The Kalki Avatar is the only avatar of Vishnu that is set in the future. It is an
episode of speculative prediction more than anything else, a validation of the ancient
belief of mankind that things are going to the dogs! The Kalki avatar is supposed
to do all the typical things an avatar does - beat up the bad guys, restore cosmic
balance and so on. There are however no adventure stories to relate about him, his
freedom of action is unrestricted even if his mission is not.
The Kalki Avatar is a consequence of a belief that mankind is going from bad to
worse in this most degenerate of Yugas called the Kali Yuga or Dark Iron Age. This
is not a particularly original belief, ancient Greece having the identical classification.
Many other cultures have minor variations on these four ages of human mythical history.
The Kali Yuga is going forward at full throttle now but this apparently is not as
bad as it gets. It is going to get much worse before it is all over. Kalki is the
means of this cosmic clean up act.
All we know is that when mankind finally hits its nadir, Kalki will be born in the
southern State of Andhra Pradesh to pious brahman parents. His heroic destiny will
soon manifest itself and he will mount a white horse, brandish a flaming sword and
wipe out the bad guys and restore dharma. That is the agenda as set down in the
Vishnu Purana.Many people have noticed the similarity between Kalki and
the horseman of the Apocalypse, but no sensible conclusion about it has yet been
arrived at. That is the extent of the data we have on this avatar. He will be identified
by two of the Nine Immortals currently residing on the planet. They are characters
from the Mahabharatha, Kripyacharya and Ashwatthama. The latter was cursed by the
Krishna Avatar to suffer immortality with an ever festering wound as punishment
for launching what seems to be only understandable as a primitive nuclear device.
(I kid you not. There is even a description of radiation sickness and genetic mutations
amongst the survivors.) Like the Wandering Jew of European myth he is doomed to
stay alive and traverse the earth until the savior returns and puts him out of his
agony. Ashwatthama's life covers the exact time span of the Kali Yuga. He was there
when it began and contributed the single most horrifying intervention of evil to
the age. First he broke the rules of chivalry by attacking at night while people
were sleeping and using fire too. Then he launches this missile strike. Hence the
severity of his punishment and the long wait for redemption. Since Ashwatthama was
the last person to see Vishnu in his previous avatar, his casting vote will prove
crucial in determining the authenticity of the Kalki Avatar.
The Kalki Avatar is essentially a rare sort of myth, a myth of dissolution and apocalypse.
Its descriptions of the last stages of the Kali Yuga are eerie to say the least.
Like Mother Shipton and other prophets, the writer foresees airplanes and space
travel and submarines and battles with modern equipment. It is a standing embarrassment
for rationalists and they ignore it altogether. However none of these things are
put forward as improvements or as progress. They serve to illustrate the essential
degenerative aspect of the Kali Yuga. This theory of Yugas has made the Hindu the
most cheerful pessimist in all human history.He confidently expects, as
a natural law, that things will go from bad to worse as time goes by and is immensely
happy when his belief is almost certainly vindicated by events. The Hindu therefore
has a cultural bias to tolerance of trouble. That is, after all, the way things
are meant to be in the Kali Yuga.
Amongst the many predictions made are that rulers will lose all ethical character,
their rule will be short-lived and full of conflict, they will be insatiably greedy
and not care about the people and launch unnecessary wars. The legal process will
become another name for lying your head off. Welcome to the twentieth century! It's
no wonder the Kalki myth took such deep root. There is no temple to Kalki and no
ritual of worship either. Hindus worship the past not the future, and this is a
telling indication of that. The caste system is predicted to break down, character
and learning degraded, with one's bank balance the only measure of worth. Sacred
places are places with mineral deposits, (I particularly like this one) not spiritual
sites, and all morality goes to the dogs. Sexual license is unbridled, people get
every known and unknown disease, wars wipe out most of the human race and the survivors
are a stunted brutish race that wear skin and bark and live to a maximum age of
twenty three. Kalki comes riding on his white horse to set this mess in order.
A positive aspect of this cheerful acceptance of things going to the dogs, always
a matter of perspective, is that many social reforms take place with minimal upheaval.
In other countries a revolution would be required for these things, but in India,
the swift collapse of centuries old traditional norms and social institutions are
placidly accepted as "Kali Yuga." Thus there was no violent opposition, though there
remains deep resentment, to reservations being made for what were the lower castes,
people who were not even a blimp on the radar screens of Old India. India conceded
the vote and higher university education to women before the USA and many European
countries did. This is Kali Yuga and such things are normal and acceptable - even
if regrettable! When Indira Gandhi became the first female Prime Minister of free
India there was almost relief at this accurate enactment of one of the most famous
predictions of the Vishnu Purana, that women would rule! That she was of impeccable
Brahmin lineage helped; it saved many traditionalists some extra days of glumness.
While tradition may have been in ruins, the predictions made by that tradition were
seen to be triumphantly vindicated, and there was some gloomy elation over this.
The other predictions that women would invade male domains, wear male clothes and
demand sexual independence are all also more or less coming true, to the cheerful
distress of many. The Vishnu Purana is at least one thousand five hundred years
old and these things were more remote a possibility than reaching the moon then.
One very strange aspect of the Kalki myth is that it has never triggered off any
end of the world hysteria. One of the problems with avatar theory is that man loses
all personal initiative to do anything, for action is Vishnu's department!
The upside to that is that the Hindu is immune, usually but not always, to all the-end-is-nigh
scares. The world cannot end without Kalki turning up, so there is nothing to worry
about. There is actually a god-man who calls himself Kalki but he does not preach
any imminent end of creation either. He wears an Old Testament robe and an Egyptian
cloth cap on his head and is usually photographed in Zarathusthra attitudes - none
of which are very Hindu to begin with. When somebody tried to sell me on the 'fact'
that this was indeed the long awaited Kalki, I wanted to meet Ashwatthama. That
guy has been around for nine thousand years and he would have been immensely more
fascinating to talk to. That was the end of that. India meanwhile awaits Kalki with
the sublime confidence that guaranteed disaster generates.