Kali – Uninitiated fantasies vs. Hindu realities


Image – Sukdev92 via Wikipedia

In Hinduism the goddess Kali was originally taken as a manifestation of God‘s destructive side. Over time, she also came to be regarded as the Great Mother, the giver of life.

Another Hindu god Siva, known as the cosmic dancer, also has a destructive side. Siva’s dance is known as a dance of destruction. But Kali’s power is believed to be so great that she is often depicted in popular art as standing on top of a subdued Siva.

Devotion to Kali, a goddess of violence and grace, is most prominent in W. Bengal. Her name has also been associated with the Vedic god of fire, Agni.

Some New Age and feminist thinkers around the world see Kali as an inspiration for apparent spiritual ‘realism’ and sociopolitical liberation.

However, it’s doubtful that animal rights activists would use Kali as a poster girl for their agenda. Kālīghāṭ temple in Kolkata still practices regular animal sacrifice by slitting the animal’s throat with a knife. When I visited back in the late 80s, the smell of rotting blood permeated the place and frankly, I found it disconcerting and somewhat repulsive.

Kali trampling Shiva. Chromolithograph by R. Varma. Date: before 1906

It’s easy for some New Agers and academics to fantasize – and sell books – about spiritual figures when they’ve never seen what actually happens in the daily religious practice related to these deities.

Many Jungians and pop psychology writers try to equate Kali with other female deities like the Chinese Kwan Yin and the Egyptian Isis, and also with The Blessed Virgin Mary (who in Christianity is a saint not a goddess).

Again, most of these comparisons are fraught with difficulty and may represent more the fertile imaginations of the writers than the real practice and numinosity associated with the actual deities.

Related » Anima, Death and Resurrection, Goddess vs. goddess, Great Mother, Ramakrishna (Sri), Yuga

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