A Tribute to Kalika Devi

From the darkness there rises
A power of superior nature
That thinks not before destroying evil
That leaves only blood and ashes to spare

She is feared for her power
She is feared for her appearance
Yet she protects us from evil
In the dead of the darkest night

The gentleness in her eyes
Appears fiery in the night light
The blue sheen in her subtle glow
Appears mystical in the moonless night
The wrath to destroy
Is bright in her red eyes
She rises now to rule
Kalika Mata at Kalighat.

Its the best moment in time to test one's endurance, Kalighat has everything, the true display of corruption, the disgust on the priest's face, the sheer lack of devotion, the noisy mob of which I am a part, the absence of peace, the dirtiest shrine that has never been cleaned, and of course in the middle of it She stands in her silent fury - Kalika Mata. It is silent fury... that expression that stays locked on her face painting her so coy and yet so fiery and beautiful.

This temple appeared a lot different in the earlier days. The river flowed much closer giving Kalighat its name. Surrounded by forests, with a river flowing by and the burning of the dead near the shrine bring the mysticism of the moonless night to the fore. In the dark night one can listen closely to her presence, the sound of anklets as they walk around the floor, stamping it with a trishul. And then the rhythmic sound floods the air with resounding beats of a dancer so crisp in her movement.

And when we look up to her shrine, she sits there almost ready to charge forward, colored in vermilion, a bright orange that glows over her forehead. Its gleams in the light of the lamp, casting shadows of her form on the floor. She is so beautiful. She has this calm around her and yet there is wrath on her face. She is so gentle and coy and yet she yields sharp weapons. She stays static atop the body of Lord Shiva but she is shakti, the dynamic movement that destroys all life, all evil.

कालिकायै विद्महे श्मशानवासिन्यै धीमहि
तन्नो घोरा प्रचोदयात्।

She is the Mother of the moonless night. She is the jingling of anklets in the darkness. She is the flaming eyes of purity that vanquish all that is impure. Why do we fear her?

She took form to destroy the demons of the night, she took blood to destroy evil. Why then do we fear her now, why then do we offer blood of innocent animals when that of evil men should be at the altar?

She walks in nakedness into the blue hued sky. She knows no shame when she is so pure. Why then do we remain silent over her nature and yet not follow her footsteps to discard our vanity?

She walks wild with flowing hair, with an appearance of darkness that envelopes her. Why do we fear her when she sports her brilliance in her awakened third eye?

She is the light that is beyond life, she is the light that guides us to enlightenment. Why then do we fear death and not want to live near her home, the sacred place of the cremation ground?

She is the truth, she is that which burns in fury, she is the divine light that rules us. Why then do we hide in our ignorance and not want to take this path more seriously?

Are we scared of death, of unfamiliarity, of unpleasantness, of unlearning, of that path which we will tread alone, of silence, of the unknown?


Bart said...

Om Kali Kali Mahakali, Kalike Parameswari,
Sarva-Ananda-Kare Devi, Narayani Namostute.

I have been in this temple on Monday the 9th of March of this year 2009, and. I am still wearing the red-yellow string around my wrist from this visit. It is far from punishment to be remembered daily to her.

Thanks for this comtribution.

Kavitha said...

:) What was your experience like Bart?

How do you view the Goddess, her form, the aura etc...

krisnath said...

I'm responding more to your Mailing list entry which doesn't show here.

I live in Kolkata and can completely appreciate your description of your visit. I was fortunate because I went with a member of a prominent family and so we were sent to the top of the line and I got to spend a few moments practically alone with her. The man behind me, seeing that I am an American, kept loudly saying "1000 rupees. A thousand rupees for Mother!" I didn't even own a thousand rupees, but then again I am one of the very rare Americans that gave up everything to be here in India (and I *cannot* explain that to anyone, it seems).

Anyway, thank you for your comments about your visit. I just wanted to let you know that I felt it in its entirety.

She really *is* very beautiful and I had a strong urge to throw myself into Her arms which was only mitigated by the gate betwixt us, and the incessant noise.

Bart said...

Kali Mahadevi is the great Goddess of the Eras, the female counterpart of Shiva Mahadeva as Mahakala (= Eternity). In Europe we know Her as the Muse Clio, Κλειώ in Greek, the inspirator of the writers of history, whose name means 'the proclaimer, the announcer'. The verb καλέίn (kalein) in Latin 'calare' wherefrom this name has been derived means to call. And especially to call or declare the beginning a new time, for instance the beginning of a a new month after new moon. The first day of the new month was called καλένδαι/ calendae (Gr./Lat.) and our word Calendar is derived this instrument of counting times. It was great to observe still maintained bringing of blood offerings to Her in the Kalighat temple. It was remembering me, as a historian of profession, how blood shedding historical times - the last 5000 years we can oversee more or less, due to the invention of the writing systems -, have been. History is a science of changing times. Mata Kali is the mahavidya behind that phenomenon of Time, and the sequence of events within a period within the time.

Historical knowledge kills the demons of the past, like Kali did and does. Once She will announce the first day of complete new era by Herself: the Satya Yuga. She will do it standing on the breast of Lord Shiva. This announcement will change the great Mother in Gauri again. Lord Shiva is called therefore Gauribharata. Supporter of the golden/fair One. But first She have to finish her job, the announcement of a new Era of Truth makes no sences without all the Asuras are dead or Enlightened. Mata Kali is the champion amongst the Devas in doing both: killing and enlightening. Victory to Her! Sri Mahamata Kali Jay!

Kavitha said...

Krisnath and Bart,

Thanks you so much for sharing your thoughts!

It was a very interesting read :)

Rwitoja said...

I visited Kalighat temple in April 2006.I went with a relative who lives nearby.We went very early, at the crack of dawn.We found the place very peaceful with not many people around.I asked a priest why the floor was so dirty and was it ever cleaned. He told me that the mud comes from the feet of people who bathe in the Ganga and then come barefoot for their darshan of Mother.We did not have to deal with any aggressive pandas.The images are branded in my memory. The piles of red hibiscus flowers,the overpowering force field which envelopes that place and of course the Mother herself.

Bart said...


The Kalighat temple in Kolgata is a whole end walking from the Hoogly River ghats, so the Ganges mud on the feet of pilgrims must have been wear off, long before they would have reached Ma Kali's Sanctuary. My foot soles has become completely very deep black too. Why? Because the floor in the Kalighat Mandir was spangled with bloodstains, caused by the daily ritual slaughtering of many small black male goats by chopping their heads off. The pandit who guided me around informed me that during Kali-festivals several black buffalos could become sacrificed too. Kali is the only Hindu Deity who receives nowadays still daily blood offerings, although even not in every temple of Kali anymore. In Vedic times it was quite normal for many of the deities, and the red tilaka of kumkum-power in all mandirs, reminds us to the ancient times when the foreheads of the devotees has been marked by a blood-dot of -stripe from the sacrificial animal. In modern times animal-offerings are quiet exceptional and spectacular as well, but great that one has maintained this very old and respectable religious practice.

Kavitha said...

HI Bart,

In the ancient days, it was not animals that were sacrificed but humans, preferably from the kshatriya clan (warriors). They were placed North/South in front of the Goddess and it was considered very auspicious to offer human blood to the Goddess.

While the head of a Goat renders a Bhakta to have better speech and articulation in thought, that of a human renders him to acquire all the Siddhis in one shot.

Now, should we feel its unfortunate that humans dont get beheaded there anymore or should we feel its unfortunate that animals get slaughtered for no reason...

I am not entirely convinced about the tradition of killing animals, given that most indian customs stem from a mythological story where a particular deity did an act of valor and therefore we all follow suit pretty aimlessly trying to ape the same action with far lesser intensity. So under such consideration, is it not fair that a man be killed at the stake than a goat?

Why should we make a distinction between human life and that of a goat or buffalo? Life is life, atman is the same, blood is blood, flesh is flesh. Then why not humans anymore?


YOSEE said...

Because, Kavitha, we have no right to destroy what we cannot create. Human or animal, both are WRONG and have no true religious sanction. Taking a life (any life)for a personal gain ( material or yogic)creates more karmic fetters, so where is religion, spirituality or Moksha in this ?
There was an assinine tamil movie sometime ago, where a devout boy, inspired by mythological stories,paints himself blue, and with a background chant of "...vinashaya cha dushkritaam, dharma samsthapanartha sambhavami yuge yuge,,,"goes on a murdering spree ! Blood sacrifices ( any blood)are as senseless, idiotic and unreasonable as this.

Bart said...

You have absolutely right, Kavitha, a Purushamadha or Human Sacrifice is a lot more worth than, for instance, a Vedic Ashvamedha or Horse Sacrifice, as Mata Devi has showed clearly once to her father Daksha, as well to his invited and uninvited divine guests and to us too, in her guise of Sati. Without her sacrifice then, we wouldn’t be writing about the Kalighat temple, for her toe would never have been fallen down on this place. And Yosee, be welcome, but please, be careful in judging things or customs before you really understand them. An offering isn’t destruction, but transformation and transmission from our world to another more eternal one. By the way, I have offered Kalika Ma at Kalighat, just a coconut, as a symbol of my own head, a basket full red hibiscus flowers, Mother’s favourites, and four red wooden bracelets, by the way.

It must in or around the year 1829, I guess, when the British prohibited this religious practice for once and for all in Calcutta, their capital of British East-India in those days, there was indeed the old custom in the Kalighat-temple of the daily sacrifice of a boy. Of course this boy did it voluntary and of course, again, with the full permission of his parents. Such a boy has been raised up to become a sacrifice, in the knowledge to be the offering. Such a child has been considered as a little saint, and his holiness was a blessing for his whole family, already during his life. And in the holy sacrifice which would finish this short but holy life, this boy became completely One with Mata Kali. His blood coloured her tongue and lips red, his arms could be used for her skirt and his head could serve as a bead in her akshamala, and his jivatman became reunited with the Atman which is the Brahman in Mother’s holy heart. Becoming voluntary sacrificed to the Godhead one adores, is probably the very best possible way of dying a mortal one can experience, in every case the holiest way. And being the father or mother, sisters or brothers of such a hallowed victim, in West Bengal in those times, one might reckon on a life long attention and care of the Great Mother Goddess and the great respect of one’s fellow citizens.

But as Gods Almighty Power in the Universe, the Shakti, in her guise of Mata Kali, is expressively for reason of the meaning of her name, Gods Power in historical processes. So She is the One who allowed the British to establish an overseas colony in Calcutta, followed by the temporary existence of a British-Indian Empire, but powerful enough to terminate and to prohibit all forms of practice of religious inspired human sacrifices in the Indian Subcontinent, and so it is Our Lady Kali Self, Who made by Herself end to this practice of offering boys to Her using British colonialism as her tool. Sometimes is enough enough.

Bart said...

That this enough was indeed according Mother’s Will we can learn out of the biography of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836 – 1886), Since 1855 Mata Kali’s deeply devoted lifelong pandit in the Dakshinashwari Kali temple at Kolgota. When he was twenty years old and still yet called Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, he once entered the sanctum sanctorum of Mother’s temple where is adored as Kali Bhavatarini, Saviouress of the World, in a strong mood to sacrifice himself. Let us listen to his own words, taken from Swami Nikhilananda’s Introduction to ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’:

"I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother's temple. I determined to put an end to my life. When I jumped up like a madman and seized it, suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself. The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up! I was panting for breath. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious. What was happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother."

If the Divine Mother wouldn’t have interfered then Sri Ramakrishna would have had the very same experience, but we never would have heard or read its narrative. Thanks to her intervention Ramakrishna stayed alive and more than that, he became enlightened and able to speak out truths like the next one, taken from the same source:

“That which is Brahman is also called Kāli, the Mother, the Primal Energy. When inactive It is called Brahman. Again, when creating, preserving, and destroying It is called Śakti. Still water is an illustration of Brahman. The same water, moving in waves may be compared to Śakti, Kāli. What is the meaning of Kāli? She who communes with Mahākāla, the Absolute, is Kāli. She is formless and, again, She has forms. If you believe in the formless aspect then meditate on Kāli as that. If you meditate on any aspect of Her, with firm conviction, She will let you know Her true nature. That which is Brahman is Śakti, and That, again is the Mother.” The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 634-635)”

What has happened to the Mother, that has no need for Human Sacrifices anymore? That She is using Ramakrishna as her prophet to reveal Herself to us again?

Bart said...

I think Mother has changed Herself again since the beginning of the (19th Century, as She has done already so many times before since the beginning of Time. She has be completely recuperated from all the side effects of drinking once, as Chamundi, all the blood of the demon Raktabīja – Blood-seed! The sea of blood of an whole army of Raktabījas, I must even say. Thanks to all her Holy Victims, who gave their Human Blood, the antidotum against the poisonous demon-blood, to Her She healed from her suffering. Without Mother’s offering, comparable with Shiva’s swallowing of the Halahala, the universe has been taken over by the forces of darkness. Preventing this by swallowing all their impure seed-blood, Mother turned once from gold to black. Now She healed She must be turned into gold again. AUM Sundari Gauri Kalika Ambikayai namaha! She needs no human blood any more. AUM Shri Mata Devadevi ki jay!

Do She still needs goat-blood and buffalo-blood? Perhaps yes indeed. Goat-blood reminds her to the perfect Animal-sacrifice Mahadeva Shiva Shankara once brought, offering Daksha a new head, after it has been chopped of Virabhadra an a resurrection out of the death. It has been the reconciliation of Shiva and Daksha, Mother wished to be remember to that holy fact.

Kavitha said...

Hi Bart,

There is passion for the Goddess in your words, there is so much devotion oozing from your lines :) Your thought and perspective indicates you have spent enough time thinking about Kali Ma else you wouldnt word your comments this way :) .

SO glad to have met you on the blog.

I have lots to say, am still reading your comments intently. Want to imbibe them before i say anything. Nice reading :)


Bart said...

Thanks Kavitha,

And I (or the system did) have skipped the very last alinea of my comment. It has lauded:

And buffalo blood? On the day we remember ands celebrate the glorious Victory of Sri Mata Durga over the Mahishasura Buffalo-demon it would be in every temple of the Goddess a very appropriate sacrifice to Mother and Saviouress of the Universe!

I am looking forwards to your comments.

Best regards,


Rwitoja said...

The Tantric view of sacrifice is that when someone (human or animal) is offered as a sacrifice to Mother, it reduces the number of rebirths it must take before it attains liberation.The sacrice ensures that the next life will be of a more elevated status.We are revolted as we consider death(especially when accompanied by all the violence and gore of sacrifice)repugnant and deem life to be sacred.But the Tantric view is different.Sacrifice is considered to be a shortcut to liberation for the sacrificed being.

JC said...

Hi Rwitoja, The basic realisation is attainment of human form, as the superiormost form, involves passing through of each soul through 8.4 million 'inferior animal foms'...and thus obviously the 'enlightened souls' believed in helping reduce the period of the cycle...However, each human being has naturally to make efforts to evolve further to the desired highest level attained by 'Shiva' alone...

kolkatadreams said...

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