Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dark Death Dealing Deity

In Bengal the festival of Deepavali coincides with Kali Puja.
Having spent ten years in Kolkota, I can not forget the devotion of Bengalis for Goddess Kali. She was the instrument of mystical experience for Swami Paramhamsa Ramakrishna.
Swami Vivekananda, the great disciple of Ramakrishna, writing the poem “Kali, the Mother” portrays very grotesque and bone chilling image of the Divine Mother, Kali.
Alan watts, the twentieth century Zen philosopher, in his discourse on ‘Images of God’ says that Eastern philosophy and religion had understood the deep essence of God beyond the anthropomorphic trappings so rampant in Western monotheism and point to the imagery of Goddess Kali as the primal understanding of the cosmic nature of the divine.
He quotes the famous episode of an astronaut who returned from a long space flight and he was asked if he had seen God and he said ‘Yes’. He was then asked ‘What is he like?’ He said ‘She is Black’. This is the cosmic understanding of deep space away from the solar system. Many astronauts have had mystical experience when in space and some have devoted their life to spiritual seeking after these experiences. Ed Mitchell, the astronaut of Apollo 14, had this experience on his return from the moon on 9th February 1971.

What is the significance of imagery of Goddess Kali?
Kali's fierce form depicts awesome symbolism. Her black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature. Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: “Just as all colours disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her”, the primal void from which all came into existence. Her nudity is primeval, fundamental, and transparent like Nature — the earth, sea, and sky. Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all Maya or ‘false consciousnesses’. Kali's garland of fifty human heads that stands for the fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes infinite knowledge.

Her girdle of severed human hands signifies work and liberation from the cycle of karma. Her white teeth show her inner purity, and her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous nature — “her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavours'.” Her sword is the destroyer of false consciousness and the eight bonds that bind us.

Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit means time). The eminent translator of Tantrik texts, Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, “Kali is so called because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness.”

Kali's proximity to 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. The reclined Shiva lying prostrate under the feet of Kali suggests that without the power of Kali (Shakti), Shiva (the transformative principle in creation) is inert.

With this deeper cosmic understanding let us approach our worship.

Love to you all


  1. The blog on Kali powerfully portrays the significance of black as the source of all colours.It is indeed a strong blow on the usually racial standards of beauty which many of us still hold on to.Looking at it from a spiritual dimension,'That men despise as lowly ,becomes very precious in the eyes of God'

  2. Thanks for your feedback.
    Any duality, black / white, good / evil etc., all originate from a relativity of altered consciousness, which is never an attribute of the divine.