The Vedic Divisions of Time

SOURCE: Srimad Bhagavat Maha-purana, Canto III, Chapter XI

by Richard S. Brown, GIA, PG


It is only recently that the Western scientists discovered the existence of the atom; but the following ancient Sanskrit verses show that the atom or anu was already known to the Asian seers thousands of years back. 

This information is taken from the Paramahamsa Samhita Bhagavat-puranam: III/XI, which was originally spoken by Sri Sukadeva Goswami 30 years after the start of this current Kali Yuga or exactly 5070 years ago as of 1999 AD. I consider this information to be amazing, especially as it relates to modern scientific discoveries.  Remember, the following information dates back to 3070 BC.

English Translations

Verse 1: (The great sage) Maitreya said: "The smallest particle of material substance, which has not yet combined with any other similar particles, is called paramanu (a sub-atomic particle of matter).   Paramanus always exist both in the dormant and manifest states of material existence. It is the combination of more than one paramanu (sub-atomic particle) which gives rise to the illusory concept of a (material) unit.

Verse 2: And the entire manifest material existence, taken as a non-specific whole, and before returning to an unmanifest (dormant) state, is defined as the largest (material) size.

Verse 3: We can understand the short and long dimensions of (material) time, as a potency of the Supreme all-pervading transcendental Lord, Who, in the form of the Sun, passes across the small and large dimensions of (material) things.

Verse 4: The amount of time it takes the Sun to pass across the smallest particle of matter is called paramanu which is the smallest measure of time, while the period it takes to cross the total expanse of material creation is called the longest measure of time.

Verse 5: A combination of two paramanus constitutes an anu (atom); and three anus (atoms) makes one trasarenu.  Trasarenus are visable [to the naked eye] when seen floating upward in the air while viewed through rays of sunlight which enter a room through a latticed window.

Verse 6: Three Trasarenus  is called a truti (8/13,500 part of a second), which is a measure of time it takes (the Sun) to travel across three Trasarenus. A combination of one hundred trutis is called a vedha (8/135 part of a second), and  three vedas together is known as a lava (8/45 part of a second).

Verse 7: A combination of three lavas is called a nimesha or the twinkling of an eye (8/15 part of a second), while three such nimeshas equals a ksana (8/5 part of a second). A combination of five ksanas is known as a kastha (8 seconds), and fifteen kasthas is equal to a laghu (2 minutes).

Verse 8: A conglomerate of 15 laghus is called a nadika (30 minutes). Two nadikas equal a muhurta (hour), and six or seven nadikas equal a prahara (approximately 3 hours to 3 and a half hours, depending on long or short days), which is a fourth of a day by human calculation.

Verse 9: A nadika can be measured by taking a copper pot weighing six palas (8 tolas=ck dictionary) that can contain about 14 ounces of water and punching a small hole in the bottom using a 10-12" long golden needle that weighs four mashas (ck dictionary); when the pot is placed in water it takes a nadika of time (about 30 minutes) to fill up (and sink).

Verse 10: Oh Vidura, who respect all beings, (the Sage Maitreya continued),  for humans, day and night consist of four yamas (6 hour periods),  while 15 such days & nights make up the bright or dark fortnight, by rotation.

Verse 11: Two of these fortnights (the bright and the dark) equals a masah (one month consisting of 30 days length), and this period is taken as one day and one night of the forefathers (Pitris in heaven). Two of these months equal a ritu or season, while six such months is called an ayana (one full movement of the Sun from North to South or South to North).

Verse 12: By the calculation of the demigods in heaven these two ayanas (12 months by human calculation) make up their celestial day and night which is one year for humans. And the full life span for humans is 100 years. 

to be continued...

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