In Hinduism, Kali Yuga (Sanskrit: कलियुग, romanized: kaliyuga, lit. 'age of Kali') is the last of the four stages (or ages or yugas) the world goes through as part of a 'cycle of yugas' (i.e. mahayuga) described in the Sanskrit scriptures. The other ages are called Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, and Dvapara Yuga. The "Kali" of Kali Yuga means "strife", "discord", "quarrel" or "contention" and Kali Yuga is associated with the demon Kali (not to be confused with the goddess Kali).
Possible starting and ending dates
According to the Surya Siddhanta, Kali Yuga began at midnight (00:00) on 18 February 3102 BCE. This is also considered the date on which Krishna left the earth to return to Vaikuntha. This information is placed at the temple of Bhalka, the place of this incident (see photo).
According to the astronomer and mathematician Aryabhata the Kali Yuga started in 3102 BCE. He finished his book Aryabhattiyam in 499 CE, in which he gives the exact year of the beginning of Kali Yuga. He writes that he wrote the book in the "year 3600 of the Kali Age" at the age of 23. As it was the 3600th year of the Kali Age when he was 23 years old, and given that Aryabhata was born in 476 CE, the beginning of the Kali Yuga would come to (3600 - (476 + 23) + 1 (As only one year elapses between 1 BCE and 1 CE)) = 3102 BCE.
According to KD Abhyankar, the starting point of Kali Yuga is an extremely rare planetary alignment, which is depicted in the Mohenjo-Daro seals. Going by this alignment the year 3102 BCE is slightly off. The actual date for this alignment is 7 February 3104 BCE. There is also sufficient proof to believe that Vrdhha Garga knew of precession at least by 500 BCE. Garga had calculated the rate of precession to within 30% of what the modern scholars estimate.
The common belief until Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri had analyzed the dating of the yuga cycles was that the Kali Yuga would last for roughly 432,000 years after the end of the Dwapara Yuga (3102 BCE). This originated during the puranic times when the famous astronomer Aryabhata recalculated the timeline by artificially inflating the traditional 12,000 year figure with a multiplication of 360, which was represented as the number of "human years" that make up a single "divine year". This was likely a purposeful miscalculation due to conflicts with one of the preeminent astronomer of the time Brahmagupta. However, both the Mahabharata (which was used by Aryabhata in his calculations) and the Manu Smriti have the original value of 12,000 years for one half of the yuga cycle.
Contemporary analysis of historical data from the last 11 millennia matches with the indigenous Saptarishi Calendar. The length of the transitional periods between each yuga is unclear, and can only be estimated based on historical data of past cataclysmic events. Using a 300 year (10% of the length of a particular yuga) period for transitions, Kali Yuga has either ended recently in the past 100 to 200 years, or is to end soon sometime in the next 100 years.
Other authors, such as the revered Hindu guru Swami Sri Yukteswar in his book The Holy Science, as well as the influential Yogi Paramhansa Yogananda, believe that the Kali Yuga has already ended, and that we are now in an ascending Dvapara Yuga. This calculation is also supported  by modern day spiritual masters such as Jaggi Vasudev.
Hindus believe that human civilization degenerates spiritually during the Kali Yuga. Common attributes and consequences are spiritual bankruptcy, mindless hedonism, breakdown of all social structure, greed and materialism, unrestricted egotism, afflictions and maladies of mind and body.
Hinduism often symbolically represents morality (dharma) as an Indian bull. In Satya Yuga, the first stage of development, the bull has four legs, but in each age morality is reduced by one quarter. By the age of Kali, morality is reduced to only a quarter of that of the golden age, so that the bull of Dharma has only one leg.
References in the Mahabharata
The Kurukshetra War and the decimation of Kauravas thus happened at the Yuga-Sandhi, the point of transition from one yuga to another. The scriptures mention Narada as having momentarily intercepted the demon Kali on his way to the Earth when Duryodhana was about to be born in order to make him an embodiment of arishadvargas and adharma in preparation of the era of decay in values and the consequent havoc.
In relation to rulers, it lists:
- Rulers will become unreasonable: they will levy taxes unfairly.
- Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.
- People will start migrating, seeking countries where wheat and barley form the staple food source.
- "At the end of Kali-yuga, when there exist no topics on the subject of God, even at the residences of so-called saints and respectable gentlemen of the three higher varnas (guna or temperament) and when nothing is known of the techniques of sacrifice, even by word, at that time the Lord will appear as the supreme chastiser." (Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7)
With regard to human relationships, Markandeya's discourse says:
- Avarice and wrath will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other. Ignorance of dharma will occur.
- People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that.
- Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
- Sin will increase exponentially, while virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
- People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
- Gurus will no longer be respected and their students will attempt to injure them. Their teachings will be insulted, and followers of Kama will wrest control of the mind from all human beings.
- Women will no longer get married.
10,000 year "Golden Age"
The Brahma Vaivarta Purana (related to Rathantara kalpa) mentions a ten thousand-year period, starting from the traditional dating of the Kali Yuga epoch, during which bhakti yogis will be present. Krishna foretold that Kali Yuga will be full of extreme hardships for people with ideals and values.
The Brahma-vaivarta Purana has words spoken by Krishna to Mother Ganga just before the beginning of the Kali Yuga (the age of quarrel and strife). The Kali Yuga began approximately five thousand years ago, that golden age is being described below by Krishna. Predicted in Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129. The fourth part of the Brahma-vaivarta is called Kṛṣṇa-janma-khanda. Chapter 129 is called Golokarohanam, because it describes how Krishna returns to His abode. This specific dialogue is between Krishna and Mother Ganga. Verse 49 is a question by Ganga, verses 50–60 are Krishna's answer.
This text is taken from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana  Text 59:
madbhaktāḥ santi bhūtale
madbhakteṣu gateṣu ca
"For 10,000 years of Kali such devotees of Mine will be present on earth. After the departure of My devotees there will be only one varna."
The above is supported in 4.90.32–33:
haris tiṣṭhati medinī
devānām pratimā pūjyā
śāstrāni ca purāṇakam
Hence to protect ourselves from Kaliman, it is believed that we should start doing japa, meditation, or any yoga such as Bhakti yoga, karma yoga, Raja yoga, and jnana yoga. But, chanting the holy name of God is the best path in Kali Yuga.
Kali is the reigning lord of Kali Yuga and his nemesis is Kalki, the tenth and final Avatar of Vishnu. According to the Vishnu Purana, Kali is a negative manifestation working towards the cause of 'the end' or rather towards eventual rejuvenation of the universe.
Kali also serves as an antagonistic force in the Kalki Purana. It is said that towards the end of this yuga, Kalki will return riding on a white horse to battle with Kali and his dark forces. The world will suffer a fiery cataclysm that will destroy all evil, and Shiva will destroy the universe. Brahma will create the universe anew, and then a new age (the next Satya Yuga of the following Mahayuga), will begin.
Some Shaivites maintain that the ill effects of Kali Yuga can only be moderated by the manifestation of Shiva himself. Shastriji, one of the followers of Haidakhan Babaji, gave the following narration: "Once Parvati asked Lord Shiva, her husband: 'You have done good work for the people in all ages, but I am afraid for the people in the Kali Yuga; how will they safeguard themselves?' Then Lord Shiva told Parvati: 'I will appear in the Kali Yuga and I will create a new state, a new centre of religion - a most important place, where I will live and establish all the Gods there.'"
Shastriji went further to suggest that this promise manifested through the person of Haidakhan Babaji. One of the central tenets of Haidakhan Babaji's teachings is the message of Karma Yoga or hard work. In the context of Kali Yuga Haidakhan Babaji explained:
"As I have told you before, the thing needed in this Age is work (karma). In every Age people have reached salvation through different types of action and sadhana (spiritual discipline), but in this Age one can reach liberation only through hard work. I want real, practical human beings and only he is a true human being who lives in accordance with this Age. We need not consider religion or caste, but look only to hard work."
In Sikhism, Kali Yuga is metaphorically used to describe the state of the world as was commonly understood in the 16th century. It is stressed that one should meditate as much as possible to reach the state of Murti and be liberated or be one with God. Guru Granth Sahib Ji on Ang:1185 says:
ab kaloo aaeiou rae : Now, the Dark Age of Kali Yuga has come.
eik naam bovahu bovahu : Plant the Name, the Name of the One Lord.
an rooth naahee naahee : It is not the season to plant other seeds.
math bharam bhoolahu bhoolahu : Do not wander lost in doubt and delusion.
The Kali Yuga is an important concept in both Theosophy and Anthroposophy, and in the writings of Helena Blavatsky, W.Q. Judge, Rudolf Steiner, and traditionalist ideologues such as René Guénon and Julius Evola, among others. Rudolf Steiner believed that the Kali Yuga ended in 1900. The traditionalists describe modern Western civilization as being in its Kali Yuga phase, in a state of degeneration and eventual collapse.
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