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The Goddess Kali

Updated on February 14, 2016


By Arnab Dutta (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Arnab Dutta (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Kali, A Hindu Goddess

For years, I've been fascinated by the Hindu Goddess, Kali. She is very much misunderstood by Westerners, who see her as horrific, murderous, and a destroyer.

This is far from the truth; Kali is frightening in some of her aspects, but she is a demon killer, so needs to have that appearance. She is seen by many of her devotees as the Great Mother, Kali-Ma.

The name Kali comes from the word "Kala", which means time, dark, or death.

This article will attempt to show some of the different aspects of Kali, the Great Mother.

Kali Dancing On Shiva


The Birth Of Kali

There are many stories associated with the birth of Kali. This is just one of them:

She was born from the brow of the Goddess Durga during a battle with the demons, when Durga needed extra strength. Kali killed thousands of demons, before finally defeating the demon king Raktabija by drinking his blood.

Drunk on this, she danced madly, endangering the world. The Gods asked her husband Shiva to stop her, and he place himself in her path. Kali did not at first notice she was dancing on her husband's body, but finally she looked down and saw him, and this stopped her dance of death.

Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar
Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar

This is one of the best books about Kali, and it's very informative.


Beautiful Kali

Goddess_Kali_By_Piyal_Kundu1.jpg, via
Goddess_Kali_By_Piyal_Kundu1.jpg, via | Source

Kali The Beautiful

The picture above is one of the most beautiful images of Kali I've seen. The picture was taken by Piyal Kundu, during Kali Puja at Naihati, a town in West Bengal, India, in 2007.

Kali Puja is a festival dedicated to the Goddess Kali, and is celebrated during the Hindu month Kartik on the new moon. It is celebrated mainly in the states of Assam and Bengal, and is on the same day as the feast of the Goddess Lakshmi, Diwali, in the rest of India.

The clothing and decoration of the statue show just how venerated this Goddess is.

Kali Poll

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Kali Close Up

Image | Source

Kali In Kolkata

The image above shows Kali in a Kali Puja pandal, Kolkata, 2010.

(Kolkata is Calcutta, and a pandal is a temporary or permanent shelter for a religious ceremony.)

Kali Puja is a cleansing festival, and it is also known as Shyama Puja . People clean and decorate their houses, and decorate shrines to the Goddess. Statues of her are strewn with flowers and other offerings, as the people seek the help of Kali to destroy evil, or negativity, both in themselves and in the rest of the world. Kali will also destroy ego.

Kali Can Be Fierce

Image by Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image by Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Kali The Destroyer

Kali is a transformational goddess, and is sometimes known as Kali the Destroyer. This is not because she destroys people, it is because she destroys ego. She destroys to recreate, and therefore can be seen as a nature goddess.

Many of Kali's devotees worship her in cemeteries, not just because she is the Goddess of Death, but because she destroys the idea of the body, and the ego. Her devotees often see her as a kind and generous mother, which is far from how she is depicted in most images.

Kali is also known as a "Gentle Mother" and a "Fierce Warrior". She is the female energy to Shiva, his wife.

Kali's Appearance

Kali wears a necklace of severed heads, and her skirt is made of dead men's arms. She is black skinned, and her tongue is extended. Her upper pair of arms hold a sword and a severed head, while her lower pair offer sustenance, and blessings, expressing her duality. Sometimes the items held in her hands are in different orders, and she can sometimes be shown with either eight or ten arms.

Kali is transformational, and is sometimes shown with snakes, which are a symbol of transformation. You can see a cobra in the image to the right.

Thuggee Members


Thuggee, A Kali Cult Of India

The Thugs were members of a cult devoted to the Goddess Kali, but unfortunately, they did not see her as the transformational goddess of many. They saw her as a goddess who craved blood and sacrifice. The sacrifice would be any man who was not a member of their cult. The cult may have been started in the 14th century, and operated for over 400 years.

Thuggee members were forbidden to shed blood, so the murders were usually done by throwing a yellow scarf, called a rumal, weighted with a coin, around the victim's neck, and strangling them. For a change, some victims were poisoned,but this was rare. The victims were robbed, and always a portion of the take was given to the Goddess Kali.

The victims had to be buried in a special manner to complete the sacrifice. It is not known how many people were murdered in this way by the Thuggee cult. Some estimates say over 2,000,000 over many years, while other estimates say 1,000,000 were killed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the 1830's, while the British ruled India, a campaign was begun to eradicate the cult. Was it successful? Perhaps, but who knows whether or not a few Thuggee survived!

A Hymn To Kali - by Ramprasad Sen


Kali In Poetry

Kali has had many devotees over the centuries, and one of them was Ramprasad Sen. He was a Bengali poet, who wrote many pieces, of which many were devoted to Kali. His work is still popular in Bengal, India, today.

What Do You Think About Kali?

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      True, Kali looks like a mean blood drinking goddess, unless you know the story behind the images. Thanks for visiting.

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 3 years ago from Mobile, AL

      You are right. Kali was very misunderstood especially for me. The images paint a different picture if you don't know what it means.

    • profile image

      ivan james 3 years ago

      i have been worshiping the devine ,maha kali mata for about 18 years my love and intrist towards her teachings , performing her puja's.But i feel that i don't know enough and willing to learn more so any one who can help in my knowledge feel free to email me at please i worship mother only with fruits ,flowers coconuts and lots of love and respect thankyou jai kali maa

    • profile image

      Michelle 3 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful

    • profile image

      sybil watson 4 years ago

      I had a friend who named her son Kali, and I always thought that it was strange to name him after a goddess who was The Destroyer. Now I understand why it's a beautiful name.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      I was not aware of your lens, but have been considering creating a lens on her too. I'm not Hindu but know of Kali and think she is very interesting. You should see the photo I took of a person dressed as Kali at a Witches Ball in Colorado. Congrats on your purple star!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Zeross4: Yes, Kali is fascinating, and I've always been drawn to her. Thanks for visiting

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 4 years ago from Kentucky

      I have always been interested in Greek Mythology, I haven't studied much about Hindu Mythology though. I really enjoyed learning about the Goddess Kali. I can see how pictures would throw people off and make her seem darker. When in actuality what she represents isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think the Ego gets a lot of us in trouble, and her symbol of recreation and transformation is very fascinating.

    • Mix Mafra profile image

      Michelle Mafra 4 years ago from Corona CA

      So nice. Truly enjoyed reading about Kali.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Interesting story about her.

    • profile image

      tonyleather 4 years ago

      Very informative lens! Thanks!

    • PadmashriSriram profile image

      PadmashriSriram 4 years ago

      Awesome lens. Being an Indian and a worshipper of Kali-Ma, I feel great after reading this.

    • alyellow lm profile image

      alyellow lm 4 years ago

      Very interesting, I learned from your lens, great job.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Snakesmum: Its been a while since I stopped by...but, here I am again. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Fascinating mythology. Very informative lens.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @srsddn lm: One day, I'm hoping to get to Kolkata, and Dakshineswar! Thanks for visiting.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @anonymous: Kali really interests me! Thanks for visiting and your blessing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You have done your homework on this topic, very interesting. :)

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      It is quite interesting to about Goddess Kali om you. During my stay at Kolkata I used to pass by a Kali Mandir, but never thought of going into so many details.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I'm always glad to learn new info. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • BodyLanguageExp profile image

      BodyLanguageExp 5 years ago

      Very good to see your opinion on Kali!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @bofirebear: Glad you found it interesting, thanks for your visit.

    • bofirebear profile image

      bofirebear 5 years ago

      Very Interesting I learned a lot that I did not know. Thanks

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Beth Buckley: Thanks for visiting! More to be added soon.

    • Beth Buckley profile image

      Beth Buckley 5 years ago from Portland, OR

      Very nice lens on Kali. Thanks for sharing!