Who is Kali?
Kali is one of the most well-known Hindu goddesses who is also known as Kālikā and is associated with empowerment or shakti. Goddess Kali is a Tamil goddess and the dark manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga (who is regarded as the Divine Mother, the Mother Goddess and the mother of the universe) Kali in turn, is the fearful, ferocious and powerful form of Durga. The name Kali comes from the word kāla, which means black, time, death.
Many regard Kali as a goddess of death and destruction, but the death referred to is not the actual physical death but rather, the death of the ego as our illusory concept of reality. The worship and reverence of Goddess Kali allows us to see the reality behind the illusion. Goddess Kali destroys solely to recreate, and what she destroys is ignorance, deception and decay. In honouring this dark deity, she transforms you and changes you from within so that what was once a priority in life no longer is because it no longer holds any importance or value to you.
Kali is equated with the eternal night, the darkness from which everything was created. She is the transcendent power of time, creation and destruction and is the consort of the Hindu god Shiva. Therefore, Kali is Shiva’s , without which Shiva could not act.
A tantric interpretation sees Shiva as consciousness and Kali as power or energy. Consciousness and energy are dependent upon each other, since Shiva depends on shakti, or energy, in order to fulfill his role in creation, preservation, and destruction.
Kali receives her name because she devours kala (time) and then resumes her own dark formlessness. Kali literally means “The Black One”. She is the power of time which devours all. She has a power that destroys and is regarded in awe-inspiring terror. As the limitless Void, Kali has swallowed up everything without a trace and since the colour black absorbs everything, Kali is thus black.
Physical Appearance and Symbolism
Kali’s fierce physical form is rich in symbolism. Her black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature. Kali is portrayed mostly in two forms: the popular four-armed form or the ten-armed Mahakali form.
In both of her forms, she is described as being black in colour but is most often depicted as blue in popular Indian art. Kali’s most common four–armed image shows each hand carrying a sword, a trident, a severed head, and a bowl catching the blood of the severed head. The sword signifies divine knowledge through the destruction of false consciousness, and the human head symbolizes human ego, which must be symbolically “slain” by this divine knowledge. The trident and the bowl symbolize fearlessness and blessings/boons granted to those who revere her with a true heart. She has a garland consisting of fifty human heads, which represent the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Hindus believe Sanskrit is a language of dynamism, and each of these letters represents a form of energy, or a form of Kali. Her girdle of severed human hands signifies work and liberation from the cycle of karma.
Her tongue protrudes from her mouth, her eyes are red, and she stands with one foot on the ground, and another on the chest of her husband, Shiva. Her proximity to cremation grounds symbolizes the death of worldly attachments and the birth of new spirituality, hence the eternal cycle of birth and death.
First Encounter With the Dark Mother
The love between the Dark Mother and her human children is a unique relationship. Kali, the Dark Mother is one such deity with whom devotees have a very loving and intimate bond, in spite of her fearful appearance. In this relationship, the worshiper becomes a child and Kali assumes the form of the ever-caring mother.
In my case, unlike some individuals, there were no messages in dreams or visions or calling. I had a severe problem at work and I went to the Goddess Kali for resolution, because I had the blind faith in the fact that this strong, powerful warrior goddess would make it all right, avenge my cause and defend me from all negative energies. And she did. And I will always be eternally in her debt.
Kali is the both the Benign and Terrible Mother – she creates and nourishes and she kills and destroys. She is shakti (female energy) incarnate and the manifestation of primordial power. She enters our darkness and radically transforms our lives by showing us how to embrace that which is dark within us. All we have to do is to surrender to her fully and allow her to cleanse, transform and recreate.