Yugadharma

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Yugadharma literally means ‘characteristics of the four yugas’.

The purāṇas often mention the four yugas which come and go in a cyclic order. They are:

  1. Kṛta
  2. Tretā
  3. Dvāpara
  4. Kali

They are actually epochs differing from one another in their characteristic features.

Yugadharmas as per Parāśarasamrti

One of the simple but nice descriptions of such characteristics called yuga-dharmas is found in the Parāśarasamrti[1] It is briefed as follows:

Characteristics of Krtayuga

  • In the Krtayuga, tapas or austerity was given the most important place in life.
  • The Manusmṛti was the standard work, the rules of which were strictly followed.
  • Since it was also called Satyayuga, people would leave the country itself if they saw sinful deeds committed anywhere.
  • Even talking to a sinner was considered a sin.
  • Curses uttered by the people, since they were extremely pious, would take effect immediately.
  • Donors were so generous that they themselves would personally approach the needy and give them what they wanted.

Characteristics of Tretāyuga

  • In the Tretāyuga there was slight deterioration in the standards of ethical life.
  • Jñāna or knowledge was considered all-important.
  • The Gautamadharmasutras was the standard text followed.
  • People would desert their village itself if they saw sinful deeds committed.
  • Even accidentally touching a sinner was itself considered a sin.
  • A curse uttered against anyone would act within ten days.
  • Generous donors would give gifts after calling or inviting the needy ones.

Characteristics of Dvāparayuga

  • In the Dvāparayuga dharma declined further to the tune of fifty percent.
  • Yajña[2] was the order of the day.
  • The Sañkha-likhita-dharmasutras was the main authority for dharma.
  • If in any family dharma was transgressed even by one, the whole family was abandoned.
  • Anyone accepting food from a sinner was deemed to have sinned himself.
  • Curses uttered would take a month to become effective.
  • Gifts used to be given after the person begged for it.

Characteristics of Kaliyuga

  • The Kaliyuga was deemed to be the worst.
  • Dharma would have decreased to such an extent with only a quarter left behind.
  • If a sin were committed by a person, only he had to be abandoned.
  • Persons perpetrating sinful deeds were considered depraved.
  • Curses would take a year to become effective.
  • Gifts would be given only after extracting service.
  • In Kaliyuga, dharma and satya[3] would be overcome by adharma and anṛta.[4]
  • Servants would rule over kings and women over men.
  • Religious rites like Agnihotra would decline, honoring elders would disappear and young girls give birth to babies.
  • Thus there would be an all-round decline of values.

Conclusion

The Parāśarasamrti was considered the final authority for the guidance of punishment of any sins committed.


References

  1. He lived in circa A. D. 100.
  2. Yajña means Vedic rituals.
  3. Satya means truth.
  4. Anṛta means untruth.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore