Kalki, also called Kalkin or Karki, is the tenth avatar of Hindu god Vishnu to end the Kali Yuga, one of the four periods in the endless cycle of existence in Vaishnavism cosmology.

He 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 inconsistent among the Puranic texts.

He is, for example, only an invisible force destroying evil and chaos in some texts, while an actual person who kills those who persecute others, and some texts portrayed him as someone leading an army of Naga warriors to eliminate adharma from the world.

His mythology has been compared to the concepts of Messiah, Apocalypse, Frashokereti, and Maitreya in other religions.

Kalki is also found in Buddhist texts. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Kalachakra-Tantra describes 25 rulers, each named Kalki who rule from the heavenly Shambhala

The last Kalki of Shambhala destroys a barbarian Muslim army, after which Buddhism flourishes. This text is dated to about 10th-century CE.

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 Brahmin warrior in the Puranas.

Wheel of Time Tantra

In the Buddhist text Kalachakra Tantra, the righteous kings are called Kalki (Kalkin, lit. chieftain) living in Shambhala.

There are many in this text, each fighting barbarism, persecution, and chaos. The last 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 a 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 the 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.

Development

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“.

He 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:

“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 does 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 him.

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.

Kalki Purana

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, he 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 Shambhala, inaugurates a new yuga for the good and then goes to heaven.

Kalki Avatar in Sikhism

The Kalki avatar appears in the historic Sikh texts, most notably in Dasam Granth as Nihakalanki, 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.

Predictions about birth and arrival

In the cyclic concept of time (Puranic Kalpa), Kaliyuga is variously estimated to last between 40,000 and 432,000 years.

In some Vaishnava texts, he is forecasted to appear on a white horse, at the end of Kaliyuga, to end the age of degeneration and to restore virtue and world order.

Kalki is described differently in Indian and non-Indian 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 Brahmin 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 the lunar dynasty as the mother of Kalki and another to the solar dynasty as the father of Kalki.

In these panels, states D Dennis 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 Krita Yuga.

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*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.