Nimesha - Smallest unit of time in Hinduism

The earth is made up of five elements (bhuta). These are earth, wind sky, water and energy. There are seven regions in the underworld (patala). These are known as atala, sutala, vitala, gabhastala, mahatala, shritala and patala. The ground in atala is dark in colour; in sutala it is pale; vitala has ground that is red; in gabhastala the ground becomes yellow; in mahataka it is white; there are numerous stones and boulders in shritala; but in patala, the ground is laced with gold.

Snakes and demons live in the underworld. Atala is ruled by the demon Namuchi; sutala by the demon Mahajambha; vitala by the demon Prahlada; gabhastala by the demon Kalanemi: mahatala by the demon Virochana; shritala by the demon Kesari; and patala by the demon Vali.

The great snake Vasuki lives in shritala and the great snake Shesha lives in patala. (Vasuki is a king of the snakes (nagas). He was the son of Daksha’s daughter Kadru and the sage Kashyapa. Usually, Vasuki and Shesha are regarded as synonymous, the name Ananta also being used.) The eyes of the snake Shesha are like red lotuses. His complexion is white and he wears blue is thousand hoods glow with radiance.

Just as ther are seven lokas which consitiute the neither regions, there are seven lokas which constitute the upper regions. The universe consists of fourteen lokas. The seven loka which form the upper regions are named bhuloka, bhuvarloka, svaroka, maharloka, janaloka, tapaloka and satyaloka.

The smallest unit of time is a nimesha, the time it takes of the eyes to blink. Fifteen nimeshas constitute a kashtha, thirty kashitas are a kala, thirty kalas make a muhurta and there are thirty muhurtas in the space of one night and one day (ahoratra). The thirty muhurtas in a day are divided into ten units, each unit consisting of three muhurtas.

The unit that corresponds to the time of sunrise is known as prata (dawn). The next unit is called sangava (forenoon). Forenoon is followed by madhyahna (noon). Next come aparahna (afternoon) and sayahna (evening). These five units made up of fifteen muhurtas, form the day. There is an equal number of muhurtas in the night. This should not be taken to mean that day and night are always equal. Sometimes the day is longer than the night and sometimes the night is longer than the day.

Day and night are equal twice a year. These two occasions are the precise midpoints of early autumn (sharat) and spring (vasanta). Fifteen days make up one paksha (fornight) and there are two pakshas in every masa (month). Two masas form a ritu (season) and three ritus are called an ayana. There are therefore two ayanas in every varha (year). The months Magha, Falguna, Chaitra, Vaishakha, Jyaishtha and Ashada are referred to as uttarayana.

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