Kalki (a.k.a. Kalkin) is the tenth and final avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, who will appear at the end of the present Kali Yuga age to punish the wicked, reward the good, and inaugurate the Satya Yuga age of sacrifice and dharma. It is also believed that Kalki will kill the demon Kali.
Kalki is described in the Puranas as the avatar who rejuvenates existence by ending the darkest and destructive period to remove adharma and ushering in the Satya Yuga, while riding a white horse with a fiery sword. The description and details of Kalki are different among various Puranas. Kalki is also found in Buddhist texts: For example the Kalachakra-Tantra of Tibetan Buddhism.
The prophecy of the Kalki avatar is also told in Sikh texts.
The name Kalki is derived from Kal, which means "time" (Kali Yuga). The literal meaning of Kalki is "pure, sinless", . This has led scholars such as Otto Schrader to suggest that the original term may have been karki (white, from the horse) which morphed into Kalki. This proposal is supported by two versions of Mahabharata manuscripts (e.g. the G3.6 manuscript) that have been found, where the Sanskrit verses name the avatar to be "karki", rather than "kalki".
There is no mention of Kalki in the Vedic literature. The epithet "Kalmallkinam", meaning "brilliant remover of darkness", is found in the Vedic literature for Rudra (later Shiva), which has been interpreted to be "forerunner of Kalki".
Kalki appears for the first time in the great war epic Mahabharata. The mention of Kalki in the Mahabharata occurs only once, over the verses 3.188.85–3.189.6. The Kalki avatar is found in the Maha-Puranas such as Vishnu Purana, Matsya Purana, and Bhagavata Purana. However, the details relating the Kalki mythologies are divergent between the Epic and the Puranas, as well as within the Puranas.
In the Mahabharata, according to Hiltebeitel, Kalki is an extension of the Parasurama avatar legend where a Brahmin warrior destroys Kshatriyas who were abusing their power to spread chaos, evil and persecution of the powerless. The Epic character of Kalki restores dharma, restores justice in the world, but does not end the cycle of existence. The Kalkin section in the Mahabharata occurs in the Markandeya section. There, states Luis Reimann, can "hardly be any doubt that the Markandeya section is a late addition to the Epic. Making Yudhisthira ask a question about conditions at the end of Kali and the beginning of Krta — something far removed from his own situation — is merely a device for justifying the inclusion of this subject matter in the Epic."
According to Cornelia Dimmitt, the "clear and tidy" systematization of Kalki and the remaining nine avatars of Vishnu is not found in any of the Maha-Puranas. The coverage of Kalki in these Hindu texts is scant, in contrast to the legends of Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Vamana, Narasimha, and Krishna, all of which are repeatedly and extensively described. According to Dimmitt, this was likely because just like the concept of the Buddha as a Vishnu avatar, the concept of Kalki was "somewhat in flux" when the major Puranas were being compiled.
This myth may have developed in the Hindu texts both as a reaction to the invasions of the Indian subcontinent by various armies over the centuries from its northwest, and the mythologies these invaders brought with them.
According to John Mitchiner, the Kalki concept was likely borrowed "in some measure from similar Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian and other religions". Mitchiner states that some Puranas such as the Yuga Purana do not mention Kalki and offer a different cosmology than the other Puranas. The Yuga Purana mythologizes in greater details the post-Maurya era Indo-Greek and Saka era, while the Manvantara theme containing the Kalki idea is mythologized greater in other Puranas. Luis Gonzales-Reimann concurs with Mitchiner, stating that the Yuga Purana does not mention Kalki. In other texts such as the sections 2.36 and 2.37 of the Vayu Purana, states Reimann, it is not Kalkin who ends the Kali Yuga, but a different character named Pramiti. Most historians, states Arvind Sharma, link the development of Kalki mythology in Hinduism to the suffering caused by foreign invasions.
A minor text named Kalki Purana is a relatively recent text, likely composed in Bengal. Its dating floruit is the 18th-century. Wendy Doniger dates the Kalki mythology containing Kalki Purana to between 1500 and 1700 CE.
In the Kalki Purana, Kalki marries princess Padmavati, the daughter of Brhadratha of Simhala. He fights an evil army and many wars, ends evil but does not end existence. Kalki returns to Sambhala, inaugurates a new yuga for the good and then goes to heaven.
His mythology has been compared to the concepts of Messiah, Apocalypse, Frashokereti and Maitreya in other religions.
Kalki is an avatara of Vishnu. Avatara means "descent" and refers to a descent of the divine into the material realm of human existence. The Garuda Purana lists ten avatars, with Kalki being the tenth. He is described as the avatar who appears at the end of the Kali Yuga. He ends the darkest, degenerating and chaotic stage of the Kali Yuga (period) to remove adharma and ushers in the Satya Yuga, while riding a white horse with a fiery sword. He restarts a new cycle of time. He is described as a Kshatriya warrior in the Puranas.
Predictions about birth and arrival
In the cyclic concept of time (Puranic Kalpa), Kaliyuga is variously estimated to last between 400,000 and 432,000 years. In some Vaishnava texts, Kalki is forecasted to appear on a white horse, at the end of Kaliyuga, to end the age of degeneration and to restore virtue and establish new world order.
Kalki is described differently in Indian and Buddhist manuscripts. The Indian texts state that Kalki will be born to Awejsirdenee and Bishenjun, or alternatively in the family of Sumati and Vishnuyasha. He appears at the end of Kali Yuga to restore the order of the world. Vishnuyasha is stated to be a prominent headman of the village called Shambhala. He will become the king, a "Turner of the Wheel", and one who triumphs. He will eliminate all barbarians and robbers, end adharma, restart dharma, and save the good people. After that, humanity will be transformed and will prevail on earth, and the golden age will begin.
In the Kanchipuram temple, two relief Puranic panels depict Kalki, one relating to lunar (daughter-based) dynasty as mother of Kalki and another to solar (son-based) dynasty as father of Kalki. In these panels, states D.D. Hudson, the story depicted is in terms of Kalki fighting and defeating asura Kali. He rides a white horse called Devadatta, ends evil, purifies everyone's minds and consciousness, and heralds the start of Satya Yuga.
painting (from left): Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.
In other religions
In the Buddhist text Kalachakra Tantra, the righteous kings are called Kalki (Kalkin, lit. chieftain) living in Sambhala. There are many Kalki in this text, each fighting barbarism, persecution and chaos. The last Kalki is called "Cakrin" and is predicted to end the chaos and degeneration by assembling a large army to eradicate the "forces of islam". A great war and Armageddon will destroy the barbaric Muslim forces, states the text. According to Donald Lopez – a professor of Buddhist Studies, Kalki is predicted to start the new cycle of perfect era where "Buddhism will flourish, people will live long, happy lives and righteousness will reign supreme". The text is significant in establishing the chronology of the Kalki idea to be from post-7th century, probably the 9th or 10th century. Lopez states that the Buddhist text likely borrowed it from Hindu mythology. Other scholars, such as Yijiu Jin, state that the text originated in Central Asia in the 10th-century, and Tibetan literature picked up a version of it in India around 1027 CE.
A man from Punjab greets Kalki, Guler, c. 1765.
The Kalki avatar appears in the historic Sikh texts, most notably in Dasam Granth, a text that is traditionally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh. The Chaubis Avatar (24 avatars) section mentions sage Matsyanra describing the appearance of Vishnu avatars to fight evil, greed, violence and ignorance. It includes Kalki as the twenty-fourth incarnation to lead the war between the forces of righteousness and unrighteousness, states Dhavan.
People who claimed to be Kalki
List of notable people who have claimed to be the Kalki avatar in the past:
- Agastya, founder of the world movement, claimed to be the Kalki Avatar, as well as Mahdi.
- In the Baháʼí Faith, Baháʼu'lláh is identified as Kalki as well as the prophesied redeeming messenger of God at the end of the world, as claimed in the Bábí religion, Judaism (King of Glory), Christianity (Messiah), Islam (Mahdi), Buddhism (Maitreya), Zoroastrianism (Shah Bahram), and other religions.
- In some Buddhist traditions, a future Buddha Maitreya is depicted as Kalki.
- Various Muslim missionaries in South Asia – such as Siddiq Hussain of Shia sect of Islam – seeking to convert Hindus to their sect of Islam; they either claimed themselves to be Kalki, or claimed that "all" the Shia Imams were Kalki, or claimed Muhammad was Kalki.
- Kalki Bhagavan, born Vijaykumar Naidu, born on 7 March 1949, founder of Oneness University.
- Samael Aun Weor, founder of the Universal Christian Gnostic Movement.
- Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi of Kalki Avatar Foundation.
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