Kali: The Dark Mother

Kali is an incarnation of Parvati (the mother goddess), the eternal consort of Shiva.

Her Story:
Kali is the fearful and ferocious form of the mother goddess. In a battle against evil forces, Kali was so much involved in the killing spree that she got carried away and began destroying everything in sight. To stop her, her husband, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. She stepped on him. Shocked at this sight (where a woman should worship her husband, and not think to step on him), 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 mêlée mood, standing with one foot on Shiva’s chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out.

Her Symbolism:
Kali is represented with perhaps the fiercest features amongst all the world’s deities. Her black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature. Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: “Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her”. Her nudity is primeval, fundamental, and transparent like Nature — the earth, sea, and sky. She is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or “false consciousness.” Kali’s garland of fifty human heads that stands for the fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes infinite knowledge. 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.”

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