Kali Ma is a Hindu goddess of creation, destruction, and power. She is the mother of the universe and the destroyer of evil. Her name means «the black mother» in Sanskrit.
There are many different stories about Kali Ma’s origins, but one of the most common is that she was born from the forehead of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Shiva was in a state of deep meditation when a demon named Raktabija appeared and started causing chaos. Shiva tried to kill Raktabija, but every time he did, a drop of Raktabija’s blood would fall to the ground and create another demon.
Shiva decided to meditate even deeper, and from his forehead emerged Kali Ma. Kali Ma was a fierce and powerful goddess, and she quickly destroyed Raktabija and his army of demons. She then drank all of the demon’s blood, which prevented any more demons from being created.
Kali Ma is a complex and contradictory goddess. She is both loving and compassionate, and she is also fierce and destructive. She is the embodiment of both creation and destruction, and she is the ultimate power in the universe.
Here are some of the different names of Kali Ma:
- Kali: The black mother
- Mahakali: The great goddess
- Chamunda: The destroyer of demons
- Bhadrakali: The auspicious goddess
- Tara: The liberator
- Sodasi: The sixteen-year-old girl
Kali mother is worshipped by Hindus all over the world, and she is one of the most popular goddesses in Hinduism. She is a symbol of power, strength, and liberation, and she is a source of inspiration for many people.
- 1 Kali Ma Goddess and divine mother meaning
- 2 The Goddess of vegetation Maa Kali
- 3 Representation of the hindu goddess
- 4 The dark mother of creation and destruction
- 5 Psychologists image of Kali the mother
- 6 Functions of the Kali goddess
- 8 Kali and the tantric
- 9 Origin of the name
- 10 Source, references and further reading
Kali Ma Goddess and divine mother meaning
Kali in Hinduism embodies destruction and recreation, a powerful force erasing ignorance and sin for fresh starts. Her eternal night symbolizes timelessness and transcendent time’s might.
As Shiva’s consort, she empowers him, enabling his actions. Kali is an ancient, pre-Aryan goddess of divine femininity and time, revered in Hinduism since the Indus Valley civilization.
The Goddess of vegetation Maa Kali
Kali Ma indeed had origins as an aboriginal deity associated with vegetation and farming. Historical evidence suggests that animal and human sacrifices were offered in her honor, indicating her role as a fertility deity. Even today, at temples like Kalighat in Calcutta, a goat is sacrificed daily to honor Kali Ma. During the annual autumn festival, goats and buffalos are also sacrificed, along with specific plants.
Although human sacrifice has been prohibited, there have been occasional reports, particularly from remote areas, of alleged instances of people being sacrificed in the name of Kali Ma.
Representation of the hindu goddess
- She is black, standing over the white corpse of her consort Shiva, who is powerless without her.
- Her tongue lolls out, and she appears naked.
- She has human arms and wears a garland of skulls.
Her four arms represent the four directions of space, each holding a specific symbol:
- One hand wields a sword, representing the power of destruction.
- Another holds a severed head, signifying the revelation of destiny to the living.
- The third hand makes a gesture to remove fear, providing comfort and assurance.
- The fourth hand bestows bliss, symbolizing her capacity to bring joy and liberation.
Kali’s fierce appearance and symbolism underline her role as a deity associated with destruction and transformation, but also as a source of power and liberation.
The dark mother of creation and destruction
Kali Ma, also known as the «Dark Mother,» embodies various aspects within Hinduism:
- She represents creation, preservation, and destruction, with a particular association with her Destroyer aspect.
- Iconographically, she is often depicted squatting over her dead consort, Shiva, and there are symbolic elements, like the devouring of his entrails and a sexual symbolism with the lingam (penis).
- Kali is seen as a symbol of the «hungry earth», which metaphorically consumes and transforms its own children, deriving sustenance from their existence and demise.
In India, this archetype finds its grandest expression in the form of Kali, serving as an archetypal image embodying both birth and death, representing the womb and tomb simultaneously—she is the giver of life and the devourer of her children. Similar archetypal images have appeared in various ancient religions, emphasizing the cyclical and transformative nature of existence.
Psychologists image of Kali the mother
Psychologists today recognize the significance of archetypal images, including that of the angry, punishing Father. This representation, while intimidating, is less grim than that of the destructive Mother, who is often associated with death. To mitigate this harsh reality, some Roman Catholics teach about purgatory, a concept that softens the idea of an ultimate end.
Over time, the full range of the Mother’s functions as giver of life, preserver, and destroyer has been overlooked or diminished. Western art and literature frequently depict her destructive aspect as a demon, portraying her as evil and fearsome. For example, in London’s Museum, an image is labeled ‘Kali-Destroying Demon’.
In contrast, Western sources tend to devote more attention to Christian interpretations, such as the Logos, often giving relatively little attention to figures like Kali, who is primarily described as Shiva’s consort and sometimes noted as a «goddess of disease» in sources like the Encyclopedia Britannica. This highlights the contrast in how different cultures and belief systems prioritize and interpret various aspects of divinity.
Functions of the Kali goddess
«Maternal cause of all change, manifestation, and destruction…the whole Universe rests upon Her, rises out of Her and melts into Her.From Her crystallized the original elements and qualities which construct the apparent world. She is both mother and grave… The gods themselves are merely constructs out of Her maternal substance, which is both consciousness and potential joy.»
As a mother
Kali, often seen as the mother of all living, embodies not only destruction but also compassion and the giver of life to the world. Contrary to common Western perceptions, she represents various forms of love that flow into the world through women, who are considered her earthly agents.
Male worshippers of Kali are known to honour and respect women, recognizing them as their rightful teachers. Some even believe in a connection between Kali and Eve, suggesting that Eve may have originated from Kali’s Jiva or leva, the primordial female principle of manifestation. Kali is believed to have given birth to her «first manifested form,» known as Idam (Adam), which is a title later attributed to Eve in the Old Testament, designating her as the Mother of All Living (Jaganmata).
This perspective emphasizes Kali’s multifaceted role as a source of life, love, and the recognition of the divine feminine in the world.
Kali is indeed recognized in various cultural and religious contexts. Her three-person Godhead has parallels in Christianity, although interpretations may differ. It’s worth noting that in the Hebrew Old Testament, the word for Spirit, ruwach, is of a feminine gender, hinting at a feminine aspect within the divine.
Both Kali’s worship and early Biblical practices involved blood sacrifice. The Bible commands the pouring of blood onto altars for forgiveness (Exodus 29:16 and Numbers 18:9). However, there were differences in how these rituals were conducted. Jewish priests typically consumed the sacrificed meat themselves, while in Calcutta, devotees were allowed to consume their own offerings.
Kali’s preference for sacrificing male animals reflects the ancient belief that males played no role in the cycle of creation. In contrast, Shiva, her sacrificial partner, demanded that female animals not be killed on altars.
Kali’s association with an ocean of blood at the world’s beginning suggests a primordial mass from which all life emerged. Her role in the destruction of the universe mirrors the idea of individual destruction and reincarnation through her karmic wheel, emphasizing the cyclical nature of existence.
- the Celts with their triple Morrigan,
- the Greeks with their triple Moerae,
- the Norsemen with their Norms,
- the Romans with their Fates and triadic Uni (Juno),
- the Egyptians with their triple Mut,
- and the Arabian Moon-goddess.
Kali and the tantric
Kali holds a prominent place in Tantric traditions within Hinduism. Tantric practices often explore the divine feminine energy, and Kali is considered a powerful representation of this energy. Here are some key aspects of Kali’s association with Tantra:
- Shaktism: Kali is a central deity in Shaktism, a major branch of Hinduism that worships the divine feminine energy or Shakti. Tantric rituals often involve the worship of various forms of Shakti, including Kali.
- Goddess of Transformation: Kali is seen as a goddess of transformation and liberation. Tantric practitioners seek to transcend limitations and achieve spiritual realization through rituals and meditations involving Kali.
- Destruction and Creation: Kali embodies the duality of destruction and creation, which is a fundamental concept in Tantra. She represents the power to destroy the ego and attachments, paving the way for spiritual rebirth and growth.
- Tantric Rituals: Tantric rituals involving Kali can be intense and involve practices like yantra (sacred diagrams) worship, mantra recitation, and meditation on her fierce form to harness her transformative energy.
- Symbol of Fearlessness: Kali is often considered a symbol of fearlessness in Tantra. Tantric practitioners aim to confront and transcend their fears and limitations, and Kali’s fierce and powerful image serves as an inspiration for this.
- Union of Shiva and Shakti: Kali is sometimes depicted in a union with Shiva, representing the union of masculine and feminine energies, often symbolizing the cosmic balance and the interplay of opposites.
Origin of the name
Kali mother worship and symbolism are indeed diverse and can be found in various cultural and historical contexts:
- She has been worshipped in Finland as the Black Goddess.
- European «witches,» Tantric yogis, dakinis, and former pagans have all paid homage to her, often in places associated with death and transformation, such as funeral sites, cremation grounds, and cemeteries.
Roman tombstones bear the phrase ‘Mater genuit’, meaning ‘Mother bore me, Mother took me back,’ in her honor.
Kali is frequently depicted wearing red, which symbolizes both the blood she gives and takes back. This color is also associated with gypsy funerals, as they worship Kali as the Goddess of disease, underscoring her multifaceted role and significance in various cultural and spiritual traditions.
Source, references and further reading
Walker, Barbara G, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, New York, HarperCollins, 1983, pp. 488-494 Rice, Edward, Eastern Definitions: A Short Encyclopedia of Religions of the Orient, Garden City, New York, Doubleday, 1978, pp. 211-212
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980, pp. 69-70
- The Devi Mahatmya: This text narrates the story of Kali Ma’s birth and her victory over the demon Raktabija. It is one of the most important sources for understanding her mythology and significance.
- The Sri Rudram: A sacred Hindu hymn, the Sri Rudram, praises Kali Ma as a powerful and compassionate goddess. It offers insights into her divine qualities and attributes.
- The Kalika Purana: This Hindu text provides a detailed description of Kali Ma’s appearance and her role in the universe. It offers a comprehensive understanding of her mythology and symbolism.
- The Tantras: Various ancient Hindu Tantric texts contain a wealth of information about Kali Ma. They encompass her mantras, rituals, and descriptions of her different forms. These texts are crucial for those seeking to engage in Kali worship and meditation.
- The Sri Yantra: This sacred Hindu diagram serves as a representation of Kali Ma and is a potent tool for meditation and devotion. It aids practitioners in connecting with her divine energy and presence.