Sage Markandeya’s Predictions for Kali Yuga
The following translation of Mahabharata (Book 3, Vana Parva, Markandeya Samasya) is taken from the century old unabridged version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli. We have updated the English. –Ed.
King Yudhisthira said, “O foremost of all speakers, O Muni of Bhrigu’s race, that which we have heard from you about the destruction and re-birth of all things at the end of the yuga is wondrous indeed! I am filled with curiosity, however, in respect to what may happen in the Age of Kali. When morality and virtue will come to an end, what will remain? What will be the prowess of men in that age? What will they eat, and what will be their amusements? What will be the period of life at the end of the yuga? What also is the limit, having attained which the Krita Age will begin anew? Tell me all in detail, O Muni, for all that you are narrating is varied and delightful.”
Thus addressed, that foremost of munis Markandeya began his discourse again, delighting that tiger of the Vrishni race and the other sons of Pandu as well, saying, “Listen, O monarch, to all that has been seen and heard by me, and to all, O king of kings, that has been known to me by intuition from the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. O bull of the Bharata race, listen to me as I narrate the future history of the world during the sinful age.
Assault on the Four Legs of the Bull of Dharma
“In the Krita age, everything was free from deceit and guile and avarice and covetousness; and morality like a bull standing on all the four legs. In the Treta Yuga, sin took away one of these legs and morality then only three legs. In the Dwapara, sin and morality are mixed half and half; and accordingly morality is said to have two legs only. In the dark age (of Kali), O best of the Bharata race, morality mixed with three parts of sin lives by the side of men. Accordingly morality then is said to wait on men, with only a fourth part of itself remaining.
“Know, O Yudhisthira, that the duration of life, energy, intellect and physical strength of men decrease in every yuga. O Pandava, the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras, (in the Kali age) will deceive others with their practices of morality and virtue. Men in general will deceive their fellow man by spreading a false net of virtue. And men with bogus reputations of learning will, by their acts, cause Truth to be contracted and concealed. And in consequence of their short duration of life, they will not be able to acquire much knowledge. And due to their poor fund of knowledge, they will be devoid of wisdom. And for this, covetousness and avarice will overwhelm all of them. And—wedded to avarice, wrath, ignorance and lust—men will entertain animosities towards one another, desiring to take one another’s lives.
“Brahmanas, kshatriyas and vaishyas—their virtue contracted and divested of asceticism and truth—will all be reduced to the level of shudras. And the lowest orders of men will rise to the position of the intermediate ones, and those in intermediate stations will, without a doubt, descend to the level of the lowest ones. O Yudhisthira, such will become the state of the world at the end of the yuga. Men will regard their wives as their (only) friends. And men will live on fish and milk of goats and sheep, for cows will become extinct. Even those persons who observe vows—all will become covetous. Opposing one another, men will seek to take the lives of one another. People will become atheists and thieves. They will even dig the banks of streams with their spades and sow grains thereon, yet even those places will prove barren for them at such times.
“Those men who are devoted to ceremonial rites in honor of the deceased and of the demi-gods will be avaricious, and will also appropriate and enjoy what belongs to others. The father will enjoy what belongs to the son; and the son, what belongs to the father. And those things which are forbidden in the scriptures will also be enjoyed by men. The brahmanas, speaking disrespectfully of the Vedas, will not practice vows. Their understanding will be clouded by the science of disputation and they will no longer perform homa sacrifices. And deceived by false reasoning, they will direct their hearts towards everything mean and low. And men will till low lands for cultivation, employing cows and calves that are a mere one year old for drawing the plough and carrying burdens.
“And sons having slain their fathers; and fathers having slain their sons will incur no disgrace. They will frequently save themselves from anxiety by such murderous deeds, and even glory in them. And the whole world will be filled with mleccha behavior and notions. Sacred ceremonies and sacrifices will cease and joy will be nowhere to be found, and general rejoicing will disappear. Men will rob the possessions of helpless persons of friendless persons who have no one to help them. Men will be possessed of little energy and strength, without knowledge and given over to avarice, folly and sinful practices. Men will accept with joy the gifts offered by wicked people with words of contempt. O son of Kunti, the kings of the earth will have hearts wedded to sin. And though they will be without knowledge, they will always be boastful of their wisdom. These kings will challenge one another out of a desire of taking each other’s lives. Towards the end of that period the kshatriyas will become the thorns of the earth. They will be filled with avarice and swollen with pride and vanity. Unable and unwilling to protect (their subjects), they will take pleasure in inflicting punishments only. And attacking and repeating their attacks upon the good and the honest, and feeling no pity for the latter, even when they will cry in grief, the kshatriyas will, O Bharata, rob their subjects of their wives and wealth.
“No one will ask for a girl (for purposes of marriage) and no one will give away a girl (for such purposes), but the girls will themselves choose their lords, when the end of the yuga comes. The kings of the earth, their souls steeped in ignorance, and discontented with what they have, will rob their subjects by every means in their power. And without doubt the whole world will be mlecchified. And when the end of the yuga comes, the right hand will deceive the left; and the left, the right.
Deceit Abounds in Kali Yuga
“Men with false reputations of learning will feign truthfulness, and the old will betray the senselessness of the young, and the young will betray the dotage of the old. And cowards will have reputations for bravery and the brave will be cheerless like cowards. And towards the end of the yuga men will cease to trust one another. Full of avarice and folly, the whole world will have but one kind of food. And sin will increase and prosper, while virtue will fade and cease to flourish. And brahmanas and kshatriyas and vaishyas will disappear, leaving, O king, no remnants of their orders. Towards the end of the yuga all men will become members of one common order, without distinction of any kind. And fathers will not forgive sons, and neither will sons forgive their fathers.
“When the end approaches, wives will not wait upon and serve their husbands. And at such a time men will seek those countries where wheat and barley form the staple food. O monarch, both men and women will become perfectly free in their behavior and will not tolerate one another’s acts. O Yudhisthira, the whole world will be mlecchified. And men will cease to gratify the demigods by offerings of shraddhas. No one will listen to the words of others and no one will be regarded as a preceptor by another. O ruler of men, intellectual darkness will envelop the whole earth, and the life of man will then be measured by sixteen years, on attaining to which age death will ensue. And girls of five or six years of age will bring forth children and boys of seven or eight years of age will become fathers. O tiger among kings, when the end of the yuga will come, the wife will never be content with her husband, nor the husband with his wife.
“The possessions of men will never be much, and people will falsely bear the marks of religion, and jealousy and malice will fill the world. And no one will, at that time, be a giver (of wealth or anything else) in respect to anyone else. All the inhabited regions of the earth will be afflicted with dearth and famine, and the highways will be filled with lustful men and women of evil repute. At such a time, the women will also entertain an aversion towards their husbands. And without doubt all men will adopt the behavior of the mlecchas, become omnivorous without distinction, and cruel in all their acts.
“O foremost of the Bharatas, urged by avarice men will, at that time, deceive one another when they sell and purchase. And without knowledge of the ordinance, men will perform ceremonies and rites, and, indeed, behave as they please. When the end of the yuga comes, urged by their very dispositions, men will act cruelly, and speak ill of one another. People will, without compunction, destroy trees and gardens. Men will be filled with anxiety as regards the means of living. And, O king, overwhelmed with covetousness, men will kill brahmanas and appropriate and enjoy the possessions of their victims. Successive generations, oppressed by shudras and afflicted with fear—and crying ‘Oh!’ and ‘Alas!’—will wander over the earth without anybody to protect them. When men will begin to slay one another, becoming wicked and fierce and without any respect for animal life, then will the yuga come to an end.
“O king, even the foremost of the regenerate ones, afflicted by robbers, will quickly fly in terror like crows. They will seek refuge, O perpetuator of the Kuru race, in rivers and mountains and in inaccessible regions. O lord of the earth, always oppressed by bad rulers with burdens in the form of taxes, the foremost of the regenerate classes will in those terrible times take leave of all patience. They will perform improper acts by even becoming servants of the shudras. Shudras will expound the scriptures, and brahmanas will wait upon and listen to them thus settling their course of duty accepting such interpretations as their guides. And the low will become the high, and the course of things will look contrary.
Where the Supreme Lord is Not Worshipped
“Renouncing the worship of the Supreme Lord, men will worship bones and other relics deposited within walls. And, at the end of the yuga, the shudras will cease to wait upon and serve the brahmanas. And in the ashrams of great rishis, and the teaching institutions of brahmanas, and in places sacred to the Supreme Lord and sacrificial compounds, and in sacred tanks, the earth will be disfigured with tombs and pillars containing bony relics and not graced with temples dedicated to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All this will take place at the end of the yuga, and know that these are the signs of the end of the yuga. And when men become fierce and destitute of virtue and carnivorous and addicted to intoxicating drinks, then does the yuga come to an end.
“O monarch, when flowers will be begot within flowers, and fruits within fruits, then will the yuga come to an end. The clouds will pour rain unseasonably when the end of the yuga approaches. And at that time ceremonial rites of men will not follow one another in due order; and the shudras will quarrel with the brahmanas. And the earth will soon be full of mlecchas, and the brahmanas will fly in all directions for fear of the burden of taxes. And all distinctions between men will cease as regards conduct and behavior, and afflicted with honorary tasks and offices, people will fly to forest retreats and subsist on fruits and roots. And the world will be so afflicted that rectitude of conduct will cease to be exhibited anywhere. And disciples will set at naught the instructions of preceptors, and seek even to injure them. And preceptors will become impoverished and will be disregarded by men. Friends and relatives and kinsmen will perform friendly offices for the sake of the wealth only that is possessed by a person. And when the end of the yuga comes, everybody will be in want.
Planetary Positions Marking the Beginning of Satya Yuga
“All the points of the horizon will be ablaze, and the planets and constellations will be destitute of brilliancy, and the planets and planetary conjunctions will be inauspicious. And the course of the winds will be confused and agitated, while innumerable meteors will flash through the sky, foreboding evil. And the Sun will appear with six others of the same kind. And all around there will be din and uproar, and everywhere there will be conflagrations. The Sun, from the hour of his rising to that of setting, will be enveloped by Rahu. And the demigod of weather, Indra of a thousand eyes, will shower rain unseasonably.
“When the end of the yuga comes, crops will not grow in abundance. The women will always be sharp in speech and pitiless and fond of weeping. They will never abide by the commands of their husbands. When the end of the yuga comes, sons will slay fathers and mothers. Women, living uncontrolled, will slay their husbands and sons. O king, when the end of the yuga comes, Rahu will swallow the Sun unseasonably. And fires will blaze up on all sides. Travelers, unable to obtain food, drink and shelter (even when they ask for these), will lie down on the wayside refraining from urging their solicitations.
“When the end of the yuga comes, crows and snakes and vultures and kites and other animals and birds will utter frightful and dissonant cries. And when the end of the yuga comes, men will cast away and neglect their friends and relatives and attendants. O monarch, when the end of the yuga comes, men—abandoning their countries, directions, towns and cities—will seek for new ones, one after another. And people will wander over the earth, uttering, ‘O father, O son’, and such other frightful and rending cries.
“When those terrible times will be over, the creation will begin anew. Men will again be created and distributed into the four orders beginning with brahmanas. And about that time, in order that men may increase, Providence, according to His pleasure, will once more become propitious. And then when the Sun, the Moon, and Brihaspati will join together in the constellation Pushyami (in the sign of Cancer), the Krita age will begin again. Once more clouds will shower seasonably as the stars and stellar conjunctions again become auspicious. And the planets, duly revolving in their orbits, will become exceedingly propitious. All around, there will be prosperity and abundance and health and peace.
The Brahmana Kalki Will Save the World
“Commissioned by the will of Providence, a brahmana of the name of Kalki will take his birth. And he will glorify the Supreme Lord (and He will be His part incarnation). He will possess great energy, great intelligence, and great prowess. And he will take his birth in a place of the name of Shambhala in an auspicious brahmana family. And vehicles and weapons, and warriors and arms, and coats of mail will be at His disposal as soon as He will think of them. And He will be the King of kings, ever victorious with the strength of virtue. And he will restore order and peace in this world crowded with creatures and contradictory in its course. And that blazing brahmana of mighty intellect, having appeared, will destroy all things. And He will be the Destroyer of all, and will inaugurate a new yuga. Surrounded by other brahmanas, the brahmana named Kalki will exterminate all the mlecchas wherever those low and despicable persons may take refuge.” P
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