there's a woman in any home
doing her work
screening her smiles with her veil,
she is You, Ma;
she is you, Black Goddess.
with the light of dawn
to attend with softened hands
to household chores,
she is You, Ma;
she is You, Black Goddess.
The woman who gives
alms, makes vows, does worship, reads
all correctly and with a smile
who drapes her sari over the child on
soothing its hunger with a lullaby,
she is You, Ma;
she is You, Black Goddess.
She can't be anyone
Mother, sister, housewife
all are You.
- Ramprasad (c.a.
is well established in the canons of
Indian thought that every woman mirrors
in herself the divine feminine. The
above piece of poetry goes further and
specifically informs us that every female
has in herself the Goddess Kali. At
first appearances this comes as a surprising
shock, not in the least because of Kali's
horrific demeanor. Envisioned as totally
naked, the visual tales of her terrible
form do not end with her dense black
color or with the skirt made up of decapitated
hands she adorns in her middle, making
a mockery of all conventional images
of reassurance a goddess is associated
with. Further frightening is the necklace she vulgarly hangs around her neck.
This is no ordinary necklace. It is
made up of heads she has severed from
the torsos of beings who were once as
much living as you and I are at this
moment. And the horrors of horrors,
she stands in an arrogant gesture of
triumph, one leg placed haughtily over
the chest of Shiva, one of the most
powerful deities of the Hindu pantheon,
and who also happens to be her husband.
Goddess Kali Face from Nepal
The truth behind
the mystery of Kali, it seems, is to
not be found by a conventional appraisal
of her physical appearance. Rather a
faithful analysis of the deep symbolism
underlying this mighty Goddess is required
to penetrate her innermost essence. Traditional opinion
is unanimous in accepting the figure
lying under Kali's feet as being that
of her husband. Here is what the same
poet has to say about this aspect of
It's not Shiva
At Mother's feet.
Only liars say that.
The ancients wrote
while killing demons,
saving the gods from their fix,
Ma stepped on a demon child
fallen to the ground.
At the touch of Her feet
the demon boy changed;
suddenly he was Shiva
On the battlefield.
As a good wife
would She ever
put Her feet
on Her husband's chest?
No, she wouldn't.
But a servant is different:
place those fear-dispelling feet
on my lotus heart.
In this striking
example, Ramprasad the greatest of Kali's
devotees ever, saves her against the
accusations that she deviates from the
path of a true Hindu wife by subjugating
her spouse. In a glorious moment of
poetic imagery he establishes in the
goddess a power that is capable of transforming
a villainous demon into Shiva, the purest
of all gods. Why transform this evil
being into her husband? She could have
changed him into any 'pure ' soul, why
grant him the status of her spouse?
Why indeed? This may lead us to theorize
that by meditating upon the benevolent
goddess we, who are the wickedest among
all, can achieve this positive transformation.
This suggests that in addition to approaching
the goddess as a child, she can also
be courted as a husband. It must however
be stressed here that there is no sexuality
involved in this purely emotional process.
Beginning her worship as a child we
may ultimately evolve into her husband.
This process mirrors the rhythmic pattern
each of our lives follow, i.e. starting
off as a child to our mother and gradually
developing into husbands to our wives.
Accepting that duality exists in nature,
such a hypothesis indeed projects the
male in an extremely positive light.
But it is the female of the species
who comes out with honors here, by resolutely
establishing that when they are wives
and when they progress to being mothers,
Kali forms an integral part of their
This positive affirmation
does not however explain Kali's blackness
as complementary to her motherhood.
Things fall into place when we recall
how creation manifested itself at the
beginning of the world, when nothing
material existed. This primordial state
was dark. As is Kali, as is the womb,
dark and mysterious. Esoterically speaking
black is not a color, but the absence
of color. It is what remains when all
colors merge into each other, or in
other words the fount which has the
potentiality to give birth to all the
colors of life. Another poet says in
Is my Mother Kali
People say Kali is black,
But my heart doesn't agree.
If She's black,
How can she light up the world?
Sometimes my Mother is white,
Sometimes yellow, blue, and red.
I cannot fathom Her.
My whole life has passed trying.
She is Matter,
Then complete Void.
- Kamalakanta Bhattacharya
It is interesting
to note here that in Egypt too, blackness
is associated with a positive symbolism,
standing for the mothering darkness
of germination. Hence every woman by
virtue of being a potential mother and
possessing the dark, cavernous womb
which grants her this capability, is
enough, scarcely having crossed one
hurdle in the positive interpretation
of the Kali icon as a creative matrix,
we are confronted with another contradictory
feature, here namely the necklace of
skulls ornamenting her beautiful neck.
Indeed it is a symbol of death. Believers
in reincarnation maintain that before
it is invested with a physical body
the soul of a man is free and fully
alive since it exists in the spiritual
world, which is it's true sphere of
existence. When it is conceived in the
mother's interior, its death begins.
The womb is thus the symbol of the tomb.
Or for those of us, who prefer to be
cremated, there are the fires which
surround Kali, our archetypal mother.
Thus our physical birth is in a way
our spiritual death.
Mahakali- the Goddess who Reigns Over Kaal (Time) and Mahakala (Shiva)
is the short skirt encircling her tender
waist. The amputated hands which are
strung together to form this garment
represent for her devotees the ultimate
act of devotion. This act consists in
severing of all attachment to karma
and meditating upon Kali as the ultimate
refuge. The path to salvation in this
belief lies not in following the karmic
way but rather giving up one's complete
self in the worship of the Goddess.
As Ramprasad says:
Oh my Mind, worship
any way you want-
just repeat the mantra
given to you
day and night.
that you're prostrating
as you lie on your bed,
and meditating on the Mother
while you sleep.
When you go about the town, imagine
you're circumambulating Kali Ma.
Each sound that enters your ears
is one of Kali's mantras,
Each letter of the fifty
around Her neck
bears Her name.
Ramprasad says, astonished,
The Goddess Full of Brahman is in every
When you eat,
think that you're making an offering
to Kali Ma.
Kali contains within
herself all our actions and the results
which ensue thereof. Our hands are the
instruments through which we carry out
our karma, believing ourselves to be
the masters of our own destinies. The
goddess allows no such misconception,
as she is the giver of life and also
its terminator. It is in her that all
acts originate and it is into her that
they finally dissolve. This is the symbolism
implied behind the carelessly flaring
skirt, hobbling with the dynamic goddess,
and arguably the earliest mini skirt
Thus even the humblest
acts we perform during the course of
our daily lives is to be viewed as an
offering to the Great Mother who is
indeed our sustenance and nourisher,
both spiritually and materially. Rightly
then, one of Ramprasad's poems is entitled
'Satisfy Every Level of Our Hunger O
Mother!' It runs like this:
O Mother of the Universe!
You who provide basic sustenance
And subtle nourishment of all creatures!
Please feed us, Holy Mother!
Satisfy every level of our hunger!
I know the mother
always feeds her hungry child,
Regardless of its foolishness or carelessness.
Goddess Kali, grant the child who sings
Your supreme blessing of total illumination.
Today is the most auspicious day!
Please, Mother, do not delay!
Goddess Kali, my
pangs of hunger for reality
Are becoming unbearable.
Mother! Mother! Mother!
You are the longing and the longed for!
You cannot refuse your child's earnest
The question however
remains of Kali's nudity. It is Jesus
who points us in the correct direction
regarding this issue. In the 'Gospel
of Thomas,' he says, in reply to a disciple's
question about when he would come again:
"When you strip yourselves without being
ashamed. When you take off clothes and
lay them at your feet like little children and trample on them."
Kahlil Gibran, the
Lebanese-American philosopher, elaborates:
Your clothes conceal
much of your beauty, yet
they hide not the unbeautiful.
And though you seek
in garments the freedom
of privacy you may find in them a harness
and a chain.
Would that you could
meet the sun and the
wind with more of your skin and less
of your raiment,
For the breath of
life is in the sunlight and the
hand of life is in the wind.
Forget not that
modesty is for a shield against
the eye of the unclean.
And when the unclean
shall be no more, what
were modesty but a fetter and a fouling
of the mind?
And forget not that
the earth delights to feel
your bare feet and the winds long to
play with your hair.
(From 'The Prophet')
that ordinary mortals like himself (and
us) could be bedazzled by these stark
truths. He expresses similar sentiments,
and at the same time grants them the
high ground of abstract philosophy:
O sublime Goddess!
O naked oneness!
What is the meaning of your nakedness?
Are you shameless, Divine Lady?
Yet even when discarding
royal silks, and golden ornaments
for earrings, bracelets, and anklets
fashioned from human bone,
you retain the dignity of bearing
suited to the daughter of a king.
What wild customs
you follow, Ma Kali,
trampling on the chest of your noble
You are the naked intensity of divine
while your consort is naked transcendence.
O Mother of the Universe,
this child is terrified by your naked
your unthinkable blackness, your sheer
Please cover your reality with a gentle
Why have you thrown away the necklace
that enhances your divine beauty
Wearing instead this awesome garland
Freshly severed by the sword of non
Truth is not complicated.
An innocent child is untrained in the
manners of the world but this does not
deprive him from living a zestful and
complete life, albeit his/her mother
forms an integral part of his unified
circle of existence. This is what prompted
Wordsworth to say that 'the child is
the father of man.' A child is imbued
with the quality of intuitive wisdom,
which is the undifferentiating intelligence
that existed before the world was created.
Kali's nudity exhibits this free state
of archetypal bliss, of which ecstasy
is a characterizing attribute.
Elizabeth U. Harding
an intrepid Kali adventurer and fan,
describes in her memoirs how laborious
and stressful it is to reach the inner
sanctum of Kali at the Dakshineswar
Temple at Calcutta, owing to the regular
galore of devotees who generally swarm
her temple. After having reached the
inner hall housing the sanctum sanctorum
this is what she says:
"Out of sheer awe
and admiration one's voice automatically
turns into a whisper - yet, there is
nothing intimidating about this place. Ushered into the
presence of the deity our voices automatically
drop to a whisper, as a tribute of respect
to the divine presence. Finally face
to face with Kali herself, this is what
transpires in the author's mind:
But when one finally
stands before Kali, time seems to stand
still. Everything stops. The people,
the noise - all is mysteriously gone.
One stares with wide eyes, forgetting
even to blink. All one sees is Kali
and nothing else. Overwhelmed with feeling
one whispers, 'I love you.' And from
within she replies, 'You do so much
more for I am the source of your being!'"
This is the spirit
in which to approach Kali. The Great
Goddess herself will then reveal her
mysteries for all of us, solving in
the process, the eternal questions of
Kali is a Hindu goddess who is often associated with death, destruction, and transformation.
Kali is depicted with a fierce and terrifying appearance, with black skin, multiple arms, and a necklace made of skulls.
Despite her fearsome appearance, Kali is also seen as a motherly figure who protects and nurtures her devotees.
Kali is worshipped by many in India and beyond, particularly by those seeking protection from negative energies and seeking liberation from material attachments.
The worship of Kali involves various rituals and practices, including the chanting of mantras, the offering of flowers and other items, and the performance of puja.
Kali's mythology and symbolism contain deep spiritual and philosophical meaning, including the idea that death and destruction are necessary for new life and growth to occur.
Kali's fierce and uncompromising nature also represents the need to confront and overcome our own inner demons and negative tendencies in order to achieve spiritual growth and transformation.
Ultimately, the worship of Kali is about surrendering to her power and embracing the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth as a necessary part of the spiritual journey.
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