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kāla


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1 A common term for ‘time’, derived from the Sanskrit root kal, ‘to calculate’ or ‘enumerate’, and used in a wide variety of contexts. Inevitably, it is synonymous with death: in the Bhagavadgītā, for example, Kṛṣṇa describes himself as ‘time (kāla) run on, destroyer of the universe, risen here to annihilate worlds’ (11.32).

2 A name or epithet of Yama, the king of the dead.

3 In compounds (e.g. Mahākāla), a frequent epithet of Śiva, either in his role as the destroyer of the universe at the end of a cosmogonical cycle, and therefore lord of death (e.g. Kālabhairava, Kālanātha), or in his soteriological role as the conqueror of both time and death (e.g. Kālaharamūrti). In Śaiva metaphysics, the two roles are often elided.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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