(Other names : Bhawani Devi, Sati, Rudrani, Parvati, Chinnamastika, Kamakshi, Uma, Menakshi, Himavati, Kumari)
The Dark Mother Kali is a deity with whom devotees have a very loving and intimate bond, in spite of her fearful appearance. She is a fearful and ferocious form of the mother Goddess Durga. According to the Puranas, Goddess Kali is the form of Goddess Bhagwati Durga. She is four handed and wears a tiger skin. Her carrier is a dead body. Kali is the form of strength.
According to the Puranas, on getting fed up with the atrocities of the two demons Shumbh and Nishumbh, the deities prayed to Bhagwati Parvati to protect them. Then, the Goddess Kaushiki appeared from the body of Bhagwati and due to this; her body became weak and turned black. That is why she came to be known as Kalika or Kali. In the form of Kali, she killed Shumbh-Nishumbh and removed fear from the mind of the devtas (deities).
Kali has four arms, and carries a sword in one hand and the head of a demon in another. Her other two hands are raised in blessing, as if to say, ‘fear not’. In the place of earrings, she has two dead heads. She also has a string of skulls as necklace, and a girdle made of human hands as her clothing. Her tongue protrudes from her mouth, eyes are red, and face and breasts are drenched in blood. She stands with one foot on the thigh, and another on the chest of Shiva, her husband.
According to Hindu mythology, the Gods could not kill the demon Raktabija. Every drop of his blood that touched the ground transformed itself into another demon. Within a few minutes of attacking this asura with their weapons, the Gods would find the entire battlefield covered with millions of demon clones.
In despair, the Gods turned to Shiva. But Shiva was lost in meditation, so they turned to his consort Parvati. The goddess immediately set out in the form of Kali to fight a battle with this dreaded demon. She rode into the battleground on her lion, and Raktabija experienced fear for the first time in his demonic heart.
Kali ordered the gods to attack Raktabija. Kali then spread her tongue to cover the battlefield preventing even a single drop of Raktabija’s blood from falling on the ground thus preventing Raktabija from multiplying.As the legend goes, in the battle, Kali was so much involved in the killing spree that she got carried away and began destroying everything in sight.
To stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. Shocked at this sight, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her homicidal rampage. Hence the common image of Kali shows her in her melee mood, standing with one foot on Shiva’s chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out.
In India, we get evidence of Kali Pooja being done from 200 B.C. According to her beauty and quality, she has many names like Maadrakali, Guhyakali, Rakshakali, Smashan Kali etc. In different groups of incantating people, worship of Goddess Kali is very famous. In Bengal, “Kali Pooja” is organized as a ground cultural event.
Kali’s proximity is to the cremation grounds where the five elements or “Pancha Mahabhuta” come together and all worldly attachments are absolved, again point to the cycle of birth and death that Kali can deliver her devotees from. The reclined Shiva lying prostrate under the feet of Kali suggests that without the power of Kali (Shakti), Shiva is inert.
Ram Krishna Paramhansa, the famous Indian Saint was blessed to have actually had a “Darshan” of Kali the Mother. His wife, Shri Sarada Devi, was the Divine Incarnation of the Mother Herself.
“Kali Mata” or mother Kali is a great enigma in the Hindu Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. She is associated with many Tantric paths as well. Her devotees are many and they swear by her. She is one of the most enigmatic Gods to understand for someone trying to figure out Indian culture.