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Dasa Maha Vidyas – Kali

Kali is the most important deity among the Dasa Maha Vidyas. She is the chosen deity of the Tantrics. Despite there being many goddesses in Tantra, Mother Kali holds a special place, owing to the peculiarities in her worship. Kali worship confers boons very rapidly and has been a long standing tradition in India since time immemorial. For a spiritual practice which may take a lifetime, she can bestow accomplishment in a mere few months. However, this practice is very difficult and cannot be followed by everyone.

The form of Kali is fear evoking, but understanding her true nature eliminates all fear. There is nothing more propitious than having her vision. To the one bestowed with Kali’s grace, there is nothing unachievable in the three worlds. The Five Elements of Nature will follow his command.

There exist many terrible forms of Kali, which are not for the faint-hearted. Bhadrakali, Smasanakali, Karalakali, Mahakali etc, are some of her many different forms. The form of Smasanakali is the most gruesome of all. However, the form of Mahakali is not quite so. Despite being extremely enchanting, she evokes in us a motherly feeling towards her. Our heart overflows with the feeling of love a hundred times more potent than what we feel for our mother. The reason for this being, she is the mother of the entire universe. She is Adi Sakti, the Primordial Energy, the mother of all gods, human beings, species and the entire creation.

Kali is generally depicted with four arms, although there exists another form of hers with hundred arms. She is often portrayed standing on a motionless Siva, holding a sword in one hand and a severed human head in the other and her two remaining hands assuming the abhaya (fearless) and varada (boon giving) mudra. This is not mere fantasy or imagination of an artist. It is indeed the divine form in which she appears in a vision. However, her form in the vision is many times more living than the image. Although her form is terrifying, it is so, only to those of demoniac qualities and not to her children. A child cannot become frightened by mother’s anger. Once the child understands the truth that her anger is directed only at the evil tendencies in him and not at his person, it dispels all his fears.

Let us look at the deeper meaning of this image. The idols and images of the deities we worship are not merely artist’s imaginations, but the signs of mystic language. If one were to illustrate an infinite idea in the form of an image, it could be done only by resorting to mystic anthology.

Siva is the indivisible, formless and immovable transcendental being that existed before creation. Movement in such an inert being has brought about creation and this movement or creative energy is Sakti, which is also known as Kali. The dormant lying Siva, the Supreme Self is the source of all creation, with whose support Sakti performs the act of creation, preservation and dissolution. In other words, Sakti or the conscious energy is dancing over the inanimate Brahman. The image of Kali standing over Siva represents the same idea, which is a reflection of a wonderful Truth.

Delving into the Tantric world, shall we understand this from another perspective? When an aspirant goes beyond his senses and enters the state of samadhi, he loses body consciousness. He then lies unmoving, like a corpse. However, in the same inert being, there awakens the Adya Sakti, the Primal Energy in the form of kundalini. The awakened kundalini destroys evil tendencies in the aspirant in a single stroke. She supports him as both the protector and the conferrer of boons. No evil tendencies can stand against this awakened force, not even the immortal Raktabija.

One may try however hard to overcome his animal instincts and evil tendencies, but he cannot succeed. Only the fully awakened kundalini energy can accomplish this feat in a trice. In a way, she is the true symbol of the never ending process of creation taking place in the external world and also the internal spiritual process taking place within an aspirant. Thus, her play is ever ongoing both in the internal as well as the external realms of the aspirant. If one is able to attain the grace of Kali, then there are no further summits left to be unscaled in his spiritual life. She is all powerful. Devi Bhagavatam extols her as parabrahma mahiṣi. All worlds and universes are nothing but her play; her divine pastimes. All incarnations and gods are her children, who are born, grow up and dissolve in her. Nothing lies beyond the reach of her power. This is the true nature of Kali.

All rights reserved. This article has been translated by Sri Lalitha D, which was originally posted in on June 22, 2009. The content or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher.

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