Kalpa consists of 1000 Mahayugs, or 4,320,000,000 years, which Kalpa is also called a “Day of Brahma” (S.D. ii, 308). In making up the Kalpa we have, first, a twilight, or Sandhya, equal to the Satya yug of 1,728,000 years; second, fourteen Manvantaras of 308,448,000 years each, all of which together make up the Kalpa. Each Manvantara is presided over by a patriarch, or Manu, the names of which I omit. We are living in the seventh Manvantara (presided over by the patriarch Vaivas-vata), of which twenty-seven Mahayugs have passed. So if one desires to know exactly where he is along the “Pilgrimage of the Ego” the following scheme will place him:
|Sandhi, or Twilight of Kalpa||1,728,000 years|
|Six Manvantaras||1,850,688,000 years|
|Twenty-seven Mahayugs||116,640,000 years|
|The Satya yug = to Sandhi||1,728,000 years|
|The Treta yug||1,296,000 years|
|The Dvapara yug||864,000 years|
|Of Kali yug up to April 11th, 1895||4,997 years|
The beginning of the Kalpa was the time when planetary motion began. Of this time, 17,064,000 years were spent or employed in creation, at the end of which man appeared.
It will be seen from the above that the first 5000 years of our Kali yug will expire April 11th, 1898.
Do we look for any manifestations?