yuga, VarNa and colour

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sat May 17 21:18:21 UTC 1997

I apologize for mistakenly mailing an incomplete version of this posting
earlier.  This is the complete one.


At 03:25 PM 5/17/97 BST, Dominique THILLAUD wrote:

>	I know kRta the better and kali the worst, but what about treta and
>dvApara ?
>	Regards,

The names of the dice throws, K.rta TretA, DvApara, and Kali, are associated
with the descending numerical sequence 4-3-2-1 (like the Pythagorean
tetraktys).  TretA comes from tri (3), and DvApara from dva (2).  They are
obvious cognates of other IE names for the same numbers.  K.rta is the past
passive participle of the root k.r, "to do" (Pisani has a different
etymology for K.rta that connects it with 4, see Mayrhofer).  It means
"done" and, by extension, "well done" or "good."  So K.rta is the winning
throw, TretA is the next one down, then comes DvApara, and the worst (and
losing) throw is Kali.  Kali means conflict, bad luck; but whether this
meaning is derived from the dice throw or it informed it, is no perfectly clear.
These names were used to rate things from good to bad on a descending scale.
They were so used to name the four yugas, so K.rta became the best one, and
so on.  The 4-3-2-1 sequence became fundamental to the yugas, as they were
said to last for 4 000, 3 000, 2 000, and 1 000 years respectively; with
sandhis of 400, 300, 200, and 100 years.  The cow of dharma was said to
stand on 4 feet in K.rta, 3 in TretA, and so on.

If you apply the 4-3-2-1 sequence to the circumference, with its 360
degrees, you will get 4 arcs of 144, 108, 72, and 36 degrees respectively.
This is how the "divine years" of the yugas were turned into "human years,"
as a divine year was said to equal 360 human years.
So, for example,

K.rta is 4 000 divine yrs.  x  360 = 1 440 000 + (144 000 x 2) = 1 728 000
human yrs.

144 000 is one sandhi in human years (400 x 360).

By this procedure the total number of human years in the four yugas is 4 320
000.  Take away a few zeros and you have 432 000, which is the duration of
the Kali yuga.  But add zeroes and you get the duration of the kalpa: 4 320
000 000.

432 000 is a very important number, as it is the result of 120 x 3 600.
According to the Satapatha BrAhmaNa the Rg Veda has 12 000 verses of 36
syllables = 432 000 total.

I hope this helps.

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann
University of California, Berkeley

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