yuga, VarNa and colour

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at uclink.berkeley.edu
Tue May 20 00:56:21 UTC 1997

The numbers for the yugas and for some of the calculations in the Vedas
concerning numbers of syllables are related because they are ultimately
based on the sexagesimal system.  From the moment the circumference is
considered to have 360 degrees (with each degree = 60 minutes), and the
ideal year is said to have 360 days, many calculations will be sexagesimal.
So the number of minutes in half the circumference is:
180 degrees x 60' = 10 800.  And the number of minutes in the entire
circumference = 21 600, one of whose powers of ten equals both sandhis for
the TretA yuga.

Some old measures of time have the same structure.  A nADikA is equal to
half a muhUrta, and the year has 10 800 muhUrtas, so each day has 60
nADikAs, just as each degree has 60 minutes.

So, if a year has 10 800 muhUrtas then PrajApati's altar is made up of 10
800 bricks because he symbolizes the year.
The Rg Veda is said by the Satapatha BrAhmaNa to also have 10 800 pankti
verses of 40 syllables, so 10 800 x 40 = 432 000.
And the Satapatha BrahmaNa still adds that 10 800 is the number of times a
person inhales and exhales in a day and a night.
And so many other things are related to 18, 108, 10 800, etc.

I have dealt at length with this in a book, but it's in Spanish.  In case
anyone is interested the ref. is:  Tiempo ciclico y eras del mundo en la
India, Luis Gonzalez-Reimann.  Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico, 1988.

All these sexagesimal calculations can then, of course, be compared to
Mesopotamian ones, so it comes as no surprise that according to the Chaldean
priest Berossus, the total number of years of the kingdoms before the deluge
is 432 000.

Some of these things have been discussed by Burgess, Fleet, J. Filliozat,
van der Waerden, Pingree and others.

AS for the number 9.  The MahAbhArata has a numerical connection with 18 (9
x 2): 18 chapters in the epic and in the GItA, 18 days of war, and so on.
But the RAmAyaNa prefers the number 14 (7 x 2).


Luis Gonzalez-Reimann
Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies
University of California, Berkeley

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