By Swami Harshananda
Yugadharma literally means ‘characteristics of the four yugas’.
The purāṇas often mention the four yugas which come and go in a cyclic order. They are:
They are actually epochs differing from one another in their characteristic features.
Yugadharmas as per Parāśarasamrti
One of the simple but nice descriptions of such characteristics called yuga-dharmas is found in the Parāśarasamrti It is briefed as follows:
Characteristics of Krtayuga
- In the Krtayuga, tapas or austerity was given the most important place in life.
- The Manusmṛti was the standard work, the rules of which were strictly followed.
- Since it was also called Satyayuga, people would leave the country itself if they saw sinful deeds committed anywhere.
- Even talking to a sinner was considered a sin.
- Curses uttered by the people, since they were extremely pious, would take effect immediately.
- Donors were so generous that they themselves would personally approach the needy and give them what they wanted.
Characteristics of Tretāyuga
- In the Tretāyuga there was slight deterioration in the standards of ethical life.
- Jñāna or knowledge was considered all-important.
- The Gautamadharmasutras was the standard text followed.
- People would desert their village itself if they saw sinful deeds committed.
- Even accidentally touching a sinner was itself considered a sin.
- A curse uttered against anyone would act within ten days.
- Generous donors would give gifts after calling or inviting the needy ones.
Characteristics of Dvāparayuga
- In the Dvāparayuga dharma declined further to the tune of fifty percent.
- Yajña was the order of the day.
- The Sañkha-likhita-dharmasutras was the main authority for dharma.
- If in any family dharma was transgressed even by one, the whole family was abandoned.
- Anyone accepting food from a sinner was deemed to have sinned himself.
- Curses uttered would take a month to become effective.
- Gifts used to be given after the person begged for it.
Characteristics of Kaliyuga
- The Kaliyuga was deemed to be the worst.
- Dharma would have decreased to such an extent with only a quarter left behind.
- If a sin were committed by a person, only he had to be abandoned.
- Persons perpetrating sinful deeds were considered depraved.
- Curses would take a year to become effective.
- Gifts would be given only after extracting service.
- In Kaliyuga, dharma and satya would be overcome by adharma and anṛta.
- Servants would rule over kings and women over men.
- Religious rites like Agnihotra would decline, honoring elders would disappear and young girls give birth to babies.
- Thus there would be an all-round decline of values.
The Parāśarasamrti was considered the final authority for the guidance of punishment of any sins committed.
- He lived in circa A. D. 100.
- Yajña means Vedic rituals.
- Satya means truth.
- Anṛta means untruth.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore