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:

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This chapter argues that new chronological forms did not result in a new eschatology at the beginning and end of creation. For this, the cyclic theory continued to be the basis of cosmological time. Elements of the eschatology of linear time do occur even within the broadly cyclic, but there is no single deity controlling time as in the Semitic religions. However, some elements of the eschatology seemed to have encouraged deviations. Even the Buddhist wheel of time is discussed in this context. Among these may be noticed the variations in the structure of the cycle itself, as also the innovative idea of the coming of a saviour-figure (the Maitreya Buddha in Buddhism, Kalkin in Visnu Purana) who could intervene to change conditions and who assists in taking the cycle towards the next golden age. The coming of such a figure, it would seem, may not have been unrelated to the linear perceptions of time.

Keywords: time; cyclic theory; cosmological time; Maitreya Buddha; Kalkin; Visnu Purana; Kaliyuga; wheel of time; saviour-figure

Chapter.  2574 words. 

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