Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 6 - Chapter 3

Chapter III

Three different kinds of dissolution. Duration of a Parārdha. The Clepsydra, or vessel for measuring time. The dissolution that occurs at the end of a day of Brahmā.

THE dissolution of existing beings is of three kinds: incidental, elemental, and absolute:

The incidental is that which relates to Brahmā, and occurs at the end of a Kalpa: the elemental is that which takes place after two Parārdhas: the absolute is final liberation from existence.

MAITREYA: Tell me, excellent master, what is the enumeration of a Parārdha, the expiration of two of which is the period of elemental dissolution.


A Parārdha, Maitreya, is that number which occurs in the eighteenth place of figures, enumerated according to the rule of decimal notation:

At the end of twice that period elemental dissolution occurs, when all the discrete products of nature are withdrawn into their indiscrete source.

The shortest period of time is a Mātrā, which is equal to the twinkling of the human eye. Fifteen Mātrās make a Kāṣṭhā; thirty Kāṣṭhās, one Kalā; fifteen Kalās, one Nādikā.

A Nādikā is ascertained by a measure of water, with a vessel made of twelve Pālas and a half of copper, in the bottom of which there is to be a hole made with a tube of gold, of the weight of four Māṣas, and four inches long.

According to the Māgadha measure, the vessel should hold a Prastha (or sixteen Pālas) of water. Two of these Nāḍīs make one Muhūrta; thirty of which are one day and night.

Thirty such periods form a month; twelve months make a year, or a day and night of the gods; and three hundred and sixty such days constitute a year of the celestials.

An aggregate of four ages contains twelve thousand divine years; and a thousand periods of four ages complete a day of Brahmā. That period is also termed a Kalpa, during which fourteen Manus preside; and at the end of it occurs the incidental or Brahmā dissolution.

The nature of this dissolution is very fearful: hear me describing it, as well as that which takes place at the elemental dissolution, which I will also relate to you:

At the end of a thousand periods of four ages the earth is for the most part exhausted:

A total dearth then ensues, which lasts a hundred years; and, in consequence of the failure of food, all beings become languid and exanimate, and at last entirely perish.

The eternal Viṣṇu then assumes the character of Rudra, the destroyer, and descends to reunite all his creatures with himself:

He enters into the seven rays of the sun, drinks up all the waters of the globe, and causes all moisture whatever, in living bodies or in the soil, to evaporate; thus drying up the whole earth.

The seas, the rivers, the mountain torrents, and springs, are all exhaled; and so are all the waters of Pātāla, the regions below the earth.

Thus fed, through his intervention, with abundant moisture, the seven solar rays dilate to seven suns, whose radiance glows above, below, and on every side, and sets the three worlds and Pātāla on fire.

The three worlds, consumed by these suns, become rugged and deformed throughout the whole extent of their mountains, rivers, and seas; and the earth, bare of verdure, and destitute of moisture, alone remains, resembling in appearance the back of a tortoise.

The destroyer of all things, Hari, in the form of Rudra, who is the flame of time, becomes the scorching breath of the serpent Śeṣa, and thereby reduces Pātāla to ashes.

The great fire, when it has burnt all the divisions of Pātāla, proceeds to the earth, and consumes it also. A vast whirlpool of eddying flame then spreads to the region of the atmosphere, and the sphere of the gods, and wraps them in ruin.

The three spheres showed like a frying-pan amidst the surrounding flames, which prey upon all moveable or stationary things.

The inhabitants of the two upper spheres, having discharged their functions, and being annoyed by the heat, remove to the sphere above, or Mahaloka.

When that becomes heated, its tenants, who after the full period of their stay are desirous of ascending to higher regions, depart for the Janaloka.

Janārdana, in the person of Rudra, having consumed the whole world, breathes forth heavy clouds; and those called Samvarta, resembling vast elephants in bulk, overspread the sky, roaring, and darting lightnings:

Some are as black as the blue lotus; some are white as the water-lily; some are dusky, like smoke; and some are yellow; some are of a dun colour, like that of an ass; some like ashes sprinkled on the forehead;

some are deep blue, as the lapis lazuli; some azure, like the sapphire; some are white, as the conch or the jasmine; and some are black, as collyrium;

some are of bright red, like the ladybird; some are of the fierceness of red arsenic; and some are like the wing of the painted jay.

Such are these massy clouds in hue: in form some resemble towns, some mountains, some are like houses and hovels, and some are like columns.

Mighty in size, and loud in thunder, they fill all space.

Showering down torrents of water, these clouds quench the dreadful fires which involve the three worlds, and then they rain uninterruptedly for a hundred years, and deluge the whole world.

Pouring down in drops as large as dice, these rains overspread the earth, and fill the middle region, and inundate heaven.

The world is now enveloped in darkness, and all things, animate or inanimate, having perished, the clouds continue to pour down their waters for more than a hundred years.