Manvantaras, pralaya, desiccation of R. Sarasvati and kaalagan.ana (time-reckoning)
Manvantaras (stages of cyclical creation) and kaalagan.ana in the context of the cosmic events of Pralaya and the temporal event of desiccation of River Sarasvati
Many Hindu ancient texts contain a lucid account of the Pralaya, sarga (creation) and visarga (dissolution) in the cosmic dance exemplified by the taand.ava nr.tya of Mahes’vara as Nat.araaja. I am quoting extensively from two accounts of these texts collated by PV Kane and SA Dange.
These texts embody a living oral tradition, of emphatic collective socio-cultural memories, be they related to the super-eruption of Mt. Toba or the submergence of the Kumari-kan.d.am in a great deluge or tsunami. As we traverse into the mists of history, trying to trace peopling of Bharatam in a continuum called Hindu civilization using genetic markers, we also have to relate these markers to the oral traditions which form the basis for the texts written down as Puraan.a-s.
I am fascinated by the brilliant insights of an engineer from IIT, Kharagpur, Shri GV Subramanian who relates the super-eruption of Mt. Toba to Vaivasvata Manu –- Satyavrata of Dravid.ades’a -- in Hindu tradition. I am sure he will document his perceptions (based on earth science interpretations and genetic differentiation markers) in the eternal quest for satyam and heritage. I give below the following two extensive excerpts from Kane and Dange to provide a framework for documenting the traditions of the Hindu community and to contribute to an understanding of the Peopling of Bharatam, say between 74k years ago (Mt. Toba super-eruption) and the flow of Himalayan Glacial Vedic River Sarasvati (say, 10 k years ago).
(quote) Saavarn.ya Manu was a great benefactor and leader of some terrority occurs in RV X.62.11. It is said that each manvantara had a separate set of sages, sons of Manu, gods, kings, smr.tis, Indra and guardians for the proper regulation of dharma and for the protection of the people (Brahma 5.29, VishnuP. II, Ch. 1-2). In the VishnuP. it is said that some gods remain for four yugas, some for a manvantara and some stay for a kalpa. Vishnudharmasootra (ch. XX.1-15) has the same account of Manvantaras and Kalpas as Manu’s but it adds one detail viz. that the whole age of Brahmaa is equal to a day of Purusha (Vishnu) and the night of Purusha is also as long. It is remarkable that the same view is attributed to Alberuni (Sachau vol. I, p. 332) to be Pulis’asiddhaanta. It is not known whether those European scholars who regard Pulis’a to be Paulus Alexandinus have shown that this detal occurs in the work of the Greek Astrologer Paulus. In the Vanaparva (188.22-29) the same account as in Manu occurs except this that 12000 years are called Yuga simply and not caturyuga (as in Manu I.71) The Maarkan.deya P. has a long story about Svaarochisha in chapters 58-65, devotes to Uttama to Caakshusa, chap. 74-76 to Vaivasvata, chap. 77 to Saavarn.i, chap. 78-90 to Devee, chap. 91-95 to Raucya or Ruci, chap. 96-97 is to Bhautya. The word ‘vaivasvata’ (son of Vivasvat, the Sun) is applied to Yama in several passages of the RV (X.14.1, X.58.1, X.60.10, X. 164.2). The Anukraman.ee, however, ascribes RV VIII.27-31 to Vaivasvata Manu as the r.s.i and in one of the Vaalakhilya hymns (RV X.52.1) occus the following verse ‘O Indra! Just as you drank the soma extracted in (the sacrifice of) Manu vivasvat, just as you frequently accept the hymn of praise in (sacrifice of) Aayu. It may be noted that the Manusmr.ti names only the seven Manus (1.61-63) and states that each Manu during his own time (which extended over thousands of years) created the movable and immovable world and protected it, that Manvantaras are numberless (Manusmr.ti I.80) and that the Great God (Parames.t.hin) brought about the creation and destruction of the world during the Manvantaras. Some of the Puraan.as such as Matsya (9.37-39, 142.40, 144, 97-98), Vaayu (59.34), Agni (150.21), Vishn.u (I.3 and VI.3) state that Manu and the seven sages in each Manvantara (i.e. there there is a change of Manu) who are the s’is.t.as that then exist are devoted to dharma, being ordered by Brahmaa for the purpose of continuing the worlds, declare the truth and promulgate the Vedas. Some modern writers (like Dr. Dattari) think (vide ‘The rationalistic and realistic interpretation of the Upanishads’ pp. 2 and 3 published at Nagpur in 1958) that in ancient times there was an Indian institution of public functionaries called Manu and the Saptars.is, whose function was to legislate and promulgate the Vedas. With great respect to the erudite scholar, I disagree with him. The extant Puraan.a passages are less than 2000 years old, while the present Vaivasvata Manvantara started several millions of years ago and even Kaliyuga in which we are deemed to live started in 3102 BCE. Besides, there is a dissolution of the world at each day of Brahmaa, if one is to rely on the Pauraan.ik accounts. How could a tradition of the several Manus survive such pralaya? A rationalistic interpretation requires that all this that is stated in the Puraan.as is mere conjecture and imagination and that one cannot safely build theories about the governance of society in ancient times on the accounts contained in the Puraan.as. The Manusmr.ti (II.19) appears to assign the function of the regulation of the conduct of all men in the world to the learned braahman.as born in Brahmars.ides’a (i.e. Kuruks.etra, the contries of Matsya, Pancala and S’oorasena or Mathuraa) at least after his own code was promulgated…In the Puran.aas pralaya is said to be of four sorts, viz. nitya (the every day deaths of those that are born), naimittika (when a day of Brahmaa ends, then there is a dissolution of the world), praak.tika (when everything dissolves itself into prakr.ti, primordial substance) and aatyantika pralaya is moks.a (liberation of the soul due to correct knowledge of Reality and absorption into the Supreme Spirit). Harrowing descriptions of the naimittika and praakr.tika pralayas are given in several puraan.as. A lengthy description of the naimittika dissolution is contained in Koorma P. II. 45.11-59 of which a brief summary is given here. When the one thousand Caturyugas end, there is the absence of rain for a hundred years; the result is that living beings perish and are reduced to earth; the sun’s rays become unbearable, and even the ocean is dried up; the earth is burnt by the fierce heat of sun together with its mountains, forests and continents. As the sun’s rays fall burning up everything, the whole world presents the appearance of one huge fire. Fire burns everything whether mobile or immovable. The animals in the big seas come out and are reduced to ashed. Then the samvartaka fire growing by the force of the wind burns the whole earth and its flames rise upto a height of thousand yojanas and the flames burn up gandharvas, goblins, yakshas, serpents and raakshasas and not only the earth but the worlds called ‘bhuvah’ and ‘mahah’ ar burnt; then huge samvartaka clouds resembling herds of elephants, lit up by lightning, rise in the sky, some looking like blue lotuses, some yellowish, some having the colour of smoke, some like sealing wax and fill the whole sky and then extinguish the fires by sending down heavy showers. When the fires are extinguished, the clouds of destruction cover the whole world with floods; mountains are concealed and the earth is plunged in waters and all becomes one ocean of water and then god Brahmaa resorts to Yogic sleep. Vanaparva (Chap. 272. 32-48) also contains a brief description of naimittika pralaya. The Koorma P. I.46 and Vishn.u P. 4.12-39 furnish a description of the praakr.tika pralaya which takes Saankhya terminology for granted, and is briefly as follows: when all the worlds including all the nether regions are destroyed by absence of rains and all effects from mahat onwards are destroyed, waters first absorb the gandha (the special quality of the earth) and when gandha-tanmaatra is destroyed, the earth is reduced to water; the special quality of waters, viz. rasa-tanmaatra is destroyed and nothing but fire remains and the whole world is filled with flames, then Vaayu absorbs fire and roopa-tanmaatra vanishes; Vaayu shakes all the ten quarters; aakaas’a absorbs the spars’a-gun.a of Vaayu and only aakaas’a remains as void and s’abda-tanmaatra is gone and in this way the seven prakr.tis including mahat and ahankaara are absorbed in order; even Prakr.ti and Purusha are dissolved in Paramaatman (named Vishn.u). The day of Vishn.u is said to be two Paraardhas of human years. Some works like the Harivams’a (Bhavishaparva chap. 10.12-68) provide that at the end of Kalpa the sage Maarkan.deya alone remains and lies at the time of the Pralaya (or kalpa) in the side of Lord Vishn.u and then comes out of His mouth. The Brahma P. (52.1-19 and 53,55) says that Maarkan.d.eya sees a vat.a tree at the end of Kalpa and a jeweled bed on which he sees a boy lying down (i.e. Vishn.u himself) and then he enters the side of that boy and later comes out. Vide also Matsya 167. (14-66) for the same story in almost the same words. The Bhagavadgeetaa (VIII.18-19) speaks of the recurrent absorption of all beings at the advent of the night of Brahmaa and reappearance of beings when the day of Brahmaa starts. The theory of yugas, manvantaras and kalpas with their fabulous numbers of years and harrowing descriptions of pralaya, appears unreal, bizarre and called up by sheer fancy. But underlying it there is the idea of timelessness of the universe, though from time to time it evolves, gradually declines and perishes, only to reappear in perfection after a cosmic night. There is alsothe hankering after Reality and pursuit of different ideals. It enshrines the ideas that humanity embarks on a certain goal, pursues it with great efforts and, after achieving some success, gives up that goal and the way that was thought to lead to it and pursues some other goal for aeons in the ope that at some distant date it will be able to evolve and construct a perfect society. These ideas are at the bottom of what Manu (I.86) and others (VaayuP 65-66; Paraas’araS I.23; Brahmaan.d.a II.7.59) say ‘Tapas was the highest goal (deemed to yield great results) in Kr.tayuga, knowledge (of the self) was the highest in Tretaa, yajna (sacrifices to God) in Dvaapara, charity alone in Kali’. This further implies that there are different impelling motives in different sages an dmodern men should not assess the actions and ideals. It is implicit in the words of Manu (IX.301) that the four ages are not water tight specific periods of time, but that the Ruler or Government can produce conditions of Kr.ta age in what is popularly called Kali by appropriate conduct or measures and Medhaatithi expressly says so. (Comment on Manu IX.301: kr.tam tretaa yugam caiva dvaaparam kalireva ca raajno vrttaani sarvaan.i raajaa hi yugamucyate; na caivam mantavyam raajnaa kalirnaama kaalavis’esha itihaasaprasiddhah kathamaham syaamiti yato raajno vr.ttaani yugaadi’ medaatithi). Prof. Mankad has a novel theory in a paper on the Manvantaras in IHQ Vol. XVIII pp. 208-230, where he states that the Caturyuga formula took 40 years for a ruling unit and not for one king’s regnal period and that the Manvantara was the regular method of calculating regnal periods of different kings in a dynasty (p. 227). Hardly any scholar has accepted this theory and for reasons of space and relevance, it is not possible to discuss it here. In the details about the theory of yugas, manvantaras and kalpas there are some divergences. A few may be pointed out. Aaryabhat.a appears to hold that the extent of each of the four yugas was the same and not in the traditional proportion of 4,3,2,1, when he says that he was twenty-three years old when three yugapaadas and 3500 years had elapsed (vide Kaalakriyaapaada 10: shasht.abhandaanaam shasht.iryadaa vyateetaasrayas’ca yugapaadaah tryadhikaa vims’atiragrastadeha mama janmanoteetaah – Aaryabhat.eeya, Kaalakriyaapaada Verse 10 ed. Kern). Brahmagupta (I.9) says that though Aaryabhat.a declared that the four paadas of yugas, viz. Kr.ta and the others were equal, not one of them was equal to what the Smr.tis declare them to be. There is another discrepancy also. Aaryabhat.a in his Das’ageetikaa verse 3 states that Manu is a period of 72 yugas, while all the Smr.tis and Puraan.as declare that a manvantara is equal to 71 yugas. Aaryabhat.a appears to have held that the day of Brahmaa is equal to 1008 caturyugas and Brahmgupta (I.12) refers to this view. The celebrated scientific astronomer Bhaaskaraacaarya (born in s’aka 1036, 1114 CE) impatiently says, ‘some say that half of the lifeof Brahmaa (i.e. 50 years) has passed away, whiel others say that half plus eight years have passed away. Whatever the true tradition may be, it is of no use, since planetary positions are to be established from the days that have passed in the current day of Brahmaa’ (unquote) (P.V. Kane, 1994, History of Dharma s’aastra, Pune, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, pp. 691-697).
(quote) Manu. The word indicates a proper name, and also the Lord of an era. Manu is the principal figure in the account of the flood, wherein a fish is said to have saved him (Matsya P. I. 17-35 ff upto end of II. The legend occurs early in S’at.Br. I.8.1.1 ff; Kaat.haka Sam. 11.2; as the father of the human race RV I.80.16; II.33.13 etc.) According to the legend as it occurs in the Matsya P. Manu was giving the oblation to his ancestors, when a little fish fell out of the water that he had collected in the cavity of his palms to offer to the manes. It grew to the size of 16 angulas in one day and night. Manu placed in a big sized vessel. Then in a lake. The fish went on increasing; and Manu had to leave him into the sea. This fish saved him in the deluge (also Agni P. 2.4-16). As the father of manking, Manu became famous; and in different eras different Manu-s are said to rule. The first Manu is said to be Svaayambhuva. Then, in chronological order, they are svaarocisha, Auttama, Taamasa, Raivata, Caakshusa, Vaivasvata, Saavarn.i, Daaksha saavarn.i, Brahma saavarn.i, Dharma saavarn.i, Rudra saavarn.i, Raucya and Bhautya (Garuda P. I. 87.1 ff.) There is slight change in the case of certain names; thus, in the place of Daaksha saavarn.i there is Arka saavarn.i (saavarn.i indicates in all places ‘the son of saavarn.aa’; savarn.aa is the wife of Vivasvant, the aspect of the sun); and in the place of Bhautya, there appears bhootya (Sk. P. VII. 1.105.39-40). The S’iva P. (V.34.2-5) does not mention Vaivasvata, Daksha saavarn.i_, and Bhautya (or Bhootya); but instead again Manu, Deva saavarn.i and Indra saavarn.i. An era, presided over by each of these Manus is called manvantara (‘different Manu’). Each of the Manus is said to have his sons, the seers in that manvantara, the gods in it, the Indra (‘Lord’ in this context) and the incarnation (ibid., Agni P. 219.14-16; also Koorma P. I.49.4 ff; Maark. P. 53.6 ff.; Brahmaan.d.a P. II.4.1.9 ff; also I.2.36.3 ff; Brahma P. I.53 ff). The Agni P. (150.1-21) has Vipas’cit in the place of the Svaarocisha, and Uttama for Auttama; it has also Sooryaputra, the son of the sun from Chaayaa in the place of Rudra saavarn.i (actually saavarn.aa was the substitute of Saran.yoo, the wife of Vivasvant, whom she placed for herself and ran away to her father’s place, being unable to bear the luster of her husband); (see ‘Chaayaa’, ‘Earth’). The fourteen Manus are identified with 14 letters (Sk. P. I.2.5.71 ff). Legends about the creation of certain Manus obtain. According to the Brahma P. (I.53-55) Vishn.u created Viraaj; the latter created Purusha (the man); he himself is Manu; he created the various manvantaras. Purusha was himself the Prajaapati (‘Lord of creation’) and Svaayambhuva. He married S’ataroopaa, who was born supernaturally (ayan-jaa, ‘not born from the female organ’). Every manvantara consists of seventy-one yugas (eras) (Ib. 2.1.4). According to the Maark. P. (50.9-10) from the wrath of Brahmaa was produced Svaayambhuva Manu, having a two-fold nature – man and woman into one (Ib. 10 ardhanaari_naravapuh). He divided his body in many forms to suit S’araroopaa (‘Of hundred forms’). Among the Manus, Caakshusa has an interesting account. Apart from the fact that he is born from the eye (cakshus) of Brahmaa, he is said to have been born, in one of his previous births, to Giribhadraa, the queen of the king of Avantee. But, soon after his birth, he was transferred by an evil power to Haiminee, the wife of king Vikraanta, whose fresh-born babe was carried by the evil power to a Brahman.a’s wife, whose fresh-born she (the Evil power) devoured. Vikraanta names the (transferred) child Aananda (Mark. P. 76.2 ff). The Sk. P. (V.2.33), which records the account, gives the name of the king of Avantee as Agnimitra. Aananda was destined to be the Sixth Manu. The account uses the well-known motif of transfer of foetus. Taamasa Manu is said to be the son of king Svaraashtra and Utpalaavatee. He is said to be so named as he was born when Utpalaavatee was in her taamasa birth (i.e., birth marked by unholy acts). He is said to have gained many divine powers by propitiating the Sun-god, and defeated his enemy Vimarda (Maark. P. 74.48-52). The following chart gives various entities in the reign of various Manus according to the Garud.a P. (I.87.1 ff; cf. Agni. P. 150.1-21 for slight variation).
Svaayambhuva (Sons: Aagneedhra etc.); Vishnu incarnation: Cakradhara
Svaarochisha (Sons : Man.d.ales’vara, Ravi etc.) Vishnu incarnation : elephant form
Auttama (Sons : Aaja, Paras’u etc.) Vishnu incarnation : Fish-form
Taamasa (Sons : Jaanujangha, Nirbhaya etc.) Vishnu incarnation: Tortoise-form
Raivata (Sons: Ampran.a, Saadhaka etc.) Vishnu incarnation : Swan-form
Chaakshusa (Sons : Uru, Puru etc.) Vishnu incarnation : Horse-form
About Chaayaa : ‘Chaayaa comes in the Vedic myth of the Sun (in his aspect of Vivasvaan) and Saran.yoo, which states that the former ran after the latter to unite with her. The latter took the form of a mare; hence the former took that of a horse (RV. X.17.2) To avoid the sun, Saran.yoo (who is called Sanjnaa in the Puraan.a-s) created her substitute names Chaayaa. When the sun united with Chaayaa, Saavarn.ee Manu, S’ani (the planet Saturn) and the daughter Tapatee were born, while Yama was the son of the sun from Sanjnaa. Chaayaa loved her children more than she did Yama. This enranged Yama, who cursed her to be black. Yama raised his foot to hit Chaayaa, his step-mother. The latter cursed hism that his foot will fall off (Maark. P. 77.11-35). The Brahma P. (6.9 ff) which as the same account, adds that Sanjnaa created the substitute, as she was unable to bear the luster of the sun. When Yama complained to the sun of the ill-treatment of Chaayaa, the sun held her by her hair and admonished her (Ib. 33-34). The same account occurs further also (Ib. 32.52 ff). When the sun united with Sanjnaa in his horse-form, the latter doubted him to be another person and threw off his semen from her mouth and nose; thence were born the twin-gods As’vins (S’iva P. V. 35.32-34). Earlier when Chaayaa was rebuked by the sun for the ill-treatment of Yama, she told that she was not Sanjnaa; that the latter was busy practicing yoga in the forest (Ib. 26 vane vasati s’aadvale), not being able to bear the sun’s luster. Chaayaa then made the sun’s luster mild (Ib. 26-29). The Brahmaan.d.a P. (I.2-36.96-98) has a different story. According to it one Sr.s.t.i was the son of Dhruva and Bhoomi. Sr.s.t.i told his own shadow to be a woman. Hence his shadow became a woman, from whom Sr.s.t.i produced five sons. Obviously, the story has no connection with the Chaaya-Sanjnaa myth. (unquote)(Sadashiv Ambadas Dange, 1987, Encyclopaedia of Puranic beliefs and practices, Navrang, New Delhi, pp. 989-992).
29 May 2008