Dasha-Avtaar and the Four Eras

2013 07 04 Dashavatar

As a child I was really fascinated about the story of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu – known as Dasha-Avtaar, especially the stories about Rama and Krishna. It gave me immense joy to read that when the amount of evil goes up, the Lord descends into the mortal world to bring sanity.

As I grew older, I started reading more about Hinduism as a religion and its beliefs. Some of them were acceptable while some were rejected outright. However it was always interesting to read them. One such topic which I really enjoyed reading – is about the four yugas (eras). The scripts say that there are four eras of existence and at the end of the fourth era, the current existence will cease and a new cycle will begin. The new cycle will again have four eras. The four eras are – satyuga, tretyuga, dwaparyuga and kalyuga.

There are some interesting relationships between these eras and how nature, mankind and the concept of God has evolved. Some relationships may have been inferred in hindsight but they all are very interesting. There is a co-relation between the eras and the incarnations of the Lord Vishnu in each of these eras.

The Yugas – The four eras have a ratio of 4:3:2:1 for the number of years in each era. Thus dwaparyuga is twice the kalyuga, tretyuga is thrice the kalyuga and satyuga is four times the kalyuga. Lord Vishnu has incarnations in the same ratio – 4 in satyuga, 3 in tretyuga, 2 in dwaparyuga and 1 in kalyuga. Let us look at each of these eras in the context of the incarnations taken by Lord Vishnu.

Satyuga – Each life led was 100% virtuous. All aspects of life were of virtuous nature, making the entire era a virtuous era. Average human lifespan at the start of the era was about 100,000 years. Hence there were rare cases of mankind taking to the evil path. Lord Vishnu had four incarnations in this era – Matsya (the fish), Kurma (the tortoise), Varaha (the boar) and Narsimha (the man-lion). The first three were purely in animal form and only the fourth had a combination of man and animal (lion). It clearly shows that in the virtuous world, the lord did not prefer to take form of the human to bring sanity. Probably he felt that man is not virtuous enough to bring a positive change.

Tretyuga – Life was 75% virtue and 25% sinful. Average human lifespan at the start of the era was 10,000 years. Lord Vishnu had three incarnations in this era – Vamana (the dwarf), Parshuram (the warrior saint) and Rama (the perfect man). Each of the incarnations was in human form and had something sinful about them, though the positive aspects completely overshadowed the negatives. The incarnations kept in time with the basic soul of the era.

Dwaparyuga – Life was half virtue and half sinful. Average lifespan at the start of the era was 1000 years. Lord Vishnu had two incarnations in this era – Krishna (the Yadav prince) and Buddha (the saint). Krishna tried to reduce the sinful nature prevalent at the time to an extent that he had to be part of a war to bring sanity. Buddha was so exasperated with all the negative aspects of life that he chose to denounce the human life in search of enlightenment and truth. The sinful nature of human life had taken its toll on the incarnations. They had given up on bringing a change through positive actions.

Kalyuga – This is the era we live in today. Life is only one –quarter virtue and three-quarters sinful. Average lifespan at the start of this era was 100 years. It is said that as the era ends, the average human lifespan will be approximately 20 years. Lord Vishnu will have one incarnation in this era – Kalki (warrior on the white horse) who will guide the world to destruction. There will be so much sin that the Lord will have no option but to end the world. And begin afresh with a new virtuous world.

Disclaimer – The blog is not intended to promote religion or religious beliefs but to look at the story telling aspect of mythology and their relation to the world we currently live in.


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