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The Concept of Time In Ancient India

The Concept of Time In Ancient India
Item Code: NAF949
Author: Dr. Rallapalli Venkateswara Rao
Publisher: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8180900320
Pages: 360
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
About The Book

The Volume as it stands now with six chapters begins with an introduction on the Concept of Time in Ancient India. Investigating the Concept of Time the author juxtaposes the awareness of the mystery of time of time in ancient thought, the varied experiences of time in cosmological, cultural, historical, spiritual memory and knowledge Presentation on the nation of time in diverse Philosophical systems especially the Indian one was discussed at length. The mention of time in Vedas, Time as fundamental and very important in the process of evolution, Time as above everything else, even above God as the actual existence for beings, Cultic Time, etc., is made. The Transmigration form the Cultic Time of the Vedas to the Interioriezed Time of Upanisads, comparison of Time in Mahabharat, the Puranic conception of Time as the moment identical with the unit of change of Gunas etc., are discussed.

Attempt was made on the contributions of Jains in the domain of Cosmology and Time. Jain philosophy is believing Kala as much a real substance as five others viz., Jiva, Dharma, Adharma, Pudgala and Akasa. Contrary to Jains philosophy, Buddhists conception of time and temporality and their consideration of time and causation as parts of four experience is discussed.

The Cyclic Time in cosmological context and Linear Time in historical sources derermination of the natural division of Time-years, seasons, months, days by the motion of the Sun and the Moon in all the ages, the civil reckoning of the usual eras by which we assign dates to events, dating in inscriptions and the regnal year of the ruler with season, month, fortnight and the day are precisely dealt.

After briefly presenting the value and singnificance of Time, he turns his attentions to the application of Time in rituals, festivities according to the Dharma Sastras to the historical and modern man.

About The Author

Dr. Rallapalli Venkateswara Rao was born at Khammam, Andhra Pradesh, on 26th January, 1961. Dr. Rao is a Bachelor of Arts from Osmania University, Hyderabad and acquired Masters Degree in Indian Culture from Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati. He worked on a university relevant subject “The Concept of Time Ancient India” for this Ph.D. With this academic background he acquired Knowledge of Astrology by formal study of the subject in the Telugu University where he secured his M.A. in Jyotisa. Dr. Rao is actively continuing his research studies on ‘Time and has presented several papers of depth study at National and International Conferences.

Presently, Dr. Rao has been a Faculty Member in the Department of Astrology Telugu University, Hyderabad. His experience in Ancient India Heritage and Culture along with his expertise in Astrology makes a very useful combination for the pursuit of this time honoured subject. His publications in both History and Astrology are very relevant for any field. He has earned a name to be a good teacher and researcher with Suitable Awards and Tiles like Kalapurusa, Jyotisa Ratna, Bharata Jyotisa Bandhu, Jharkhand Janani, Jyotisa Bandhu, Anvesi etc.


Time is one of those things which are beyond the comprehension of the human mind and therefore defy any definition in spite of the fact that different views are expressed by different thinkers on this subject. The very fact that so many theories have developed around the concept of mind is a proof to maintain that Time is Anirvacaniya (beyond definition).

For the Vaisesikas Time is an eternal, all pervasive substance. For others it is a standard of measurement for actions: an action of known dimensions used as a standard for measuring other action. For some, it is nothing more than causality. For others still, it is mere construction of the mind or identical with the three gunas.

For Bhartrhari, the great grammarian, time is the creative power (Kartr-Sakti) of Brahman. It is the Svatantrya Sakti, power of complete freedom of Brahman, as a result of which the whole phenomenal world is presented to us in temporal sequence. The sequence is super imposed on the phenomena. As the sequence originates from the self, the latter is figuratively called Time. He is the ground on which the effect of time, namely sequence can be seen.

As there is no difference between power and that which wields it. Time is really Brahman. As the creative power, Time is responsible for the birth, continuity and destruction of every thing in the Cosmos. Every thing has thrown special cause; yet all those special causes depend upon Time.

Time is compared to the stage manager (Sutradhara) of a puppet show who pulls the strings and makes the puppets dance according to his wish. The whole Cosmos is a collection of puppets and Time controls their performances.

Time has two functions-Abyanujna (permission) and pratibandha (prevention). Somethings appear at a particular time while others do not appear at that time. If a thing is produced at a particular time, it is because time allows the powers of its cause to be effective at that time. This function of time is called Abyanujna, If something does not appear at any time, it is because Time prevents its appearance through its second function, Pratibandha.

Tamasya Lokamantasya Sutradharam Pracaksatë/
Pratibandhabhyanujnabhyam Tëna Visvam Vibhajyeta//

But for these two functions of Time there would be confusion in the Universe. Thus Time is almost identical with Brahman, as it is its power, according to the grammarians.

In the Trika siddhanta of Kasmir, Time is not accepted as having an independent existence. It is Siva that causes sequence in the time by the appearance of various actions.

kriyavaicitryanirbhasat Kalakramamapisvarah//
sarvaträbhasabhëdopi Bhavët Kalakramakarah///

According to the Visistadvaita, Time is a substance eternal and all pervading and it is without the three gunas. This is responsible for all kinds of usages (Vyavaharas) like ‘before’‘after’‘simultaneously’, ‘long ago’, minutes, days, weeks etc. This is helpful to the Lord Visnu in regulating all the affairs connected with the phenomenal world and He depends upon it in all his actions connected with it.

For Advaitas there is no such thing as Time, because it is neither perceived by the senses nor inferred on the strength of any Hetu. It is not correct to say that Time is responsible for the usages such as ‘earlier’ and ‘anterior’ etc. In fact, it is not Time that is responsible for such usages, but such usages that are responsible to imagine that there is such a thing called Time. All the Vyavaharas that are attributed to Time, the all pervading eternal Atman (consciousness) is the ground. Therefore, Time is only a product of imagination for the Advaitin. But the grammarians or the followers of Trika Siddhanta or the Advaitins are not against accepting Time at the Vyavaharika lever with all its divisions. There are some of the important views on Time of Indian philosophers.

A thorough study of all these important theories has been made by Dr. Rallapalli Venkateswara Rao in his valuable work on Time. Starting his investigation about the nature of Time from the oldest Indian texts like the Vedas, the author proceeded to serutimise Mahabharata, Bhagavadgita, part of Bharata, Puranas and other works explained the different views on Time contained in all those ancient works. He has examined the views of Jams and Buddhists also whose contribution on subjects like this is of great significance. He has ultimately concentrated on what is found in the Puranas and in Jyotissatra and in doing so he used closed acquaintance with the Indian Astrology to the fullest possible extent.

This work abounds with quotations from various ancient works starting with the Vëdas which are highly informative, though some of them apparently have little bearing on the topic under discussion.

This is an important work on the Concept of Time which I hope will be welcome by both philosophers and astrologers and use in their further investigations on this subject.


The concept of Time has always been associated with the human experience of the changing phenomena, so much so that Time is conceived as the single most coordinating factor of all experiences and their interpretations. This gives rise to a belief in its metaphysical reality; a reality which seems to be constitutive of our experiences and thinking. The source of the experience of time is basically the change and periodicity in the eternal world. Thus the experience of the concomitant of time as a coordinative factor with all other experiences and thinking was the main reason of reckoning Time in various ways-namely, as Cosmic Principle, Universal Cause, God and as the Originator, Sustainer and Destroyer of the Universe. The first conscious reflections on the problem of Time, in India, are found in the Atharvaveda, which give the descriptions of Time in these terms.

Since the dawn of human thinking and reflections on experiences, the Indian mind has been engaged in the search for the meaning, aim and ideal of life. Its all out effort, motivated by the spiritual urge, was to go beyond the sensible phenomena in order to know their underlying principle. In t1ii process different philosophical schools of thought came into existence. Because of the openness of their minds, the ancient Indian thinkers in general gave prominence to some or the other of the four traditional human values. These values are: Material or Economic Value (Artha), Value of Sensual Pleasure or Enjoyment (Kama), Morality or Moral Value (Dharma) and Spiritual or Esoterical value (Moksa).

In the course of the development of thought most thinkers and their followers, except Carvaka undertook the task of pursuing the fourth value the summum bonum of human existence. So the pursuance and inculcation of the fourth value, i.e., Moksa became the most sought-after aim in such a way the seekers in the due course rigorously developed different, and sometimes contradictory schools or systems of thought although they had a common goal. This situation arose because of their choice or preference for one set of basic elements to another, and their subsequent methodological approach, which gave rise to their different conceptual frame works, convictions or orientations. Thus, it was natural to have different metaphysical systems in India. The elements other than the basic ones of a system were set and interpreted according to the philosophical needs of its frame works. This is the reason why the concept of Time has resulted in different conceptions.

Despite all differences, the concept of Time was never considered in isolation, because it is impossible to conceive of Time independently of the allied concepts of being and becoming, change and causality and so on. This explains why we get different conceptions of Time in the Vëdas. Upanisads, Puränas and the various philosophical schools of Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Jainism and Buddhism and why Time is treated differently as real or unreal, subjective or objective, primary or secondary, physical or psychological, creator or created, interiorised or exteriorised, substantive or attributive, empirical or a priori and so on. Therefore, an understanding of the nature of Time and its pertinence to the life of man is essential to the approach of a fairly adequate philosophic vision of reality. Hence, the study on “The Concept of Time in Ancient India” has been undertaken.

The review of research and literature on the subject reveals that the dimensions of the topic are vast and deep. Though the efforts made so far provide documentation on different aspects, a discerning examination of the studies reveals that there were no specific studies on this topic.

Further, there were no specific studies on the chronology of the Indian sub-continent determining properly the number of Eras used in the relevant inscriptions and on fixing at least approximately the year or years of such reckoning or reckonings. Periodic review of the problem is therefore a desideratum for a correct evaluation of the History. This necessity seems to have been further enhanced by the archaeological material discovered. Unfortunately all this data as well as other information have not yet been fully utilized in one single work. So an attempt is made to fill this gap.


Chapter-IConcept of Time in the Vedic and1-55
Post-Vedic Periods
Chapter-IIThe Concept of Time in Jainism56-57
Chapter-IIIThe Concept of Time in Buddhism68-84
Chapter-IVCosmological and Historical Concepts of Time 85-118
Chapter-VPre-Kaliyuga and Kaliyuga Eras119-139
Chapter-VISignificance of Applications of Time140-218
Tabular Statements219-285

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