Disclaimer: You may not stomach a few facts in this article...
Who is this unique warrior woman?
Her terrifying war cry pervades the universal battleground.
Who is this incomparable feminine principle?
Contemplating her limitless nature,
The passion to possess and be gratified dissolves.
Who is this elusive wisdom woman?
Her smooth and fragrant body of intense awareness
is like the petal of a dark blue lotus.
A single eye of knowledge
Shines from her noble forehead
Like a moon so full its light engulfs the sun.
This mysterious Goddess, eternally sixteen,
Is naked brilliance, transparent in sight
Cascades of black hair stream down her back
To touch her dancing feet.
Perfect in the art of wisdom warfare
She is the treasury of every excellence,
The reservoir of all that is good.
Her poet sings with unshakable assurance:
"Anyone who lives consciously in the presence
of this resplendent savioress
can conquer Death with the drumbeat
Ma! Ma! Ma!"
Original Poetry: Ramprasad Sen
Translated by: Lex Hixon
The hunt for the sacred residence of the Goddess Kali has been on for a while now from reading about the mother who roams the Shamshan by night to her temples that dot the countryside mostly occupied by Saktha worshipers. It took me to the ancient city of Kolkata, Tarapith and Nalahati known primarily for their Shakti Peethas. This journey was not just about visiting these temples and having a darshan of the Mother, it turned out to be much more than that.
For the average passerby the darshan at the main Shakti Peetha seems to be the achievement, but when I came back home to study more on the Mother, the revelation was far more intense. Kali has made an appearance in my mind many times, not letting me sit relaxed with contentment that I have figured her out. My journey to discover her has just started. It has led me to set sail from the shores of standard Tantrik sadhana to the ocean of literature of great Tantrik Bengali Poets like Premik, Ramprasad Sen and Kamalkanta who have sung songs in her name. Kali Ma has turned mysterious with every new discovery I made dwelling deeper into the lives of her Sadhaks.
The first striking quest of the Mother is her association with Sati. Kali Ma is what appeared and destroyed Daksha when Sati rubbed her nose in anger over the disgrace of her husband. This is one reference from mythology, but the greater symbolism is the association of Sati with her death. Sati's corpse hung of Lord Shiva's shoulders as he roamed the worlds in sorrow and madness carrying her dead being with him. Sati's corpse is what falls on this blessed earth when Vishnu destroyed her. What echoes in this mythology is the anger of Sati in the form of Kali, and her corpse that adorns this earth at various places bring home the idea of death being closely association with the worship of the Mother.
Kali Ma is associated with all those who dwell around the shamshan; men in this world who take to worshiping her and beings from the other worlds who make similar contact. The inhabitants of these worlds are rakshasas, asuras, vetalas, yoginis, dakinis, gandharvas, kinnaras, siddhas, bhutas, pretas, pisachas and nagas apart from regular people who live in this world. There are good beings and weird beings - good defined by those who have a "soumya" disposition as compare to those who display "ghora" disposition. Interestingly the flavor of regular people is what catches our attention.
We would normally associate Tantriks, Aghoris and Kapalikas with the worship of the Mother and therefore conclude that Kali worship is not meant for the Grihasta. Strangely enough, even the grihastas have a strong inkling towards the mother. Ramakrishna, Ramprasad and Premik are great examples of Kali worshipers who transcended the grihasta role and took to serious Tantrik sadhana. And all of them had a few things in common.
The common aspects in their lives are that they were great Ma Kali bhaktas. They all married and couple of them even had offspring. They lived in the middle of society, a society that accepted the worship of Tantrik Sadhana in the cremation ground as part of regular life with no aversion or bias towards it... even today. Given this environment and the acceptance of sadhana in the middle of the night, all great Tantrik practitioners have made the shamshan ghat a part of their lives. Strange Tantrik rituals have been a part of their sadhana, and these include rituals that are very hard to stomach. While they have been admired for their bhakti and their literary prowess, I wonder how many have accepted them for their way of life.
The sacred residence of the Mother can be unearthed in the sadhana of the bhakta. Few common aspects of their sadhan include the worship of the mother in the darkness of the night, in a secluded place preferably the cremation ground. They have gone through the rituals of accepting the impure and pure as part of their life and have transcended all bias towards aversion. They have been associated with human corpses which not only echoed the symbolism of Sati's mutilated body but also dared them to give up their social inhibitions. They have spent a lot of time meditating seated under a tree on what is called the panchamundi asana. They have worshiped, offered food and prayer and eaten out of human skulls taken and cleaned from the shamshan ghat. They have finally won the Goddess's favor and blessing and entered samadhi with her.
The air in Bengal is thick with energy, the average man on the road accepts this way of life. Ma Kali resides here in this earth. Various accounts of great Tantrik and aghor babas, of great Bengali poets and most of all the great love of Ramakrishna reveals the mother inhabits this earth, she is rooted to the soil where her corpse fell. She roams the night with her army of spirits. She lives in the skulls that dot the cremation ground. The 5 impure skulls are her home and she grants any wish to those who meditate on the sacred ground that covers them. She finally resides in the heart, in the hrudaya kamal that is buried deep within us. Ramakrishna and Kalidasa outshine everyone and are the greatest bhaktas in whose heart Ma Kali resides.
She is the wild Goddess, the one who walks the night and awakens it with her presence. She is the blue hued lotus that blooms by night. She is the wrathful one who kills all evil, she is the terrific one who dances in my heart.
Sacred spaces in the temples of West Bengal [June McDaniel, College of Charleston]
Prabuddha Bharata, a monthly journal of the Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896
Tantric Vision of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas [David R. Kinsley]
Poetry of Ramprasad Sen 1718 - 1775
Tantra in Practice [David gordon White]