Predicting future has always been a favorite endeavor of all religious faiths; every faith forecasts the onset of ‘better time’ in scriptures revered by its followers. These predictions are but natural corollary to the belief that ‘… values decay and eventually get destroyed with the passing of time.’ According to Hindus, when the first age, the Satya Yuga was supposedly the best period when the Dharma, represented by the holy bull, stood on its all four legs; then came Treta Yuga in which the moral and spiritual conditions deteriorated a bit while the Dharma lost its one leg. By the time the third age, i.e. Dwapara Yuga, surfaced the Dharma had lost its two legs. In the worst age, Kali Yuga – the present age in which we live in, the Dharma is standing only on one leg.
Across the ages when imbalances are created by the adverse conditions they are believed to be set right by various incarnation of Lord Vishnu in variety of mortal forms called Avatars or Incarnations. Bhagavad-Gita suggests that Vishnu incarnates himself whenever there is a decline of the noble values and, also, when wickedness takes an upper hand. These incarnations comes in the mortal forms choosing their manner of entry into the world according to the demand of times.
It is also believed that each passing age demands a more potent incarnation to redeem the world. It is for this reason the preceding incarnation, like that of Lord Rama in Treta Yuga, was potentially less powerful than that of Lord Krishna in Dwapara owing to progressively growing adverse conditions. It is said that in the present age Kali Yuga the moral conditions shall be touching their nadir and they would require the most potent incarnation to restore order in the world engrossed in chaos. That – most awaited – incarnation is believed to be Kalki Avatar or Kalki Incarnation.
Kalki has been predicted and described in various sacred texts. Kalki is believed to arrive at the end of the present Kali Yuga when moral excellence will cease to exist; the rule of law would have disappeared paving way for sheer immorality and darkness of the mind. In some text he is described as holding a flaming sword, and in some as four-armed holding a sword, conch shell, wheel and an arrow, and in some others as human having the head of a horse and holding attributes as above but with a club (Gadha) instead of an arrow.
Mahabharata is more specific in its description of the Kalki. On being asked by Yudhisthira, the sage, Markandeya, describes the Kalki Incarnation: “… Inspired by the Supreme Spirit, in a certain village called Shambal, a son will be born in the house of a Brahman named Vishnuyasha and this boy’s name shall be Kalki Vishnuyasha. This Brahman boy shall be an extremely powerful, intelligent and valiant personage. He shall get all weapons, armies etc. at will. Collecting a huge army of Brahman warriors he shall go about setting order of righteousness in the world. He shall not only re-establish the rule of Dharma but shall also herald the advent of the Golden Age, or the Satya Yuga, of the next cycle of time.”
Kalki incarnation shall be a Poornavatar – or an incarnation with full potency has sixteen Kalaas or phases. Five of these he shares with human beings and other animals – the five doors of perception – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. And other four he shares with human beings – mind, heart, intelligence and the Turyavastha or transcendence of intuitive experience. The seven phases that follow are characteristics of a Poornavatar an integral of all-inclusive avatar:
- Grace or reward for effort that fails to be rewarded though it has come from the deserving
- Anugraha or special grace whether the recipient merits it or not;
- The power to create a new order of life in society, new status of consciousness in individual or new objects
- Power to support and sustain what is inherently good, which may happen to a defenseless
- The power to destroy what is evil
- The assumption of a form which, whenever it is recalled mentally or in the presence of the Avatar himself, affording a solution to the problem that beholder has in mind; and
- The assumption of a ‘name’, which has similar potency.
Kalki incarnation shall have all the above mentioned powers to herald the Golden Age of peace and plenty – the Satya Yuga, since Kalki will be an age making avatar, he’ll be the most powerful and potent person ever to be born.
In Hinduism, Kali (not be confused with Kaali – the goddess) is the reigning lord of Kali Yuga and archenemy of Kalki. According to Kalki Purana, he is portrayed as a demon and the source of all evil. In the Mahabharata, he was a Gandharva who possessed Nala, forcing him to lose his Kingdom in a game of dice to his brother Pushkara. His most famous incarnation is the Kaurava price Duryodhana. Kali is similar to the demon Kroni and his incarnation Kaliyan of Ayyavazhi mythology.
According to mythological accounts Kali dies one-third of the way through the Kalki Purana. During the decisive battle between Kali’s and Kalki’s armies, Kali tries to face both Dharma and Satya Yuga personified, but is overwhelmed and fled on his donkey because his chariot had been destroyed, leaving his owl-crested war flag to be trampled on the battlefield. Kali retreated to the citadel of his capital city of Vishasha where he discovered his body had been mortally stabbed and burned during his battle with the two devas. The stench of his blood billowed out and filled the atmosphere with a foul odor. When Dharma and Satya burst into the city, Kali tries to run away, but, knowing his family destroyed, coupled with his grievous wounds, he “entered his unmanifested years”. This leads some to believe that he is died, but one version of the Kalki Purana in the book The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology states Kali does not die but, instead, escapes through time and space to live in the Kali Yuga of the next Kalpa. Since he has the power to manifest himself in human form on earth, he is able to forsake his dying corporal form to escape in spirit.
Author of this article, U. Mahesh Prabhu, is distinguished fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK).