We are now in the Kal Yug, the age of decline. It is believed that Vishnu, the Preserver, will reincarnate as Kalki to deliver mankind. In the pink city of Jaipur stands the only Kalki temple in the country, quietly awaiting the coming of the Preserver… Kalki. The very name is special. “Born of time” as it literally translates itself. The story of Kalki is the story of the Indian conception of time. And time, according to Indian scriptures, is said to unfold in forever repeating cyclic patterns of four great ages or Yugs. One turn of the four Yugs is a Mahayug that lasts a staggering four million, three hundred and twenty thousand years.
The first 1,440,000 years make up the Sat Yug – the first of the four great ages. This is the age of truth and virtue and is often compared to the “holy cow” standing on its four legs of Dharma or Piety. This is followed by 1,080,000 years of Treta Yug or one could say – the age in which the “holy cow” is seen standing on three legs – the fourth taken away by sin. Next is the Dwapar Yug which lasts 720,000 years and is the age which is compared to the “holy cow” standing only on two legs of Dharma. The other two are given over to sin. And finally, there is the Kal Yug or the age of complete corruption where the “holy cow” is seen standing on one leg alone. Mercifully, this also happens to be shortest Yug lasting 360,000 years!
Vivid descriptions of the Kal Yug are found in the ancient Indian texts, especially the Vishnu Purana. A terrible picture is painted of Kal Yug which is considered to be the age of decline and degeneration of human values. People in the Kal Yug are seen to be wicked, quarrelsome and beggar like. They also eat indiscriminately, much like pigs and live in cities filled with smoke and thieves. It is truly the age of darkness, where the people are oppressed by their kings and by the ravages of war, calamities, diseases, fatigues and anger. There is distress, anxiety, hunger and fear…
To deliver mankind from such horrors, it is believed that Vishnu – Hindu God and preserver of the cosmos – will once again incarnate on earth, just as he has done so nine times before. As the tenth incarnation, mythology tells us that Vishnu will come riding a white horse with a shining sword in his hand as Kalki, the saviour, and it is Kalki who would eventually restore order out of the prevailing chaos and confusion of Kal Yug.
Chaos and confusion is indeed the order of the day. Scripturally too, we are told that we are living in the Kal Yug. And it isn't hard to believe why. Just consider the insane traffic on the roads, the pollution, the unchecked roads, the unchecked development, congestion, disparity of income! It does seem a bit like Kal Yug, but Kalki has not yet arrived.
Since the God has not yet come, it was natural that traditionally no temples were consecrated especially for Kalki. However, there is one Kalki temple in the walled, pink city of Jaipur! Perhaps, this is the only one of its kind in India.
Sawai Jai Singh, the founder king of Jaipur, built the temple around 1727 AD at the time of building the city. Of scholarly inclinations, Jai Singh was a keen student of Vedic texts and in that sense was a Hindu revivalist. He built the Kalki temple right opposite the eastern entrance to the city palace, which opens into the Sireh Deori bazaar, famous for its Hawa Mahal, the palace of winds. Its important location gives away the temple’s significance for Jai Singh but somehow it was not given a prime position on the street. Instead of opening directly, the temple was set behind the street facades of impressive buildings. Only the temple top is seen rising into the sky from the streetscape.
Although the access to the temple is through a ceremonial archway that opens at the street level, the temple itself sits atop a twenty foot high plinth. It is interesting to note that instead of steps leading up to the temple, there is a ramp in two easy gradients. Once again, within the temple complex, we find a ramp along with steps that lead to the temple.
Facing the temple in one corner is a canopied kiosk which contains a fine white marble stature of a horse. The connection is clear: when Kalki arrives, he will find his mount ready! That is why the ramps are perhaps there – to facilitate the horse to come down or climb easily. Historians have found other meanings for the presence of the white marble horse. They point out the fact that Jai Singh was the last Hindu ruler who performed the Ashwarnedh Yagya – an ancient Vedic rite. It was to commemorate the event that Sawai Jai Singh got the white horse sculpted and had it placed here.
Constructed in stone, the Kalki temple conforms to the typical style of the North Indian Temple Architecture. However, there is one architectural feature in the Kalki temple that is unique. It is the presence of two shikhars or temple tops instead of the usual one. Why does Kalki have two? Though hard to explain, the resident pujari or priest ventured an explanation. The smaller shikhar at the back is called Laxmi Niwas or the abode of Goddess Laxmi – the consort of Vishnu. It was built to house the idol of Padmawati Devi underneath the smaller shikhar but is, however, empty and the statue is kept along with that of Kalki, under the taller or what is the main shikhar.
But the temple itself is closed. In fact is it has been closed ever since it was built. Today, a caretaker priest appointed by the state government keeps it clean and tidy by periodically opening it. Otherwise, the Kalki temple has a deserted look. No devotees. No prayers. No temple bells. Clearly, Kalki’s time has not yet come! But who knows, in the timeless turning of the heavens and the earth, Kalki may not be very far away …
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