UNITS OF TIME, BREATH AND COSMOLOGY
(Compiled by N.R. Srinivasan)
Manu, the law giver seems to have spent a lot of time in South India. The Chola kings had great respect for his laws and faithfully implemented them in administering justice. One king was popularly called as Manuneethikanda Cholan (Chola who follows Laws of Manu). Manu was the first to give the concept of time as Tamil literature has references to time guide-lines in several literatures. According to him:
18 winks of eyes=1 Kashtam
30 Kashtams=1 Kaalam
30 Kaalam=1 Vinaadi
60 Vinaadi=1Nazhigai=1 Ghati=24 minutes(present)
2 Nazhigais=2 Ghatis=1 Muhoorta
60 Nazhigais=1 day=10 Jaamams=30 Muhoortas
I Jaamam=3 Muhoortas=6 Ghatis=6Nazhigais
1 Jaamam=6x24=144 minutes or 2hrs 24 minutes (present)
1 day=3600 Vinadis
Yoga system calculates number of breaths an individual makes in a day as per the following:
60 Truth=1 Praana (1 inhale+1 exhale)
6 Praanas=1 Vinaadi
60 Vinaadi=1 Ghati
Therefore man breaths, 60x60x6=21600 times in a day. This is given in Patanjalis Yogasaastra.
The sages (Rishis) of the hoary past of Sanatana Dharma started the concept of time with the number 60:
60 vinadi=1 Naadika
60 Nadikas=1 day
1 Vinadi is equal to 24 seconds in Western concept.
The Western time measurement includes the same number 60 as follows:
60 seconds=1 minute
60 minutes= 1 hour
24 hours=1 day
1 Day=3600 minutes
In Orthodox Vedic concept 1 Nazhigai or Ghati equals =24 minutes and day equals 60 Nazhgais or 60 Ghatis. In present concept an hour is 60 minutes and a day is 24 hours.
Westerners and others got their concept from Hindu astronomers and astrology but took a little diversion.
The Sun temple at Konark (kon=angle; and ark= Sun) and Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram in the South are symbolic of Time and Space aspect of the Supreme spirit or in essence Cosmology.
The twelve pairs of wheels on which the temple of Konrak stands in the form of a chariot represents twelve months of the year or 24 fortnights (12 Shukla Paksha and 12 Krishna Pakshas), The bright half and the dark half, in a year. The seven horses represent 7 days of the week. The eight spokes on the wheel represent 8 Praharans or Muhoortas as in practice today in Panchangas (Hindu almanacs). The wheels also work as sundials to know the exact time of the day.
The Kaalas Raahukaalam, Gulika Kaalam, Yama Gandam, Artha praharan and Kaalan are observed during what is known as Muhoorta (1/8 Part duration of a given day or night). For each day Panchanga provides the moments of sun rise/sunset and moon rise/moon set applicable to particular place including for countries where considerable Hindu population exists and where special Pnachangas are prepared applicable to the place. Duration of the daytime between sun rise and sun set divided by 8 gives the duration of each muhoorta for the day. Similarly the night time between moon rise and moon set divided by eight gives the duration of the Muhoorta for the particular night.
The Cosmic concept of Kaalachakra in influencing time measurement should not be forgotten. Two straight lines of same length intersecting horizontally and vertically at their mid points produce four right angles which add up to 360 degrees. Their ends when joined in the form of an arc produce the circle circumscribing their end points. The circle has therefore 360 degrees. When this is divided internally into twelve equal segments each segment has an angular movement of 30 degrees. These twelve segments are the 12 Zodiac signs in astrology. Further, each degree can be divided into 60 minutes and each minute to 60 seconds. One minute of the arc in Sanskrit is also known as "Asu". Modern clocks are designed on this model to give a circular moment of the hands through 360 degrees in 12 hours. In Savana Maanam Hindu Calendar one year has 360 days. One month has 30 days and one Paksha 15 days.
In one day, a human being breaths 21600 times when normal, according to Yogasaastra of Patanjali. If we divide 21600 against 3600 Vinadis of the day we arrive at number 6. That means we do 6 breathings in 24 seconds; each breath consists of one inhalation (Uchvaasa) and one exhalation (nisvaasa). For each breath it takes 4 seconds when we function normally. This is in fact so if you closely watch and is also reasonable estimate for a breath. This is equivalent to 4 seconds of sidereal time according to Western system.
Upanishads say human energy body is built up of 72000 Naadis or energy flows (These are not physical nerves as is often translated). There are 3600 Vinadis in a day. When we multiply 3600 with a number 20 we arrive at 72000 which are the energy flows (astral paths) mentioned in Prasnopanishad.
Chidambaram in South India is famous for Nataraja in his cosmic dance and also for Chidambara Rahasyam (Secret of Chidambaram). Here Siva is worshipped in the form of Nataraja, in the formless form of crystal Linga and as Space (Aakaasa) represented by a mysterious mantra as the formless Yantra in a space which is kept curtained all the time but occasionally opened for worship. As there is nothing visible here the place of worship surrounds with a mystery which is called Chidambara Rahasyam. Here the dance hall is called Chit Sabha meaning Hall of Consciousness. This is a wooden structure with a corbelled shaped roof with golden tiles from the time of its consecration. It has 21600 tiles (symbolic of 21600 breaths in a day and 72000 nails (symbolic of 72000 energy paths of Upanishads).
The temple of Chidambaram is the permanent residence of Dancing Siva. Here he dances with the Universe, atoms, stars and galaxies. Lord Nataraja's worship is conducted by a priest democratically elected from a group of family priests appointed by the temple for generations. For this a meeting is held every 20 days to democratically elect a priest.
If we multiply 21600 breaths 20 times we get a figure of 432000 which is the number for the total number of years in Kaliyuga. If we multiply 3600 number of Vinadis in a day 20 times we get 72000 which are the number of energy paths in the human being mentioned in Upanishads. The numbers 20, 60, 3600, 21600, 72000 and 432000 have all a common factor 20, the divine mystery number of Chidambaram. Probably, 20 represent 5 panchbhootas+5 Jnaanedriyas+5 Karmendriyas+5 Pancha Praanas ruled by Aatman. Some books on Hinduism say that in the Panchaaksharee Mantra, Namah Sivaaya,
Na stands for earth, Ma stands for water, Si stands for fire, Va stands for air and Ya for space in which forms Lord Siva is worshipped in five sacred temples of South India.
Ancient sages divided 360 degrees of the ecliptic by 12 to arrive at 30 degrees of the Zodiac. It takes 72 solar years (which is roughly the average human life) for the solstice to shift one degree proportionate to the fixed stars and it will take 72x30=2160 solar years for the shift to proceed through one zodiac. Total cycle will be 2160x 12=25920 years. This is called a Great Year. Surya Siddhanta gives precession (slow rotation of the rotation axis of spinning body) as 54 seconds of arc of a circle, a year. Modern calculations set this at 50 seconds. To shift one degree it would take 71.6 solar years. This adds up to a complete cycle of 25776 years. Of course constant changes are going on in the Cosmos too. It all shows how far advanced were our sages! How could they do it with their naked eyes and mental thinking remains a mystery!