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Kālī

Kālī or Kālikā (Skt. ‘black’). A ferocious form of the Goddess (Devī) in Hinduism, sharply contrasted with her benign aspects as Śrī and Lakṣmī. Kālī, the devourer of time (kāla), is depicted as having a terrifying appearance, naked or wearing a tiger skin, emaciated, with fang-like teeth and dishevelled hair, a lolling tongue, and eyes rolling with intoxication. She is garlanded with human heads, sometimes girdled with severed arms; laughing and howling, she dances, wild and frenzied, in the cremation grounds with a sword and noose or skull upon a staff.

Human sacrifices were made to her in the past (cf. Kālīkapurāṇa, ch. 71), but now goats have to suffice, and such sacrifices are made at the main temple of her cult, Kālīghāṭa (Calcutta). The Thugs were devotees of Kālī, to whom they offered worship before committing murderous theft. Many Hindus see Kālī as representing the realities of death and time; she stands for the frightening, painful side of life which all who desire to progress spiritually must face and overcome.

In Tantrism Kālī is depicted as dancing upon the ithyphallic corpse of Śiva, a form expressing the passive consciousness (puruṣa) and dynamic energy (prakṛti) which comprise the universe. Kālī is the central deity of the Kālīkula tradition in contrast to the Śrīkula whose followers worship the gentle Śri. The Kālīkula adept or ‘hero’ (vīra) will follow the ‘left-hand’ path (vāmācāra), worshipping Kālī in the cremation grounds.

In the 18th and 19th cents. Bengali poets such as Rāmprasād (1718–75) and Ramakrishna (1836–86) wrote devotional poems to her as the supreme deity.

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Kali

Kali (kä´lē) [Hindi,=the Black One], important goddess in popular Hinduism and Tantra. Known also as Durga [the Inaccessible] and as Chandi [the Fierce], Kali is associated with disease, death, and destruction. As Parvati she is the consort of Shiva. Although often represented as a terrifying figure, garlanded with skulls and bearing a bloody sword in one of her many arms, she is worshiped lovingly by many as the Divine Mother. Her cult, popular among many lower castes in India, especially in Bengal, frequently includes animal sacrifice. Kali was patroness of the Thugs.

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Kali

Kali in Hinduism, the most terrifying goddess, wife of Shiva, often identified with Durga, and in her benevolent aspect with Parvati. She is typically depicted as black, naked, old, and hideous, with a necklace of skulls, a belt of severed hands, and a protruding bloodstained tongue. The Thugs were her devotees.

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Kali

Kali Hindu goddess of destruction, consort of Shiva. Also known as Chandi, Durga, Parvati, Sakti, Uma, and Mata, Kali represents the all-devouring aspect of Devi, the mother-goddess of India, who in other forms is calm and peaceful.

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kali

kali prickly saltwort, Salsola kali XVI; †soda ash XVIII; (lemon k.) mixture of tartaric acid and bicarbonate of soda XIX. — Arab. kily; see ALKALI.

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Kali

KaliAli, alley, Allie, Ally, bally, dally, dilly-dally, farfalle, galley, Halley, mallee, Mexicali, pally, Raleigh, rally, reveille, sally, tally, valley •Chablis • brambly •badly, Bradley, Hadlee, madly, sadly •scraggly •dangly, gangly •crackly • Shankly • Bramley •Manley, manly, Osmanli, Stanley •slatternly •Langley, tangly •amply • Ashley •Attlee, fatly, patly •aptly • shilly-shally •Bali, barley, Cali, Carly, Charlie, Dali, Diwali, finale, gnarly, Gurkhali, Kali, Kigali, Mali, Marley, marly, Pali, parley, snarly, Somali, Svengali, tamale •Barclay, Berkeley, clerkly, sparkly •Darnley • ghastly • Hartley • Barnsley •blackguardly

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Kali

Kali

The Hindu goddess Kali ("the Black [female] One") is one of the most enigmatic forms of Shakti—the transformative female energy of the universe. Shakti, personified in feminine form, is also referred to as Mahadevi—the great goddess, or simply Devi—the goddess. Traditionally, Kali was portrayed in both literature and iconography in her "terrifying" or "fierce" (ugra) aspect, but in Tamil Nadu and Kerala she has also been depicted in a "pleasing" (saumya) form, as a benevolent mother goddess. She thus personifies the ambivalence of deity in the Hindu tradition, which manifests itself in the unceasing cycle of life and death—creation, destruction, and regeneration.

Kali probably derives from a local village goddess (gramadevata), who became integrated into the Hindu pantheon through identification with an aspect of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. Worship of Kali is predominant in Bengal in the early twenty-first century, but the earliest representations of her come from southern India. The goddess Pidari, who is most often associated with south India, is recognized as being an aspect of Kali, as are several other goddesses from Tamil Nadu.

KALI IN THE HINDU TEXTS

Kali is first mentioned as a distinct, but peripheral and probably non-Aryan, goddess in the Mahabharata. Her place in the Hindu pantheon is later affirmed in the Markandeya Purana. In the section of this text known as the Devimahatmya, composed around the sixth century ce, Kali is said to have emanated from the brow of the goddess Durga during one of her battles with demonic forces. The Matsya Purana, a later account, places Kali as a mountain tribal goddess in the north-central part of India.

In the Devimahatmya, Kali is generated from the anger of Durga, as the goddess attacks the demons Chanda and Munda. After this event, Kali receives the compound name Chamunda. The Devimahatmya then tells how Kali attacked a gigantic demon named Raktabija, who was devouring humans as fast as they were created. Kali cut the demon in two with her sword, but from every drop of blood that fell to the ground there sprang a new demon. So she consumed the duplicated demons, drank the drops before they touch the ground, and sucked the lifeblood from Raktabija. Yet another origin story, from the Linga Purana, is that Parvati transformed herself into Kali from the poison stored in Shiva's throat, in order to destroy the demon Daruka. The account continues that, after her victory, Kali became so intoxicated by the destruction of battle that her rampage threatened to destroy the whole world until Shiva manifested himself as a baby, crying in the middle of the corpse-strewn field. Kali calmed down as she suckled the baby. When evening approached, Shiva performed the cosmic dance (tandava) to please his consort, and Kali and her attendants joined in.

Apart from that of the Linga Purana, there are few accounts or images of Kali in a tranquil state. As the personified righteous wrath of Parvati in these and other myths in the Vamana Purana and Bhagavata Purana, Kali acts as Parvati's alter ego, the embodiment of the cosmic power of destruction. Indeed, the name Kali is related to a term first used in the Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.4) for one of the seven flickering tongues of the sacrificial fire, Agni. Kali is also the feminine form of the word kala—time; as such, she is the representation of time, which is all-destroying and all-devouring.

Perhaps it was because of her connection with death and destruction that led to Kali's dominant role in Tantrism, especially the left-hand path. In Tantric ideology, it is essential to face and overcome the terror of death, as willingly as to accept the blessings of life, because the one could not exist without the other. A Tantric hymn to Kali, the Karpuradistotra, describes her as the source of not only wealth and fertility but also renunciation and death. Another text describes her as sitting on a corpse in a cremation ground, surrounded by skulls, bones, and female jackals; it was believed that the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) who fearlessly meditated on her in this guise would ultimately achieve salvation.

ICONOGRAPHY

The iconography of Kali reflects the various beliefs and mythology about her. In keeping with her name, she is often black or dark blue—colors representing tamas, the aspect of energy responsible for dispersion, and ultimately inertia and the limitless void from which all things come. Tamas is also associated with delusion. Because Kali is beyond both fear and ignorance, she can protect and enlighten those who invoke her. Thus she is often depicted with one of her four or more hands in the fear-removing gesture (abhaya mudra), and with another hand in the boon-granting gesture of compassion (varada mudra), or carrying a bowl of plenty.

Early imagery of Kali, particularly in the north, depicts her on the battlefield dancing wildly while drunk on the blood of her victims, or in a cremation ground sitting or standing on a corpse (shava) or ghost (preta). She is emaciated and naked, wearing only a long garland of human skulls or severed heads, and a girdle of severed arms or hands. A vertical third eye is in the middle of her forehead, and her hair is disheveled. Her glance is ferocious and her lips and lolling tongue are often shown dripping with blood. Her teeth protrude like fangs over her lower lip. In her arms she may carry one or more weapons and the severed head of a demon.

In her representation as Bhadrakali (auspicious Kali), her head is encompassed by the halo of flames and she wields the trident: These iconographic elements are also associated with Shiva, indicating that together they are the cosmic process. Another form of Kali is found in southern India, where she appears as a full-bodied woman. Although she still has fangs and rolling eyes, she is less gruesome in her costume and stance. The image of Kali at one of the most popular Kali temples in India, the Khalighat Temple in Kolkata is covered with ornate saris and jewelry, hiding her more terrifying features, but revealing her feet. From the medieval period onwards, Kali devotees in Bengal have worshipped the goddess as Kali Ma-Kali, the benevolent mother. Newer icons often beautify Kali Ma's form and features, whilst retaining her traditional "fierce" stance and paraphernalia.

KALI WORSHIP

In Bengal, Kali is may be worshipped with animal sacrifices. As part of Shaktism, worshippers may bring a live goat to the temple and ritually behead it in sight of the goddess. Vegetarian Vaishnava Hindus are often uncomfortable with such blood offerings made to the goddess, although the priestly family that is responsible for the Kalighat temple is Vaishnava.

Animal sacrifice is found alongside a less ritualistic form of worship introduced by the Bengali devotee Ramprasad Sen (1718–1775), who, in his poetry, approaches Kali as a child would its protective and nurturing mother.

The pan-Indian festival of Diwali coincides with Kali Puja in Bengal. At this time, thousands of temporary images are set up, including a huge statue in one of the cremation grounds, where several black goats are offered to the goddess.

Although predominant in Bengal, Kali is worshipped throughout India. There is the famous Kamakhya temple in Assam, as well as temples in Orissa, Rajasthan, and the Vindhya mountains of south-central India. Kali also remains a popular focus of devotion among Hindu communities abroad.

A CULT OF KALI

In the nineteenth century, British accounts describe various Indian criminal groups, such as the Phansigars, the Dacoits, and the Thuggees, who robbed and sometimes strangled travelers. All seem to have posed internal civil-ian threats, but in the 1830s the latter group (from which the English word thug derives) was accused by Captain William Henry Sleeman of being a religious cult, whose members murdered their victims in the name of Kali. This association of Kali with cult murder fed later Orientalist projections of her as uncontrollable both sexually and morally, and a threat to British law and order. Such representation continued in the West, where non-Hindus were introduced to Kali as a villainous goddess in several twentieth-century films, including Gunga Din (1939; loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's poem), the Beatles' Help! (1965), and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

Although occasional human sacrifices in the name of the goddess are still reported (such as a case in Uttar Pradesh in early 2006), for most modern worshippers Kali is not seen as being wrathful. The nationalist movement of the Bengalis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used the mother goddess in the form of Kali as a symbol of India. In his novel Anandamath (1882), the Bengali novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838–1894) includes a poem titled "I Praise the Mother" that is a hymn to Kali as Bengal personified in its oppressed state.

see also Goddess Worship; Hinduism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kinsley, David R. 1977. The Sword and the Flute: Kali and Krsna, Dark Visions of the Terrible and the Sublime in Hindu Mythology. Berkeley: University of California Press.

McDermott, Rachel Fell, and Jeffrey J. Kripal, eds. 2003. Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West. Berkeley: University of California Press.

                                                Jennifer Rose

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Kālī

KĀLĪ

One of the names of the Mother Goddess in Hinduism. She is the consort of Śiva, and is known in her auspicious aspect as Umā or Pārvatī, but in her terrible aspect

as Durgā or Kālī. She is represented as a four-armed woman with her tongue lolling out; she is garlanded with skulls and dancing on the body of her prostrate lord. Yet, this fearful goddess is worshiped all over India as the Great Mother, and especially in Bengal, she has inspired intense devotion. She was celebrated in exquisite poetry by Rāmprasād Sen in the 18th century; and Rāmakrishna, the "saint" of modern Hinduism, was her devotee, regarding her as the eternal manifestation of the Supreme Being. Her cult is distinguished by the sacrifice of goats; the Kālī Ghat in Calcutta is the center of these rites.

See Also: hinduism and its bibliography.

[b. griffiths]

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