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Kolkata Kali II

Updated on July 25, 2017

The story of the Goddess Kali begins when the asura Mahishasura invades Indra’s Kingdom of Heaven. While some authors equate asuras to the western equivalent of demons, they are not the same. Asuras and the devas are of the same race. They are both descendants of the Saptarishis.

A more precise definition of the asuras would be that they are those that embody the negative powers of creation while the devas are those that embody the positive powers of creation but because both the devas and the asuras were created from the same fabrics i.e. the fabrics of the universe, it is possible to draw upon both their energies to achieve a specific end or to perpetuate a specific outcome. Both the story of the Goddess’s origins and the definition of asuras that’s been given here will help us understand or comprehend the more common and contemporary aspects of Kali worship.

Asuras are not or have nothing to do with spirits or the returning spirits of the dead and they do not possess victims. It may be easier to infer or refer to asuras as those that bear the qualities of evil (negative energies).

It is also important to acquire some knowledge of the asuras because their roles do not end with their deaths in the hands of the Goddesses and we must keep in mind that the all merciful and compassionate Durga and Kali do not kill in vain and whenever there is death, there is resurrection.

Mahishasura is the son of the asura King Rambha who while he is out one day falls in love with Princess Shyamala who was cursed to occupy the form of a female water buffalo. The union between them results in the birth of Mahishasura and the child at birth acquires all the prowess of the asuras including their ability to undertake severe austerities and perform acts of rigorous penance to gain boons.

It is also worth mentioning that among the three divinities in the Hindu Trinity, there are only two that grant boons, Brahma and Shiva. Brahma is the easiest of the three Gods to please and Shiva is the hardest. Vishnu, the second divinity in the Hindu trinity, because he embodies the powers of procreation and continuity does not grant boons and often, it is up to Vishnu or his female equivalent the Grand Goddess, the Devi of all Devi’s, to assume an avatar and descend on to the earth to undo the boons that have been granted by either Brahma or Shiva.

Mahishasura followed in the lead of many of the other asuras, and after years of performing severe penance, Brahma appeared before him and granted him a boon. Mahishasura requested for immortality in that he could only be defeated by a woman.

We must keep in mind that, at the time Mahishasura requested for the boon, there was no woman in existence who could defeat an asura as powerful as Mahishasura. Brahma accordingly granted him the boon and Mahishasura returned to the land of the asuras and convened his armies before he began a ruthless siege on the Kingdom of Heaven.

A distraught Indra approached the Hindu Trinity for help and because of the boon granted by Brahma, the Trinity had to create a new woman, a Goddess, to defeat Mahishasura. The three divinities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came together and using the creative energies vested in each of them, brought to life the Grand Goddess Durga.

The Goddess instantly took to the battlefield astride her magnificent tiger, each of her eight arms bearing a separate weapon.

The asura divisions were led by different generals all of whom had acquired separate boons from Brahma including a particularly potent asura called Raktabīja. The asura had acquired in the same manner Mahishasura had done, a boon from Brahma in that, for every drop of his blood that was spilled, a new Raktabīja would appear.

Having smashed her way through the ranks of the asuras, pounding on their corpses and reducing their remains to dust that scattered to the four corners of the world, the Grand Goddess, found herself face to face with Raktabīja and he posed a complex problem.

Every time he was wounded and drops of his blood fell to the ground, hundreds if not thousands of Raktabīja’s would spring up and the Devi had to redouble her efforts. The wise Goddess drew on the collective energies of the Hindu Trinity that flowed in her veins like ripping currents and manifested as the Goddess Kali.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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