Time and the Decline of <i>Dharma</i>

Romila Thapar

in Time as a Metaphor of History: Early India

Published in print September 1996 | ISBN: 9780195637984
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081912 | DOI:
Time and the Decline of Dharma

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This chapter discusses the idea of decline of dharma. Social and moral decline underlined in Purāṇic cosmological time was consistently endorsed as characteristic of change over the four ages. Sometimes the description of the yugas were merely a prelude to the lengthy statements on the reversal of norms and mores, which reversal characterizes the Kali age. The gradual decline of dharma is stated both directly and in symbols. The Utopian conditions of the first age, also sometimes referred to as Satya, the age of Truth, diminish slowly until nothing of the Utopia is left in the Kaliyuga. Slotted into the theory of the decline of dharma was also the notion of transmigration or metempsychosis — karma and saṃsāra. The cyclic notion is reinforced by the idea of transmigration, where the ātman or soul being constantly reborn.

Keywords: social decline in early India; moral decline; Puranic cosmological time; yugas; Utopia; karma; samsara; atman; transmigration

Chapter.  1514 words. 

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