Kali by RedreevGeorge
Kālī also known as Kālikā, is the Hindu goddess associated with power/energy or shakti. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Parvati. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death. Since Shiva is called Kāla— the eternal time — the name of Kālī, his consort, also means “Time” or “Death” (as in “time has come”). Hence, Kāli is the Goddess of Time and Change. Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation of evil forces still has some influence. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess. Kālī is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing.
The Tantric approach to Kāli is to display courage by confronting her on cremation grounds in the dead of night, despite her terrible appearance. In contrast, the Bengali devotee appropriates Kāli’s teachings adopting the attitude of a child, coming to love her unreservedly. In both cases, the goal of the devotee is to become reconciled with death and to learn acceptance of the way that things are. In Kāli’s most famous legend, Devi Durga and her assistants, the Matrikas, wound the demon Raktabija, in various ways and with a variety of weapons in an attempt to destroy him. They soon find that they have worsened the situation for with every drop of blood that is dripped from Raktabija he reproduces a clone of himself. The battlefield becomes increasingly filled with his duplicates. Durga, in need of help, summons Kāli to combat the demons. It is said, in some versions, that Goddess Durga actually assumes the form of Goddess Kāli at this time. Kali destroys Raktabija by sucking the blood from his body and putting the many Raktabija duplicates in her gaping mouth. Pleased with her victory, Kali then dances on the field of battle, stepping on the corpses of the slain
In her most famous pose as Daksinakali, popular legends say that Kali, becoming drunk on the blood of her victims on the battlefield, dances with destructive frenzy. She is about to destroy the whole universe when, urged by all the gods, Shiva lies in her way to stop her. In her fury, she fails to see the body of Shiva lying amongst the corpses on the battlefield and steps upon his chest. Realizing Shiva lies beneath her feet, her anger is pacified and she calms her fury. The characteristic icons that depict Kali are the following; unbridled matted hair, open blood shot eyes, open mouth and a drooping tongue; in her hands, she holds a Khadga (bent sword or scimitar) and a human head; she has a girdle of human hands across her waist and an enchanted Shiva lies beneath her feet. Each of these icons represent a deep philosophical epithet. The drooping out-stuck tongue represents her blood-thirst. The depiction of Kali on Shiva shows that without energy, matter lies “dead”.
In Tantric contexts, the tongue is seen to denote the element (guna) of rajas (energy and action) controlled by sattva. Mahakali, literally translated as Great Kali, is sometimes considered as a greater form of Kali, identified with the Ultimate reality of Brahman. The Tantric interpretation of Kali standing on top of her husband is as follows: The Shiva tattava (Divine Consciousness as Shiva) is inactive, while the Shakti tattava (Divine Energy as Kali) is active. Shiva and Kali represent Brahman, the Absolute pure consciousness which is beyond all names, forms and activities. Kali, on the other hand, represents the potential (and manifested) energy responsible for all names, forms and activities. She is his Shakti, or creative power, and is seen as the substance behind the entire content of all consciousness. She can never exist apart from Shiva or act independently of him, just as Shiva remains a mere corpse without Kali i.e., Shakti, all the matter/energy of the universe, is not distinct from Shiva, or Brahman, but is rather the dynamic power of Brahman. Hence, Kali is Para Brahman in the feminine and dynamic aspect while Shiva is the male aspect and static. She stands as the absolute basis for all life, energy and beneath her feet lies, Shiva, a metaphor for mass, which cannot retain its form without energy.
It is this which is generally accepted as the meaning of Kali standing on the chest of Shiva. Tantrics believe they must face Kali’s truth, the terror of death, as willingly as they accept blessings from her beautiful, nurturing, maternal aspect. For them, wisdom meant learning that no coin has only one side: as death cannot exist without life, so life cannot exist without death.