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Member of Dashavatar
Kalki Avatar by Ravi Varma.jpg
Raja Ravi Varma's portrayal of Kalki
AffiliationVishnu (Tenth Avatar)
WeaponNandaka Sword or Ratnamaru Sword
MountDevadatta, either a manifestation of Garuda or Uchchaihshravas[1][2][3]
FestivalsKalki Jayanti [4]
Personal information
  • Vishnuyasha (father)
  • Sumati (mother)

Kalki (Sanskrit: कल्किः), also called Kalkin,[1] is the prophesied tenth incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu to end the Kali Yuga, one of the four periods in the endless cycle of existence (Krita) in Vaishnavism cosmology. The end of Kali Yuga states this will usher in the new epoch of Satya Yuga in the cycle of existence, until the MahaPralaya (the Great Dissolution of the Universe).[1][2]

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.[2] 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.[5][6][7]

The prophecy of the Kalki Avatar is also told in Sikh texts.[8]


The name Kalki is derived from Kal, which means "Time" (Kali Yuga).[9] The literal meaning of Kalki is "Dirty, Sinful", which Brockington states does not make sense in the avatara context.[1] 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 Mahabharat manuscripts (e.g. the G3.6 manuscript) that have been found, where the Sanskrit verses name the incarnation to be "Karki", rather than "Kalki".[1] Kalki is a derived version of 'Naklanki', which itself is a derived version of 'Nish-Kalanki" which means the one without any errors or faults or abrasions.


Hindu Texts[edit]

God Kalki

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 Puran lists ten incarnations, with Kalki being the tenth.[10] He is described as the incarnations 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.[2][11] He restarts a new cycle of time.[12] He is described as a Brahmin warrior in the Puranas.[2][11]

Buddhist Texts[edit]

The 25 Kalki, who are Kings of Shambala, are surrounding a Yidam (meditation deity), located in the middle. The first top two middle rows has seated representations of Tsongkhapa, dressed in orange/yellow. This originates from the scriptures that is part of the Indo-Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tradition.
The central figure is a Yidam, a meditation deity. The 25 seated figures represent the 25 Kings Of Shambhala. The middle figure in the top row represents Tsongkhapa, who is in the top two middle rows. This comes from the scriptures that is part of the Indo-Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist Tradition.

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 "Rudra Cakrin" and is predicted to end the chaos and degeneration by assembling a large army to eradicate a barbarian army who follows a false religion, which most scholars agree to be the religion Islam.[5][6][13] A great war, which will include an army of both Hindus and Buddhists, will destroy the barbaric forces, states the text.[5][6][7] This is most likely borrowed from Hinduism to Buddhism due to the arrival of Islamic kingdoms from the west to the east, mainly settled in West Tibet, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.[14][15] 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".[5] The text is significant in establishing the chronology of the Kalki idea to be from post-7th century, probably the 9th or 10th century.[16] Lopez states that the Buddhist text likely borrowed it from Hindu mythology.[5][6] 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.[16]

Sikh Texts[edit]

The Kalki incarnation appears in the historic Sikh Texts, most notably in Dasam Granth, a text that is traditionally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh.[8][17] The Chaubis Avatar (24 incarnations) section mentions Sage Matsyanra describing the appearance of Vishnu incarnations 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.[18]


There is no mention of Kalki in the Vedic literature.[19][20] 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".[19]

Kalki appears for the first time in the great war epic Mahabharat.[21] The mention of Kalki in the Mahabharat occurs only once, over the verses 3.188.85–3.189.6.[1] The Kalki incarnation is found in the Maha-Puranas such as Vishnu Puran,[22] Matsya Puran, and Bhagavata Puran.[23][24] However, the details relating the Kalki mythologies are divergent between the Epic and the Puranas, as well as within the Puranas.[25][21]

Statue of God Kalki Incarnation on wall of Rani Ki Vav (The Queens Stepwell) at Patan Gujarat, India

In the Mahabharat, according to Hiltebeitel, Kalki is an extension of the Parashuram incarnation legend where a Brahmin Wwarrior 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.[21][26] The Kalkin section in the Mahabharat 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."[27]

According to Cornelia Dimmitt, the "clear and tidy" systematization of Kalki and the remaining nine incarnations of Vishnu is not found in any of the Maha-Puranas.[28] 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 Incarnation, the concept of Kalki was "somewhat in flux" when the major Puranas were being compiled.[28]

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.[1][29] Similarly, the Buddhist Literature dated to the late 1st millennium, a future Buddha Maitreya is depicted as Kalki.[30][31][32]

According to John Mitchiner, the Kalki concept was likely borrowed "in some measure from similar Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian and other religions".[33] 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 Puran 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.[34][21] Luis Gonzales-Reimann concurs with Mitchiner, stating that the Yuga Puran does not mention Kalki.[35] In other texts such as the sections 2.36 and 2.37 of the Vayu Puran, states Reimann, it is not Kalkin who ends the Kali Yuga, but a different character named Pramiti.[36] Most historians, states Arvind Sharma, link the development of Kalki mythology in Hinduism to the suffering caused by foreign invasions.[37]

Kalki Puran[edit]

A minor text named Kalki Puran is a relatively recent text, likely composed in Bengal. Its dating floruit is the 18th-century.[38] Wendy Doniger dates the Kalki Mythology containing Kalki Puran to between 1500 and 1700 CE.[39]

In the Kalki Puran, Kalki is born into the family of Sumati and Vishnuyasha, in a village called Shambala, on the twelfth day during the fortnight of the waxing moon.[40] At a young age, he is taught all the holy scriptures including about Dharma, Karma, Artha, Knowledge of the most ancient, the necessary wisdom of social perspective and military training under the care of the immortal Parashuram (the sixth incarnation of Vishnu).[41] Soon, Kalki worships Shiva, who gets pleased by the devotion and gives him gifts; a divine white horse named Devadatta (A Manifestation Of Garuda), a sharp, powerful, strong sword, where it’s handle is bedecked with jewels and a parrot named Shuka, who is an all-knower; the past, the present and the future, while other gifts (armour, knowledge, powers etc) are too given to him by other Devas, Devis, Saints And Righteous Kings.[42] Kalki then marries princess Padmavati (Reincarnation Of Lakshmi), the daughter of King Vrihadrath and Queen Kaumudi of Simhala (The Island Of The Lion) and princess Ramaa, the daughter of King Shashidhwaja and Queen Sushanta.[38][43] 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.[38]

Predictions About Birth And Arrival[edit]

In the Cyclic Concept Of Time (Puranic Kalpa), Kali Yuga 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 on the day of pralaya to end Kali Yuga, to end the evil and wickedness, and to recreate the world anew along with A New Cycle Of Time (Yuga).[44][45]

Kalki's description varies with manuscripts. Some state Kalki will be born to Awejsirdenee and Bishenjun,[44] others in the family of Sumati and Vishnuyasha.[46][47] In Buddhist manuscripts, 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.[48] After that, humanity will be transformed and the golden age will begin state the Hindu manuscripts.[48]

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.[46] 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.[46]

19th-century Dashavatar painting (from left): Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashuram, Ram, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.


This mythology has been compared to the concepts of Messiah, Apocalypse, Frashokereti and Maitreya in other religions.[2][11]

People who fictitiously claimed to be Lord Kalki[edit]

List of notable people who have fictitiously claimed to be the Kalki incarnation in the past:

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c d e f Dalal 2014, p. 188
  3. ^ "Kalki-Purana-english.PDF".
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  5. ^ a b c d e Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2015). Buddhism in Practice. Princeton University Press. pp. 202–204. ISBN 978-1-4008-8007-2.
  6. ^ a b c d Perry Schmidt-Leukel (2017). Religious Pluralism and Interreligious Theology: The Gifford Lectures. Orbis. pp. 220–222. ISBN 978-1-60833-695-1.
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    [b] David Burton (2017). Buddhism: A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation. Taylor & Francis. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-351-83859-7.
    [c] Johan Elverskog (2011). Anna Akasoy; et al. (eds.). Islam and Tibet: Interactions Along the Musk Routes. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 293–310. ISBN 978-0-7546-6956-2.
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External links[edit]