saptarṣīṇāḿ tu yau pūrvau dṛśyete uditau divi
tayos tu madhye nakṣatraḿ dṛśyate yat samaḿ niśi
tenaiva ṛṣayo yuktās tiṣṭhanty abda-śataḿ nṛṇām
te tvadīye dvijāḥ kāla adhunā cāśritā maghāḥ
“Take the two stars in the big dipper that rise first, draw a line straight through them.
The nakshatra that is along this line is an important nakshatra.
The line stays with the same nakshatra for about 100 human years.
Right now it is connected to Magha Nakshatra (Regulus).”
The two stars refered to in the Big Dipper are commonly used to point strait to Polaris (Dhruva), the “north star” by extending this line northward. If we instead extend it downward to intersect the ecliptic, it will intersect a particular ecliptic star (“nakshatra”). When Bhagavatam was being spoken to Emperor Parikshit the intersected Nakshatra was Magha – which is Regulus, a star in the “front legs” of sidereal Leo.
Stars are fixed in position to one another, however. Or at least, their movement is imperceptibly slow for human beings. It seems that this measurement system is saying to bisect the two front stars of the Big dipper by the celestial North Pole and extend that line downward to intersect the ecliptic. The celestial north pole changes at almost 1 degree of arc per year. So in about 100 / 130 years this line would cross into a new nakshatra (since nakshatras are about 13 degrees of arc in length).
The celestial pole drifts due the a-synchronicity of sidereal and tropical time (aka precession of equinoxes). So this is a way of determining the age by measuring the current World Age by intersecting the tropical point with a sidereal point!
yadā devarṣayaḥ sapta maghāsu vicaranti hi
tadā pravṛttas tu kalir dvādaśābda-śatātmakaḥ
When [this line created by] the big dipper enters Magha (Regulus),
The Fourth Age (Kali), which lasts for twelve hundred years, begins.
I would like to calculate this date, but I cannot do so with the software and tools and time that I have at my command. It is very difficult to maintain accuracy with far distant dates, and commercial software is not reliable. One needs the type of machines that NASA has.
Surya Siddhanta gives a very different statement about when Kali Yuga began. It says it began when all seven planets were in one location near the end of Revati (the ζ – zeta – star in sidereal Pisces). Ebenezer Burgess, with the help of Professor Winlock, the superintendent of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, attempted to locate this point in time. He found the closest match in mid February of 3102 B.C.
yadā maghābhyo yāsyanti pūrvāṣāḍhāḿ maharṣayaḥ
tadā nandāt prabhṛty eṣa kalir vṛddhiḿ gamiṣyati
When the [line from the] Big dipper go into Purvashadha,
Kali will get full strength from “Nanda’s dynasty.”
This verse seems to be describing the greatest intensity of Kali. Previously, in text 26, Shuka said, “From your birth till the coronation of King Nanda there will be 1,150 years.” So the idea is that Kali yuga keeps getting worse till it gets close to the end of its 1,200 year cycle.
Purvashada (Delta Sagittarii) is the 11th nakshatra from Magha. Shuka previously estimated that the Big Dipper’s line crosses nakshatra’s approximately once every 100 years – so this matches. 1,150 years later the line would be in Purvashada.
This strongly demonstrates that the length of Kali Yuga is literally 1,200 years – for it is an astronomical fact that it takes about that much time for the line drawn through the big dipper to move from Magha to Purvashadha.
yasmin kṛṣṇo divaḿ yātas tasminn eva tadāhani
pratipannaḿ kali-yugam iti prāhuḥ purā-vidaḥ
Historians say that Krishna departed to the heavens on the same day Kali began.
This is a simple verse without astronomical import, but allowing us to fix the traditional opinion of the historical moment of Krishna’s life on earth as approximately 5000 years ago. (3222 BC)
divyābdānāḿ sahasrānte caturthe tu punaḥ kṛtam
bhaviṣyati tadā nṝṇāḿ mana ātma-prakāśakam
The Fourth Age (Kali) ends after 1000 years.
The First Age (Krta) then comes again and the human mind can perceive itself clearly.
The previous text (31) stated that Kali lasts for 1200 years. The discrepancy between 1000 such years (in this 34th text) and 1200 such years (in text 31) is explained by the “sandhi” or blurring period between ages, which for Kali-Yuga is 100 years at the beginning and 100 years at the end.
One can interpret divyābdānāḿ to mean “celestial years” as in the years of the gods, which are 360 times the “length” of our earthly years. However if one does so, one cannot make sense of the previous statements that Kali reaches it’s nadir after 1,150 years, and that this is marked by the polar line moving through 11 nakshatras.
So one becomes inclined to interpret divyābdānāḿ as a “heavenly revolution” aka a “year.”
Thus we are inclined, from this section, to understand that Kali Yuga persists for 1,200 years.
That would mean that Kali Yuga ended about 3,800 years ago! But we find the symptoms of Kali – extreme ignorance, extremely short lifespan, disease, filth, etc – persisted until about 1000 years ago at least Yukteshwar, the disciple of Lahiri Mahasay, attempted to deal with this by suggesting that Krta does not immediately follow Kali. Rather, Kali descends to its lowest point and then rebounds gradually again towards Krta. So after the “descending” Kali expired 3,800 years ago, another 1,200 years of “ascending” Kali followed.
Still, by this, Kali yuga should have ended 2,600 years ago, which is hardly a match with the observation. The suggestion that Kali began 5,000 years ago is based on Surya-Siddhanta. But Yukteshwar adjusts so that the ascending Kali yuga ends around the 1600s, meaning that it began 2400 years earlier (about 3000 years ago instead of 5000).
If Yukteshwars theory is correct, then we should be moving upwards now through Dwapara, towards Treta, and finally towards Krita, the “First Yuga.” The following text from Bhagavatam gives a clue as to the astronomical condition that would be observed at that time:
yadā candraś ca sūryaś ca tathā tiṣya-bṛhaspatī
eka-rāśau sameṣyanti bhaviṣyati tadā kṛtam
When the Moon and Sun are together in Brihaspati’s Tishya (Pushya Nakshatra (Delta Cancri), entering this location simultaneously – The First Age (Krta) will begin.
This verse seems to say that the hallmark of Krta Yuga’s beginning is that the Moon and Sun will be in exact conjunction in the vicinity of Delta Cancri.
I would like to calculate this moment but I do not have access to sufficiently reliable software. If we could claculate this we could evaluate whether or not Yukteshwar’s theory is at odds with the information given in Bhagavatam.
So far there is significant grounds to consider Yukteshwar’s theory since Shuka has here used a tropical intersection with sidereal locations as the measuring rod for time in the context of yugas, and this is the fundamental basis of Yukteshwar’s measurements as well.
– Vic DiCara