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The Goddess Of Shakti – Maa Kali

The Goddess Of Shakti – Maa Kali

Kali Maa

On this auspicious week of Diwali and Kali puja, the very-talented author Ritika Kochhar delves into the various mythologies  of the Goddess of Shakti, Maa Kali-the Goddess of Time, Creation, Destruction and Power………!

On Amavasya or the new moon night at 11:39 pm on 4th of November, 2021, five days of Kalipuja starts. What, if any, is the connection between Diwali and Kalipuja? Because traditionally, while most people in India worship Goddess Lakshmi on Amavasya Tithi during Diwali, GoddessKali is worshipped in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam on the new moon day, the most important day of Diwali.

Perhaps the linkage goes back all the way to the 2nd century when Valmiki wrote the Ramayan as well as the Adbhut Ramayan in which Sita  – the Earth Goddess, turned into Mahakali to defeat SahastraRavana – the hundred armed brother of Ravan who defeatedRam and made him faint on the warfield. Seeing Ram unconscious and helpless on the field, Sita laughed, and gave up her human appearance to take on the horrific form of Mahakali. In less than a second, she severedSahastraRavana’s 1000 heads and began destroying rakshasas everywhere. Innumerable mothers of every type came to the battlefield to sport with Mahakali and played games with the heads of rakshasas.

Sita as Maha Kali
Sita as Maha Kali from the TV series “Siya Ke Ram”

The earth shook and almost sank into the netherworlds, but was rescued by Shiva.

Realizing that the earth might be destroyed if Sita as Mahakali did not calm down, the Devatas came to appease her. She pointed to the unconscious Ram, making it clear that while he was unconscious she could not consider the world’s welfare. Brahma restored Ram’sconsciousness, but as he regained awareness, he was terrified of Sita’s horrific form. Brahma explained to Ram that she had taken this form to highlight the fact that everything he did—the creation and destruction of the universe, and all other activities could only be accomplished in association with her, with Shakti. Ram then askedSita/Mahakali who she really was. She explained that she was the entity within everyone, known as Shivaa (the shakti of LordShiva), who could take one across the ocean of sansara. She then gaveRama‘celestial sight’ so that he could perceive her divine state. Seeing her true nature, he was thrilled, and praised her by reciting her 1008 names till she reverted to her form as Sita. They then prepared to return to Ayodhya.

The famous Krittivasi Ramayan which is based on the Adbhut Ramayan tells the story of an asur called Mahiravana who took Vibhishana’s form and entered Rama’s camp in the passage called ‘Mahiraboner pala’. As Mahiravana kidnaped Rama and Lakshmana and took them to PatalaLoka where he planned to sacrifice them to Mahakali, Hanuman entered PatalaLoka and shrank to the size of a bee, found the huge idol of MahaKali and asked her to let him save Rama. The fierce mother goddess agreed. Hanuman took her place while she slipped below.

When Mahiravana asked the prince-sages to bow, they refused – saying that they’re of royal lineage and didn’t know how. As Mahiravana bent to show them how to bow, Hanuman took his Panchamukha form (with the heads of Garuda, Narasimha, Varaha, Hayagreeva and himself signifying magical skills and the power to cure snake bites; fearlessness; health and exorcism; victory over enemies and courage and strength respectively) blew the 5 oil lamps in 5 directions and severed the head of Mahiravana. Pleased with Hanuman, Goddess Kali blessed him to be her dwarapaal or gate-keeper. That is why Bhairava and Hanuman are seen on either side of the entrance of the Goddess’ shrine.

Kali is one of the oldest Goddesses. In the Devi Mahatmya, she first arose when two demons, MadhuKaitabh, arose as thought forms from Vishnu’s sleeping body and endeavoured to vanquish Brahma who was preparing to create the next cycle of the Universe. Brahma sang to the Great Goddess, asking her to withdraw from Vishnu so he might awaken and slay the demons. Devi agreed to withdraw and Vishnu awakened and vanquished the demons. In the third chapter however, we see three different Kalis. Kali emerged from Devi’s eyebrows as a burst of psychic energy and overpowered and beheaded Chanda and Munda, and when she delivered their severed heads to Devi, she was dubbed Chamunda.

Devi Mahatmya
A 17th-century Devimahatmya manuscript

When Chandika – the goddess of Justice fought Raktabija – the general of the demons, Shambu and Nishambu, who had the power to clone himself, Kali emerged from her to lick up every drop of blood Raktabīja shed before it transformed into another demon as it touched the earth. The story continues in which Devi, Kali and a group of Matrikas destroyed the demonic brothers Shambu and Nishambu. In the final battle against Shambu, Devi absorbed Kali and the Matrikas and stood alone for the final battle.

See Also

Kali is said to have 8, 12, or 21 different forms according to different traditions. The popular forms are AdyaKali, Chintamani Kali, Sparshamani Kali, Santati Kali, Siddhi Kali, Dakshina Kali, Bhadra Kali, Smashana Kali, Adharvana Bhadra Kali, Kamakala Kali, Guhya Kali, Hamsa Kali, and Kalasankarshini Kali.

Kali is the fiercest of the Goddesses as well as the Greatmother. She is the Brahman or the universe and the goddess of universal power, time, life, death and both rebirth and liberation. She is chaos and devours Kala (Time) and then resumes her own dark formlessness. When she goes on a rampage, it is Shiva who lies like a child in her path and calms her down. She can sweep away all your assumptions and bring transformation like a force of nature. Little wonder that she is worshipped at the end of Sharadotsav when no one knows what winter will bring.


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