Descent of Kalki

Indian Mythology 9 Comments


Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, March 31, 2013

His descent will mark the end of Kali yuga. When faith is lost, when social structures collapse, when virtue is forgotten, he will be born to Sumati and Vishnuyasha. Parashuram will be his guru. He will worship Shiva. He will marry Padma and be the father of Jaya and Vijaya. He will ride a flying horse called Devadatta. He will have a parrot and a flaming sword. He will destroy the demons Kok and Vikok and overpower their master, Kali, source of all corruption, and renovate the world, heralding Satya yuga, the era of purity and joy.

This detailed description of Kalki comes from the Kalki Puran, written at least 1000 years after the Vishnu Puran dated to the Gupta Period (500 AD), where Kalki is mentioned as one of the many avatars of Vishnu, who rides a winged horse, sword in hand.

The idea of a prophesised saviour makes great sense in cultures that believe in one life. We want the end of the world to be a happy one, one where there is eternal resurrection, one who restores balance and wipes away all pollution. This is essentially the concept of messiah that is found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Judaism, he is yet to come. In Christianity, he is Christ, who will return during the rapture. In Islam, he is Muhammad. Some have traced this idea of the archangel saviour, Saoshyant, of Zoroastrianism that thrived in Persia and impacted thought both in the East and the West. Indians were certainly exposed to these ideas by Mauryan times.

In Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, this life is but one of infinite lives. There is no end of the world, just death followed by rebirth. What goes around comes around. So the idea of a saviour does not make sense. There is nothing to save. What goes away comes back. So what is being rescued?

In biblical mythology, one needs to be rescued from misery that follows the Original Sin. In mythologies of Indian origin, one needs to be rescued from the wheel of rebirths. In one case, it is salvation. In the other, it is liberation. Influenced by ideas of the savior, Buddhists postulated the idea of the future Buddha Maitreya who comes with flaming sword when all creatures have been saved from misery. Hindus came up with the idea of Kalki.

Another reason for the origin of this idea is the fact that in the post-Buddhist period, India was overrun by many tribes from the North West who followed the Greeks: the Scythians, the Huns, the Gujars, the Kushans. They came on horseback creating the characteristic image of the saviour on a white horse. It is interesting horses are not native to India: they have always come in from the North West, via plunderers and marauders. These warriors perhaps inspired the idea of a god who wipes out the old corrupt regime and offers the possibility of a newer fresher rule.

  • Aarthi Raghavan

    Hi Devduttji,
    I don’t think anything is being rescued here. As you said in one of your previous articles, Vishnu’s job as a protector is to make sure there is movement within the universe. At the end of Kali Yuga, there would be an excess of negative which would have the ability to stop that constant movement. Hence, He takes the Kalki avatar, so that the positive is brought back and there is constant movement in this universe. As you said, what goes comes back again. As Kalki, He is only aiding in bringing back what is gone, so that the cycle continues.

    This is my opinion! I hope you consider it! Thank you! :)

  • Rajiv Sethi

    The earliest mention of horse or Ashva appears in Ramayan. Are you saying that horses were being imported way back then? The western idiots said the same thing about the introduction of Maize to India, overlooking the temple carving that predate the Portuguese by hundreds of years. I came looking for some genuine research on Kalki Avatar and Kali Yug. What I found was a mish-mash of belief systems of other religions. Disappointing to say the least.

  • meena

    As far as I know horses are mentioned in Vedic literature too. In Mahabharat wht does Krishna mean by ‘Sambhavami yuge yuge’.

  • Deven Patankar

    Hello Sir,

    Very nice article but if horses don’t have any indian reference then why does Sun god is shown riding horses.

  • gaurav jhalani

    the idea as being pointed is all about finding a saviour in your self. making a balance of yourself with the nature. unfolding the assumptions of oneself. the conditions for birth of kalki is chaos. the reason why it is being documented in scriptures as has been described by pattnaik sir holds the value of epics to the time in which it were written. the discussion below the epics that were written and rewritten in the same era of time. actual description of horse with their location in india is absurd to be discussed. it is only the dilution of texts and discussion will resemble the like of the article shown in the pattnaik sir one of the articles”show me the original”

  • Bharat Sharma

    Dating of Gupta period, as taught by the western “historians” is a joke. So is the Aryan Invasion Theory that you refer to.

    And besides horses having been used in India since Ramayan, are you aware of native Indian horse breeds like the Mewari

    • Deep Biswas

      Ramayana was compiled/written/plotted by Aryans who brought horses from elsewhere. The breed of horses you’re speaking of, “Mewari” were bred by Rajput warriors and Kings and they were a mix of Indian ponies(not horses, pony=mule/ass etc) and Arabian horses. Possibly some Mongolian horse genes maybe. Jambudwip never had horses, they were brought from outside.

  • Deep Biswas

    First of all horses were brought to Jambudwip by the Aryas or Aryans. Scondly, I have heard many people comparing Prophet Muhammad with Kalki, in regards with the physical description e.g white horse, sword and forceful sustenance of dharma etc. But is it right to take everything literally? Often times literal explanations work, but often do not. Muhammad did not sustain Dharma(opinions may differ). He killed several tribes to sustain his own tribe. He explained the concept of ‘Adharmi’ as ‘bidharmi’, which are two separate things. He was not as barbarous as other Arabs, and was compassionate towards women. But so were Rammohun Roy and Vidyasagar…what or who exactly is Kalki? I’d like an article on this particular issue from Devdutt. Thanks.
    P.S. Idiots need not reply, they need study and research more.

  • kangkana

    Sir could you write more on kalki avatar more specifically a very detailed version. I would also like to know if kalki avatar is going to be a good avatar or a bad one because some of the things like he would reinstall caste system doesn’t find peace in my soul. Is he somewhat similar to an aggressive conservative fundamentalist man who wants to bring back the rules from which we have moved a long time back. I am a devotee of Vishnu and shiva but this version of Vishnu reminds me of religious fundamentalist terrorist trying to impose its rules to all sections of people. As for shiva he seems too indifferent. But for the time being I will be in camp shiva rather than vishnu cause this kalki avatar sounds too strict of a ruler and a society. Please sir could you throw light in these aspects. I am becoming more and more anti kalki. Help me to see the broader picture please.