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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -10



The calculation of time has been of hoary ancestry. It is possible to see that there has been a rational in the measurement of time. The basic needs for improvising a measure are (i) the necessity for its being easily measured unit, (ii) the necessity for its being universally objective (iii) the necessity for evolving a type of absolute measure practically useful and absolute in a sense though it may be relative too.

The relation between measurement that is spatial movement and time which is duration taken for an event to happen has been well known. Velocity of a body is measured by the distance between the points to be traversed or taken as space and the duration or time taken to traverse it. d/t = v. So too t = d/v and d=v*t. Time is the interval duration or duration taken to traverse a distance at a particular uniform speed. Three things then have to be fixed for this purpose. What is that event or phenomenon which can be observed as the points for the distance? This is provided by the interval between sunrise and sunset. Whether the earth moves round itself or the Sun moves round the earth, the fact of sunrise and the absolute uniformity of the phenomenon makes it an objective fact, universal to all peoples. The next step was to observe the equal duration of the night time and day time. Thus all concepts depended on the division of time into day and night having about the same duration.

The second fact that was brought to the notice of the ancients was equally striking. The Moon which is an object of great interest to man revealed the phenomenon of regular waxing and waning. The fullest brilliance and wholeness was seen as the culmination of the waxing. The same period was observed for the waning which started with the fully moon culminating in the total disappearance of the Moon and his subsequent appearing which was designated as the New Moon. These two periods were sound to be on the reckoning of the days and nights about equal, each period comprising of 15 daytimes and 15 night times. Both periods thus comprised 30 daytimes and 30 night times. The total was thus 60. This was about exact though it was recognized also that it was less than the 60 by approximately one night or day time.

Thus we find that the day time was divided into 30 parts or ghatikas (as in a fortnight) and the night time was also divided into 30 parts. The total day comprised 60 ghatikas. (this was again subdivided to make 60 vighatikas for each ghatikas: Similar is the division of the hour into 60 minutes and the minute was divided into 60 seconds. This shows the influence of the lunar monthly reckoning on the divisions of time regarding the hour and minute as it has been shown to be in respect of the Indian time measure of ghatikas and vighatikas.)

A third kind of measure was also thought of. This was in respect of the Solar revolution so to speak. The Earth goes round the Sun. Or rather it was found that the sun moves northward and southwards of the central line called the equator. The time taken is measured by two major halves such as the northern path and the southern path.

Ancient Upanisadic thought has called the Uttarayana the northern path of the Sun and the daksinayana the southern path of the sun.

This is a year (samvatsara). The number of lunar rotations during this period was found to be 12. The number of fortnights (full moon and new moons included) is 24. The Seasons which are previously reckoned as four each comprised 6 new moons and full moons combined. The number of days was found to be 360 (including both day times and night times). This number is approximate as in the case of the number of days in a month.

Broadly we can see that 24 is the number in relation of the moon (fortnights) to the Sun, 12 being the half we find that the hora or hour system of reckoning adopts the 12 and 24 as well as 6 as the unit of time. Thus there are six seasons in Indian year. Twelve months in the year and each day has 24 hours.

However the two systems based on 12 and 24 on the one hand and 15 and 30 on the other must have come to a clash. The adoption of a unitary duration as not effected. The mixture of both the reckonings is seen in the calendar times we have as also in the clock time.


Thus one day = 24 hours = 60 ghatikas

One hour – 60 minutes

One ghatikas – 60 vighatikas

30 days (about) – One month

12 months = One year = 24 fortnights

6 seasons = one year


The result is that the two systems are not uniformly followed even by them. The 12 and 24 and 60 get mixed up. There is however a clear enough attempt to link up the earth-moon-sun movements in order to give us a measure of time which is at once easy, objective, observable.

This is the traditional basis of time measures such as day, month, and year taking the relationship between Earth and its own rotation or sunrise and sunset, the relationship between the Moon’s rotation round the earth calculated in terms of earths self-rotational days (or in terms of the waxing and waning of the moon itself), and the rotation of the earth round the Sun (or the northern and southern passage of the sun with reference to the equator).

These time measures are objective and not subjective and indeed it is possible to conceive that other planets and their corresponding movements might also be included. Thus we can see that the number twelve refers to the 12 year Cycle of Jupiter, round the zodiac, and 30 year cycle of Saturn round the zodiac or Sun. The ancient do not seem to have thought of the outer planets which have been since discovered. The 84 year cycle of Uranus is interesting, so too the neptunian and plutonian years.

Thus our clock time may be considered to be traditional well established linking up the mathematical uniformities demanded by all for conversion purposes. Though mechanical there is no doubt that later the relativistic scheme was accepted as not only useful but necessary and true. The criticism of Bergson that this mathematical time is practically useful but not real does not illegitimise the nature of time itself as having both an objective measurability and subjective experienceability which need not coincide. All persons especially the astronomers were aware of the fact that the sunrise at 6 a.m. at one place need not be sunrise at another place to the East or West of that place. Similarly the time on the earth at 6 a.m. Standard earth time and need not be 6.00 a.m. Martian or Venusian or Lunar time. Thus time whilst being relativistic does not abolish itself or render itself illusory.

The divisions of time as pointed out earlier have a hoary tradition and mankind has through its astronomers and scientists accepted this fact. We may devise a centum or metric system for time also. That would verily be arbitrary having no connection with real time as measured by the Earth’s diurnal rotation, lunar or solar measures1. The rationality and objectivity of measures of time cannot be disputed. The divisions of time have theoretical as well as practical foundation. We have tried to show how astronomical factors which do influence our organic and mental lives have determined the twelve fold, twenty four fold, six fold, thirty fold and sixty fold divisions. These have been synthesized or integrated in a sense but one can see that this has not happened fully since the consistent use of the twelve and twenty four or the thirty or sixty has not be effected. A unified theory on this matter has not been achieved.

1 Celestial Influence: Rodney Collin, Vincent Stuart. London.

Now we turn to the organic time or living time. Biological changes take place regularly time is reached in terms growth of the organism, such as ovulation, insemination, embryonic development and birth, maturation, old age and death. The fruition of course of each life unit reveals its trying to perpetuate itself in its progeny through which its own life seems to be continued. Observing the processes of growth it has been found that they bear relation to the astronomical times that we have discovered. Some of these processes regularly are related to the astronomical phenomena of day-night times, bright fortnight-dark-fortnight times, the seasonal times and so on. Indeed not merely the linkage with the three major factors of our terrestrial life such as Earth, Moon and Sun, but also the planetary times seem to determine the organic factors, Obviously the ten-month time for conception and birth is also a factor. However it was held that on this basis there was a time when they had a ten-month year but it was discarded rightly for the development of foetus has been seen in the case of extraordinary personalities to have taken twelve lunations, and not ten.

The other factor corresponding to a cycle of lunation is of course the woman’s menstrual periods-monthly periods as they are rightly correlated. That there is a connection between the lunar cycle and the organic changes within the body of the grown up female or procreative function seems to be indicated. Mental changes at this period do correspond to heightened imagination, impressibility and other factors which are either canalized into creative work or procreative erotic life.

The duality of birth and death corresponds with the light and night of the day. The near duality of waking end sleeping times is another correspondential point between the earth’s diurnal rotation and organic life’s two conditions. This duality is further seen in the two major seasons (uttarayana or birth of plants and so on and the daksinayana or aging and death of plants).

Organic time is closely linked up with the psychological time also. The dualities of pain and pleasure, sukha and dukha, is linked up with the duality of sita and usna (cold and heat), and further is gain (labha) and loss (alabha), victory (jaya) and defeat (apajaya), Mind itself is shown to be dialectical in its oscillations between the two concepts of being and non-being having and not-having, immanence and transcendence, and so on. Paksa and pratipaksa (subject and contra-subject) is a basic determinant of all thought processes that progress towards apprehension and comprehension of reality.

The two moments of time, of thought, of feeling, of becoming, all reveal a basic diunity (unity of two). Thus the creative time of Bergson though conceived psychologically reveals twofold frenzy which he brings out in his Two Sources of Morality and Religion implicit though it has been although in his earlier works. Upwards ascent and downward descent katabolic and anabolic processes are the very nature of time. But how to correlate these with the organic time or astronomical or clock time that is the question. This is undoubtedly difficult but not insuperable.

Duration itself has the characteristics of twofold process. The interlacing of these two processes is what we witness in the organic life. This is a fact to which Bergson did not pay sufficient attention. Despite his earnest pleading for an intuitive language he had himself begun to apply the mechanical analogies of the lower order dialectic. The recognition of the existence of many dialectics according to the grade of being that is necessary Dialectic or dialectical thinking of two-fold frenzy or integrative disjunctive unity or conjunctive duality all these apply to the basic interdependence of the reality systems.

Time is essentially linked up with space in the mechanical and astronomical systems. Time is essentially linked up with the twofold processes of organic life and mental life. The unity of the reality systems is seen in the interdependence of these process and movements. Space itself becomes the organism within which time incorporates itself. Surely these are closed or finite systems, we cannot hazard to say anything about open systems. Since space itself undergoes changes or transformations duration also does. Thus though it has been recognized that time is a measure relative to the point of references and time may also be considered to be diverse yet it is clearly a case that time is an enduring element in experience.

To evolve an absolute time means to have a measure that is taken from the most inclusive system of Reality as a whole. But it may well be asked whether it has the dimensions of past, present and future that we grant to time or the dimensions of past, present and future that we grant to time or the dialectical frenzy or moments or space. In a sense the very unity of space and time and motion or growth that we have makes time a kind of substance or dravya which has properties of its own in conjunction with space and motion and growth. Thus logically absolute time seems to a contradiction. However if we can discover an absolute velocity of light or assume it, it may be just possible to think of an absolute time though this would mean time that is capable of being used to measure all other times such as the terrestrial, astronomical, evolutionary and organic and mental and intellectual. Such a concept was evolved for the Cosmic time of Brahma which is almost said to be the centre of reference for all measures of all bodies both in terms of their motions and growths and organic processes. Brahma Kalpa thus is the concept of absolute time and this was found to be capable of being discovered in terms of the individual‘s psychic time in samadhi translated usually as trance but really it refers to the union with Brahman of the individual soul or in other words when the soul realizes its life or time in terms of the Brahman (the soul and self of the whole universe and all souls) round whom it moves (salokya) and taking the same form (sarupya) and by having gained that union of inseparable movement or enjoyment (sayujya).

Timeless existence refers to this ultimate absolute relationship in which the usually conceived temporal patterns do not occur. One experiences as it were a kind of absence of time itself. The changeless state is said to be the timeless state and one almost presumes that both space and time cease to exist when one enters the ultimate Reality status. However it is seen that this is the source of all time and space and as such status has within itself both or all three processes in suspension. Thus we have a trinity of the space-time-motion (change) corresponding to the Alexandrian space-time-deity, the last perhaps implying both movement change and growth and evolution in one world, which emerge it appears when space and time integrate or rather which are recognized as the ground of or abstractions from movement itself, Kala or time is coeval with reality and is nearer to it than space.

Indian thought has thought of space (akasa), time (kala) and dharma (motion or law of all being) an essential the reality. They are capable of being related to the other triplicity sattva, rajas and tamas. Tamas is space, Rajas is time, Sattva is the Dharma or law of being or it is possible to think of rajas as motion and sattva as time. But these are not necessary at all.