The Glorious Bhartiya Heritage– Part 9
Dr. Gauri Shankar Gupta
In 2012 when I was posted in Budapest as Ambassador of India to Hungary and Bosnia & Herzegovina, a well-known French professor came to Budapest to deliver a talk on the “Chronology of Time”. I went to attend the talk out of curiosity. In his presentation the professor explained the beginning of time 4000 years before the Christian Era and outlined the chronology of events in the Christian history over this period. At the end of his presentation, I simply asked him, “By the very nature of this assumption we are separating time and space from the Universe. This assumption implies that there was time and space even before the origin of the Universe because the Universe originated at X point in time and Y point in space(4000 BC). We are thereby putting the origin of the Universe before its origin which is illogical and irrational”. He was stunned and could not give any clear answer.
Indian writings provide highly scientific and precise explanation of time. Hindu units of time are defined in several Hindu texts (Bhagavat Puran,Vishnu Puran, Mahabharata, Surya Siddhant) ranging from microseconds to trillions of years. According to these writings time (काल) is eternal with no beginning and no end. Like Brahman, it is formless and without any attributes still all pervasive, permeating the entire existence. It is static yet moves subjecting every single material existence to its vagaries. Hence every single material existence, whether conscious or non-conscious, ages with time without exception. In course of time, they decay and then die. Life of every material existence is defined in terms of time. That is why in Sanskrit time and death both are called Kaal काल. Depending on the nature of the individual material existence, life-cycle could range anywhere between a few seconds to trillions of years. Human beings are born and then they pass through the cycle of childhood, adulthood, old age and eventual death. There is no physical entity, conscious or non-conscious, that could defy this cycle of life. This is an eternal law of nature. A plant sprouts from a seed, then it grows into a tree and finally years later it dies and dissolves in nature. Mountains and rivers are created and thousands of years later as a result of some tectonic event they are destroyed. Similarly, since the Universe is a material manifestation, it must follow this law. It must have a life-cycle of its own. According to the Vedic writings, the creation and dissolution of the Universe are governed by natural cycles that repeat in perpetuity.
In the western world time is considered linear. Precisely for this reason they believe that the universe was created on a particular day and they do not talk about its life and eventual destruction (प्रलय). On the other hand, Indian sages from the very beginning defined time in a cyclical form (कालचक्र) which keeps repeating in the form of Brahma’s day and night (कल्प). We measure time for our convenience based on the movement of cosmic bodies like sun and moon (day and night, seasons and years). Month is measured based on the phases of the moon and then adjusted in accordance to the sun-cycle. Shrimad Bhagvatamprovides very precise description for counting of time which starts with atomic time (1687.5 parts of a second) and continues until 311 trillion and 40 billion years – the life of Brahma.
Calculation of Atomic Time:
Srimad Bhagavatam provides precise details of the calculation of time as also the precise life-cycle of the universe. The following verses from the SrimadBhagavatam explain the calculation of time starting with atomic time.
चरमः सद्विशेषाणामनेकोऽसंयुतः सदा।
परमाणु स विज्ञेयो नृणामैक्यभ्रमो यतः।। १ ।।
The (material manifestation’s) ultimate particle which is indivisible and not formed into a body is called the atom. It exists always as an invisible identity (even after the dissolution of all forms). The material manifestation is nothing but a combination of such atoms, but it is misunderstood by the common man.(3/11/1)
सत एव पदार्थस्य स्वरूपावस्थितस्य यत्।
कैवल्यं परममहानविशेषो निरन्तरः।। २ ।।
Atoms are the ultimate state of the manifest universe. When they stay in their own forms without forming different bodies, they are called the unlimited oneness.(3/11/2)
एवं कालोऽप्यनुमितः सौक्ष्म्ये स्थौल्ये च सत्तम।
संस्थानभुक्त्या भगवानव्यक्तो व्यक्तभुग्विभुः।। ३ ।।
Thus, one can estimate time by measuring the movement of the atomic combination or bodies. Time is the potency of the Brahman who controls all physical movement although He is not visible in the physical world. (3/11/3)
स कालः परमाणुर्वै यो भुंक्ते परमाणुताम्।
सतोऽविशेषभुग्यस्तु स कालः परमो महान्।। ४ ।।
Atomic time is measured according to it covering a particular atomic space. That time which covers the non-manifest aggregate of atoms is called the great time (infinite). (3/11/4)
अणुर्द्वौ परमाणू स्यात्त्रसरेणुस्त्रयः स्मृतः।
जालार्करश्म्यवगतः खमेवानुपतन्नगात्।। ५ ।।
Two atoms make one double atom, and three double atoms make one hex-atom. This hex-atom is visible in sunshine which enters through the holes of a window-screen. One can clearly see that hex-atoms go up towards the sky.
त्रसरेणुत्रिकं भुंक्ते यः कालः स त्रुटिः स्मृतः।
शतभागस्तु वेधः स्यात्तैस्त्रिभिस्तु लवः स्मृतः।। ६ ।।
The time duration needed for the integration of three trasarenus (the time taken to form three hex-atoms) is called a truti, (a second divided into 1687.5 parts) and one hundred trutis make one vedha. Three vedhasmake one lava. (3/11/6)
निमेषस्त्रिलवो ज्ञेय आम्नातस्ते त्रयः क्षणः।
क्षणान् पञ्च विदुः काष्ठां लघु ता दश पञ्च च ।। ७ ।।
The duration of time of three lavas equals one nimesha, the combination of three nimeshas makes one kshana, five kshanas combined together make one kashtha, and fifteen kashthas make one laghu (equal to two minutes). (3/11/7)
लघूनि वै समाम्नाता दश पञ्च च नाडिका।
ते द्वे मुहूर्तः प्रहरः षड्यामः सप्त वा नृणाम्।। ८ ।।
Fifteen laghus make one nadika, which is also called a danda. Two dandas make one muhurta, and six or seven dandas make one fourth of a day or night, according to human calculation. (3/11/8)
स्वर्णमाषैः कृतच्छिद्रं यावत्प्रस्थजलप्लुतम्।। ९ ।।
The measuring pot for one nadika, or danda, can be prepared with a six-pala-weight [fourteen ounces] pot of copper, in which a hole is bored with a gold probe weighing four mashas and measuring four fingers long. When the pot is placed on top of water, the time before water overflows in the pot is called one danda. (3/11/9)
यामाश्चत्वारश्चत्वारो मर्त्यानामहनी उभे।
पक्षः पञ्चदशाहानि शुचाः कृष्णश्च मानद।। १० ।।
It is calculated that in the day and in the night of human beings there are four praharas each, which are also called yamas. Similarly, fifteen days and nights are a fortnight, and there are two fortnights, (shukla and krishna paksha) in a month. (3/11/10)
यतोः समुच्चयो मासः पितॄणां तदहर्निशम्।
द्वौ तावृतुः षडयनं दक्षिणं चोत्तरं दिवि।। ११ ।।
The aggregate of two fortnights is one month, and that period is one complete day and one night for the Pitaplanets. Two of such months comprise one season, and six months comprise one complete movement of the sun from south to north. (3/11/11)
अयने चाहनी प्राहुर्वत्सरो द्वादश स्मृतः।
संवत्सरशतं नॄणां परमायुर्निरूपितम्।। १२ ।।
Two solar movements make one day and one night of the demigods and that combination of day and night is one complete calendar year for the human being. Human life has a duration of one hundred years.(3/11/12)
ग्रहर्क्षताराचक्रस्थः परमाण्वादिना जगत्।
संवत्सरावसानेन पर्येत्यनिमिषो विभुः।। १३ ।।
Influential stars, planets, luminaries and atoms all over the Universe are rotating in their respective orbits under the direction of the Supreme, represented by eternal time (kaal). (3/11/13)
संवत्सरः परिवत्सर इडावत्सर एव च।
अनुवत्सरो वत्सरश्च विदुरैवं प्रभाष्यते।। १४ ।।
There are five different names for the orbits of the sun, moon, and stars and they each have their own orbits (samvatsara). (3/11/14)
Based on the above writings, the following precise measurements have been arrived at in the Bhaktivedanta writings in terms of the modern clock.
One kashtha– 8seconds
One laghu– 2minutes
One danda– 30minutes
The above verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam provide a glimpse as to how scientific these writings are. They encompass most advanced principles of physics, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics and geometry. Even with tremendous advances in modern science it is not easy to understand these ancient writings with their full import.
(Wirter is Former Ambassador/High Commissioner of Bharat)