Kali is most often portrayed as a Hindu Goddess slaying the demon Raktabija, and lapping up the demon’s blood.
Kali is the most ferocious form of Goddess Shakti , born out of her dark complexion(other one being Gouri).
Kali is the master of death ,time and change.She is the destroyer of evil forces from the universe .
Mahavidyas are the 10 Hindu Tantric Goddess ( 10 cosmic personalities of the divine feminine).Kali is the chief Goddess of these 10 Mahavidyas.
‘ Kali ‘ is the feminine form of time -Kala or Shiva. She is the ultimate form of Brahman – ” The devourer of Time” .The association of name Kali with her black complexion is due to popular etymology.
Who is this Goddess Kali ? -----Devi Mahatmyam (Markandeya Purana) I resemble in form Brahman, from me emanates the world, which has the Spirit of Prakriti and Purusha, I am empty and not empty, I am delight and non-delight, I am knowledge and ignorance, I am Brahman and not Brahman.
Mahakali is of a pitch black complexion, darkest than the dark of the Death-Night. With three eyes, representing the past, present and future,she has shining white, fang-like teeth, a gaping mouth, and her red, tongue hanging from there.
She has unbound, disheveled hairs. Wearing tiger skins as her garments, a garland of skulls and a garland of rosy red flowers around her neck, and on her belt, she was adorned with skeletal bones, skeletal hands as well as severed arms and hands as her ornamentation. She has four hands, two of them were empty and two others carried a sword and demon head.
Origin of Kali – Reference from Scriptures
Origin of Kali begins with the tribal folklores , deeply rooted in the history of civilizations.
Kali finds first mention in the Atharva Vedas , where she is not an individual entity ,but rather a fierce black tongue , one of the seven elements of Agni ( the God of fire).Kali as an individual form is mentioned first in Devi Mahatmyam.
Also called Shri Chandi, it is a part of Markandeya Purana (chapter 81-93) ,that describes Tridevi — Mahakaali, Mahlakshmi and MahaSaraswati. It has three parts describing three major forms of Kali
1.Slaying Madhu Kaitabh
Madhu and Kaitabh were two demons who arised from the body of sleeping Vishnu to vanquish Brahma Mahakali appears from the body of Vishnu , as goddess Yoganidra ,waking him up from his sleep and asking him to kill the demons. When the two demons were left undefeated by Vishnu , Kaali takes the form of Mahamaya . The demons were enchanted by her ,and Vishnu slayed them.
2.Chanda and Munda
Demon Chanda and Munda attacked Goddess Durga . Filled with anger , Durga tranformed into Mahakaali ,wearing a garland of human heads. She immediately killed the two demons.
She is given a name ‘ Chamunda ‘ for killing them.
Later in the same battle , a demon named Raktabeeja , was undefeated becuase he could regenerate his clone from every drop of his blood that fell on ground. Kaushiki( a form of Parvati form out of her cells), attacked Raktabeej with her weapons and , Kali with her huge mouth and tongue laps up the drop of his blood. In this way Raktabeeja was killed.
In the end of the battle , Devi killed Shumbha and Nishumbha , and finally merged her form into one , Shakti , standing alone in the battlefield.
During the battle Ambika( the cosmic integration of all forms) -Durga or Shakti, leaded the eight Matrikas:
Narasinhmi Vaishnavi Kaumari Maheshvari Brahmani Varahi Aindri Chamunda
Note that Parvati is the ultimate Shakti . She is the origin of all the divine feminine forms.
Killing of Daruka
Daruka was demon , who had a boon that he could be killed only by a woman. Shiva asked Parvati to kill the demon .Parvati merges her energy with shiva , reappearing as Kali to kill Daruka.
Even after killing Daruka , her anger was not pacified. She killed everyone in her way.At last she came to senses when Shiva ,laid down on her way and she stepped on his chest.
What does the killing symbolise ?
The demons refer to the ego and ignorance that humans have built up.Kali destroys our ignorance and dispels our mistaken idea of who we are.
Other than the above scriptures Devi also appears in Vyasa Mahabharata, to the Pandavas in their dream (referred as Kalratri – the dark blue night). She also appears during an attack by Aswathama .
Other than being the force of destruction there is another aspect of mother Kali , as a loving and protective figure.These hymns from Devi Mahatmyam describe the nature and character of the Goddess in spiritual terms:
tantra and mother kali
Goddess Kali is a central figure in Tantra Yoga of Hinduism. In many scriptures she is praised as the highest of all deities. She leads the group of ten Mahavidyas ( Great Cosmic Wisdom), associated with the Tantric tradition in Hinduism.
Mahavidyas resides in Manidweep ( the eternal supreme abode of Adi Parashakti).
The Mahavidyas are as follows:
1.Kali (the ultimate Brahman) 2.Tara (offers ultimate knowledge of salvation) 3.Tripura Sundari (Beautiful in three world-head of Manidweep,the abode of Mahavidyas) 4.Bhuvneshwari (manifestation of all Lokas- entire cosmos) 5.Bhairavi (fierce goddess - she is the female form of Kaalbhairav) 6.Chhinnamasta( She holds her chopped off head in her hand) 7.Dhumavati (Symbol of fear, misery ,anger-- she is the widow goddess) 8.Baglamukhi (provides protection from enemies) 9.Matangi (Tantric Saraswati - holding a skull and a veena) 10.Kamalatmika (Tantric lakshmi- grants boons and drives fear away)
It is noteworthy that Mahavidyas are the forms originated from single entity – Mahakali.
The MahaBhagwatPurana associates the 10 Mahavidyas to the ten Avatars of Vishnu. These avatars are born out of the Mahavidyas.
Nirvantantra is a famous Tantric writing that associates Kali to the unmanifested Brahman, the supreme, representing both the being (the existence) and the infinite consciousness in manifestation.
This association has allowed the worship of Kali both from the metaphysical abstract perspective, as well as from a more concrete perspective, which implies certain attributes (functions, characteristics, qualities).
Kali is a symbolic representation of female supremacy over nature. She is an embodiment of grace ,love and motherhood, and at the same time she is also the destructor of evil and demonic forces.
Each human being has inside both good and bad, and these energies constantly fight for supremacy.
Kali is the destroyer of ego and arrogance from human mind.
She is beyond the understanding of humankind due to the various forms associated with her , just like Shiva.
As a result her entity is often misunderstood and wrongly presented as a goddess of dark energy .
While she is actually an epitome of love,treasure house of compassion and the peak of motherhood.
Prayer to Goddess Kaali सर्वमङ्गलमाङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थसाधिके । शरण्ये त्र्यम्बके गौरि नारायणि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ॐ जयंती मंगला काली भद्रकाली कपालिनी । दुर्गा क्षमा शिवा धात्री स्वाहा स्वधा नमोऽस्तुते ॥ Sarvamagalamāgalyē śivē sarvārthasādhikē.śaraṇyē tryambakē Gauri nārāyaṇi namō'stu tē. Oṃ jayantī mangala kālī bhadrakālī kapālinī .durgā ksamā śivā dhātrī svāhā svadhā namō'stutē.