I can still remember the very first time I saw the image of Goddess Kali (sometimes spelt "Kaali"). It was when I was about eight and my neighbour had taken me with her on a visit to her pundit. I remember entering the mandir at the pundits home and the first murti I saw towering with the frightful garland of skulls, lolling tongue and weapons was Devi Maa Kaali.
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Needless to say I was scared out of my wits and practically ran out of there. It's actually funny now that I have come to understand this manifestation of my beloved Durga.
Shining throughout the great scriptures of Hinduism, one will find the many avatars of the Purush and likewise Prakriti. Bhagwan Vishnu had ten major avatars and countless are those of Durga Devi. Each avatar is unique and in keeping with the necessity of the circumstances. Both Purush and Prakriti come to enlighten, to relieve and to re-establish Dharma. Devi Kaali is one such manifestation, taking the necessary form as per the requirements of the terrible moment that presented itself. To understand the goddess one must meditate on her form and reduce the clutter of the mind. Going beyond the mind is the only way.
Vast Concept of Beauty
When one thinks of a Goddess in the Hindu tradition one may think of the tender, light complexioned, bejewelled and elegantly draped silken garments of Devi Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Gayatri, or Gauri.
Based on these Devi's, its a far thought to think of a Goddess with dishevelled hair, human skulls as a garland, foetuses as earrings, a bowl to collect blood, bare breasted, severed arms for a skirt and a tongue lolling out. How does one reconcile these two very extremes of the depiction of the Prakriti?
I suppose a good place to start would be with our earthly Mothers. As her child, whether we are young or all grown up, our Mothers are ever ready to protect us. The same tender Mother that nurses us with soft lullabies is the same Mother that will not hesitate to react violently towards any threat in order to protect us if we are in danger.
If this didn’t set the foundation then perhaps think of the lioness that licks her cubs and ushers them from danger. Think of the same lioness that will claw your bones out of you if you tried to harm her babies!
So in the same way our cosmic Mother is ever so loving that she will care and protect us in the ways that are necessary.
Bear in mind however, that cosmic understanding is never just at the simplistic level of normal human intelligence. And so to truly understand we must humbly seek and the great secrets of the Goddess will begin to illuminate our beings so that we have the right understanding.
The manifestation of Devi Chamunda
At one point during the epic battle between Goddess Durga (Chandika) and the army of the demon Mahisasur, as described in the Devi Bhagavattam, the demon king sent forth his generals Chand and Mund to wage battle. Seeing the threat of these two asuras, a light emanated from the bindi of Devi Durga and from this light Devi Kali issued forth.
The Goddess Kali in this respect may be seen as a part of the Devi Durga, having emanated from her or she may be also seen as the Mula Prakriti itself having no difference. Devi Kali is described in the Devi Bhagavattam as the Tamasik energy of the Mula Prakriti, the great destroyer of maya.
Having waged battle with Chand and Mund, the Devi Kali destroyed them both and in so doing Devi Durga blessed her that she would be also revered and renowned by the name Devi Chamunda thereof.
Why is the Goddesses tongue outside her mouth?
At one point in the battle Devi Kaali began the dance of death, as she danced she fought and destroyed the demons. But having conquered them all her state of dance was like the lightning storm- beautiful, ceaseless and dangerous. In her state Devi Kali did not stop and so fear arose in the hearts of the good ones, that if this dance did not stop destruction beyond what is needed may come to pass.
To bring Devi Kali out of this state Lord Shiva lay in the path of her dance and when the toe of Devi Kaali touched Lord Shiv, she came out of that energy state and in an embarrassed, astonished manner for having stepped on the Purush she stuck her tongue out. This episode generated the beloved iconography of the Goddess as standing on Shiv with her tongue lolling out of her mouth, the suspended moment of the Devi Kali.
Worship of Kali
There are many ideas and doctrines related to the worship of the Goddess in this manifestation as Kali. It is said that there are the subtle and fearful forms of Kali.
The subtle benevolent forms are known as the Dakshina Kali. The fearful forms are known as Smaashana where each of these forms are distinguishable by the position of the feet of the deity.
If Kali steps out with her right foot and holds the sword in her left hand, she is a Dakshina Kali. If she steps out with her left foot and holds the sword in her right hand, she is the terrible destructive form of the Mother. In each case there are prescribed methods of worship. The latter being akin toTantrik worship and the former Saatwik worship.
Devi Kali is the complete form of the Universal Shakti or Power. She is Mother, the benevolent, and the terrible. She creates and nourishes and she kills and destroys. By Her Maya we see good and bad, but in reality there is neither. The entire world and all we see is the dance of Maya or illusion, the veiling power of the Divine Mother. God is neither good nor bad, nor both. God is beyond the pair of opposites which constitute this relative existence.
The Prathama Charitra (base or first part) of the Chandi Paath, narrates the great battle of the Devi Kali and is usually read during the Navaratri periods. But of course Chandi Paath like any other scripture ought to be read often for true benefits. (The division of Chandi Paath into the three various Charitras hold high spiritual value and cannot be taken as simply drawing on the physical manifestation of the Goddess).
|Aum Hung Hung Hring Hring Guhye Kaalike|
|Kring Kring Hung Hring Hring Swaahaa|
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