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HINDU SYSTEM OF TIME RECKONING
HINDU SYSTEM OF TIME RECKONING
Dr Radhasyam. Brahmachari*
The paper discusses the Hindu concept of time (kla) and the units of its measurement. The smallest Indian unit of time is trui, equal to 29.6296 micro-seconds and the biggest unit is the kalpa, equal to 4.32 billion years. The present practice of measuring time, dividing a day and night into 24 equal parts called hora, is also originated in India and English word hour has been derived from Sanskrit hora. Also it is India where the practice of counting a week of 7 days and the naming of these 7 days were originated. The paper also establishes the facts that counting of lunar and solar months as well as lunar and solar years and the process of Triennial Intercalation, to make a compromise between the lunar and the solar calendars, originated in India as early as in the days of gveda.
The next higher unit in Hindu chronology is the yuga, derived from the Sanskrit word yoga, or more perfectly from sayoga, which stands for conjunction of two or more heavenly bodies. In the Hindu system of time reckoning, starting from a mere 5 year Brhaspatya yuga to a vastly large mahyuga of 4,320,000 years are in vogue. The biggest unit of time conceived by the Hindu astronomers is kalpa and 1000 mahyugas or 4.32 billion years make one kalpa. One kalpa. Is the day and the following kalpa. is the night of the creator Brahm and hence 2 kalpas, or 8.64 billion years, make 1 day and night, or 1 Brhma Divasa and 360 Brhma Divasas make 1 year, or a Brhmavara of Brahm. The life span of Brahm is 100 Brhmavaras or 1 parayuga. It is believed that after the completion of a parayuga, this creation, along with its entire matter, resolves into its ultimate source and a new creation begins under the supervision of a new Brahm.
According to the Hindu tradition, the age of the present Brahm, or the age of this Universe is 155 trilion, 521 billion, 971 million, 221 thousand and 111 years. Hence the era called Sbda , which begins from the beginning of the present creation, can accommodate events older than 155 trillion years. At the same time, this chronology is based firmly on astronomical science and not on mundane events like the birth of a person, or the coronation of a king, or the military success of a race over another. From this viewpoint, it seems that Hindu chronology alone deserves the right to play the role of an international calendar. Introduction :
According to the Hindu Tradition time is Mahkla the lord of destruction and nothing can withstand the assault of time. At the same time, time is eternal (nitya and vata) and without beginning and end (andi and ananta). The Sanskrit word for time is kla which has been derived from kalana or motion and it implies that, time manifests itself through motion.Klah kalayater-gatirgamanah, says crya Yska, the most renowned commentator of the gveda. Or, in other words, time started manifesting (mrttah) itself making its measurements possible, as soon as motion originated. Furthermore, since motion is intimately related with matter, it implies that time started manifesting itself from the very moment matter was created, or as soon as this universe came into being. So, klah began with the very beginning of the movements of the basic elements of the cosmic creation, which, according to Hindu tradition, occurred 155 trillion, 521 billion, 971 million, 221 thousand and 106 years ago. Thus the gveda says, The days and nights are representing the eternal flow of creation in terms of time and they came into being on the very first day of creation (X/190/1-2).
According to Indian view, time is an independent entity and hence should be studied as an independent branch of knowledge. That is why the originator of the Vaieika school of Indian philosophy, i Kanda says, phivypastejo vyurksam kla digtm mana iti dravyi, or Knowledge of the following is a must for emancipation and these are earth (pthiv), hydrosphere (apah), fire (tejah), atmosphere (vyuh), ether (kam), time (klah), space (dik) soul (tman) and mind (manas) (VSu: XI/15). This reflects the importance the Indian wisdom has bestowed upon the knowledge of time and hence they studied time as a separate branch of knowledge. They studied time not with respect to other earthly events but, on the contrary, they studied all earthly events with respect to eternal flow of time.
There is another concept regarding time as well. According to the seers of India, time is absolutely static and motionless. Our mind moves and hence it seems that time is moving on. So, it is said that if anyone can acquire the art of controlling mind and make it absolutely static (manolaya), time in its entirely, including past, present and future, reveals unto him. It is believed that one can attain such a state of mind through tireless practice (sdhan) and meditation (tapasy) and the seer is then called triklaja, the knower of past, present and future.
From the above discussions it becomes evident that. Indian chronology or Hindu klagaan does not depend on any mundane event like the birth of a person, coronation of a king or the military success of an emperor. But it depends only on the movements of various heavenly bodies in the cosmos, or in other words, on astronomical science. Judging from this viewpoint, the Indian chronology alone is scientific since all other current chronologies are based on mundane event like the birth of a person, or the victory of a race over the other, or the rule of a particular dynasty, or running away of a man from one city to another to save his life and so on. It should be mentioned here that in the year 1999 A.D. we have just entered the 52nd century of the Hindu chronology Kalyabda.
Hindu Units of Time
It has been mentioned earlier that, according to the Hindu notion, time is without beginning and end and hence, any part of it we undertake to survey is bound to be a mere fragment of the infinitely large time scale. However, one has to define units of lime, from very small to quite large, for measuring short as well as long intervals of time. The smallest Indian unit of time is trui and it is the time one needs to pierce a lotus-leaf with a sharp needle. The next higher units are shown in Tables below.
Table - I Table - II
= 1 Tatpara
= 1 Nimea
= 1 Pra
= 1 Vind
= 1 Nad
= 1 Ahortra
= 1 Tatparas
= 1 Nimea
= 1 Kth
= 1 Kal
= 1 Ghati
= 1 Muhrta
= 1 Ahortra
(Source-Srya Siddhnta : I/11,12)
(Source-Siddhnta iroma by Bhskara : I/19, 20).
As, according to modern standards, 24 hours make 1 day and night, one finds that, 1 ndi or dada is equal to 24 minutes, 1 vind is equal to 24 seconds, 1 asu or pra is equal to 4 seconds, 1 nimea is equal to 88.889 milliseconds, 1 tatpara is equal to 2. 96296 milliseconds and finally 1 trui is equal to 29.6296 microseconds or 33,750th part of second. It is really amazing that the Hindu astronomers, at such a long lime ago, could conceive and obviously could measure such a small interval of time like trui. It should be mentioned here that, 1 unit of pra is the time an average healthy man needs to complete one respiration or to pronounce ten long syllables called guravakara.
From the succeeding table one finds 1 muhrta equal to 48 minutes, 1 ghai equal to 24 minutes. 1 kal equal to 48 seconds, 1 kh equal to 1.6 seconds and 1 nimea equal to 88.889 milliseconds as obtained above. In its daily motion, the earth rotates around its axis at a speed of nearly 1660 Km per hour and its illuminated half is called ahh (day) and the dark half is called rtri (night). From the system of units of time given above, one finds that 60 ghais or nds make 1 day and night. Indian astronomical texts divide the above units of time broadly into two categories; (i) mrttaklah and (ii) amrtaklah. The units of the former kind are manifested (mrttah) by the nature while, those of the latter kind are created by man. From this view point, ahortra, pra or asu. nimea are mrttaklah and the rest are amrttaklah.
From the gvedic verses (1/33/8 and IV/53/3), scholars conclude that the Vedic is were aware of the fact that the earth is spherical in shape (SS: Xll/321) and rests without support. Another gvedic verse (1/52/11) says, Viva tatananta Ksayah, or the universe is infinite. But the Indian astronomical texts including the Srya Siddhnta say that the universe is finite and spherical in shape. According to the Srya Siddhnta, this universe is oval (adkti) having an average radius equal to 18, 712, 080, 864, 000, 000 yojanas (SS: XJI/90), with the earth at its centre. Our astronomers further believed that all the planets are moving at an equal speed of 11, 858,717 yojanas per day (SS: I/25) and their apparent speeds, as observed from the earth, appear to be faster and slower according to their remoteness from the earth (SS: I/26). With the help of these two basic assumptions they estimated the distances of the planets from the earth as given in Table-III below.
Regarding yojana, the Indian unit of distance, the Paca Siddhntik of Varhamihira says that, if anyone moves 800 yojanas towards the east from a place where the sun is just rising, he will find