As per the Puranic literature, Rama was born in Treta Yuga.
Now, does not the Yuga period run into lakhs and millions of years?
Then how do we say that Rama lived only 7000 years ago and was born in 5114 BCE? What is the time span of a Yuga and how long ago was Treta Yuga?
Let us now look at what the word Yuga means.
The word Yuga is etymologically similar to the word Yoga.
Both the word Yoga and Yuga mean “to join” and come from the root Yug or Jug. The English words yoke, join, have all come from the same etymological root.
Yoga is the union of body and mind.
Yuga is the alignment or conjunction in the sky, of the various stellar and planetary bodies.
So Yuga is not a particular time span that runs into lakhs of years but a generic term for the measure of time period between different alignments.
Yuga is a term that denotes only a scale of measure of time. There are many types of Yuga to measure various time spans. There are at least 7 types of Yuga periods of time that have been mentioned in ancient treatises.
We have Yuga time spans ranging from 1 year to 5 years and extending all the way upto 4,320,000 years.
Every year when the Sun, Earth and Moon come in alignment with the Aries Zodiac, it is a Yuga and denotes the time span of a year and is celebrated as Yugadi or Ugadi i.e., New Year in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. This means that, every year, when Sun, Earth and Moon come in alignment with a Zodiac, it is considered to be start of a new Yuga that is why it is called Yuga-adi or Ugadi. Adi means start or beginning.
Every 12 years when the Sun, Earth and Jupiter come in alignment it is a Yuga.
Every 60 years when the Sun, Earth and Jupiter, Saturn come in alignment it is a Yuga.
Different types of alignment, conjunction, Yuga calculation
Similarly, about 5100 years ago, on Friday, 18th February, 3102 BCE, at 02 hours, 30 minutes, 23 seconds to be precise, all the planets of the solar system were in alignment and this marked the start of the Kali Yuga which was an astronomical alignment.
There are seven prominent types of Yuga.
Various Types of Yuga
So the span of Yuga starts all the way from one year period going all the way upto 43,20,000 years which is an astronomical Yuga.
Each variety of Yuga is used as a measure for various purposes.
The type of Yuga running into lakhs or millions of years is used to measure time periods for astronomical alignments at Solar System or Galactic levels. Lakh is a popular unit of measure in India.
1 Lakh = 100,000 and 10 Lakhs = 1 Million.
Similar is the case with the term Yojana. There are many varieties of Yojana for measuring different types of distances, such as Bhu Yojana for measuring distances on Earth scale, Bha Yojana for measuring distances with respect to the Sun, Nara Yojana for distances with respect to man etc.
Thus the term Yojana was more a generic unit of measure rather than a fixed measure. Also, these units varied from region to region as they were also based on local references. Hence with just the term Yojana, cannot always calculate absolute values for those measures.
Thus out of all these varieties of Yuga and their subdivisions, which Yuga span and which variety of Treta Yuga has been used in connection with Rama in the Ramayana text is unclear.
Moreover, the reference to Treta Yuga in the Ramayana text is only in the Uttara Khanda, the additional section and there too mentioned only indirectly. Many literary scholars consider this section to have been a later day inclusion in one of the editions, rather than from the original.
Given all this, we on our own, cannot imagine what Valmiki may have intended in his Itihasa and take for our calculation, only the Solar System Yuga span, of the seventh variety i.e., the astronomical Yuga period of 4,32,000 years and conclude that Rama must have lived several lakh or million years ago.
Treta Yuga of Ramayana – Which of these?
Given this state of affairs, if we look for a corroborative data in the various Purana, then we do find a description in the Vayu Purana which seems to fit into the 7000 year period for the lifetime of Rama.
The division of Yuga, as per Vayu Purana, is shown here.
Chathur Yuga Cycle as per Vayu Purana – 32.58 – 64
As per Vayu Purana, the Yuga cycle is of 10000 years with
- 4000 years for Krta Yuga,
- 3000 years for Treta Yuga,
- 2000 years for Dwapara Yuga and
- 1000 years for Kali Yuga.
At a finer level, it also specifies intermediate periods or Sandhi periods as shown in the chart, taking the whole cycle to be 12000 years.
There is also a mention in the Vayu Purana of an elapsed time gap of 2000 years between the end of Treta Yuga and the end of Dwapara Yuga.
Rama is inferred to have been born towards the end of Treta Yuga.
With 3102 BCE calculated as the end of Dwapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga, the calculation of year 5114 BCE or 7000 years ago, as the period for Rama and Ramayana using Treta Yuga from this scale, seems to fit in well with the other corroborating data from various other fields, that we have seen through this work.
The medieval western concept of time was linear. The Indian concept of time is cyclical. All the scales of time are concurrent. Therefore at the same moment, we can be described to be in different Yuga, as per different Yuga scales. It depends upon the context we are relating to and the scale of measurement. This is the key thought and distinction we have to realize.
More on this can be found in our book “The Indian concept of Time”, in the Bharath Gyan Series.
It is also to be borne in mind that millions of years ago, the sky configurations, as well as Earth’s geology and geography would have been very different from what it is now and what has been described in the text. Also mankind’s history and memory cannot carry tales, legends, practices and tradition across millions of years, with such clarity and geographical details that seem to be valid even today.
All the above clearly bring forth a high degree of possibility for the events of Ramayana to have occurred around 5100 BCE.