A lot importance is given in our culture and tradition to the concept of time and place. Choosing proper time for starting and doing any important activity is an integral part of our culture. Lots of research has been done in this regard since ancient times and our Rishis have shared many insights which were revealed to them during their deep meditation.
Before doing any religious ritual it is customary to state the purpose and intention (sankalpa) while also stating the time and place of taking such sankalpa. It is not only customary to remember the current time and place, the current place and time are remembered in the context of larger scales of space and time.
Let us examine the sankalpa – stating of intention- done before the start of puja. If a person named Kalpesh belonging to Bharadwaja gotra is in Bengaluru and is doing puja to Lord Ganesha at 8 AM on 15. 09.2022 for the purpose of seeking the welfare of the society, he may recite something like this:
“Jambudveepe, Merur Dakshina bhaage, Bhaaratavarshe, Bharatha Khande, Kaveri Uttara teere, Bangaluru nagare, Shobhana Gruhe, Devata Sannidhau, ……
Aadya Bramhane, Dvitiya Paraarde, Sri Shweta Varaaha Kalpe, Vaivasvata Manvantare, Kaliyuge, Kali Prathama Charane, Bauddhaavathare, Shalivaahana sakhe… Asmin Vartamaane, Vyavahaarike, Chaandramanena, Sri Subhakrit (शुभकृत ) Samvatsare , Dakshinaayane, Sarad Rutau, Bhadrapada Maase, Krishna Pakshe, Panchami Thithau, Soumya Vaasare, Satabhisha Nakshatre, Soubhagya Yoge, Baalava Karane, Evam guna visheshana vishistayaam, shubha tithau, Bharadwaja Gothrothpanna, Aham Kalpesh Namdheya samaja kalyanartham, Shri Ganapati Prithyartham, Bhagavat preranaaya; praapta Vidyaa anusaarena; Yatha Sakthi Dhyaana-Aavaahanaadi Shodasa Upachaara Poojam Karishye…”
First the present place is remembered in the context of the whole continent that the place is part of. The ancients referred the whole land mass consisting of Europe, Asia and Africa as Jambudweepa. From this sankalpa we also understand that the idea of India is an ancient one even though some modern intellectuals would have us believe that it is only of recent origin.
While describing time, from the largest conceivable unit of time upto the unit of time known as Karana (consisting of a certain number of hours). The present time, step by step is put in the context of larger and larger units of time. Psychologically, if one becomes aware of such lager concepts of time and place, there is an immediate expansion of one’s consciousness. It may also be an humbling experience, when we realise that our present time and place are so negligible in the context of such large units of time and place. At the same time our consciousness is brought to the present time and place. Thus, even though the present time is so negligible in the context of larger units of time and space, all that matters to us is here and now.
The largest unit of time mentioned here is Brahmana. It is said that each daytime or night time of Brahma is equal to 43.2 crore human years. The twelve hour day of Brahma is called kalpa and the twelve hour nigh of Brahma is called as pralaya. Thus the world is created a fresh for each kalpa with the rise of Brahma in his morning and it attains to pralaya (dissolution) when Brahma goes to take rest in his evening. The life span of Brahma is 100 brahman years. Currently we are in the 51st year of present Brahma’s life. Hence, in the sankalpa it is mentioned as adi brahmane dwitiya parardhe … i.e. first year of the second half of his life. When present Brahma completes 100 years of his Brahma life, i.e after 49 more pralayas and 49 more kalpas, it will be the time for mahapralaya – the great dissolution.
So presently it is the 1st day (not night) of the 1st month of the Day of Brahma. As has already been said each twelve hour day of Brahma is called as kalpa and presently we are going through the kalpa known as the shweta varaha kalpa.
Once again each kalpa is divided into 14 manvantaras, a different manu being the ruler of each manvantara. Presntly we are in the 7th manvantara and its ruler is Vaivashwatha manu. Each manvantara lasts for 100 manu years.
A manvantara in turn consists of 71 chatur-yugas. A chaturyuga means a combination of four yugas known as Satya yuga, Treta yuga, Dvapara yuga and Kali yuga. Kali Yuga lasts 4,32,000 human years and each preceding yuga respectively is twice, thrice and four times that of Kali Yuga. At present we are in the 28th kali yuga of seventh manvantara of the 51st kalpa. It is said that Dvapara yuga ended and Kali yuga started with the death of Lord Sri Krishna in 3102 BC.
In the example given in the context of the puja sankalpa done in Bengaluru, the time and dates are given as 8 AM on 16.09.2022. The corresponding time and other details as per Indian calander will be 2079 Vikram Samvat, Dakshinayana (Sun’s sidereal movement is towards south), Bhadrapada month, Sharad ritu, Krishna Paksha, Sashthi Tithi, Shukravara, Krittika Nakshatra, Vajra yoga, Vanija Karana. For someone in Odisha everything will be same other than the fact that the month will be Aswina since, in Odisha, the full moon marks the end of a month and not the no moon day as is done in the south India states.
In day to day practice our concept of date stops at the year. We feel this day 16.9.2022 is unique in the whole time continuum since the beginning of time. However, during the sankalpa our attention is not only taken to the larger concepts of time but also to the cyclic nature of time. When we think of the large concept of time consisting of crores of years we realize our insignificance. At the same time somewhere we feel that we have been here for ever and we will be there for ever when our attention is drawn to the cyclic nature of time.
It is not that our ancestors only thought of larger concepts of time beyond a year. They also conceptualized subtler and subtler levels of time contained within a second. Thus they imagined time not only at a grander macro scale but also in near imperceptible mico scales. The lowest unit of time mentioned in many ancient texts is truti which is 8/13,500 of a second. Vedic texts mention the lowest division of time as paramanu which is 1/18 of a truti.
Another interesting thing to note is that our ancestors had already known from their insights about the relative nature of time even though it may be difficult at the surface level to imagine that even experience of time can be relative. Such concept is getting the attention of scientists only in recent times. A day of Brahma is equal to 86.4 crore human years. Which means our hundred years does not last even an eye blink of Brahma. It may be easy to imagine the relative concept of time, when we come to know that there are living beings inside our body who live and die by the minutes. For them our minute could be like hundred years of their life.
According to ancient texts, apart from Brahma there are other higher realms where they experience time to make our life span insignificant compared to theirs. A year of manu is equal to 30,67,200 human years and a year of devas is equal to 360 human years. Even the pitru-lok, where our ancestors are temporarily put up, have their year equal to 30 of our years.
Even though one may dispute the existence of various lokas stating that such things have not been scientifically proven so far, one cannot ignore the amazing discovery of our ancients about the relative nature of time. Of course there should not be any dispute about the psychological aspect of doing the sankalpa by reciting all units of time and place.