The Divine Mother shares a unique relationship with her human children. Kali, the fearsome Dark Mother, shares an intimate and loving bond with her devotees, despite her intimidating appearance. Kali assumes the role of a caring mother to her worshippers.
Who is Kali?
Kali is the ferocious incarnation of the mother goddess. This deity became popular after the composition of a text called Devi Mahatmya, circa 5th-6th century AD. Kali was born to destroy evil forces, but she got carried away and started destroying everything. To stop her killing spree, Lord Shiva surrendered at her feet. Shocked by this, Kali protruded her tongue in surprise, and ended her rampage. Thus, Kali is commonly portrayed with a foot on Shiva’s chest, with her tongue protruding out.
The Fearful Symmetry
Kali’s image is most fearsome. She has four arms. One carries a sword and another the head of a demon. The two other hands bless her devotees. She wears human heads as earrings, skulls strung as a necklace and a girdle composed of human hands as clothing. Her eyes are bloodshot and blood covers her face and breasts.
Kali’s form is filled with awesome symbols. Her black complexion is symbolic of her transcendental nature, just as black encompasses all colors. Her nudity is transparent, fundamental and primeval – just like the sky, sea and earth. Kali does not have any illusory covering, as she is beyond false consciousness or maya. The fifty human heads in Kali’s garland stand for the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabhet, symbolizing knowledge.
Kali Temples and Devotees
Eastern India is home to famous Kali temples such as Kalighat and Dakshineshwar in Kolkata. Kamakhya in Assam, known for tantrik practices, also hosts a notable Kali temple. Legendary devotees of Kali include Ramprasad, Vamakhyapa, Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. All of them showered their love on goddess Kali as if she were their own mother.