Kali-The dark goddess!

Hello all,

Namaste! Hope all of you were able to acknowledge the shadow and light side in oneself and come to terms with the enormous power of the dark side. It is better to keep the dark side as our friend and work with it than making it our enemy. As you can see it's power can bring down mighty kings like Ravana himself. As per the last post, we saw how Ravana, even though he had a lot of great qualities due to his ego was brought down and decimated. Today we are going to discuss the same concept of shadow side, but from a different point of view- from the divine feminine side as well as the power over the dominion of the dark side, by the help of a terrific/terrible Goddess-Kali!

Kali -The divine mother who is dark, terrible and all loving! As we have discussed previously Hindu culture and mythology contain around 33 million Gods and Goddesses. We have discussed previously how according to the personality of a devotee, they can select the deity that talks and interacts with them in an intuitional sense. Among the 33 million Gods, one is Kali.

Kali, Shyama,dark, Goddess,Shiva
Kali-The dark Goddess!
By Kinjal bose78 [CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Kali is depicted as very dark in color, very violent in nature, and has a necklace made up of human skulls around her neck as a garland, and the human hands as decoration on her skirt. She has a vessel in her hands from, which she drinks the blood of the people she killed and her tongue is always outside, shown as long, red, and dripping with blood. This is the terrible form in which she is portrayed. But as we discussed many times the knowledge of the wisdom of every God is symbolized as esoteric knowledge and only deep contemplative thinking would bring out that wisdom. So this is how the Goddess is depicted in a physical idol form. 

Birth of Kali: In Hindu mythology, the God Shiva was married to the Goddess Sathi. Sathi was the daughter of another demigod, Daksha Prajapati. Sathi had married Shiva against the wishes of her dad and Daksha was very angry at this. So in revenge, Daksha never accepted Shiva as his son-in-law and never gave him the respects a son-in-law deserves. Time was going like this and Sathi was having a great life with Shiva at their abode Mount Kailasa.

In the meantime, Daksha decided to perform a yaga (fire ritual) called Daksha Yaga for his wealth and prosperity. For that, he invited every God, demigod, and celestial being except for his son-in-law Shiva. Shiva already being the God and knowing what outcome can happen decided not the go for the yaga. He insisted that Sathi also should not to go for the yaga. Sathi first accepted it.

But later she could not resist her desire to see her mother and sisters if she went to the yaga. She started nagging her husband Shiva. (So remember, nagging started and is there even among God wives. So why be angry with poor human wives, who sometimes try to nag their husbands. Even Shiva the God could not resist the nagging of his dear wife, Sathi. So, be gentle with the human ladies. ;-))) Anyway after a long time being subjected to nagging; of course, Sathi would have shown anger, fuming, silent treatment, and what, not a wife can do ;-)); finally Shiva had to let Sathi go to the yaga.

Sathi, happily with the servants (Shiva demons) of Shiva, started on the vehicle of Shiva, Nandi, the bull and went to the yaga. Shiva stayed behind knowing what is going to happen. At her father's place even though her mother and sisters welcomed Sathi, her dad Daksha was not happy to see her. As Daksha was not happy, his servants as well as others who had come for the yaga, made fun of Sathi, as she had come riding a bull. Sathi was not much concerned about insults of her and decided to attend the yaga.

According to the yaga ritual, it is a norm to give respects as a kind of sweet dish given via fire to the Gods to get their blessings for the success of the yaga. In Hindu mythology, the trinity of Gods is Brahma (creation), Vishnu (preservation) and Shiva (destruction). Here at the yaga hall, both Brahma and Vishnu were invited and given the respects. Of course, Shiva was not invited and was not present in the hall. As per the ritual, Daksha didn't give the respects to Shiva, which was given to Brahma and Vishnu.

Now, already Sathi was upset for the teasing and insults she received and she was keeping her composure and trying to attend the yaga. This disrespect towards her consort was the last straw on the camel's back. Sathi became extremely angry and upset that her husband has been disrespected. She stood up in the hall and asked her father, the elders and Gods for the justice. 

Daksha, yagna, yaga,Sathi
Daksha Yagna where Sathi was insulted
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Not listening to her Daksha started yelling at her that her husband Shiva was someone who roams the forests, puts ash on his body, and is good for nothing being in the forbidden funeral grounds. Sathi not able to tolerate insult after insult, made a vow, next time she would be only born to a father who loves her, made a pyre using her yogic/mental strength and immolated herself. Her soul left the body and the physical body as Sathi Devi was left behind.

Now the servants of Shiva (Shiva Ganas/ Shiva demons) who had come along with Sathi rushed back to Mount Kailasa, Shiva's abode and narrated everything. Shiva realized the terrible thing that had occurred became extremely angry and took his ferocious form called Rudra, which we have discussed before, and rushed to the yaga hall with his ganas. 

There he became terribly upset at the injustice that had happened to him and his dear wife and started the Rudra Thandava (a terrible dance done by Shiva to show his terrible anger and the fear others feel due to that) and in the middle of it he plucked some hair from his head and struck it on the floor. From that two terrible forms emanated. One was the male demon called Veerabhadra and the other was the terrible dark goddess, Kali. 

Both of them started devouring all the people who had come to attend the yaga, and the yagasala (yaga hall) became a dominion of blood, terror, and tragedy. This is how first Kali came into being according to mythology. Here Kali is depicted as the daughter of Shiva, as he created her. After all the rein of terror, Shiva roamed around the worlds with Sathi's dead body for a long time. The sadness of a husband whose wife has been insulted and immolated herself. (Sometimes mythological stories can be crude and terrifying.)

Shiva, Sathi, immolation, Daksha, Yagna
Shiva roaming around the worlds with Sathi's body
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 But there are mythologies were Kali is shown as Shiva's wife as well. Now let us look at that story.

Kali as Shiva's wife: There are also stories, where Kali has been depicted as Shiva's wife. Shiva after Sathi's death went for eons of penance and later married the daughter of King Himavan (King of the Himalaya mountains), Parvathi (Daughter of Parvata (mountain)-Parvathi). Parvathi even though extremely beautiful was dark complexioned. So Shiva used to tease Parvathi about her dark complexion.

One day seeing the Goddess with her glowing beauty out of his love for his wife, Shiva called Parvathi lovingly, "Kali-The dark one". Even though it was a very loving gesture, Goddess Parvathi got very upset again her husband invoking her by her dark skin. She was totally upset. Whatever Shiva said didn't fall into the ears of Parvathi. (Sometimes men have to be careful about the emotional nature of their wives. But then men are from Mars and women are from Venus ;-)))

Parvathi decided to leave her husband and go for penance. Indeed that is what she did for eons. She went for eternity and prayed to the Universal mother, Adiparasakthi. (Adiparasakthi-first great energy. The paradox is Parvathi herself is the Universal mother, so praying to herself?). Later with the strength and boon of the mother Goddess, she removed her dark skin like a snake giving off its skin and became a Goddess of glowing gold hue and came to known as the Goddess 'Gowri' and returned to the abode of Shiva as the fair and glowing Goddess. So in this story, Kali is depicted as the wife of Shiva.

There is also another story in Devi Mahatmya, where the Universal mother Adiparasakthi calls upon Kali to decimate a demon called 'Raktabija', who had the capacity to come out as another 'Raktabija' from each drop of blood that dripped from his body to the ground. No other Goddess was able to tackle him and Kali was called to kill him and all his clones and drink their blood even before a drop of it could fall on the ground. Here Kali became so angry at the incessant way Raktabija was reproducing himself and was very intense in killing every one of them.

Once all the Raktabijas were destroyed Kali in her happiness and exhilaration started a victory dance that was as terrible as the 'Rudrathandava' and all the soldiers in the battle and all the other Goddesses became terrified. To stop this terrible dance then the Universal mother called upon Kali's spouse Shiva to come and lay on the ground. Then Kali in her enchanted dance stepped on Shiva. Suddenly she realized she kicked her husband with her foot and in the embarrassment, her tongue came out. So to symbolize this story, Kali is depicted as the Goddess who has her tongue extended. Here too Kali is depicted as the wife of Shiva.

The hidden meaning: Now let us analyze, what are the esoteric lessons she teaches? Kali is always depicted as a terrible Goddess with a skull necklace, hands for skirts, and drinking blood. How can a Goddess be in such a terrible form? Kali is always depicted as having a garland of skulls on her neck. 

Skull: Now what is the underlying meaning for the skull? Where is the skull situated? Inside the head. Remember the story of Ravana from last week. What did he have in abundance? 10 heads. Now, what did that ten heads bring into his life? Ego! So the heads symbolize ego. Once the ego or head is removed, what remains? The skull. So the skull depicts the removal of ego to bring out the true nature of Self in every person. By putting the garland of skulls or the removed egos from humans as a necklace on her neck, she shows or blesses us that beneath the ego is our true nature and we are supposed to find it and embrace it.

Hands: Next to hands. The ego in the head uses what to do its activities? The hands. They are also called the 'Karmendriyas'- The tools that are used to do actions. Let us take the example of Ravana. She shows that the hands that are used to do egoistic activities like kidnapping, touching another person's wife, stealing, bribery, theft, hurting someone using the hands, should be cut and used to adorn her skirt. 

In other words, the price humans who do actions due to their ego nature would have a terrible price to pay. Kali also is another form of the Universal Goddess or Prakriti or nature. So to the souls who do actions according to their ego nature, their ego would be again taken to task by cutting the tool that helps them to do the egoistic action. So this is a warning to the souls who get into immoral or egoistic activities, that, beware, the eyes of the spiritual law as Mother Goddess is upon them. A pretty dire warning isn't it??

Blood: Kali is depicted as always drinking the blood of the people who do egoistic activities. What does blood really symbolize? Let me put on the hat of a Biologist. Why does blood have the red color? The red color is due to the iron content in the Haemoglobin that carries Oxygen to various parts of the body. Now, what is Oxygen used for? Oxygen is used to give energy to the whole body. According to Vedic philosophy the air or Oxygen we breathe is called as 'Prana Vayu', Prana-life, Vayu- air, so in other terms the life-sustaining air.

Now comes our dear Goddess Kali. She is killing the ego and removing the blood. What does that mean? By virtue of removing the blood, which carries the Oxygen she is literally removing the 'life-sustaining air' or in other words the 'life-sustaining force' or our 'vitality'. So the blood represents the vitality, which would be removed from a person who does deeds according to their ego nature. Again another warning!

Kali,Shiva,dark, Goddess
Kali-The dark Goddess!
By Nahsik01[CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons

Dark color: The Goddess is represented as the dark one or Kali. Now, what does the darkness represents? In Vedic philosophy, darkness is ignorance or absence of knowledge. Now, what is the true knowledge? That underneath everything we are the pure souls. So by wearing the dark color, she is reminding us that by surrendering to her, she is able to remove the ego/ignorance of the devotee and she wears the ignorance as a skin on herself and grants the light of knowledge to them. Now doesn't this show her as the loving mother who is really trying to help the devotee? Of course, tough but loving. Many times bitter medicines are needed to cure ailments of many lifetimes.

Extended tongue: I was not really sure about the underlying meaning of the extended tongue. So I was contemplating on that and asking the Goddess herself to grant me that meaning. True to her nature, she sent me that as an insight. Blessed are we the Earthlings to have such a very kind mother.

So here is the meaning she gave. What does tongue symbolize? Or more specifically what is it used for? For speech. For words. Now the tongue is extended and red. So extended means, we are supposed to use our words that should come out into the world from our mouth. Remember, the tongue is extended out of the mouth. So the words should come out of the mouth, due to the extension. But then the tongue is red in color. We just discussed another red thing, the blood. It gives the vitality. So taking it a step further we can say as blood is red in color, the color red represents the vitality.

So now again back to the tongue. So the tongue being red, represents vitality. So the words coming out of the mouth should be red in color or should have vitality. For a person what type of words bring vitality? Inspirational and encouraging words. So by the red, extended tongue, the Goddess is reminding us that only words that inspire or encourage another person should come out of our mouth.

Totally important! We should never use our words to put someone down, bring someone's vitality down using words, or simply take their life energy out of them. So she is warning us totally against verbal abuse. As previously we have discussed, 'The word' is given much importance in the Vedic philosophy. We are supposed to use our words with utmost care. But, alas! we humans use it so carelessly. So here the Goddess is reminding us to use our words only to inspire/encourage our fellow beings, and not to put another soul down whether they are from a separate group, religion, party, or class. Isn't the interpretation she showed simply terrific? Utmost divine Grace!

Like this, every God or Goddess teaches us how to live our life from a position of authenticity, true to our very core. So next time when we see a picture of the Goddess Kali, let us meditate on the true wisdom she is imparting. Even though she looks fear invoking, the guidance she is giving is simply beautiful. 

So, let each of us realize the shining soul we are by removing all the ignorance and darkness of our mind, the way the dark Goddess is reminding us to do.

I wish you a good weekend and I'll see you next Friday! 😉

Next week: Nakshatras - Why from the Moon?

Note: Images from Wikimedia Commons, and Pixabay.com.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance ; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried".  

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