The Kalachakra Tantra was taught by the Buddha more than 2800 years ago in present-day Andhra Pradesh, South India. It was preserved in the northern land of Shambhala and brought back to India in the 10th century. It was spread from India to Burma, the Malay Peninsula, and Indonesia, but died out in these areas by the 14th century. It was transmitted from India to Tibet several times between the 11th and 13th centuries. Lineages of it are found in the Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug traditions of Tibet.
In the mid-18th century, the Gelug lineage of the Kalachakra teachings were brought from Tibet to Manchu China at the request of the Qianlung Emperor. A Kalachakra college was established at the Yungho Gong Monastery in Beijing with help from the Seventh Dalai Lama. At the beginning of the 19th century, Kalachakra came to Mongolia. At the invitation of the Fourth Bogdo Gegen, the Eighth Dalai Lama sent from his own Namgyal Monastery Gyalsay Dorjechang, who founded the main Kalachakra Monastery of Mongolia, Dechen Kalawa. Kalachakra practice was spread throughout Mongolia by the Fourth and Fifth Bogdo Gegens. The other major monasteries for Kalachakra rituals in Mongolia were Gandan and Dzun Khure in Ulaan Baatar. Although the last powdered sand mandala of Kalachakra in Mongolia was constructed in 1937, the Kalachakra rituals have continued to be recited annually at Gandan Monastery.
In Western Mongolia and in the Oirat Mongol regions of present-day Xinjiang (East Turkistan), the Kalachakra lineage came from Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in the northeastern Tibetan province of Amdo. Two lineages of Kalachakra went to Buryatia in Siberia. One was from Dechen Kalawa in Mongolia, and the other also from Labrang Tashikyil. The Kalachakra tradition was also transmitted from Mongolia to the Turkic Buddhist region of Tuva. In Kalmykia and in the Leningrad Datsang Monastery, the Kalachakra tradition came directly from Tibet, primarily through the efforts of Agvan Dorjiev, the Buryat Mongol Master Debate Partner of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.
Kalachakra has received prominent attention in the various medical and astro traditions and institutes of Tibet, Mongolia, and Central Asia. This is because the science of calculating the Tibetan calendar, a great portion of the Tibetan astronomical and astrological teachings, and a certain small portion of the Tibetan medical knowledge, particularly the formulas for making various precious-gem medicines, derive from the Kalachakra teachings. The Mongolian calendar and astrology and medical systems derive from the Tibetan ones.