Age of Kali
The "Age of Kali the goddess" has come upon us. This is the time for profound changes in the universe with the destruction of the stagnating structures taking place all around. This destructive phase will be followed by a fresh cycle leading to creation of new and generative structures for future growth and development. The "Age of goddess Kali" also represents the manifestation of the divine feminine in the form of goddess Kali in all walks of life in a profound manner.
Age of Kali: The goddess of death and regeneration
Goddess Kali is the Hindu Goddess associated with death, destruction, time, change, rebirth, regeneration and ultimate liberation. She is black and violent in her manifestations in the sense that she destroys anything that stands in the path of creative and generative change. She destroys the self focused ego and so does she destroy the structures represented by the self focussed ego. As per the tantric beliefs as well as the mainstream Hindu Shakta tradition she is considered as the ultimate reality of the universe or the ultimate Brahman. In Hindu traditions she is called as Kalika and is also revered as Bhavatarini, the redeemer of the universe. She is the all pervading goddess and to her devotees she is also the benevolent mother goddess.
Age of Kali: The virgin goddess
She is considered as a virgin goddess in the sense that she is fiercely independent and sexual. Here we need to make a distinction of what we mean by virginity when we refer to goddess Kali. It is very different from the western concept of virginity which connotes to sexual chastity. Kali the goddess is diametrically opposite to the western concept of virginity and she is considered as the ultimate Duti with supreme sexual powers. She enjoys sex and helps in "the rising" of yogic powers through sex.
Age of Kali: Kali as Shiva’s consort
Goddess Kali can be matched in her energy and manifestations only by lord Shiva. Only lord Shiva is considered as the "other half" of otherwise this fiercely independent goddess. In fact as one story in the mythology goes, only lord Shiva could calm the tempers of Kali after a bout of destruction of the evil forces. As per this folklore when Goddess Kali did not stop her act of annihilation and destruction after destroying all the evil forces, the Gods and the mortals started trembling with fear and everybody went to lord Shiva to find a way out. Considering the request of all Gods to prevent the total destruction of the universe, lord Shiva decides to put himself in the path of the destructing goddess Kali. It was only when her foot landed on the chest of lord Shiva that Kali recognized her consort and stopped her deadly dance.
Age of Kali: Kali the powerful goddess of the Shakta tradition
Kali is also associated with other goddess of Hindu tradition like goddess Durga, Bhadrakali, Sati, Rudrani, Parvati and Chamunda and together they represent the supreme feminine force of the universe, the Shakti. The Shakta tradition of the Hindu religion is dedicated to the path of the supreme feminine in the form of Shakti. Kali is also the foremost among the Dasa Mahavidyas that is the ten fierce tantric goddesses.
Age of Kali: Goddess Kali not same as Kal yuga
We should not confuse Goddess kali with the demon representing Kal Yuga. In Mahabharata there is a mention of this demon who seeks to destroy the world of the Dharma or truth. This demon is said to be the cause of all the miseries of the current times called as the Kal yuga. Goddess Kali on the other hand transcends all time and she existed in all Yugas and she shall exist even after the existence of this universe. She is the primordial goddess who has no beginning and no end. She is the ultimate destroyer and redeemer of the universe and all Yugas including the Kal Yuga and all manifestations of this universe will be ultimately consumed by her and thereafter she shall revive her cycle of creation.
Age of Kali: The meaning of the name Kali
Kali as a word means the feminine black and it is used to describe the dark and black goddess Kali. Kali's association with blackness stands in contrast to her consort, Shiva, whose body is covered by the white ashes of the cremation ground called as the “samasana in Sanskrit’ in which he meditates, and with which Kali is also associated, as samasana kali. On the other hand the word “Kal” also means the appointed time and death. In Hindu tradition the god of death is called Kal and the lord who controls Kal is Shiva and therefore he is referred as Mahakal. The word "Kal" is also used in association with Goddess Kali by virtue of which she is referred as the goddess of death and destruction. This association of goddess Kali with death and destruction is seen in a passage from the Mahabharata, depicting a female figure that carries away the spirits of slain warriors and animals. She is called kalaratri which means night of death. In her association with death and destruction the goddess assumes primordial status and she is considered as the destructor, creator and the redeemer of the universe. She is considered as life taking as well as life giving and she destroys to give rebirth.
Age of Kali: The origin of Kali as traced in written texts
The early written texts show Kali as a black tongue of Agni the fire god. This form of manifestation appears in the Mundaka Upanishad where Kali is not explicitly mentioned as a goddess, but as the black tongue of the seven flickering tongues of Agni, the Hindu god of fire.
Age of Kali: Rig Veda
However, the real prototype of the figure manifesting as Kali appears in the Rig Veda, in the form of a goddess named Raatri. Raatri is considered to be the prototype of both Durga and Kali and she is the goddess of the night. In the very ancient Sangam era, circa 200BCE-200CE, of Tamilakam, a Kali-like bloodthirsty goddess named Kottravai appears in the literature of the period. Like Kali she has dishevelled hair, inspires fear in those who approach her and feasts on battlegrounds littered with the dead. Kottravai is the earliest known form similar to goddess kali mentioned in texts. But it was the composition of the Puranas in late antiquity that firmly gave Kali a place in the Hindu pantheon.
Age of Kali: Devi Mahatmya
Kali or Kalika is described in the Devi Mahatmya also known as the Chandi or the Durgasaptasati from the Markandeya Purana, circa 300-600CE, where she is said to have emanated from the brow of the goddess Durga, a slayer of demons or avidya, during one of the battles between the divine and anti-divine forces. In this context, Kali is considered the 'forceful' form of the great goddess Durga.
Age of Kali: Matsya Purana and Kalika Purana
Another account of the origins of Kali is found in the Matsya Purana, circa 1500CE, which states that she originated as a mountain tribal goddess in the north-central part of India, in the region of Mount Kalanjara now known as Kalinjar. The Kalika Purana a work of late ninth or early tenth century is one of the Upapuranas. The Kalika Purana mainly describes different manifestations of the Goddess, gives their iconographic details, mounts, and weapons. It also provides ritual procedures of worshipping Kalika.
Age of Kali: Presence of Kali from the very beginning of existence
As we can see that Kali is a very ancient goddess of the Hindu tradition with very old and sacred texts of the Hindu religion referring to her manifestations. Accepting the truth that human history is older than any written texts we can imagine the presence of Kali from the very beginning of existence. In fact she is the existence.
Age of Kali: Tantra yoga
Goddesses play an important role in the study and practice of Tantra yoga, and are affirmed to be as central to discerning the nature of reality as the male deities are. Tantra yoga works on the principle of awakening of the "feminine Shakti" that resides in the depths of our lower spine.
Age of Kali: Kundalini rising
Practice of Tantra yoga awakens this feminine Shakti sitting dormant as a coiled serpent in the lower spine represented by the lower back region. From there the feminine Shakti also called as the Kundalini force is pushed upwards through the various chakras of the body to finally meet lord Shiva at the centre of the head represented by the forehead. This is known as Kundalini rising. Once the feminine Shakti merges with the masculine Shiva at the centre of the head we reach the stage for total liberation and Moksha.
Age of Kali: Kali in tantric iconography
Although Parvati is often said to be the recipient and student of Shiva's wisdom in the form of Tantras, it is Kali who seems to dominate much of the Tantric iconography, texts, and rituals. In many sources Kali is praised as the highest reality or greatest of all deities. The Nirvana-tantra says the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva all arise from her like bubbles in the sea, ceaselessly arising and passing away, leaving their original source unchanged. Emphasizing on the tantric beliefs and traditions we can now appreciate the manifestation of goddess kali who is thought to exist even before the existence and who is considered to prevail even after the end of existence. All forms and other manifestations appear from her and disappear in her. She is the black hole of the universe with no beginning and no end. The Niruttara-tantra and the Picchila-tantra declare all of Kali's mantras to be the greatest and the Yogini-tantra, Kamakhya-tantra and the Niruttara-tantra all proclaim Kali vidyas as manifestations of Mahadevi, or "divinity itself". They declare her to be an essence of her own form or svarupa of the Mahadevi.
Age of Kali: Mahanirvana-tantra
In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Kali is one of the epithets for the primordial shakti, and in one passage Shiva praises her: At the dissolution of things, it is Kala [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahakala [an epithet of Lord Shiva], and since Thou devourest Mahakala Himself, it is Thou who art the Supreme Primordial Kalika. Because Thou devourest Kala, Thou art Kali, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [primordial] Kali. Resuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art. The figure of Kali therefore represents the creative and generative aspects of the reality as well as the consuming aspects in the form of death, destruction and fear.
Age of Kali: Kali the goddess who is beyond time
The above passage from Mahanirvana-tantra where lord Shiva praises Kali as the supreme force of universe reinforces the status of the goddess as the ultimate reality where everything begins and everything ends. Kali is beyond time. She is beyond creation and destruction. She is the energy of the universe which existed even before any matter took shape and she is the primal force which shall exist even after the termination of all matter. She is nothingness as well as the seed for all creation. All gods and manifestations take birth from her womb and she ultimately devours everything to start the cycle anew.
Age of Kali: The Pancatattva ritual
In the Pancatattva ritual, the sadhaka boldly seeks to confront Kali, and thereby assimilates and transforms her into a vehicle of salvation. This is clear in the work of the Karpuradi-stotra, a short praise to Kali describing the Pancatattva ritual unto her, performed on cremation grounds. It is also called as the Samahana-sadhana and it goes like this- “He, O Mahakali who in the cremation-ground, naked, and with dishevelled hair, intently meditates upon Thee and recites Thy mantra, and with each recitation makes offering to Thee of a thousand Akanda flowers with seed, becomes without any effort a Lord of the earth. O Kali, whoever on Tuesday at midnight, having uttered Thy mantra, makes offering even but once with devotion to Thee of a hair of his Sakti in the cremation-ground, becomes a great poet, a Lord of the earth, and ever goes mounted upon an elephant”.
Age of Kali: From the material world to ultimate liberation
Apart from helping in gain the material resources the Pancatattva ritual in itself can become the seed for further spiritual development. Kali shows the path of liberation through the material world. She does not tell us to renounce the world. On the other hand she calls us to celebrate the world and seek her in this very material world. She is there to take us forward from whichever stage of development we are on to the next stage. Kali is the one who can lead us to liberation provided we listen to her, and actively seek her. She teaches us to destroy the negative forces in all of us represented by the ego and all manifestations of the ego like hatred, anger, fear and jealousy. She gently and forcefully teaches us to move with her and once we start moving with her we start realizing the truth of life & death. Further we transcend the destiny to reach our ultimate purpose of life as decided by the mother goddess herself.
Age of Kali: The Karpuradi Stotra
The Karpuradi-stotra clearly indicates that Kali is more than a terrible, vicious, slayer of demons who serves Durga or Shiva. Here, she is identified as the supreme mistress of the universe, associated with the five elements. In union with Lord Shiva, who is said to be her spouse, she creates and destroys worlds. Her appearance also takes a different turn, befitting her role as ruler of the world and object of meditation. In contrast to her terrible aspects, she takes on hints of a more benign dimension. She is described as young and beautiful, has a gentle smile, and makes gestures with her two right hands to dispel any fear and offer boons. The more positive features exposed offer the distillation of divine wrath into a goddess of salvation, who rids the sadhaka of fear. Here, Kali appears as a symbol of triumph over death. In fact this the true form of goddess kali. She is the supreme feminine power with a capacity of destruction and renewed creation. Along with her consort she manifests nature in full force. She takes away to give anew.
Age of Kali: The ultimate Guru
To her devotees and worshipers she is true to her real self. She does not hide her form. She takes her devotees through the path of rigour and makes them strong so that they can follow her. She is the mother goddess who teaches how to walk and still carries her children on her lap in the face of insurmountable difficulties. She tests her devotees to the core and then leads them to the path of true liberation. She is in fact the ultimate teacher and guru of the universe. Nobody can learn the meaning of existence, death, rebirth and liberation under any other teacher except her.
Age of Kali: The choice to be made
As I said in the beginning the age of Kali has come upon us and in these times of revelation, either we can live in ignorance of the universal truth or we can seek the ultimate Guru to show the path of liberation. Which path we want to choose, the choice is absolutely with us.
Article by Sanjay Nair
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