Kali, the Divine Mother, has been largely misunderstood in
the West. As a result, people have labeled her as something
evil rather than a source of joy. Up close, the concept of Kali
is no more startling than the Christian practice of partaking
of Christ's body and drinking his blood during communion.
This book attempts to clarify who Kali is and to make the
reader feel what it is like to be in India and experience Kali.
What does Kali mean to me?
In order to read this book, one does not have to be familiar with Hindu philosophy. I have tried to acquaint the reader
with the Hindu concept of God, the Mother, through stories,
historic references, an overview of traditional philosophy,
and vivid descriptions of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple-the
place and its people.
The reader becomes the pilgrim, sharing the excitement
and preparation of other pilgrims on the way to see the
Divine Mother Kali. Besides getting a glimpse of the Hindu
attitude toward this Mother Goddess, one gets useful information about customs at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple-
what to do when one arrives there and why.
The third chapter explains the symbolism of Kali and
how she is seen by people from different cultures, following
different philosophies. It gives a detailed description of the
Dakshineswar Kali image and her inner shrine, which is off
limits for most people. It looks at the Mother Goddess according to Tantric and Vedantic views. An ongoing commentary by Sri Ramakrishna (taken from The Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna), the Kali saint who lived in Dakshineswar,
helps the reader perceive the Goddess in her Mother aspect.
The fourth chapter is dedicated to the worship of Kali,
the general concept of Hindu worship and the worship as it
is performed at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple-on a daily
basis and on special occasions.
I found it impossible to write about the Dakshineswar
Kali Temple without mentioning Rani Rasmani, the woman
who built it. She was a great devotee of Kali. She was very
beautiful and, though born poor and of low caste, married an
extremely rich man. Upon his death, she decided to take on
the responsibility of managing his vast wealth and to build a
temple to her beloved Mother Kali. This took tremendous
courage since the time was the early 1800s, when women,
especially those of low caste, had no place in society except
beside their husbands. The Rani's view was catholic-she
built a Vishnu temple and twelve Shiva temples in the same
compound. (Kali and Vishnu followers often do not get along-
Shaktas eat meat while Vaishnavites are strict vegetarians.)
The last chapter is devoted entirely to Kali's mystics,
the people who attained the highest realization by worshipping Kali. Though the saints mentioned in this chapter lived
mostly in West Bengal in India, their colorful lives, their convictions, and their approach toward the ups and downs of life
have a global appeal.
The absence of Westerners among Kali saints in this
book does not indicate that great devotees of Kali can only be
found in India. Since I began working on this book, I met
many wonderful people in the USA who are devoted to Kali.
The more I learn about this Great Goddess, the more I feel my
understanding of her has just begun and will continue, per-
haps, a lifetime.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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