[Sanskrit from manv, used in compounds for manu, + antara “interval,” “period of time”] In Hinduism, the period or age of a Manu; one of the fourteen intervals that constitute a kalpa—the duration of time from the origination to the destruction of a world system (a cosmic cycle).
In Hindu cosmology, the universe is continually evolving through periodic cycles of creation and dissolution. Creation is said to occur during the outbreath of the God of Creation, Brahma; dissolution occurs during his inbreath.
Every world creation evolves through the four yugas, or ages, which are the smallest units in the Hindu cosmic cycle. These four ages are Satya or Krita, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali. The first age begins in perfection and each succeeding one decreases in length and increases in its degradations. The combined duration of all four ages is said to be 4,320,000 years. (For a different calculation of the duration of the yugas, see The Holy Science, by Swami Sri Yukteswar.)
According to one tradition, the cycle of four yugas, known as a mahayuga, is repeated 1,000 times, thereby forming a larger cycle, or kalpa, which constitutes a complete cosmic cycle from the origination to the destruction of a world system. A kalpa is one day in the life of Brahma. It is during the day of Brahma that the manifest world evolves. Each day is followed by the night of Brahma during which all matter in the universe is absorbed into the Universal Spirit. This period of destruction, or involution, is called a pralaya. Matter is again formed after this cycle, continuing to evolve during each day of Brahma and to dissolve during his night.
Brahma’s lifetime is conceived as being 100 cosmic years, a vast length of time calculated as 311,040,000,000,000 solar years, the largest of the cosmic cycles.
At the conclusion of Brahma’s lifetime there is the “Great Dissolution,” or mahapralaya, the period of the destruction of the entire universe. Continuing in the pattern of the cycles, after a period of rest Brahma is reborn and the cycles of creation begin again.
The Hindu scripture Yoga-Vasishtha, which presents a different view of the cyclical nature of the universe, teaches that the cycles of involution and evolution are ongoing; different systems of worlds may be at different stages in these cycles simultaneously and there is never a point when all creation ceases for a time, as in the Great Dissolution.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 34, no. 64, December 8, 1991.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 31, no. 24, June 8, 1988.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 31, no. 45, July 27, 1988.
- Swami Sri Yukteswar, The Holy Science, 7th ed. (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1972), pp. x–xxiii.