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The Destroyer of Adharma
Member of Dashavatara
Kalki Avatar by Ravi Varma.jpg
Raja Ravi Varma's imagination of Kalki on his mount Devdutt with Ratna Maru sword.
AffiliationVishnu (tenth and final avatara)
WeaponNandaka Sword
MountDevdutt, the White horse[1][2]
FestivalsKalki Jayanti
Personal information
ParentsVishnuyash and Sumati
SiblingsSumant, Pragya and Kavi[citation needed]
SpousePadmavati (incarnation of Lakshmi)
ChildrenJaya, Vijaya, Meghmala and Balahaka[citation needed]

Kalki, also called Kalkin,[1] is the prophesied tenth avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. His birth will be the end of the Kali Yuga, the final of the four eras (Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga), in the endless cycle of existence within Hinduism. This will subsequently start a new cycle with Satya Yuga.

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.[2] The description and details of Kalki are different among various Puranas. He is, for example, only an invisible force destroying evil and chaos in some texts,[citation needed] and portrayed as someone leading an army of warriors in some. Kalki is also found in Buddhist texts: For example the Kalachakra-Tantra of Tibetan Buddhism.[3][4][5]

The prophecy of the Kalki avatar is believed not only by the followers of the Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) but by Sikhism as well, as the last Avatar in Dashavatara, the ten avatars of Vishnu, who is the chief deity in Vaishnavism.


The name Kalki is derived from Kal, which means "time" (Kali Yuga).[6] The literal meaning of Kalki is "all doing", 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 Mahabharata manuscripts (e.g. the G 3.6 manuscript) that have been found, where the Sanskrit verses name the avatar to be "karki", rather than "kalki".[1]


In Hindu texts[edit]

In some Hindu traditions, such as Vaishnavism, Kalki is considered to be an avatar of Vishnu. Avatar means "incarnation" 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.[7] 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.[2][8] He restarts a new cycle of time.[9] He is described as a warrior in the Puranas.[2][8]

In Buddhist texts[edit]

In the Buddhist Kalachakra Tantra, or 'Wheel of Time' texts, 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 Evil".[3][4] A great war and Armageddon will destroy the barbaric forces, states the text.[3][4][5] According to Donald Lopez – a professor of Buddhist Studies, Kalki is predicted to start the new cycle of perfect era where "People will live long, happy lives and righteousness will reign supreme".[3] The text is significant in establishing the chronology of the Kalki idea to be from post-7th century, probably the 9th or 10th century.[10] Lopez states that the Buddhist text likely borrowed it from Hindu mythology.[3][4] 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.[10]


Kalki as Vajimukha (horse-faced).

There is no mention of Kalki in the Vedic literature.[11][12] 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".[11]

Kalki appears for the first time in the great war epic Mahabharata.[13] The mention of Kalki in the Mahabharata occurs only once, over the verses 3.188.85–3.189.6.[1] The Kalki avatar is found in the Maha-Puranas such as Vishnu Purana,[14] Matsya Purana, and Bhagavata Purana.[15][16] However, the details relating the Kalki mythologies are divergent between the Epic and the Puranas, as well as within the Puranas.[17][13]

In the Mahabharata, according to Hiltebeitel, Kalki is an extension of the Parasurama avatar legend warrior destroys those kings 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.[13][18] 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 Yuga and the beginning of Satya Yuga — something far removed from his own situation — is merely a device for justifying the inclusion of this subject matter in the Epic."[19]

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.[20] 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.[20][20]

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][21]

According to John Mitchiner, the Kalki concept was likely borrowed "in some measure from similar Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, and other religions".[22] 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.[23][13] Luis Gonzales-Reimann concurs with Mitchiner, stating that the Yuga Purana does not mention Kalki.[24] 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.[25] Most historians, states Arvind Sharma, link the development of Kalki mythology in Hinduism to the suffering caused by foreign invasions.[26]


Many ways are suggested to identify Kalki Avatar. The Padma Purana describes that Kalki will gather all brahmanas and 'propound the highest truth'. Thus, this is the first indication. Kalki will have the power to change the course of the stream of time and restore the path of the righteous. Kalki will be able to turn the wheel of dharma. He will be awarded the weapon by Lord Shiva. Kalki must fulfil the prophecy of Lord Shiva as mentioned in Kalki Purana. The second identification would be the nativity of Kalki's wife. As it is written in Kalki Purana that wife of Kalki, Padma would be from Simhala Island. Because Kalki mythology is prevalent in India, so if Kalki would be an Indian, then wife of Kalki should be a foreigner from either an island country or a country which has island as its parts. In Kalki Purana, Lord Parshurama said to Lord Kalki that "You will be awarded a powerful weapon by Lord Shiva. Thereafter, you will marry a woman named Padma from the island of Simhala." So, it can be concluded that Kalki will likely be awarded the weapon before his marriage. Before the marriage, a person would come to know if he is Kalki or not. And if somebody had some mystical experience which made him think that he might be Kalki, then his marriage with a woman from an island might be a second indication that he might be Kalki. Because Kalki is supposed to be a warrior and supposed to fight many wars, so the war will be inevitable. The further indication will be if a person is able to use the weapons and gifts awarded by Lord Shiva in the war. Kalki will know about himself fully in a war where heaven will help him to win the war. The accurate time of Kalki's birth can't be predicted, so only these signs might help to identify anyone as Kalki. These signs are based on the conclusions drawn from scriptures and can be symbolic.

Kalki Purana[edit]

A minor text named Kalki Purana is a relatively recent text, likely composed in Bengal. Its dating floruit is the 18th-century.[27] Wendy Doniger dates the Kalki mythology containing Kalki Purana to between 1500 and 1700 CE.[28]

In the Kalki Purana, Kalki marries princess Padmavati, the daughter of Brhadratha of Simhala.[27] 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.[27]

Kalki Avatar in Sikhism[edit]

Kalki Avatar Punjab Hills, Guler, c. 1765.

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.[29][30] 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.[31]

Features and iconography[edit]

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

[Lord Shiva said to Lord Kalki:] "This horse was manifested from Garuda, and it can go anywhere at will and assume many different forms. Here also is a parrot [ Shuka ] that knows everything: past, present, and future. I would like to offer You both the horse and the parrot and so please accept them. By the influence of this horse and parrot, the people of the world will know You as a learned scholar of all scriptures who is a master of the art of releasing arrows, and thus the conqueror of all. I would also like to present You this sharp, strong sword and so please accept it. The handle of this sword is bedecked with jewels, and it is extremely powerful. As such, the sword will help You to reduce the heavy burden of the earth."[32]

Thereafter, Lord Kalki picked up His brightly shining trident and bow and arrows and set out from His palace, riding upon His victorious horse and wearing His amulet.[33]

[Shuka said to Padmavati:] [Lord Kalki] received a sword, horse, parrot, and shield from Mahadeva, as a benediction.[34]

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,but it's still disputed. In some Vaishnava texts, Kalki is forecasted to appear on a white horse, at the end of Kali Yuga, to end the age of degeneration and to restore virtue and world order.[35][36]

Kalki is described differently in Indian and Buddhist manuscripts. The Indian texts state that Kalki will be born to Awejsirdenee and Bishenjun,[35] or alternatively in the family of Sumati and Vishnuyasha.[37][38] He appears at the end of Kali Yuga to restore the order of the world.[35][36] 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.[39] After that, humanity will be transformed and will prevail on earth, and the golden age will begin.[39]

In the Kanchipuram temple, two relief Puranic panels depict Kalki, one relating to lunar dynasty as mother of Kalki and another to solar dynasty as father of Kalki.[37] 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.[37]

19th-century Dashavatara painting (from left): Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalki.

People who claimed to be Kalki[edit]

List of people who have claimed to be the Kalki avatar (These people only claimed themselves, but are not Kalki):

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]