Definition - What does Kalpa mean?

Kalpa is a Sanskrit word that has two very different meanings. In one sense, it translates as “eon,” or a period of time; in the other sense, it translates as “ritual.”

In Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, kalpa refers to the period of time between the creation and dissolution/recreation of the universe. The length of a kalpa varies by tradition. In the "Puranas," it is described as 4.32 billion years, while Buddhism cites four kalpas of different lengths, from roughly 16 million years to about 1.28 trillion years.

In Hinduism, kalpa as a ritual, is one of the six auxiliary disciplines known as the Vedangas, which support the study of the Vedas. The Vedas laid the foundation for both yoga and Hinduism.

Yogapedia explains Kalpa

As one of the Vedangas, kalpa focuses on ritual instructions, including rites of passage. It also explores the concepts of individual duty and proper conduct. In general, the Vedangas provide insight into not only the rituals of the Vedas, but the meters, structure, meaning and language of the ancient text. They also provide understanding of other post-Vedic texts and aspects of Hindu and yogic philosophy.

In addition to kalpa, the Vedangas are:

  • Chhandas - The study of prosody, which looks at poetic meter. This includes analyzing the number of syllables per verse and any fixed patterns within them.
  • Shiksha - The study of phonology, phonetics and pronunciation. This focuses on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and the way words are combined and expressed in a Vedic recitation.
  • Vyarkarana - The analysis of grammar and linguistics in order to establish the precise way in which words and sentences were constructed to express ideas.
  • Nirukta - The study of etymology. It is concerned with proper interpretation of the Sanskrit words, given their context in the ancient texts.
  • Jyotisha - The study of timekeeping. It deals with the astrological and astronomical aspects of selecting the most dates and times to perform Vedic rituals and rites.

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