What Hinduism’s Yugas Mean for Humanity

the colourful inside detail of a Hindu temple, with statues of hindu gods

The Hindu Yugas

Our ancient ancestors were definitively in tune with our location amongst the stars. Their cosmic calendars placed the Earth in certain locations on a cyclical movement throughout the galaxy and those calendars correlated with cyclical shifts in human consciousness. Disparate civilizations had similar takes regarding cosmic time cycles, though they would not be exposed to each other for centuries to come. Ancient India called these cycles the Yugas.

According to Hindu scriptures, the overarching cosmic eon, called a Kalpa, lasts 4.32 billion years. A Kalpa consists of four epochs, called Yugas, with one Yuga cycle lasting 4.32 million years. Of these, there is the Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. There are different interpretations as to how the cycles are broken down and what happens during them, but they all agree that changes in the Yugas correspond with shifts in humanity’s self-awareness.

The cosmic cycle is broken up into two periods of waxing and waning, in which the Yugas are descending or ascending. During one of these periods we must transition through each Yuga, which usually dictates a 25 percent change in self-awareness. Most interpretations see us in the age of Kali Yuga, the most degenerate age in human consciousness, marked by war, deceit, obsession with the physical self and a general lack of virtue.

But, fear not! We are ascending out of the Kali Yuga and could, by some accounts, be entering or already have entered the next Yuga, the Dwapara Yuga. Unfortunately, when a cycle ends we don’t get to start back at the top, we must climb back up through each phase. And there are a few hundred buffer years in between each Yuga. This means it will only be another 10,800 years until we reach peak self-awareness, give or take a few hundred years. It’s right around the corner.

Ascent and Descent

The two cycles of ascent and descent of the Yugas are tied to the precession of the equinoxes, or the time it takes for one complete rotation in the way the Earth wobbles on its axis. It takes roughly 26,000 years for one precession.

One scholar’s take sees divergent cultures in the world as being at opposing phases, while living concurrently. He sees cultures of the Orient in their descent as traditional, conservative and authoritarian. Younger cultures of the Occident, like the U.S., are ascending and characterized as non-traditional, liberal and revolutionary. Although, since these tend to be younger cultures, their efforts of ascent can be superficial and ostentatious. The two have trouble understanding their opposing world-views as they have different histories and influences, the Orient viewing the Occident as juvenile and materialistic, while the Occident sees the Orient as stiff and antiquated. The goal for greater humanity is for the two to integrate and ascend as one in the long-term. Although we go through periods of descent, we are progressing and evolving over time. And it is thought that it could take up to a million years to pass through the human level to the next state of consciousness.


Parallel Cultures

The ancient Indian civilization was not alone in its cosmic calculations based upon axial precession and our orbit around the galaxy; the ancient Babylonians, Mayans, Greek and Egyptians all had awareness of our astrological presence.

There are parallels between the different ages cited by Hesiod in Greek mythology and the Hindu Yugas. The Golden Age can be thought of as being tantamount to the Satya Yuga, the Silver to the Treta Yuga, The Bronze to the Dwapara Yuga, and the Dark Age to the Kali Yuga. Through these periods we see a degeneration of humanity’s virtue. The two differ, however in that the Greeks saw these ages as linear, as opposed to the Hindu’s cyclical perspective. Although, the Greek’s did see a return to the golden age after humanity’s fall from grace.

The ancient Mayans, while having no contact with ancient India, started their cosmic calendar at about the same time as the ancient Hindu calendar. They predicted periods of death and rebirth, or decline and ascent, marked by disruptions in humanity’s consciousness. Some draw parallels to the end of the fifth great cycle of the Mayan calendar which occurred in December of 2012 with the end of the Kali Yuga. The start of the next cycle on the Mayan calendar promises an age of enlightenment, while the end of the Kali Yuga is also a step in that direction.


ancient mayans


While it may seem that we are living in a world of chaos and uncertainty, there is hope. The descriptions of the Kali Yuga seem a little too fitting when thought of as a template for our current world, but we can take ease in knowing that we are on the up and up. The Yugas essentially show us that these fluctuations in humanity’s consciousness are inevitable and although the time cycles are thousands of years, we’re at least heading in a good direction. There’s only one way to go from here.

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