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Saka, Sakabda (Saka Era) and Calendar
Kali-yuga - first 10,000 years
Predicted in Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129.*. The fourth part of the Brahma-vaivarta is called Krsna-janma-khanda. Chapter 129 is called Golokarohanam, because it describes how Krsna returns to His abode. The general dialogue is between Lord Narayana and Narada Muni. This specific dialogue is between Lord Krsna and Mother Ganga. Verse 49 is a question by Ganga, verses 50-60 are Krsna's answer.
he naatha ramaNaSreStha
asmaakaM kaa gatiScaatra
bhaviSyati kalau yuge
"Ganga said: O protector, Supreme enjoyer, on your departure for the perfect abode, Goloka, thereafter what will be my situation in the age of Kali?"
varSaaNi tiSTha bhu-tale
paapaani paapino yaani
tubhyaM daasyaMti snaanataH
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Remain on earth for five thousand years of Kali yuga. Sinners will deposit their sins in you by bathing."
bhaviSyaMti darSanaac ca
snaanaad eva hi jaahnavi
"By the sight, touch and bathing of one who worships Me by My mantra all those sins will be at once burnt to ashes, O Ganga."
puraaNaani bhavaMti hi
tatra gatvaa saavadhaanam
aabhiH saarddhaM ca SroSyasi
"There will be chanting of the name of Hari and reading of the [Bhagavata] Purana. Reaching such a place, attentively hear.
[note: In Puranic language, when "Purana" is used alone it refers to Bhagavata Purana. Otherwise it will specify Skanda Purana, Visnu Purana, etc.]
"Sinful reactions including the killing of a brahmana can be nullified be hearing the [Bhagavata] Purana and chanting of the names of Hari in the manner of devotees."
dahaMti paavako yathaa
"Just as dry grass is burnt by fire, by the embrace of Vaisnavas all sins are burnt."
tathaapi vaiSNavaa loke
pRthivyaaM yaani tiirthaani
puNyaanyapi ca jaahnavi
"O Ganga, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage site by the presence of Vaisnavas, even though it had been full of sinners and sins."
santi puteSu saMtatam
sadyaH putaa vasundharaa
"In the body of My devotees remains eternally [the purifier]. Mother Earth becomes pure by the dust of the feet of My devotees."
sadyaH putaani tiirthaani
sadyaH putaM jagat tathaa
"It will be the same in the case of pilgrimage sites and the whole world. Those intelligent worshipers of My mantra who partake of My remnants will purify everything."
maam eva nityaM dhyaayaMte
te mat praaNaadhikaaH priyaaH
tad upasparSa maatreNa
puto vaayuSca paavakaH
"Those, who everyday meditate only on Me, are more dear to Me than My life. The air and fire become pure simply by their indirect touch."
[Note: Sastra says that of all material elements, fire and air are always pure. Even though the air carries some impurities it always remains itself pure. This verse indicates that the Vaisnavas will purify even the pure elements of fire and air, therefore the purifying potency of the Vaisnavas referred to in this verse is not material but completely spiritual. I.e. the air and fire are _already_ materially pure, therefore the Vaisnavas purity is spiritual and not material.]
madbhaktaaH saMti bhu-tale
madbhakteSu gateSu ca
"For 10,000 years of Kali such devotees of Mine will be present on earth. After the departure of My devotees there will be only one varna [outcaste]."
"Devoid of My devotees, the earth will be shackled by Kali. Saying this, Krsna departed."
The above is supported in 4.90.32-33:
haris tiSThati medinI
devAnAM pratimA pUjyA
ZAstrANi ca purANakam
"(Sri Krsna said:) Lord Hari will stay on this earth for the first ten-thousand years of Kali-yuga. For that time the deities of the demigods will be worshiped and the Puranas and scriptures will also be present."
tad-ardham api tIrthAni
gangAdinI su niZcitam
tad-ardham grAma-devAZ ca
vedAZ ca viduSAm api
"For half that period the Ganga and other holy places will be present. For half that period the village temples and the Vedas studied by learned brahmanas will be present."
3102 BCE - Kaliyuga begins
+5000 - Ganga on earth (about 1900 CE, 414 Gaurabda)
+5000 - devotees on earth (about 6900 CE, 5414 Gaurabda)
(= 10 000 - Gaura era)
Interestingly, Ma Ganga is still present on earth so these dates may be subject to change, unless there is another explanation.
Srila Prabhupada seemed to suggest a 10 000 years long era from his time, i.e. until about 12000 CE. For this I haven't seen any sastra pramana so far.
Situation in Kali-yuga
According to the Vedic scriptures, our current age, known as Kali-yuga, is one of spiritual darkness, violence and hypocrisy. Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.2.31) records Kali-yuga as having begun when the constellation of the seven sages (saptarsi) passed through the lunar mansion of Magha. Hindu astrologers have calculated this to have been 2:27 a.m. on February 18, 3102 BC. This took place some 36 years after Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna.
The scriptures like SB 12.2 teach that during the 432,000 year age of Kali, humanity deteriorates and falls into barbarism. Humans begin to kill animals for food. They fall under the spell of intoxication. They lose all sexual restraint. Families break up. Women and children are abused and abandoned.
Increasingly degraded generations, conceived accidentally in lust and growing up wild, swarm all over the world. Political leadership falls into the hands of unprincipled rogues, criminals and terrorists, who use their power to exploit the people. Entire populations are enslaved and put to death. The world teems with fanatics, extremists and spiritual artists, who win huge followings among a people completely dazed by hedonism, as well as by cultural and moral relativism. "Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, physical strength and memory diminish with each passing day." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.1)
The saints and sages of ancient India describe the people of this age as greedy, ill-behaved, and merciless. In this age, says Srimad-Bhagavatam, merely possessing wealth is considered a sign of good birth, proper behavior, and fine qualities. Law and justice are determined by one's prestige and power. Marriage ceases to exist as a holy union - men and women simply live together on the basis of bodily attraction and verbal agreement, and only for sexual pleasure.
Women wander from one man to another. Men no longer look after their parents in their old age, and fail to provide for their own children. One's beauty is thought to depend on one's hairstyle. Filling the belly is said to be the only purpose in life. Cows are killed once their milk production drops. Atheism flourishes. Religious observances are performed solely for the sake of reputation.
The Linga Purana (ch. 40) describes the human race in Kali-yuga as a vain and stupid people "spurred on by the lowest instincts." They prefer false ideas and do not hesitate to persecute sages. They are tormented by bodily desires.
Severe droughts and plagues are everywhere. Slovenliness, illness, hunger and fear spread. Nations are continually at war with one another. The number of princes and farmers decline. Heroes are assassinated. The working classes want to claim regal power and enjoy royal wealth.
Kings become thieves. They take to seizing property, rather than protecting the citizenry. The new leaders emerge from the laborer class and begin to persecute religious people, saints, teachers, intellectuals, and philosophers.
Civilization lacks any kind of divine guidance. The sacred books are no longer revered. False doctrines and misleading religions spread across the globe. Children are killed in the wombs of their mothers. Women who have relations with several men are numerous. Predatory animals are more violent. The number of cows diminishes.
The Linga Purana says that in Kali-yuga, young women freely abandon their virginity. Women, children, and cows - always protected in an enlightened society - are abused and killed during the iron age. Thieves are numerous and rapes are frequent. There are many beggars, and widespread unemployment. Merchants operate corrupt businesses. Diseases, rates, and foul substances plague the populace. Water is lacking, fruits are scarce. Everyone uses vulgar language.
The men of Kali-yuga seek only money. Only the richest have power. People without money are their slaves. The leaders of the state no longer protect the people, but plunder the citizenry through excessive taxation. Farmers abandon living close to nature. They become unskilled laborers in congested cities. Many dress in rags, or are unemployed, and sleep on the streets. Through the fault of the government, infant mortality rates are high. False gods are worshiped in false ashrams, in which pilgrimages, penances, charities and austerities are all concocted.
People in this age eat their food without washing beforehand. Monks break their vows of celibacy. Cows are kept alive only for their milk. Water is scarce. Many people watch the skies, praying for rain. No rain comes. The fields become barren. Suffering from famine and poverty, many attempt to migrate to countries where food is more readily available. People are without joy and pleasure. Many commit suicide. Men of small intelligence are influenced by atheistic doctrines. Family, clan and caste are all meaningless. Men are without virtues, purity or decency. (Visnu Purana 6.1).
Now the sinful Kali Age is upon them, when Dharma is destroyed, an Age full of evil customs and deceit. Men pursue evil ways. The Vedas have lost their power, the Smritis are forgotten, and many of the Puranas, which contain stories of the past, and show the many ways (which lead to liberation), will, O Lord! be destroyed. Men will become averse from religious rites, without restraint, maddened with pride, ever given over to sinful acts, lustful, gluttonous, cruel, heartless, harsh of speech, deceitful, short-lived, poverty-stricken, harassed by sickness and sorrow, ugly, feeble, low, stupid, mean, and addicted to mean habits, companions of the base, thievish, calumnious, malicious, quarrelsome, depraved, cowards, and ever-ailing, devoid of all sense of shame and sin and of fear to seduce the wives of others. Vipras will live like the Shudras, and whilst neglecting their own Sandhya will yet officiate at the sacrifices of the low. They will be greedy, given over to wicked and sinful acts, liars, insolent, ignorant, deceitful, mere hangers-on of others, the sellers of their daughters, degraded, averse to all tapas and vrata. They will be heretics, impostors, and think themselves wise. They will be without faith or devotion, and will do japa and puja with no other end than to dupe the people. They will eat unclean food and follow evil customs, they will serve and eat the food of the Shudras and lust after low women, and will be wicked and ready to barter for money even their own wives to the low. In short, the only sign that they are Brahmanas will be the thread they wear. Observing no rule in eating or drinking or in other matters, scoffing at the Dharma Scriptures, no thought of pious speech ever so much as entering their minds, they will be but bent upon the injury of the good. (Mahanirvana tantra 1.37-50)
But since the men of the Kali Age are full of greed, lust, gluttony, they will on that account neglect sadhana and will fall into sin, and having drunk much wine for the sake of the pleasure of the senses, will become mad with intoxication, and bereft of all notion of right and wrong (61). Some will violate the wives of others, others will become rogues, and some, in the indiscriminating rage of lust, will go (whoever she be) with any woman (62). Over eating and drinking will disease many and deprive them of strength and sense. Disordered by madness, they will meet death, falling into lakes, pits, or in impenetrable forests, or from hills or house-tops (63-64). While some will be as mute as corpses, others will be for ever on the chatter, and yet others will quarrel with their kinsmen and elders. They will be evil-doers, cruel, and the destroyers of Dharma (65-66). I fear, O Lord! that even that which Thou hast ordained for the good of men will through them turn out for evil (67). O Lord of the World! who will practise Yoga or Nyasa, who will sing the hymns and draw the Yantra and make Purashcharana? (68). Under the influences of the Kali Age man will of his nature become indeed wicked and bound to all manner of sin (69). (M.t. 1.61-69)
O Vararohe! know that when Vedic and Puranic initiations cease then the Kali Age has become strong (47). O Shive! 0 Peaceful One! when virtue and vice are no longer judged by the Vedic rules, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (48). O Sovereign Mistress of Kaula doctrine! when the Heavenly Stream is at some places broken, and at others diverted from its course, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (49). O Wise One! when kings of the Mlechchha race become excessively covetous, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (50). When women become difficult of control, heartless and quarrelsome, and calumniators of their husbands, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (51). When men become subject to women and slaves of lust, oppressors of their friends and Gurus, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (52). When the fertility of the earth has gone and yields a poor harvest, when the clouds yield scanty rain, and trees give meagre fruit, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (53). When brothers, kinsmen, and companions, prompted by the desire for some trifle, will strike one another, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (54). When the open partaking of flesh and liquor will pass without condemnation and punishment, when secret drinking will prevail, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (55). (M.t. 4.47-55)
punsam ekaha vai sadhya hari bhaktih kalau yuge
yuga antarena dharma hi sevitavya narena hi
(Padma Purana, Svarga Khanda 61.5)
In Kali-yuga, a person should accept only one process, that is devotional service. According to what process is decided for a particular yuga, that should be followed by everyone without fail.
Related links:Kali Yuga (Mahabharata quotes)
Saka, Sakabda (Saka Era) and Calendar
The most prominent of several eras used in India beginning at the start of the rule of king Salivahana (78 or 79 AD).
It is interesting to note in this connection that there is an old theory (evidently held by the great Kasmiri historian Kalyana in early 12th century AD) that considered the Saka era to have begun with the victory of the great king Vikramaditya of Ujjain over the Sakas (see M. A. Stein's notes in his translation of Kalyana's Rajatarangini 2.6-7 and 3.125-128). While this theory appears to be a mistaken result of mixing up the Vikrama and Saka eras, which were 135 years apart, it is evident that even by the 12th century there was the need to find some "significant event" associated with the beginning of what became this most popular calendar (later adopted by the Government of India after independence from British rule).
The problem that exists between the Vaisnava calendar and the Christian calendar is that the Vaisnava calendar is luni-solar, whereas the Christian calendar is strictly solar.
What does this mean? Well, the solar year is 365.25 days long whereas the lunar year is about 10 to 11 days shorter. This means that after 3 years the lunar calendar will be 1 solar month out of phase with the solar calendar. The Muslims follow a strictly lunar calendar and thus their months have no relation to the seasons which is a solar event. In the course of 36 years the Muslim month of Ramadan will go through each of the Christian months and then come to its starting point again.
The Vaisnava calendar is luni-solar in that the lunar months are always calibrated to correspond with the solar months and fall in the same season every year (not taking into account precessional differences). To achieve this a leap month is added about every third year (there are certain astronomical rules involved so it may not be every third year). That is why you will notice that a big festival like Gaura Purnima will fall on one date this year, then next year about 10 days earlier, and the next year 10 days earlier still then all of a sudden it shoots back up about 30 days and continues the cycle.
There are no simple rules to convert a Christian date into a Vaisnava date and vice versa. May I suggest that if someone would like to really understand how to do this that he request Markandeya Rsi Prabhu for a copy of the report to the GBC that he prepared on behalf of the Vaisnava Calendar committee.
According to Hari Bhakti Vilasa (Bhanu Swami's translation), if an appearance day falls on Ekadasi, i.e. if you were born on Ekadasi, then you celebrate on the following date. Disciples of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami should take note of this. Also in calculating your own birth tithi it is the tithi prevalent at the time of birth that is important, not the tithi at sunrise. Thus Jayapataka Swami's actual birth tithi is Dvadasi, not Ekadasi. Why the time of sunrise is always mentioned is because the Vedic day begins at sunrise. The Christian day begins at midnight and the Jewish and Muslim day begins at sunset.
The standard Vedic calendar starts the month with the first tithi after the new moon, that is the instant after the exact conjunction of the Sun and Moon. This system is called mukhya candra. For example the new year according to the Siddhantas (i.e. classical astronomical texts such as Surya-siddhanta, Siddhanta-siromani, Vasista-siddhanta, etc.) begins with the sukla pratipat of Caitra masa. Meaning the first lunar day after the new moon after the Sun has entered into Mesa (Aries). It is called Caitra masa because often the Moon would be in Citra naksatra on the full moon of that month. Anyway it is the Vedic standard to consider the month (and the year) to begin on a sukla pratipat, first tithi after the new moon.
However it is also acceptable to have months based on the full moon, thus the month and year would start on krsna pratipat, the first tithi after the full moon. If you were to examine the chronological systems in vogue in India you will find that almost every state has its own system with various differing rules. There will also be variations within the regions.
For example in 1989 according to the National Indian calendar the New Year began on Mar 22 (which no one observes). In Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu the New Year started on April 14 while in Punjab and Orissa it started on April 13 and in Kerala it started on Aug 17! Other states followed some of these or independent systems. (I wonder why they say that Divali is the Hindu New Year? Must be in Gujarat or parts of UP and Rajasthan. [I found out that it is.])
It should be noted that while the rest of India observes candra masa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu observe saura masa, lunar and solar months respectively. By this I mean that a candra masa is measured from a new or full moon, whereas a saura masa is measure from sankranti to sankranti, solar ingress from sign to sign, but still measured in lunar days.
If this were not interesting enough having months and years beginning at different times, they also follow different epochs or eras. We are familiar with the Christian Era, which is now being secularized as the Common Era, CE or BCE, as opposed to AD or BC. In India there is a large welter of eras that are used, for example: 1989 AD is equivalent to Vikram Samvat 2046, Saka era 1911, Bengali San 1396, Kollam era 1165, Hejira 1410, Buddha Nirvana 2533 (this is wrong however), Mahavira Nirvana 2516, Kali Yuga 5090, and Yudhisthira Saka 5126. There is also Saptarsi Saka which is some years different from that of Yudhisthira Saka (I would have to look it up), plus Brhaspati Samvatsara (60 year cycle) which was #17, Subhana in N India and #3, sukla in S India and last but not least 1989 was 5 Idavatsara in the Vedanga Jyotisa year system beginning on Feb 7. I have not exhausted all the eras current in India. There are many such as Gupta Saka, Vallabhi Saka, and Mallava Gana Saka which are no longer current but of interest only to historians, epigraphists, antiquarians and the like (and me of course).
The point of all this is that in India there is a lot of lee way about calendars and different communities have different calendars. Smartas calculate Ekadasi differently from Vaisnavas.
Anyway, our calendar is gauna candra, calculated from the krsna pratipat of Phalguna masa, i.e. the first day of the waning mooning (the first tithi after the full moon) of the month of Phalguna. In other words Lord Caitanya's birthday is the last day of the year for us. It is because Lord Caitanya was born on a full moon day that the Gaudiyas follow gauna candra masa. However the standard to measure by is always the mukhya candra masa of the Vedic calendar. And our calendar is tied to that. Did you ever wonder why it is, that when we have a leap month it falls in the middle of a regular month and the regular month gets split in two? That is because the deciding factor that determines whether or not a year will have a leap month is based on the new moon months of the Vedic calendar.
The Vedic month begins with the sukla pratipat of the new moon after the Sun's ingress into a sign. Usually there is only one new moon for each sign that the Sun is in. But occasionally the new moon will occur right after the Sun enters a sign and another takes place just before it leaves. Thus you will have two new moons in the same sign. Even rarer (in a weird cycle of 151 years, then 19, then back to 151 years [I think it is 151, it is in that area]) when you have one solar month with no new moon and two solar months with two new moons. This really causes a big mess and confusion. The last time this happened was in 1983 and it was a big cause of concern all over India.
Anyway all these points are covered in the special report to the GBC entitled "Everything You Wanted To Know About The Vaisnava Calendar But Were Afraid To Ask." (Just kidding.) Get it from Markandeya Rsi Prabhu.
Related links:Four Principle of Freedom