Kali Ma- The Dark Mother

The Anatomy of Kali

  • Protruding red tongue signals her thirst for blood, and as a sign of speechless embarrassment (among Bengalis)
  • The garland of skulls/heads represent the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, and this, the primordial sound of Aum
  • Dark Complexion represents the darkness from which everything was born amd will eventually dissolve
  • Severed head signifies human ego (which must be slain by divine knowledge to attain moksha)

Once Upon a Time...

There was a demon named Raktabeej. He was granted a powerful boon:

For every drop of his blood that fell to the ground, a thousand more clones-- and each one more increasingly powerful-- would emerge from the drop. 

Raktabeej went power-crazy and wreaked havoc in the world. The gods turned to Durga, the goddess of courage and protection, for help. 

Kali Ma emerged from Durga's forehead, and quickly joined Durga in battle with Raktabeej. Durga decided to divide and conquer and instructed Kali Ma as follows:

"O Cāmuṇḍā! Open your mouth quickly, and as soon as I strike Raktabīja with weapons, drink the blood as fast as it runs out of his body. I will then kill those Dānavas sprung from the blood with my weapons; and you can devour them all at your will. Drink off all the jets of blood in such a way that not a drop of it escapes and falls on the ground."

— Devi Bhagavata Purana, Book 5, Chapter 29

Although the two defeated Raktabeej, Kali Ma was so enraged in fury that she continued destroying nature and everything that came in her way. The gods became worried again, fearing the world would end, and needed a way to calm her down. 

In order to stop her, Lord Shiva lay down in Kali's path. As soon as she realized she had stepped on him, she was shocked out of her frenzy, she bit her tongue in embarrassment and calmed down. 

Who is Kali Ma?

Kali Ma is the Goddess of Time, Change, and Transformation.

She is one of the most complex deities in Hinduism, and is known for her fierce and powerful nature. She is the ultimate paradox, and thus, often easily misunderstood.

Did you know-- Kali Ma is seen as a destroyer of evil and negative forces, in order to protect the innocent and vulnerable. She is also associated with the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth.

Kali literally translates to "she who is black"

Before the universe was born and there was no sun, moon, or planets, there was only darkness. Everything was created from the darkness. The dark appearance of Kali represents the darkness from which everything was born.

Even in destruction, Kali Ma reminds us that good really can come from bad situations. If your hope and dreams have been crushes, Kali Ma can change cycles and produce life out of darkness, and bring forth courage and joy.

Did you know...

  • Kali Ma is one of the avatars of Goddess Parvati, who is one of the Tridevis.
  • 'The two main festivals when Kali Ma is celebrated are Navaratri, and Durga Puja, both which fall at the same time of year.
  • Popular among tantric practitioners, Kali Ma became a "domestic" goddess in benign form, in large part thanks to Krishnananda Agamavagisha, a Bengali Brahmin. Kali Ma reportedly appeared to him in a dream and told him to popularize her.


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