In Indian culture, Goddess Kali goes by different names such as Kalika, and Shyama. She is one of the most prominent Goddesses who is responsible for creation, destruction, power, and time. She is the chief of the Mahavidyas and a form of Mother Goddess Parvati.

Hindu Goddess Kali is the destroyer of evil forces. She is regarded or hailed to be the strongest form of Shakti. She goes out to the lengths of killing all evil forces to protect innocent children. In the tantric sects, Hindu Goddess Kali is seen as the Divine mother figure or the Mother of the Universe. It is for this reason that sometimes she is also referred to as Adi Parashakti and Adti Shakti. She is the divine power that gives moksha.

Hindu Goddess Kali is mostly worshipped around India and Nepal. She is portrayed as the standing consort in a dancing form while Lord Shiva lies calm underneath her.

What is Kali the Goddess of?

Kali is the Goddess of doomsday and death. She is the Black Goddess who is hailed as the female form of black of time-doomsday and death. In Sanskrit, Kali is referred to as ‘She Who is Black’ or ‘She Who is Death.’

Kali's history and how it evolved as a God in Hinduism

It is likely the history of Kali is rooted in the history of mankind. Hindu Goddess Kali is first mentioned in the Atharva Veda that is anticipated to be published around 1200-1000 BCE. But, not many considered her to be a Goddess, she was considered to be one with a fierce black tongue, one of the seven belongings of Agni, the God of fire.

Again in 600 CE, Kali makes her appearance in the Devi Mahatmya, as the Goddess of wrath, a form of Durga. She is shown as someone with a frightening core and who is colored black. She is portrayed as the Goddess wearing animal skins and carrying khatvanga. She carries a skull-topped staff which is often associated with that of tribal shamans.

Kali is menitioned once again in the Linga Purana (circa 500 to 1000 CE) where Lord Shiva described how Devi Parvati, tried to defeat the Hindu Demons Daruka. With Parvati merging with Lord Shiva, Goddess Kali appeared who finally kills the demon.

However, it is only in the latter times, that her bloodlust becomes uncontrollable. Eventually, Shiva intervenes in order to calm her down., written around 900-1100 CE, there’s a different legend. According to the Vamana Purana, when Lord Shiva addresses Parvati as the Black one or Kali, she loses her calm and is offended.

In order to get rid of the dark complexion, she goes on to perform authorities which eventually leads to Kali becoming a different entity. Lord Shiva and Kali are often considered to be one. Hence, she is regarded as the power or Shakti of Shiva. Even in Puranas, there is a close mention of Shiva and Kali being associated to each other.

12 Forms of Kali

There has been controversy regarding the different forms. While many Puranas mention eight, other holy texts consider that there are twelve forms of Kali.

1. Kali

Kali art print
Kali goddess art - Click for details!

This is one of the most significant forms. According to the Hindu mythology, the blood of the demons intoxicated the Goddess, and mistakenly she stepped on Lord Shiva, her husband, who was lying around with the corpses.

Realizing the mistake that she committed, she stuck out her tongue, portrayed in all her images.

This form of the Dark Mother or Goddess Kali is known to face the South and is known as Dakshina Kali. She is also referred to as Chamunda, for she is the ferocious slayer of the two naughty demons, Chanda and Munda. 

Chamunda has blood flowing down her tongue. All this while, Lord Shiva stands in admiration of his wife while she continues slaying the demons.

2. Chhinnamasta

Chhinnamasta is one of the weirdest Gods in Indian culture. As per the Hindu culture, Chhinnamasta stands for beheaded.

According to the culture and folklore, she holds her own severed head and drinks the blood that flows from the throat stump. Her feet stands for the heat of passion. Chhinnamasta is the God of Death as well as creation.

Kali goddess incarnation Chhinnamasta
Chinnamasta

3. Bagala Kali

Bagala Kali is the ferocious or violent God who is extremely beautiful. Compared to the natural form, she has a light complexion and stands for someone who pulls out the tongues from the demons.

4. Matangi Kali

Matangi Kali is the angry or violent reincarnation of the Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati. She is the tantric Goddess who resides on the edges of the organized Sanatan Dharma or Hindu religion.

She is not entirely black but has a sparkling emerald green color. She is the Goddess who is offered stale food from the emerald or left hand. Matangi Kali is also referred to as Chandalini. According to the rules of Hinduism, one cannot worship Goddess Matangi at home.

The Goddess Kali - Matangi
Brooklyn Museum - The Goddess Matangi

5. Shamsana Kali

As the name suggests, Shamsana Kali is the Goddess who presides over the affairs of Shamsan or crematorium. She is worshipped only in Hindu crematoriums. She has a very human-like figure but with strange two hands and no protruding tongue unlike the other versions of Goddess Kali.

6. Tara

Maa Tara is one of the most prominent forms of Goddess Kali worshipped mostly in West Bengal, India.

One of the most important aspects that makes Tara Maa different from other forms of Hindu Goddess Kali is the light blue color. She is portrayed as naked till the waist and then covered in a tiger skin.

The Maa Tara Chandi Temple attracts thousands of devotees every year, located in Sasaram, India

7. Bhairavi Kali

Goddess Bhairav

In the Indian scriptures and culture, Bhairavi Kali stands as the harbinger of death. She is the Mother figure who defends and protects all her children and drives away the evil. Bhairavi Kali is hugely worshipped in Tripura, India.

8. Kamala Kali

Kamala Kali is the tantric form of Goddess Lakshmi. She is considered to be the symbol of wealth and prosperity. In Southern India, Goddess Kali or Kamala Kali is worshipped as ‘Gaja Lakshmi’. This is mostly because she has two elephants on either of her sides.

9. Shodoshi

Shodoshi is the seductress form of Goddess Kali. She rises from the navel of Lord Shiva and is an adolescent girl. As per the mythology, the essential Hindu Trinity of Vishnu, Brahma and Mahesh pay respect to Shodoshi.

10. Dhumavati

Not many Indians know, but Dhumavati is one of the essential forms of Goddess Kali. Dhumavati is an exceptional representation of Goddess as the window.

She is probably the only widowed God of Hindu mythology.

Dhumavati is often referred to as the spirit of smoke or Smoke Goddess. Dhumavati is the exact opposite of Goddess Lakshmi, who stands for good and auspicious.

It is for this reason that Dhumavati is also known as Alakshmi. People often worship Dhumavati or Alakshmi to go away from their houses.

Goddess Dhumavati, One of the Mahavidya
Goddess Dhumavati, One of the Mahavidya

11. Siddhi Kali

Siddhi Kali is mostly worshipped in Nepal. There’s a temple dedicated to the Goddess in Nepal known as the SiddhiKali temple. Siddhi Kali is hailed as the goddess of Astamatrika.

12. Samhara Kali

Samhara Kali is also referred to as Vama Kali, who stands as the power or symbol of destruction. According to Hindu mythology, she is one of the dangerous and powerful forms of Kali. Samhara Kali finds an important place in the Tantric texts.

According to Hindu mythology, Samhara Kali is the one who steps out with left foot and has a sword in her right hand. She is the Goddess of death and destruction. In India, mostly Indians worship tantric. Samhara Kali is responsible for providing liberation from the cycle of life or moksha.

As per Mahakala Samhita, Samhara Kali is black in complexion and has two arms. She stands on the corpses and has a freshly cut head on her hands while the dripping blood from the head is collected on the plate.

Kali and Shiva

Kali is the wife of God Shiva. Hindu Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva reflect the two aspects of transcendental reality: the silent (Shiva) and the dynamic (Kali). However, truth is not complete without the two.

According to the Upanishads, “That is far, and at the same time, that is near. That moves and that moves not. That is within, and that is without. It moves, and it moves not.” Hence, when Kali performs her duties, the reality is moving, and when Shiva performs his duties, the reality is silent.

Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva

But, when they come together to perform, it becomes a really underwhelming aspect. Our human consciousness will not be able to understand it; our divine consciousness will eventually observe it.

Lord Shiva and Kali together bring us two different forms of reality. They together fulfill the highest Supreme, and the reverses remain on both the coins. Our ordinary human eyes observe them as two separate entities, but our divine self will eventually observe them as the same.

Kali's "relations" with other Gods

Mother Kali is the wife of Lord Shiva and a reincarnation of Shakti. It is for this reason that the merged form of Kali and Shiva is known as AdiShakti. Kali’s motherhood is often hailed as the ceaseless creation. She is the divine and supreme being, and her white teeth are symbolic of purity.

She is creative, and the red tongue stands for what she stands. Kali and her attendants are said to dance to the rhythms of Lord Shiva. Kali adorns a skull garland. She is connected to other Gods in different forms. In one of her forms, Shodoshi is worshipped by the Holy Trinity of the Indian culture- Maheshwar, Brahma, and Vishnu.

Is Kali Goddess evil?

Often Kali is considered to be the Goddess of evil. However, she is not. She is the force that drives away all the evil.  Goddess Kali is said to eradicate evil from the world to save her children. She is the protector who sets out to the world to kill all demons and eventually protect the innocent children.

Kali mythology- Stories about Kali

Kali makes her appearance even in Mahabharata (verse 10.8.64). In the verse, she is referred to as Kalaratri (dark blue night). She appears in front of Pandava soldiers’ dreams and then appears during the fight while Drona’s son Ashwatthama is about to blow an attack.

One of the most famous legends of Kali is that she is the slayer of one of the Hindu Demons, Raktabija. Raktabija was blessed that his new incarnation will be formed every time a drop of blood falls on the ground. In one of the legends, Kali’s assistants, the Matrikas set out to wound the demon, Raktabija.

The Goddess Ambika Leading the Eight Mother Goddesses in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija
The Goddess Ambika Leading the Eight Mother Goddesses in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija

They do so to kill him. However, with every blood dropping on the ground, a new clone of Raktabija is formed. As a result, the battlefield becomes filled with the clones or duplicates of Raktabija. It is then that her assistants and Ambika summon Hindu Goddess Kali to help them kill the demon.

According to The Devi Mahatmyam

Out of the surface of her (Ambika’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in tiger’s skin very appalling owning to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the does of the devas.

Kali consumes Raktabija and all her clones and eventually dances on all the corpses lying around. According to the Devi Mahatmyam, Kali is the Matrika or Shakti or power of the Devi.

She is hailed as the Chamunda, one who slays Chanda and Munda. Chamunda is considered to be similar to Goddess Kali and has habits similar to it as well. According to the Tantric Kali Kula Shaktism, Kali is the main or supreme Goddess and is hailed to be the source of all Goddesses. According to the stories of Yogini Tantra, the Hindu Goddess kills Ghorasura and Kolasura.

Kali's Rituals

The Kali Puja is worshipped just like the Durga Puja. During the Kali Puja, the worshippers honor the sculptures of Goddess Kali. They are also worshipped in the pandals, which are either temporary shrines or open pavilions.

During the night, she is worshipped with the Tantric mantras and rites. Goddess Kali is offered sweet, rice, hibiscus flowers, and lentils. As per the rituals, one should meditate the entire night till dawn to worship the Goddess Kali.

Many households and pandals practice the Brahmanical rituals where Kali is dressed in her Adya Shakti form and adorned with all clothes. However, as per the Brahmanical practice, there is no requirement for animal sacrifice. 

Many places in Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, and Guwahati observe the worshipping around cremation grounds. The Durga Puja of Kolkata is considered to be the same as the Kali Puja of Barasat. People from different regions observe Kali Puja in its different forms. Kali Puja in Bengal is often observed as the time of theater, fireworks, and shows.

Kali puja
Kali Puja, also known as Shyama Puja or Mahanisha Puja, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Kartik especially in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and Bangladesh.

Goddess Kali is worshipped in different forms around the world. However, in the Kamakhya Temple of Guwahati, Kalighat Temple of Kolkata, and Kalikhetra Temple of Bhubaneswar, Goddess Kali is worshipped in the form of Lakshmi.

During these days, the Vaishnava Haldars is reflected in the worship of Goddess Kali. During these times, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in her three major forms, Maha Kamiz Maha Saraswati and Maha Lakshmi. Thousands of devotees visit these temples to pay their respect to the Goddess. One of the most prominent temples dedicated to Goddess Kali is Dakshineswar Temple, Kolkata.

Kali Worship in India and Nepal today

It is stated that Kali is one of the most misunderstood Gods in the Indian culture. In Nepal, Goddess Kali is worshipped in the form of Chamunda. The Siddhi Kali Temple is one of the most prominent Kali temples in Nepal. In Nepali culture, Goddess Kali is worshipped with animal sacrifices. Another prominent temple in the Indian culture is the Dakshin Kali Temple. 

Siddhi Lakshmi temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal

However, in India there are several temples dedicated to the Goddess Kali. West Bengal itself has innumerable temples in the states dedicated to Goddess Kali. The Kalighat Kali Temple and Dakshineswar Temple are some of the most prominent temples.

Lord Paramhansa was a great devotee of Goddess Kali. It is in the Dakshineswar temple that Lord Paramhansa performed all the rites dedicated to Goddess Kali.

Is Kali Goddess dangerous?

Many people believe that it is dangerous to worship Goddess Kali. Kali is the Mother Goddess, so she will forgive and protect the people. 

In general, Kali is not dangerous, but she is dangerous for those who rebel. She is the driving force that keeps away all the evils. Worshipping Kali can take us to the heights of success even when we have nothing. The fact that Goddess Kali is evil is an illusion. She is the one who is supposed to give us power and help us rise amongst all the evil.

Many people turn to Goddess Kali as a last resort. Even if there is nothing, she will help us out. Although she has a fearful appearance, she is actually a Mother figure who will help out her children. The devotees of Kali believe that she is there to help us, even when no God helps.

Nonetheless, Kali is a very difficult God to depend on. While she can take us to the heights of success, she can also bring us down. However, if we are ignorant, we will only ruin the chances, and Goddess might punish us, which will eventually be beyond repair. If you want to start your life and move in a positive direction, you should always turn to Goddess Kali.

Goddess Kali Mantra

Bija mantra

The Bija Mantra for Goddess Kali is chanted to keep away all the evil. Chanting this mantra will help drive away all the evil forces.

Om Krim Kali

The K here stands for full knowledge. The R symbolizes the fact that Goddess Kali is auspicious. The I stands for the fact that she is the one who blesses or bestows boon. The M stands for the freedom that she offers.

Om KlimKalika- Yei Namaha

It is said that chanting this Goddess Kali Mantra can bring you relief. It provides relief from the different kinds of problems. Irrespective of what the problem is, chanting the mantra can offer you relief.

Kali Gayatri

Or:

          • Om Mahakalyai
          • Ca VidmahesmasanaVasinyai
          • Ca DhimahiTanno Kali Prachodayat

This mantra signifies that Goddess Kali is the only one who is in the Ocean of life. She is also the one who brings down the world as one into the cremation grounds. She grants us with blessings and provides us the opportunity to dwell and focus on all our positive energies.

The Fifteen syllable Mantra

The Fifteen syllable Mantra is said to help one grow in terms of spirituality. Chanting this mantra can play an important role in enhancing our spirituality and help us grow.

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