Sunday, January 21, 2018

Divya and Dharma - the two sides of the Yuga classification (Part 4)

Previous articles:  Part 1 Part 2 & Part 3

 Textual and epigraphic evidence of Dharma Yuga

There are two evidences to show that Dharma yuga classification of Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali was in vogue until a few centuries ago. One is deduced from the commentaries given by Naccinārkkiniyar and Ilampuranar to the Sangam age Grammar book Tolkāppiyam. Another is found in the Cholan inscriptions discovered at Tiruvalangadu.

Evidence from Tol Kappiyam.

Taking up the first, two sutras in Porul Adhikaram of Tol Kappiyam, had been interpreted in terms of Yuga differences. These sutras speak about the ritual of marriage. Of them verse 142 of Porul Adhikaram says,

There was a time when the 4th varna also had marriage rituals like the first three varnas”

Then verse 143 says,

Once lies and cheating started setting in, marriage rituals were laid out by Iyer (Brahmins)”

These two verses have been the eye of the storm for many passionate debates in the past, but what everyone ignored was that there was reference to Yuga dharma behind these verses which the two ancient commentators (who lived 1000 years ago) had mentioned. (Others also might have written, but I am quoting only these two, as I have read only these two)

The first one (V:142) was interpreted to mean that at some time the past there were no differences between the Varnas and all had the same kind of marriage customs. The marriage rituals were common for all. Or perhaps they were absent. The two commentators call that age as the ‘First oozhi’!

Oozhi means deluge and it is also interpreted as Yuga in Tamil lexicons. In the 1st Yuga that is., Krita yuga, there were no differences in terms of varna, no differences between Vedas and people led a dharmic life without selfish motives. In such scenario, there was no need for a ritual of marriage as the couple in love with each other were sincere and honest in their commitment to each other. Such was the Yuga dharma of Krita.

In the 2nd verse (V:143) it is said that in due course lies and offences started creeping in. The commitment to each other was breached for reasons of sorts and relationships were not honoured. This necessitated sages to devise rituals for all the varnas so that the couple would be forced to make a sort of promise in front of everyone to remain committed to each other. The commentators say that this happened in 2nd Oozhi, that is, Treta Yuga.

This idea has a parallel with marriage rituals of Grihya sutras. This also reminds us of the narrations in old texts on the absence of restriction in relationship between man and woman, though married to someone else. The case of Brihaspati desiring Mamata when she was carrying Dhirgatamas looks like an incident of that yuga or happening at the time of decline of Krita yuga and becoming Treta Yuga. Dhirgatamas also was found to have done a breach of the same kind that resulted in the birth of Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundara etc who went on to found kingdoms in their names.

When transgressions started to take place, rules were laid down by means of rituals as a kind of agreement between the couple. The commentary to Tol Kappiyam verses show that this marked the arrival of Treta yuga. In Treta yuga, Rama stood as an epitome virtue in honouring the marriage vow. Not only that, he emulated every kind of virtue such that he came to be known as “Dharmavan vigraha”. Dharma in full form is an identity of Krita Yuga where Dharma stood in all four feet. Rama was an embodiment of Krita yuga Dharma but lived in Treta Yuga.

For our discourse, we cannot miss out the fact that the yuga classification in vogue about 1000 years ago as known from the commentators of Tol Kappiyam was not in terms of lakhs of years, but only in terms of Dharma – the dharma spoken in this context was that of honouring a lifelong commitment of togetherness between a male and a female. In Krita yuga that commitment existed without any formal promises. In Treta yuga formal promises were made. In Dwapara Yuga, such formal promises were made to many. In Kali yuga promises are no guarantee for non- cheating.

Evidence of 4 yugas in Cholan inscription.

Evidence from the Vaishnavite chronicles was cited earlier on how a brief period of Dwapara yuga was experienced during the reign of Pallavas when four Azhwars lived. Few centuries after them, the Cholan king Rajendra Chola-I came to power in whose name a grant was given. The inscription delivering this grant gives the genealogy of Cholas and also says after whose rule the respective yuga got ended.  The genealogy contains a split-up of the four yugas with the names of kings spread out in those yugas. Interestingly, the Cholas claim descent from the same ancestry of Rama! So it is possible to compare the Cholan lineage of Kings with that of Rama given in Valmiki Ramayana and find out where or after whom the yuga has changed.

Both the lineages are given below in a tabular form with yuga endings (as given in the inscription) highlighted. The full text of the inscriptions can be read here.






Puranjaya (Kakutstha)



Satyavrata (Rudrajit)

Chola (founded Chola dynasty)
Bhageerata (brought Ganga)
Chitradhanvan (brought Kavery)

((V. 35.) Having come to know that king Bhagiratha engrossed in penance brought down (from heaven) the river of gods (i.e., Ganga) (to earth), this king (also) desirous to fame brought her (i.e., Ganga) to his dominions under the name Kaverakanyaka (i.e., Kaveri).)

















Vasu (Uparichara)





The table shows that Krita yuga was counted from a decipherable time scale in Bharatavarsha.

Krita Yuga

Manu, Ikshvaku and Prithu belonged to the Krita Yuga. A narration in Mahabharata (12-29) says that the earth yielded crops without being tilled in Pritu’s times. That is exactly the nature of Krita yuga.
In Krita yuga food was available without being cultivated. As time went by scarcity came up and there arose a need to cultivate food crops, but even then there was minimal or nil efforts like breaking the ground. That was Treta yuga.

But when that also failed to satisfy the needs of the people, efforts like ploughing the ground were done. That marks Dwapara yuga where Balarama stood as a symbol of ushering in that culture.
Kali yuga is marked by scarcity of food inspite of intense cultivation leading to methods not found in Nature to procure food.

Cultivation pattern in Krita and Treta yuga supported by rice genetics.

Currently inputs from archaeo-botanical studies on rice genetics in India are available. There is scope to deduce when planned cultivation started and when rice was available in nature. There is evidence of naturally occurring wild rice since 20,000 before present in the eastern part of Asia that includes China and Sundaland (includes Malaysia and Indonesia). In India, South east Tamilnadu with adjoining North West Srilanka and eastern parts of North India are found to have produced naturally occurring wild rice.

In the figure below, the regions marked as P had produced wild rice since 20,000 years BP.

Fuller:2011. Map of wild rice zones since 20,000 BP  (marked as P) in comparion to expansion since 9,000 BP (marked as H). Recent populations are marked in crosses and circles.

If naturally occurring rice (food) that grows without effort is an evidence of Krita yuga, its occurrence was very minimal in Bharatavarsha, and confined to SE Tamilnadu. (Rice is a marker of Vedic culture as it is offered in yajnas)

It was only from the times of 8th to 6th millennium BCE we find evidence of domesticated rice Oryza sativa, showing signs of planned cultivation. Planned cultivation with little effort is a feature of Treta Yuga.

Regions of domesticated rice are shown in the figure below.

In the above figure, Lahuradewa in trans-Sarayu region shows signs of rice cultivation between 6th to 5th millennium BCE.

In Koldihwa and Mahagara (both in Allahabad district), rice domestication is found at three different levels between 8th and 6th Millenium BCE (7505 -7033, 6190 – 5764, 5432- 5051) (sources here and here)

From this we can say that the upper limit of Treta Yuga was 8th millennium BCE and lower limit was 5th millennium BCE. Within this period Vindhya- Ganga- Ghaghara region was producing rice with not much effort. Ikshvakus of Sarayu, Kushikas of Vishwamitra, Jamadagni and his son Parashurama were living in these regions.

Junction of Krita and Treta yuga

In the above table there is a long gap between Dhruvasandhi and Bharata in Rama’s lineage within which many kings had come up in Cholan lineage though the first Chola had not yet appeared in this period. But Krita Yuga ended in this period, that is before Bharata (son of Dushyanta) and after Dhruvasandhi.

The name Dhruvasandhi seems to convey some hidden meaning as it occurs before the end of Krita yuga. Does his name signify a period when the earth’s axis was pointing to a region in the sky in between two pole stars? Or was there a switch over from one pole star to another at that time? Or did that mark the end of Krita Yuga? More research is needed on all these. 

Dharma of Treta Yuga

Cholan inscription shows that Sibi, Dushyanta and Bharata belonged to Treta Yuga. Interestingly the Tol Kappiyam’s notion on marriage rituals applies to all these three.

Sibi was born to Madhavi who was given in marriage to four different kings for the sake of fulfilling a promise of someone (Gavala) unconnected with her, to whom Madhavi’s father had given a word. After getting a child in each marriage she returned to her father, again becoming eligible for a marriage she liked. Marriage ritual was in place in her times (Treta Yuga) but travesty has happened. It shows the struggle to come to terms with adherence to marriage promises.

Dushyanta who was in love with Shakuntala breached the trust she had in him. The decline from Krita yuga dharma of trust can be noticed here. Finally Dushyanta realised his mistake and accepted Shakuntala and his son born to her. He decided to ‘cherish’ the child and hence the child came to be known as Bharata – the name given to our country, for, our country is also being cherished by Dharma (of Vedas).

Bharata married three women and got nine children from them, but he did not accept any of them, for, they were not like him. One of them was Chola – as known from the genealogy in the inscription. He seemed to have left home and came far down to South and established a country of his own in Pumpukar which was known as Sambapati at that time (where Sambu devi / Jambhu devi of Jambhu Dweepa did her penance in a remote past). The Cholans prided in calling themselves as Sembians – descendants of Sibi! Perhaps the harsh treatment at the hands of his father Bharata made Chola shun his memory but cling on to Sibi, an earlier king as a role-model. For our analysis we find transgression was committed by Bharata also, in marriage vows.

Ganga and Kavery brought out in Treta Yuga.

Bhageeratha brought down Ganga from the Himalayas in Treta Yuga. A reference to him in the inscription says that the Cholan king Chitadhanvan was inspired by him in getting Kavery from Kodagu to his land at Pumpukar.

It is in the same yuga Rama was born. With Rama, Treta Yuga ended. It seems no kings of great fame were there around the times of Rama in the Cholan dynasty. In a correlation we find reference to Pandyan king in the narration of Sugreeva in Valmiki Ramayana and not any king of Cholan dynasty. Perhaps Cholas were subdued around that time by Pandyans.

Dwapara Yuga

By the time of Rama, decline of Dharma started setting in as known from the episode involving Sambuka in Uttara khanda. After Rama, Treta Yuga declined and Dwapara started.  In Cholan geneology not many famous kings were there during that period.

Kali yuga

The name Perunatkilli appearing in Kali yuga followed by Karikal Chola shows that Kali yuga in Dharmic scale had started only 2000 years ago. In this context a word on Manu neeti Cholan must be told here. This king, praised as having followed the rule of Law of Manu of Krita Yuga, did not find mention in the genealogy of the above inscription. Even his original name is not told anywhere. We come to know of him mainly from Silappadhikaram, a post Sangam text.

Dharma of Manu neeti Chola

Looking for reasons why his reign cannot be considered as Krita in Kali yuga, there are clues to the contrary.

This king finds mention in Mahavamsa (Ch 21), a Buddhist text. This king’s history is recounted in that text in the context of a fight with King Dutthagamini of Anuradhapura. The episode on execution of his son for giving justice to a cow is also mentioned in this text.

Bell and cow of Manu Neeti Cholan

Other episodes of such extraordinary action, not known to Tamils are also found mentioned in that chapter of Mahavamsa. The name of the king is given as “Elara” belonging to 3rd / 2nd century BCE. In local folklore in Srilanka he is known as “Ellalan”. This sounds like Ellavan (a Tamil word) which is another name for Sun. This name looks plausible as the Cholas belonged to Solar dynasty.

The main part of his life that remains unknown in Tamil lands is that this king lost a war with Dutthagamini by whom he was killed in the war field near Anuradhapura. The 25th chapter of Mahavamsa gives details of this war and on how this king was cremated with honours as a mark of respect for his sense of justice. A stupa also was erected at the place of cremation and he was worshiped at the time Mahavamsa was written.

Till mid-1800s the above stupa known as Dakshina Stupa was considered as Elara’s tomb.

On coming to know of the demise of the king, the king’s nephew, the heir-apparent to the throne went to Anuradhapura. He spurned calls for truce but died on the war front. In this backdrop, one can imagine the gloom and turmoil in the Cholan lands at that time, which means difficulties in establishing Dharma in all spheres.

Though he followed Manu neeti in punishing his son, the fact remains that the land lost a legitimate heir to the throne. The next-in-line was also lost in a war in foreign land. There was a crisis to the throne and danger from external aggression. Under such conditions, only Kali yuga dharma could have prevailed. The absence of this king’s name in the genealogy could perhaps be due to troubled times that followed his tenure. It is unfortunate this king didn’t live long to give a Dharmic rule.

Start of Kali yuga in Bharatavarsha.

After the decline of Indus- Saraswathi civilization, many people of Dvaraka region along with Vel, Velir etc (ploughing community inspired by Balarama of Dwapara yuga) had migrated to Tamil lands. The Dharma they followed formed the focus of many poems of Purananauru (Sangam text). The last of them were Adyaman, Paari etc. Once they were eliminated, no more kings were there to establish the rule of higher yuga. Kali Yuga had set in around that time.

Using the same scale one can analyse the dynasties of north India in pre-Common Era to know the level of Yuga dharma. But Kali settled down in full force in Bharatavarsha during invasions in the last 1000 years. It seems to have reached the breaking limit of 3/4th Adharma in the present times.
It cannot grow any further, as 1/4th of Dharma is still firm in this land. At this stage we find a gradual awakening among people of all sides desiring the rule of Dharma in this land and willing to push out Adharma. As this happens gradually, 1/4th Dharma of Kali would start growing more and more until it reaches its full strength.

Recalling the words of  Vishnu Purana (4-24),

“.. the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened, and shall be as pellucid as crystal. The men who are thus changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who shall follow the laws of the Krita age, or age of purity.”

There is hope at the end of the tunnel. It is Time that makes Yugas. It is time that makes Kali. More and more people becoming aware is also the play of Kali. Time and Dharma cannot be separated.