"Hindu sastras are all nonsensical, " exclaim critics of our religion. "They say that north of the earth is the Meru mountain, that our one year is one day for the celestials residing there, and that the sun revolves round it. They believe that, besides the ocean of salt, there are oceans of sugarcane juice and milk, in fact several kinds of oceans. They describe the earth with its five continents as consisting of seven islands. It is all prattle. "
Why should the ocean be salty? Who put the salt in it? Why should not there have been an ocean tasting sweet or of milk? Is the talk about the seven islands and the seven oceans absurd? What to the sastras say about the position of the earth, the same sastras that speak about the seven ocean, and so on? "Meru is situated on the northern tip of the earth, " they state. "Directly opposite to it is the Pole star(Dhruva). "
The northern tip of the earth is the North pole. Is the Pole star directly opposite to it? No. "Eons ago, " scientists explain, "it was so. But later big changes took place and the earth tilted a bit. " The sastras refer to a time when the Pole star was directly opposite the North Pole and at that time the seven islands and the seven oceans must have existed. When the rotating earth tilted a bit the oceans must have got mixed and become salty and in the process the seven islands must have become the five continents.
If there is a place above the North Pole it must be Meru where we have our svarga or paradise. Let us imagine that this earth is a lemon. A spot on its top is the Meru peak. In relation to that spot any other part of the fruit is south. Where can you go from there, east or west? You can go only south. You will learn this if you mark a point on the top of the lemon. For all countries of the earth, for all "varsas", north is Meru. "Sarvesamapi varsanam Meruruttaratahsthitah. "
On the North pole it is six months day and six months night. We must have been taught this in our primary classes. It means our one year is one day on the North pole. This is what is meant by saying that our one year is one day for the celestials.
When the earth rotates, the northernmost and southernmost points are not affected. In some places there will be sun for 18 hours and in other places only for six hours. There are many differences in the durations of day and night with regard to different places on earth. Only on some days does the sun rise directly in the east and is overhead without departing even by one degree. On other days it rises from other angles(from north-east to south-east). Such is not the case on the North pole. There the sun shines six months and the other six months it is darkness. And, again, during the sunny months it would seem as if the sun were revolving round this place(the North pole).
The six-month period when there is sun in the North Pole is called uttarayana and the similar sunny period on the South Pole is daksinayana.
The North Pole is called " Sumeru" and the South Pole "Kumeru". ("Sumeria" is from Sumeru. In that land, it is said, the Vedic gods were worshipped. ) Just as the North pole is the abode of the gods, the South pole is the abode of the fathers (pitrs) and hell. To see the gods and the pitrs who are in the form of spirits and the denizens of hell one must obtain divine sight through yoga. Merely because we do not possess such sight we cannot deny their existence. There was Blavatsky who was born in Russia, lived in America and later came to India. She speaks about the worlds of the gods and of the spirits. A great scientist of our times, Sir Oliver Lodge, affirmed the existence of spirits and deities and stated that mankind could benefit from them. If you ask why Jyotisa, after dealing with the science of astronomy, should turn to spiritualism, the answer is that there is no contradiction between the two as supported by the example of a scientist like Sir Oliver who too turned to spiritualism.
Our sastras came into existence at a time when mortals mixed with the gods. We would be able to appreciate this fact if we tried to understand the samkalpa we make at the time of performing any religious function. The samkalpa traces the present from the time of creation itself. From Jyotisa we learn the position of the grahas at the commencement of the yuga: then they were all in a line.
Some calculations with regard to heavenly bodies today are different from those of the past. And, if the findings at present are not the same as seen in the sastras, it does not mean that the latter are all false. The sastras have existed from the time the grahas were in a line and the North pole was directly opposite the Pole star. Since then vast changes have taken place in nature. Valleys have become mountains, mountains have become oceans, oceans have become deserts and so on. Geologists speak about such cataclysmic changes, and astronomers tell us about the change in the courses of the heavenly bodies. So what we see today of the earth and the heavenly bodies is different from what is mentioned in the sastras.
The date of creation according to Jyotisa agrees more or less with the view of modern science.
Kali yuga--the age of Kali--has a span of 432, 000 years. Dvapara yuga is twice as long, 864, 000 years, Treta yuga is 1, 296, 000 years and Krta yuga 1, 728, 000 years. The four yugas together, called maha yuga, are 4, 320, 000 years long. A thousand mahayugas add up to the period of 14 Manus. The regnal period of a Manu is a manvantara. There are royal and republican rulers on earth, but God has appointed Manu as ruler of all the worlds. There are fourteen Manus ruling the world successively from the creation of man. The word "manusya" and " manuja" are derived from Manu. So too the English word "man". In the samkalpa for any ritual we perform we mention the year of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata. If we go back to the first Manu, Svayambhuva, we arrive at a date for the origin of the human species which agrees with the view of modern science.
The Sanskrit word, "man", means to think. Manu was the first of the human race with its power of thinking. There is a saying in English :" Man is a thinking animal. " "Since man's distinctive characteristic is his capacity to think the descendants of Manu came to be called "manusyas. "
The life-span of the fourteen Manus put together make one day(daytime) of Brahma, that is 4, 320, 000, 000 years. His night has the same length. While one day of Brahma is thus 8, 640, 000, 000 years his one year is 365 such days and his life-span is 100 such years. The life of his cosmos is the same. When Brahma's life comes to an end the Brahman alone will remain and there will be no cosmos. Then another Brahma will start creation all over again. It is believed that Hanuman will be the next Brahma.
Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Suvarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka comprise the seven worlds. The gods, mortals and so on live in these worlds. Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka and Suvarloka form one group. "Bhurbhuvassuvaha, " we pronounce this so often while performing rituals. The remaining four belong to higher planes. When Brahma goes to sleep at night the first three worlds will be dissolved in the pralaya (deluge). This is called "avantara-pralaya"("intermediate deluge"). All other worlds will perish when his life-span ends.
Scientists say that the heat of the sun is decreasing imperceptibly. Without the warmth of the sun there will be no life on earth. Scientists have calculated the time when the sun's heat will be reduced so much that life on earth cannot be sustained. Then this world itself will perish. The date on which this will occur agrees with that given by our sastras for the next "avantara-pralaya".
Half of Brahma's allotted life-span is over. This life-span is divided into seven "kalpas". Now we have come more than half way of the fourth kalpa, "Svetavaraha". We mention in samkalpa how old Brahma is at the time we perform a rite, which year we are in of the saka era, also the year according to the 60-year cycle beginning with Prabhava--all details of the almanac including the day, the asterism and the lagna. The date of Brahma's appearance, according to this calculation is said to agree with the view of modern science of when this cosmos came into being.
Brahma is called "Parardha-dvaya-jivin". It means he lives for two "parardhas". A "paradha" is half the number meant by "para". When Brahma is called "Paradha-dvaya-jivin" it means he lives as many years as is meant by 2*1/2 paras. Two half paras are the same as one para. Then why say "parardha-dvaya" instead of just one "para". The reason for this is that Brahma has already completed half of one para and is going on 51. So it is meaningful to use the term "half of para"[two half-paras].
Fourteen Manus reign successively during one daytime of Brahma which lasts a thousand caturyugas. So one manvantara is 71 caturyugas. Now running is the 28th caturyuga, the Vaivasvata manvantara. And of it, it is Kali yuga now. In our samkalpa we mention all this and, in addition, the day according to the moon, the Lagna, etc. We also mention how we are situated in the space, from the Brahmanda down to the locality where we are performing the function (for which the samkalpa is made). It is all similar to writing the date and address on a letter.
For a general background, please see here