- Religion and Philosophy»
Kolkata Kali IV
When some writers from the sub-continent or even from the west for that matter write about the Goddess Durga and the Goddess Kali especially with reference to the battle with the asura Mahishasura and the asura Raktabīja they often use strong terms like mashed, mangled, decapitated, shred to pieces etc. when it comes to describing the fate of the asuras in the momentous battle. There is a reason for this and it stems from the Shakta Sects or the sects that worship the Goddesses.
The Shaktas attribute all positive energies and the proper functioning of all their bodily organs to the Devi’s or the Goddesses.
In the Durga Kavach for example, a prayer that is recited for protection, every organ in the body has a corresponding Goddess. The presiding Devi is Chamunda or Chamundi, a manifestation of the Goddess Durga.
I am going to cite a small portion of the prayer as an example: - “May Maladhari (Goddess) protect my forehead, Yashaswini (Goddess) my eyebrows, Trinetra (Goddess) the space between my eyebrows, Yamaghanta (Goddess) my nose, Shankini (Goddess) my eyes, Dwaravasini (Goddess) my ears and Shankari (Goddess) the roots of my ears”.
From the passage above, we can adduce that Shaktas attribute all parts of their body, their conscious thoughts and their unconscious thoughts, in the waking state, the dream state and the transcendental state, to the Goddesses. The Goddesses in short are the core of their existence and form the very fibers of their body.
Likewise, Shaktas attribute all negative energies, hate, anger, lust etc. and all disease, pestilence, sickness and illness, to the asuras and therefore when they refer to the battle between the Goddesses and the asuras it is metaphoric of their own battles with the negative energies that seek to attack their bodies.
Therefore, they seek to crush, mangle, and decapitate any invasion be it in the form of an illness or otherwise to their bodies and that is the reason why the language that is used when referring to the battle with the asuras is strong or at times violent. It is reflective of the manner in which Shaktas deal with an attack natural or otherwise.
The representation of the Goddess Kali that is worshipped in Dakshineswar is called Dakshina Kali or the Black Goddess of Kolkata. She is an extremely potent manifestation of the Goddess and just to give our readers an example of how highly she is regarded, while on a trip to Rajasthan my father approached statute makers to purchase a black granite statute of the Goddess and they agreed to sell him one.
He took possession of the statue in the prescribed manner but before the statute was handed over the head of the statute was covered and the statute was boxed with the stipulation that the statute should be unveiled only after it has reached its destination. That is how particular they are.
Sometimes it is not a matter of wanting to buy or having the money to buy, the makers won’t just sell a statute of Dakshina Kali to anyone, not one that is made in the prescribed manner anyway. Similarly, not everyone is allowed to see the statue.
Part of the mystery that surrounds the worship of the Goddess Kali is due to the activities of a cult of assassins known as thugees who contributed to approximately two million deaths, prior and during British rule of India. The origins of the cult date back to the early 1300s. They were a highly skilled secret society who operated in conditions of extreme anonymity and membership was often handed down from father to son. They were very organized and operated in various parts of the subcontinent including Kolkata. The thugees were so secretive that they even had a jargon of their own called Ramasi.
Their activities were rampant and widespread to the extent that the British were forced to enact the Thugee and Dacoit Suppression Acts of 1836 – 48 to clamp down on them. The act made it a crime for anyone to be a member of a thugee cult and if convicted, the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor.
Thugees preyed on merchants and travelers and because of their highly secretive nature, they left behind no eyewitnesses. Children however were not harmed and any child that belonged to any victim, because of the code of secrecy members of the cult abided by, were adopted by the cult and were, after being trained in the appropriate manner, initiated into the cult.
Brahmins or priests and women however were never harmed. The former because they were priests and the latter because they were defenseless and in that aspect, they had a similar code to the kshatriyas. Members of the cult were reputedly worshipers of the Goddess Kali.
© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward