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Characteristics Of The Four Yugas In Hinduism

The Hindu Puranas frequently discuss the four yugas — Krita, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali—which unfold in a cyclical sequence, each characterized by distinct features. A concise summary of the yuga-dharmas, describing the essential traits of each yuga, is found in the Parasarasmriti (100 CE). Here

In Krita Yuga (also known as Satya Yuga), austerity (tapas) held paramount importance, with Manusmriti serving as the definitive guide. It was an era of truth (Satya yuga), where people would leave their country upon witnessing sinful deeds. Even conversing with a sinner was considered a transgression, and curses uttered by the profoundly virtuous would immediately take effect. Generosity reached such heights that donors personally sought out the needy to fulfill their desires.

Treta Yuga witnessed a slight decline in ethical standards, with knowledge (Jnana) taking precedence. The Gautama Dharma Sutras became the authoritative text, and people would abandon their villages if sinful acts were observed. Accidentally touching a sinner was deemed a sin, and curses would manifest within ten days. Donors, though still generous, would call or invite the needy before offering gifts.

Dwapara Yuga saw a further decline in dharma, with a fifty percent decrease. Vedic rituals (Yajna) became prevalent, guided by the Shankha-likhita-dharmasutras. Families would be abandoned if even one-member transgressed dharma, and accepting food from a sinner was considered sinful. Curses took a month to take effect, and gifts were given after the person begged for them.

Kaliyuga (the current age), considered the worst, witnessed a significant reduction in dharma, leaving only a quarter behind. Giving gifts (Dana) became the primary righteous act, guided by the Parasara Smriti. If a person committed a sin, only he had to be abandoned. Those engaging in sinful deeds were seen as depraved, and curses took a year to manifest. Gifts were given only after extracting service.

In Kaliyuga, dharma and truth (satya) succumbed to adharma and untruth (anrta). Demons ruled over good kings, women used lust over power men, and there was a decline in religious rites like Agnihotra. Respect for elders disappeared, and young girls gave birth to babies, marking an all-encompassing decline in values.