Kalpa, aka: Kalpā, Kālpa; 17 Definition(s)


Kalpa means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Āstika (orthodox philosophy)

Originally, a kalpa was considered to be 4,320,000 years.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Indian Philosophy
context information

The term āstika refers to six mainstream schools of Hindu philosophy, accepting the Vedas as authorative. They are: Nyāyá (logic), Vaiśeṣika (atomism), Sāṃkhya (enumeration), Yoga (Patañjali’s school), Mimāṃsā (Vedic exegesis) and Vedanta (Upaniṣadic tradition). Together they also go by the name ṣaḍdarśana (‘six systems’).

Vaiṣṇavism (Vaiṣṇava dharma)

The four yugas are calculated in terms of the heavenly calendars and accordingly are twelve thousand years in terms of the heavenly planets. This is called a divya-yuga, and one thousand divya-yugas make one day of Brahmā.

The creation during the day of Brahmā is called kalpa, and the creation of Brahmā is called vikalpa. When vikalpas are made possible by the breathing of Mahā-Viṣṇu, this is called a mahā-kalpa. There are regular and systematic cycles of these mahā-kalpas, vikalpas and kalpas.

The thirty kalpas of Brahmā are:

  1. Śveta-kalpa,
  2. Nīlalohita,
  3. Vāmadeva,
  4. Gāthāntara,
  5. Raurava,
  6. Prāṇa,
  7. Bṛhat-kalpa,
  8. Kandarpa,
  9. Sadyotha,
  10. Īśāna,
  11. Dhyāna,
  12. Sārasvata,
  13. Udāna,
  14. Garuḍa,
  15. Kaurma,
  16. Nārasiḿha,
  17. Samādhi,
  18. Āgneya,
  19. Viṣṇuja,
  20. Saura,
  21. Soma-kalpa,
  22. Bhāvana,
  23. Supuma,
  24. Vaikuṇṭha,
  25. Arciṣa,
  26. Valī-kalpa,
  27. Vairāja,
  28. Gaurī-kalpa,
  29. Māheśvara,
  30. Paitṛ-kalpa.
(Source): VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam
Vaiṣṇavism book cover
context information

Vaiṣṇava (वैष्णव, vaishnava) or Vaiṣṇavism (vaishnavism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshipping Viṣṇu as the supreme Lord. Similair to the Śāktism and Śaivism traditions, Vaiṣṇavism also developed as an individual movement, famous for its exposition of the daśāvatāra (‘ten avatars of Viṣṇu’).


1a) Kalpa (कल्प).—A son of Dhruva and Bhramī.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 10. 1.

1b) A nephew of Hiraṇyakaśipu.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 6. 26.

1c) The period of fourteen Manus or 1000 yugas followed by pralaya;1 in the day Brahmā; in the night Nārāyaṇa sleeping over his couch Śeṣa the thirty kalpas and the thirty days of Brahmā. These are mixed, tāmasa, rājasa and sātvika2 from klipu, to introduce with intelligence; the fourteen saṃsthas Brahmā introduced and hence kalpa;3 twenty-eight in number, each of two kalpārdhas;4 the 14 kalpas made by Brahmā and hence the name.5

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 8. 12; IV. 9. 14; XII. 4. 2-3; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 1. 116, 173 and 210; Viṣṇu-purāṇa III. 2. 50-2; VI. 3. 12.
  • 2) Matsya-purāṇa 290. 1-16.
  • 3) Vāyu-purāṇa 7. 77; 21. 28ff.
  • 4) Vāyu-purāṇa 21. 17-18; 22. 7; 30. 231: 59. 138; 61. 54 and 102.
  • 5) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 6. 74.

1d) Ritual literature; part of Viṣṇu.*

  • * Viṣṇu-purāṇa V. 1. 37.

2) Kalpā (कल्पा).—A door-keeper of Mahākāla.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 32. 18.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
context information

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

1. Kalpa is one of the six disciplines of Vedanga, treating ritual. Tradition does not single out any special work in this branch of the Vedanga; but sacrificial practice gave rise to a large number of systematic sutras for the several classes of priests.

2. Kalpa is a Sanskrit word (Hindi: कल्प kalpa) meaning an aeon, or a relatively long period of time (by human calculation) in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. The concept is first mentioned in the Mahabharata. The definition of a kalpa equaling 4.32 billion years is found in the Purāṇas (specifically Viṣnu Purāṇa and Bhagavata Purāṇa).

3. In Hinduism (cf. Hindu Time Cycles), it is equal to 4.32 billion years, a "day of Brahma" or one thousand mahayugas, measuring the duration of the world (scientists estimate the age of the Earth at 4.54 billion years). Each kalpa is divided into 14 manvantara periods, each lasting 71 yuga cycles (306,720,000 years). Preceding the first and following each manvatara period is a juncture (sandhya) the length of a Satya-yuga (1,728,000) years. Two kalpas constitute a day and night of Brahma. A "month of Brahma" is supposed to contain thirty such days (including nights), or 259.2 billion years. According to the Mahabharata, 12 months of Brahma (=360 days) constitute his year, and 100 such years the life cycle of the universe. Fifty years of Brahma are supposed to have elapsed, and we are now in the shvetavaraha-kalpa of the fifty-first; at the end of a Kalpa the world is annihilated.

4. The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas, or ages: Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. The names of 30 Kalpas are found in the Matsya Purāṇa (290.3-12). These are:

  1. Śveta
  2. Nīlalohita
  3. Vāmadeva
  4. Rathantara
  5. Raurava
  6. Deva
  7. Vṛhat
  8. Kandarpa
  9. Sadya
  10. Iśāna
  11. Tamah
  12. Sārasvata
  13. Udāna
  14. Gāruda
  15. Kaurma
  16. Nārasiṃha
  17. Samāna
  18. Āgneya
  19. Soma
  20. Mānava
  21. Tatpumān
  22. Vaikuṇṭha
  23. Lakṣmī
  24. Sāvitrī
  25. Aghora
  26. Varāha
  27. Vairaja
  28. Gaurī
  29. Māheśvara and
  30. Pitṛ

The Vāyu Purāṇa in chapter 21 gives a different list of 28 kalpas. It also lists five more kalpas in the next chapter.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

Lord Brahma's one day is called a kalpa, the creation of Brahma is called vikalpa and the creation of the total creation is called mahakalpa.

In the Skanda Purana, Brahma's thirty days are mentioned:

  1. Sveta Varaha Kalpa
  2. Nilalohita Kalpa
  3. Vamadeva Kalpa
  4. Gathantara Kalpa
  5. Raurava Kalpa
  6. Prana Kalpa
  7. Brhat Kalpa
  8. Kandarpa Kalpa
  9. Sadyata Kalpa
  10. Isana Kalpa
  11. Dhyana Kalpa
  12. Sarasvata Kalpa
  13. Udana Kalpa
  14. Garuda Kalpa
  15. Kaurma Kalpa
  16. Narasimha Kalpa
  17. Samadhi Kalpa
  18. Agneya Kalpa
  19. Visnuja Kalpa
  20. Saura Kalpa
  21. Soma Kalpa
  22. Bhavana Kalpa
  23. Supuma Kalpa
  24. Vaikuntha Kalpa
  25. Arcisa Kalpa
  26. Vali Kalpa
  27. Vairaja Kalpa
  28. Gauri Kalpa
  29. Mahesvara Kalpa
  30. Paitr Kalpa

Each day of Brahma is a duration of one thousand divya yugas. A divya yuga comprises of one thousand of the four yugas. The same duration comprises his night.

(Source): Vedic Knowledge Online: Creation and Annihilation of the Universe

In Buddhism


kappa : (m.) 1. a world cycle; an aeon; 2. thought. (adj.), suitable; proper; resembling. (in cpds.).

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

1. Kappa - One of Bavaris disciples. The questions he asked of the Buddha are recorded in the Kappamanavapuccha (q.v.). He became an arahant. Sn.vv.1007, 1092-5; SnA.ii.597.

2. Kappa Thera - An arahant. He was the son of a provincial governor in Magadha and was addicted to self indulgence. The Buddha, seeing him in his net of wisdom, visited him and admonished him, speaking to him of the filthy nature of the body, illustrating his sermon with a wealth of simile and metaphor. Kappa was greatly impressed and joined the Order. He became an arahant, as his head was being shaved. In the time of the Buddha Siddhattha he was a rich householder, and offered at the Buddhas shrine a kapparukkha containing objects of great value. Wherever he was born celestial trees grew outside his door. Seven kappas ago he was eight times king under the name of Sucela (Thag.567-76; ThagA.i.521ff). He is probably identical with Kapparukkhiya of the Apadana. Ap.i.91.

3. Kappa - In the Samyutta Nikaya (S.iii.169f) two suttas are connected with a monk called Kappa, who is probably identical with Kappa (2). In both suttas he asks the Buddha how it is possible to cultivate knowledge and thought so as to be free from thoughts of I and mine with regard to the body. The same questions, receiving the same answers, are elsewhere attributed to Rahula. S.ii.253f.

4. Kappa - A young brahmin (Kappakamara) who was the Bodhisatta. He later became a sage and the disciple and friend of Kesava. For his story see the Kesava Jataka (J.iii.142ff). The story is also referred to in the Bakabrahma Jataka (J.iii.361; DhA.i.342f), and mentioned in the Samyutta Nikaya (S.i.144; SA.i.164; MA.i.555), where Bakabrahma is identified with Kappas teacher, Kesava. v.l. Kappaka.

5. Kappa - See Nigrodha Kappa.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

(Skr) = kappa).

-- or --

(Sanskrit kalpa): 'world-period', an inconceivably long space of time, an aeon. This again is subdivided into 4 sections:

  • world-dissolution (samvatta-kappa) dissolving world),
  • continuation of the chaos (samvatta-tthāyī),
  • world-formation (vivatta-kappa),
  • continuation of the formed world (vivatta-tthāyī).

"How long a world-dissolution will continue, how long the chaos, how long the formation, how long the continuation of the formed world, of these things; o monks, one hardly can say that it will be so many years, or so many centuries, or so many millennia, or so many hundred thousands of years" (A.IV.156)

A detailed description of the 4 world-periods is given in that stirring discourse on the all-embracing impermanence in A.VII.62.

The beautiful simile in S.XV.5 may be mentioned here: "Suppose, o monks, there was a huge rock of one solid mass, one mile long, one mile wide, one mile high, without split or flaw. And at the end of every hundred years a man should come and rub against it once with a silken cloth. Then that huge rock would wear off and disappear quicker than a world-period. But of such world-periods, o monks, many have passed away, many hundreds, many thousands, many hundred thousands. And how is this possible? Inconceivable, o monks, is this samsāra, not to be discovered is any first beginning of beings, who obstructed by ignorance and ensnared by craving, are hurrying and hastening through this round of rebirths."

Compare here Grimm's German fairy-tale of the little shepherd boy: 'In Farther Pommerania there is the diamond-mountain, one hour high, one hour wide, one hour deep. There every hundred years a little bird comes and whets its little beak on it. And when the whole mountain is ground off, then the first second of eternity has passed."

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

General definition (in Buddhism)

Kalpa (कल्प) or Caturkalpa refers to the “four aeons” as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 87):

  1. antara-kalpa (an intervalic aeon),
  2. mahā-kalpa (a great aeon),
  3. śūnya-kalpa (an empty aeon),
  4. sāra-kalpa (an essential aeon).

The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., kalpa). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgrahaKalpa in Sanskrit, Kappa in Pali. It is a fabulous period of four hundred and thirty two million years of mortals, measuring the duration of world. It is the period of time between other creation and recreation of a world or universe. The four kalpas of formation, existence, destruction and emptiness as a complete period, is called maha kalpa or great kalpas. Each great kalpa is subdivided into four asamkhyeya kalpas or kalpas. Each of the four kalpas is subdivided into twenty antara kalpas, or small kalpas. There are different distinctions and illustrations of kalpas. In general, a small kalpa is represented as 16,800,000 years, a kalpa as 336,000,000 years and a mahakalpa is 1,334,000,000 years.(Source): Buddhist Door: Glossary

A Kalpa denotes a great period of time; a period during which a physical universe is formed and destroyed.

Asankhyeya denotes the highest sum for which a conventional term exists:

  • According to Chinese calculations equal to one followed by seventeen ciphers;
  • According to Thibetan and Singhalese, equal to one followed by ninety-seven ciphers.

Every Maha-kalpa consists of four Asankhyeya-kalpas. Eitel, p. 15.

(Source): eBooks@Adelaide: A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms

Kalpa Skt.; world cycle, world age (Pali, kappa); term for an endlessly long period of time, which is the basis of Buddhist time reckoning. The length of a kalpa is illustrated by the following simile: suppose that every hundred years a piece of silk is rubbed once on a solid rock one cubic mile in size; when the rock is worn away by this, one kalpa will still not have passed.

A kalpa is divided into four parts: the arising of a universe, the continuation of the arisen universe, the demise of that universe, the continuation of chaos. In the period of the arising of a universe, individual worlds with their sentient beings are formed. In the second period sun and moon come into being, the sexes are distin­guished, and social life develops. In the phase of universal demise, fire, water, and wind de­stroy almost everything. The period of chaos is that of total annihilation. a

(Source): Shambala Publications: General

1. According to Visuddhimagga, there are several explanations for types of kalpas and their duration. In the first explanation, there are four types:

  1. Ayu-Kalpa,
  2. Antah-Kalpa,
  3. Asankya-Kalpa,
  4. Maha-Kalpa.

2. In another simple explanation, there are four different lengths of kalpas. A regular kalpa is approximately 16 million years long (16,798,000 years), and a small kalpa is 1000 regular kalpas, or about 16 billion years. Further, a medium kalpa is roughly 320 billion years, the equivalent of 20 small kalpas. A great kalpa is 4 medium kalpas, or around 1.28 trillion years.

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Kalpa (कल्प).—One of the four heavens of the upper world (ūrdhvaloka);—The kalpas are 16, according to the Digambaras, and situated in eight superimposed pairs which are compared to the ribs of a man. They are:

  1. Saudharma,
  2. Aiśāna,
  3. Sanatkumāra,
  4. Māhendra,
  5. Brahma,
  6. Brahmottara,
  7. Lāntaka,
  8. Kāpiṣṭha,
  9. Śukra,
  10. Mahāśukra,
  11. Śatāra,
  12. Sahasrāra,
  13. Ānata,
  14. Prāṇata,
  15. Āraṇa,
  16. Acyuta.

According to the Śvetāmbaras the kalpa heavens are 12 in number, omitting Brahmottara, Kāpiṣṭha, Mahāśukra and Śatāra of the Digambara list.

(Source): Google Books: Jaina Iconography

Kalpa (कल्प, “heaven”).—According to the Tattvārtasūtra 4.23, “prior to graiveyakas are the kalpas”.—What is a kalpa? The places where lords (Indra), his equals /co-chiefs, the councilors etc are imagined to exist are called kalpa. How many kalpas are there? There are sixteen heavens from Saudharma-Acyuta heavens or twelve heavens are called kalpas.

What is the difference between kalpa and kalpātīta? The places where lords, his equal, the counselors etc are imagined to exist are called kalpa. The places where only Ahmindras exist are called kalpātīta.

(Source): Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 4: The celestial beings (deva)
General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

kalpa (कल्प).—m (S) A day and night of brahmā, a period of 4,320,000,000 solar-sidereal years, measuring the duration of the world, and the interval betwixt its annihilation and re-creation. 2 A side or view (of a case or subject). 3 More frequently vikalpa Optionality or alternative. 4 The name of a Shastra, one of the six Vedangas comprehending the description of religious rites. 5 Doubting or doubt. 6 A resolve or purpose.

--- OR ---

kalpa (कल्प).—a S Capable of; competent unto. 2 In comp. Like or resembling.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

kalpa (कल्प).—m Doubt. A day and night of bramhā. A resolve. A side or view of a case.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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