Virupakshya – The personification of Kali yuga

Once, there lived a family that had been blessed by the birth of a son after being childless for a very long time. The newborn’s arrival was grandly celebrated by all the family members including neighbors and relatives. Days passed and years passed, the boy and the family never had anything to complain about. But in the twelfth year, something strange happened. An astrologer came and uttered such words that snuffed all the happiness they cherished for so long. He looked at the boy and made a dark prophecy saying that the child would later commit the gravest sin of all by having an incestual relationship with his mother. He urged the family to get rid of the fiend as soon as possible.

Upon hearing the warning, the family was deeply disturbed and decided to do as advised. They did not harm the child physically but made arrangements to locate him far off so that he would never come back. But despite the effort, the mother still could not forget the prophecy. The very thought of it disturbed her night and day. She was constantly interrogating herself with questions like what if he returns someday? Realizing that a part of the vile act was to be played by herself, she decided to run away so that her son could never find her even if he tried.

After many years, the boy, now known as Virupakshya, grew up to adulthood and decided to travel to other unseen places. He journeyed for many days through various lands taking shelters wherever he could afford. On a similar event, seeing the sky getting darker he decided to take refuge in a cave but found that someone else had already occupied it. It was a middle-aged woman who was clothed like a hermit. He greeted the lady and asked if he could share the shelter, the lady agreed. As time passed by, the two of them started gossiping, sharing stories of far and off and quickly became fond of each other. The daylight retired, the moon blossomed. Their friendly attraction was now overcome by lust and soon the two bodies became one in the union.

They woke up the next day and started talking again. Now that they had reached another level of trust and intimacy, they started sharing their secrets. The lady told everything about her; the son, the prophecy and the runaway. Virupakshya also recalled his story. Soon both of them realized the true nature of their relationship and were left aghast by the sin they had committed. Alas! The prophecy had been fulfilled.

Virupakshya felt that he had done a terrible crime. He wanted to absolve his sin but did not know how. He wandered around searching for guidance and finally met the Hindu god Shiva. He confessed everything to Shiva and asked for a way to cleanse his sin. After hearing Virupakshya’s story, Lord Shiva told him that the evil done by him was the gravest of all and only the most rigorous penance would exonerate him from it. Shiva marked this event as the starting of the dark epoch known as kali yuga and declared Virupakshya as the human personification of this age. He then cursed Virupakshya to be petrified and remain buried saying that his body would re-emerge gradually as the days of kali yuga passed and would be free only at the end of the dark age. This was the only way of redemption.

The Buddhist interpretation of the story is a bit different, however. Upon knowing the infamy of his crime, Viirupakshya wandered around seeking guidance from someone. He met the Hindu god Shiva and confessed his crimes. Besotted as always, Shiva instructed him to drink molten copper. Virupakshya, however, was not convinced by this idea and decided not to do such folly. He wandered around to find a proper solution and met a Buddhist monk whose advice he found to be much sincere and sensible. The monk, after hearing the story, gave him a rosary and a mantra telling him to do the incantations until all the beads of the rosary wear out completely and disappear. Virupakshya obeyed the order and did what he was told but no matter how long he toiled, the beads did not show any sign of wearing out. Exhausted and frustrated, he decided to quit altogether but then saw a man chopping down a tree with a needle. He asked why he was using a needle rather than an axe but the man replied that it would be too laborious of work. This inspired him to continue his penance but even after thousands of repetitions, the beads did not show any signs of disappearing. Every time he decided to quit his practice, he witnessed some extraordinary events that would motivate him to continue again. He saw incidents like a bird carrying water in its bill from one tank to another or a man trying to level down a mountain with his bare hands. Inspired by all these events, he completed the practice at last.

The completion of the penance not only absolved his sins but gave him demigod like powers. He was very grateful to the monk who revealed him the right path but for Shiva, he had nothing but contempt. Overcome by wrath, he decided to teach Shiva a lesson. He started kicking every shiva linga in the region and was finally heading towards the most revered linga of Pashupatinath to complete his act of retaliation. Knowing this, Shiva worshipped Buddha who granted him a headdress having the emblem of the buddha. After a while, Virupakshya came to the scene and was poised to kick the linga but saw the Buddha headdress and stopped. The monk who guided him also arrived and chided him for using his powers for such a vile act of revenge. The monk told that he had already committed another crime by kicking the shiva lingas and therefore, ordered Virupakshya to be petrified and bury himself as an act of remorse. Like in the previous story, he told Virupakshya that he would be free at the end of the Kali yuga.

On the eastern side of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, there is a small temple on the bank of the river Bagmati. There is an odd-looking statue having half of its torso buried. This idol is believed to be the same Virupakshya that the story describes above. The locals, however, know him by the name of Kali. They firmly believe that the statue is slowly reemerging and will signify the end of the present kali yuga when it is completely unearthed. Keeping the story and local belief aside, the statue has its own value in terms of antiquity. It is believed to be the oldest human statue from Nepal dating somewhere to the period of the Kiratas. Some scholars have also claimed that the facial structure resembles a typical Kirati feature and therefore, must belong to some Kirati king or deity.