Dharma and Yuga
Hanuman describes the yugas, as recounted in Mahabharata CXLVIII :
Thus addressed, that mighty monkey said with a smile, 'That form of mine neither thou, not any one else can behold. At that age, the state of things was different, and doth not exist at present. In the Krita age, the state of things was one; and in the Treta, another; and in the Dwapara, still another. Diminution is going on this age; and I have not that form now.
The ground, rivers, plants, and rocks, and siddhas, gods, and celestial sages conform to Time, in harmony with the state of things in the different yugas. Therefore, do not desire to see my former shape, O perpetuator of the Kuru race. I am conforming to the tendency of the age. Verily, Time is irresistible' Bhimasena said, 'Tell me of the duration of the different yugas, and of the different manners and customs and of virtue, pleasure and profit, and of acts, and energy, and of life and death in the different yugas.'
Thereupon Hanuman said, 'O child, that yuga is called Krita when the one eternal religion was extant. And in that best of yugas, every one had religious perfection, and, therefore, there was no need of religious acts. And then virtue knew no deterioration; nor did people decrease. It is for this that this age is called Krita (perfect). But in time the yuga had come to be considered as an inferior one.
And, O child, in the Krita age, there were neither gods, nor demons, nor Gandharvas, nor Yakshas, nor Rakshasas, nor Nagas. And there was no buying and selling. And the Sama, the Rig, and the Yajus did not exist. And there was no manual labour. And then the necessaries of life were obtained only by being thought of. And the only merit was in renouncing the world. And during that yuga, there was neither disease, nor decay of the senses. And there was neither malice, nor pride, nor hypocrisy, nor discord, nor ill-will, nor cunning, nor fear, nor misery, nor envy, nor covetousness.
And for this, that prime refuge of Yogis, even the Supreme Brahma, was attainable to all. And Narayana wearing a white hue was the soul of all creatures. And in the Krita Yuga, the distinctive characteristics of Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras were natural and these ever stuck to their respective duties. And then Brahma was the sole refuge, and their manners and customs were naturally adapted to the attainment of Brahma and the objects of their knowledge was the sole Brahma, and all their acts also had reference to Brahma. In this way all the orders attained merit.
And one uniform Soul was the object of their meditation; and there was only one mantra (the Om), and there was one ordinance. And although of different characteristics, all of them followed a single Veda; and they had one religion. And according to the divisions of time, they led the four modes of life, without aiming at any object, and so they attained emancipation.
The religion consisting in the identification of self with Brahma indicates the Krita Yuga. And in the Krita Yuga, the virtue of the four orders is throughout entire in four-fold measure. Such is the Krita Yuga devoid of the three qualities.
Do thou also hear from me of the character of the Treta Yuga. In this age, sacrifices are introduced, and virtue decreaseth by a quarter. And Narayana (who is the Soul of all creatures) assumeth a red colour. And men practise truth, and devote themselves to religion and religious rites. And thence sacrifices and various religious observances come into existence. And in the Treta Yuga people begin to devise means for the attainment of an object; and they attain it through acts and gifts. And they never deviate from virtue. And they are devoted to asceticism and to the bestowal of gifts.
And the four orders adhere to their respective duties; and perform rites. Such are the men of the Treta Yuga.
In the Dwapara Yuga, religion decreaseth by one half. And Narayana weareth a yellow hue. And the Veda becometh divided into four parts. And then some men retain (the knowledge of) the four Vedas, and some of three Vedas, and some of one Veda, while others do not know even the Rig. And on the Shastras becoming thus divided, acts become multiplied.
And largely influenced by passion, people engage in asceticism and gifts. And from their incapacity to study the entire Veda, it becomes divided into several parts. And in consequence of intellect having decreased, few are established in truth. And when people fall off from truth, they become subject to various diseases; and then lust, and natural calamities ensue. And afflicted with these, people betake themselves to penances. And some celebrate sacrifices, desiring to enjoy the good things of life, or attain heaven. On the coming of the Dwapara Yuga, men become degenerate, in consequence of impiety.
O son of Kunti, in the Kali Yuga a quarter only of virtue abideth. And in the beginning of this iron age, Narayana weareth a black hue. And the Vedas and the institutes, and virtue, and sacrifices, and religious observances, fall into disuse. And (then) reign disease, and lassitude, and anger and other deformities, and natural calamities, and anguish, and fear of scarcity. And as the yugas wane, virtue dwindles. And as virtue dwindles away, creatures degenerate.
And as creatures degenerate, their natures undergo deterioration. And the religious acts performed at the waning of the yugas, produce contrary effects. And even those that live for several yugas, conform to these changes. O represser of foes, as regards thy curiosity to know me, I say this,--Why should a wise person be eager to know a superfluous matter? (Thus), O long-armed one, have I narrated in full what thou hadst asked me regarding the characteristics of the different yugas. Good happen to thee! Do thou return.'"
tadetadAtAravilochanasri / sambhAvitASeza vinamragarvam
muhur murArer madhurAdharoztham / mukhAmbujam chumbati mAnasam me
kRSNa karNamRtam 85