Kali yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, is a time in the Vedic universal cycle when the human population experiences tremendous conflict and confusion. Kali yuga lasts for 864,000 years. A little more than 5,000 years of Kali yuga has passed at present, and the Puranas describe the total length of Kali yuga as 432,000 years of Bhu-mandala, or 864,000 of our Earth years.
The Puranas describe that there are four ages: Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. These four ages occur in sequence just like the four seasons of the year. One yuga cycle is known in Sanskrit as a chatur-yuga, and one thousand chatur-yugas form a kalpa, or a single day of Lord Brahma.
Even though the passing of time is uniform through the universe, the Vedas explain that various regions within the universe experience time differently due to the phenomenon of time dilation. For example, one year in the realm of Svarga is approximately equal to 720 solar years on our planet Earth.
For this reason, the Vedas give two different measurements for the duration of Kali Yuga. In years of the devas, Kali Yuga lasts 1,200 years, and on Earth, it lasts 432,000 years. The duration of Kali Yuga is described in the Vayu Purana as follows:
kaliṃ varṣasahasrantu prāhuḥ saṃkhyāvido janāḥ/
tasyāpi śatikā saṃdhyā saṃdhyāṃśaḥ śatameva ca//
“Experts conclude that Kali Yuga consists of 1,000 years, with a Saṃdhyā of 100 years and a Saṃdhyāṃśa of 100 years.” (VP 1.32.60)
We are currently in the midst of Kali Yuga. Kali Yuga began approximately 5,000 years ago in 3102 BCE, at the end of Dwapara Yuga.
LEARN MORE: The Puranas provide an advanced understanding of our universe, including descriptions of life on other planets. Check out our guide to Vedic Cosmology.
Kali Yuga started just over 5,000 years ago in 3102 BCE when Krishna left our planet Earth, and it will lat another 427,000 years. After Kali Yuga, the yuga cycle begins again with Satya Yuga, the golden age. The transition takes place with the assistance of the Kalki Avatara, who rids the Earth of the hordes of beast-like human beings who have lost all sense of their humanness. Then a small handful of sages and ascetic kings emerge from their hermitages to repopulate the Earth and commence Satya Yuga again.
There are many symptoms of Kali Yuga given in the Srimad Bhagavatam and other Vedic texts. What follows is a compilation of some of the prominent symptoms of the age:
- Genuine religion will disappear day by day.
- People will be unclean, untruthful, merciless, short-lived, and of weak memory.
- Wealth alone will be the indicator of a person’s social status.
- Those with power and influence will escape justice and flout the law.
- In place of marriage, men and women will live together simply due to romantic attraction
- The worth of a man or woman will be judged according to their expertise in sex.
- Success in business will depend on deceit.
- Those who do not have money will be considered substandard human beings.
- Hypocrisy will be accepted as a virtue.
- Beauty will be judged simply by one’s hairstyle.
- People will think that eating well is the highest goal of life.
- People will practice religion simply to achieve fame.
- There will be widespread famine and excess taxes, and people will be forced to flee to forests and mountains.
- The maximum duration of life will be 50 years.
- By the end of Kali Yuga, human beings will be of a reduced size, the Vedas will be completely forgotten, and the leaders of society will be thieves.
- People will have no other professions than simply cheating, killing, and stealing from one another.
When Kali-yuga ends, Satya Yuga begins again. Satya Yuga is the Golden Age, when all human beings live together in perfect harmony. Then after Satya Yuga is complete, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga take place all over again. In this way the four ages cycle one after another until the entire universe is absorbed back into the body of the Supreme Being.