Religions of South Asia, Vol 1, No 2 (2007)

Does the Age Make the King or the King Make the Age? Exploring the Relationship between the King and the Yugas in the Mahābhārata

Lynn Thomas
Issued Date: 14 Dec 2007


This article explores different ways in which the assertion that the king makes the age can be understood. It begins by examining the seemingly obvious interpretation of these statements as metaphors to stress the importance of the king, and points out that there are a number of conceptual and textual problems with this. The remainder of the article goes on to explore the possibility that they may have been intended literally. The surprisingly frequent presentations of the idea in the Mahābhārata are examined in more detail, and these are then contextualized against a broader understanding of the king’s role and the nature of time found there and in earlier texts. The dichotomy between ‘temporal’ yugas and ‘royal’ yugas that underpins a reading of the statement as metaphor is also examined, and found not to be viable. The article concludes that it is highly probable that the assertion that the king is responsible for the yuga was intended literally, at least in the early stages of the idea, and that this concept reflects the complex understanding of both the king, and time, found in the early Indian texts.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v1i2.183


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