Time travel — From Revati to Einstein’s Relativity and beyond (Part 3)

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In April this year ( 2018), the International Astronomical Union on the recommendations of  NASA scientists, named  a crater on the largest moon of planet Pluto — ‘Revati’ , on — ” a character in the Hindu epic narrative Mahabharata “

I am sure most of us have no idea of who Revati was in Mahabharata, atleast I didn’t. I looked up to find that Revati was the wife of Balaram, Krishna’s dau (elder brother). 

There are two similar versions of the story. 

Revati was the only daughter of king Kakudami  who reigned over  Kusasthali which corresponds to parts of modern day Gujarat, in addition to an advanced under sea kingdom.  Concerned about finding a suitable groom for her talented and beautiful daughter, the father and daughter duo had gone to meet Lord Brahma to discuss Revati’s prospective grooms. On reaching Brahmalok , they had to wait for few minutes, till the musical performance Lord Brahma was watching concluded. After the performance got over Kakudami showed Brahma the list of prospective grooms for his opinion. On hearing the king, Brahma laughed and explained it to Kakudami that time flows at different pace at different places of existence.In the seemingly few minutes Kakudami has spent in Brahmalok several thousand of years, in fact 27 ‘chatur yugas’ have passed on the earth, all prospective grooms and all the people they knew their family, their relatives, their kinsmen have all, long died. Seeing the apparent shock and disappointment on Kakudami’s face, Brahma suggested that they return to earth, in time for Balaram, who would be born as Krishna’s elder brother just before the Kali-yug commences. So Brahma hurriedly ensured that Revati returned to earth at the opportune time to meet and marry Balaram. 

This story is possibly the earliest in text to envision the concept of time travel or more accurately  ‘time-dilation’. Time dilation is explained as the difference in elapsed time for two observers.This is believed to occur due to a difference in gravitational forces and/or the relative velocity of the observers with each other. 

Incidentally this is Einstein’s theory of Relativity !!

Time by itself appears to be a independent entity, but as I said “appears” — time needs an observer !!  With no one to observe — time becomes immaterial, ceases to exist !  The theory of Relativity and Revati’s story both do away with the concept of absolute, independent time. One may say that there is the biological clock which has been ticking even when we humans were not there to observe time but then it may be that all life forms are aware (are observers) or at least affected by the passage of time . 

With the observer arises the subjectivity of perception and thus the need to quantify and measure time. This is where the real difficulty arises. We require other variables to measure time like distance and speed of light. This method more or less solves the issue for all of our ‘earthly’ matters. But when the question of inter ‘lok’ travel or intergalactic space travel is considered, and the same formula and calculations are applied, the measurement of time varies with either the relative speed of the observer or if the gravitational force experienced by the observer changes ( irrespective of the type of clock used).

The limitation is “clocking the passage of time” . As the variables with which time is defined vary our ‘clocking of time’  goes haywire; Compared to the Revati story, an ‘opposite’ difference of clocking of time is likely to occur if an original inhabitant of the planet with higher gravitational force visits our earth, for example if Lord Brahma decides to visit earth. For him, his watch would run faster on earth, so when he goes back after spending an year on earth (according to his watch) he would find that may be only a few minutes have passed in his Lok/planet ! 

And perhaps,for a third independent observer it would be that the pace of things at the two planets are just vastly different ? Somewhat similar to our observing the life cycles of  a ‘mouse'(20 days) and that of a ‘Aldbra Tortoise ‘ (200 years)  ?! 

Does the perception of the observer for the relevance of time become apparent ?

Now lets revisit the Revati’s story to get an idea of exactly how different this perception of time be ? We know that in the few minutes that Revati and her father spent in Brahma Lok 27 Chatur Yuga, meaning (27 X 4,320,000 ) 116,640,000 years passed on the earth !!!  The bewildering feature of the story is that as the two get transported to the different world or Lok their biological clocks also slows down so dramatically, without them realizing the change. 

Suprisingly in the ‘Hindu’ texts, much before the unit of time (second) was defined as per our modern day definition, there existed  units of the time varying from a fraction of a microsecond truti (0.03 microsecond ) to  trillions of years (Maha Kalpa or 100 years of Brahma ) !! 

The unit for earthly time periods was obviously the solar year. It is incredible how accurately the solar calender year had been calculated several thousand of years ago . The time- reference or the observer here is Lord Brahma, so we humans don’t have to bother as to the observer in our absence, as we go through the cycle of yugas and the ice-ages. 

In current time keeping we tend to go back years rather million of years, which becomes practically beyond our comprehension, in our scriptures this same magnanimity of time is conveyed with ‘smaller’ sub-units which can be pictured as a humongously huge circular time clock or the kaal chakra ! 

So our current date or our current location on that clock in accordance to the ‘Age of Brahma’ could be calculated down to very second or even to the ‘truti’. 

Brahma lives for a 100 years (Brahma years) before dying and then is reborn again (I’ll take up that story some other time ).Presently, 50 years of the ‘current’ Brahma have elapsed. The last Kalpa or day at the end of the 50th year was named the  ‘Padma Kalpa’. We are currently in the first ‘day’ of the 51st year. This Brahma’s day  or Kalpa is named as Shveta-Varaha Kalpa ( white boar day). Within each Brahma Day or Kalpa are 14 Manvantaras (similar to hours ), of which six Manvantaras have already elapsed and this is the seventh Manvantara, named as – Vaivasvatha Manvantara (or Sraddhadeva Manvantara). Each Manvantara is composed of 71 Chatur Yugas.  Within the Vaivasvatha Manvantara, 27 Mahayugas (4 Yugas together is a Mahayuga or Chaturyuga), and the Krita(Satya), Treta and Dwapara Yugas of the 28th Mahayuga have elapsed. This Kaliyuga is in the 28th Mahayuga. This Kaliyuga that we happen to be in, began in the year 3102 BCE in the proleptic Julian Calendar, hence only 5,120 years have passed  out of 432,000 years of current Kali Yuga, and so another 426,880 years are left to complete this 28th Kali Yuga of Vaivaswatha Manvantara . 

 Is it too complicated to understand  or too long a story to be true ?!  It may be someone’s imagination but at least that someone thought really big, and on the time scale it makes me feel so very very small (cant even say a blip). 

        — Saurabh Agrawal 

(source – the para on yuga – wikipedia, images – Bing photos )