Essay, Research Paper: Kali Hindus


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Kali Hindu goddesses personify Nature – its bounty, beauty, wisdom and
mystery. In benevolent forms, they nurture life. But in malevolent forms, they
destroy everything. They are therefore adored and appeased with offerings of
flowers and bridal finery. Unlike most other religions, Hinduism does not
advocate the worship of one particular deity. There are numerous gods and
goddesses worshipped by Hindus all over India. Among these is Kali, the black
earth mother whose rites involve sacrificial killing. She is associated with
dark, obscene rites and devil worship. She has black skin and hideous tusked
face, smeared with blood. Kali is the Hindu primal Mother Goddess who brings
Life and Death, from which all things sprang. She is the furious embodiment of
the divine feminine that is released when she becomes enraged. In general we
might describe Kali as a Goddess who threatens stability and order. She is the
destroyer of the very world She is supposed to protect. Kali was the basic
archetypal image of the birth-and-death Mother, simultaneously womb and tomb,
giver of life and devourer of her children: the same image portrayed in a
thousand ancient religions. One legend says that Kali manifested when the demon
Daruka appropriated divine power and the powerful Goddess Parvati knitted Her
brows. From Her fury sprang Kali, armed with a trident. She dispatched Daruka
and remained in existence, beyond even the control of Parvati, of whom She is an
aspect. Kali is still one of India's most popular Goddesses. In fact the city of
Calcutta is an anglicized version of the name Kali-Ghatt, or "steps of
Kali", Her temple. The bloody rites of Kali worship are sometimes so
terrifying, that few understand them. Kali is a symbol of the worst we can
imagine and by knowing Her, we can overcome the terror of our own death and
destruction. Once faced and understood, Kali frees her worshippers of all fear
and becomes the greatest of mothers, the most comforting of all goddesses. Kali
is an important figure in Hinduism, despite Her intimidating appearance and
ghastly habits. She takes a central role in Tantrism, where an underlying
assumption if ideology is that reality is the result of the symbiotic
interaction of male and female, Siva and Sakti - polar opposites that in
interaction produce a creative tension. In Tantra it is Kali's vitality that is
sought through techniques aimed at spiritual transformation. She is affirmed as
the dominant and primary reality. Kali is regarded as the supreme goddess of the
Saktas, who almost always associate her with Shiva. As the latter's consort or
associate, she plays the role of inciting him to wild behavior. As a goddess
having an awful, frightening appearance, she is addressed as Siddhasenani
(general of the Siddhas), Mandaravasini (dweller on the Mandara), Kali (black or
dark), Kapali (wearer of skulls), Bhadrakali, Mahakali, Chandi (formidable),
Karali (frightening), etc. To many of her devotees, she is also Kumari (virgin),
Tarini (deliverer), Vijaya (victory), Jaya, `younger sister of the chief of
cowherds', `delighting always in Mahisa's blood', Kausiki, Uma, `destroyer of
Kaitabha', mother of Skanda, Svaha, Svadha, Sarasvati, Savitri, `mother of the
Vedas', Mahadevi, Mohini, Maya, Hari, Sri, Sandhya, Vindhyavasini (an epithet of
Durga), Chamunda, etc. Mahakali is very dark, usually naked, and has long,
disheveled hair, a girdle of severed arms, a necklace of freshly cut heads,
earrings of children's corpses, and bracelets of serpents. To add to her
dreadful appearance, she has long, sharp fangs and claw like hands with long
nails and blood smeared on her lips; she laughs loudly, dances madly. She is a
goddess who, in the words of David Kinsley,”… even in the service of the
gods, she is ultimately dangerous and tends to get out of control. In
association with other goddesses, she appears to represent their embodied wrath
and fury, a frightening, dangerous dimension of the divine feminine that is
released when these goddesses become enraged or are summoned to take part in war
and killing”. In relation to Shiva, she appears to play the opposite role from
that of Parvati. Parvati calms Shiva, counterbalancing his anti-social or
destructive tendencies. It is she who brings Shiva within the sphere of
domesticity and who, with her soft glances, urges him to moderate the
destructive aspects of his tandava dance. Kali is Shiva’s "other"
wife, as it were, provoking him and encouraging him in his mad, antisocial,
often disruptive habits. It is never Kali who takes Shiva but Shiva who calms
Kali. Her association with criminals reinforces her dangerous role in exchange
for society. She is at home outside the moral order and seems to be unbounded by
that order.
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