Goddess Kali is one of the better-known Hindu goddesses in the Western world; we usually associate her with destruction and death. However.
Kali has multiple aspects, destruction is only one, and she is often called as `Divine Mother `referring to the life-giving and life-taking aspect of Mother Nature.
The name `Kali` derives from the Sanskrit word `Kal` which means time. No one can escape death, the natural cycle of birth-death-rebirth that Kali represents. She is the embodiment of three gunas (qualities of nature): She creates with ‘her’ sattva guna (quality of goodness and purity), preserves with rajas (passion and activity), and destroys with tamas (ignorance and inertia). Thus, she also provides moksha or liberation to her children. Her male counterpart is Lord Shiva who represents the male aspect of destruction.
First, let`s see some of the symbols depicting Kali Ma and their meaning:
(1) Kali Ma wears a garland of skulls and a skirt of dismembered arms symbolizing that the ego arises out of identification with the body but our true being is spiritual in contrast with the mortality of flesh. So liberation can only proceed when our attachment to the body ends.
Thus the garland and skirt are trophies worn by her to symbolize having liberated her children from attachment to the limited body. The necklace consists of fifty skulls representing the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, the origin of sound.
She also holds a sword and a freshly severed head dripping blood. According to the mythological story, this represents a great battle in which she destroyed the demon Raktabija. Her black skin represents the womb of the unmanifest from which all of creation arises and into which all of creation will eventually return.
She is depicted as standing on Lord Shiva meaning that he is the changeless aspect of the Supreme, and she the constantly changing aspect of the same. Lord Shiva represents cosmic consciousness, and Kali is cosmic energy. It means no creation is possible without their union. Shiva cannot manifest without the power of Kali, and Kali cannot function without the consciousness of Shiva.
(2) Kali has long, black and freely flowing hair representing her freedom from all the conventions and confinements. Her eyes are wide open and eternally awake referring to the awakened, pure consciousness.
Her two right arms are raised with palms extended granting gifts of insight to her children. Her upper left arm holds the sword of enlightenment which delivers the blow of non-dual reality to the ego releasing the soul forever from the tyranny of deluded self-intoxication.
In Her lower left hand, she holds the severed head the ego. Identification with the body is what gives rise to the illusion of the “I” or ego. Thus, the seemingly gruesome presentation of a severed head depicts the most direct act of sublime compassion, which is bestowed by the Mother to Her devotees.
(3) Kali Ma wears the Crescent Moon above the forehead meaning she is the giver of liberation. In many pictures Kali shows her tongue: the white teeth symbolize sattva or serenity, her red tongue, rajas, or activity, and her drunkenness: tamas or inertia. The meaning is that tamas can be conquered by rajas, and rajas by sattva.
How can we get into contact with the power of Kali? She can give us protection and guidance in hard times. One of the ways is chanting her mantras.
This mantra will protect you from all the evil forces.
1. Simple form of Kali Mantra:
Om Krim Kali
Meaning: K stands for full knowledge,
R means she is auspicious,
I means she bestows booms, and
M that she gives freedom
2. Simple Kali Mantra
Om Sri Maha Kalikayai Namaha
Meaning: ‘I bow my head to the Divine Mother, Kali.’ This mantra is believed to bring relief from all kinds of problems, no matter how much complex it is.
3. The fifteen syllable mantra
Om Hrim Shreem Klim Adya Kalika Param Eshwari Swaha
Meaning: ‘O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss. In Thy delirious joy Thou dancest, clapping Thy hands together! Thou art the Mover of all that moves in thy world.’
One of the reasons probably why Kali is relatively well-known in the Western world is the cult of the Black Madonna in various parts of Europe. For example, in south Italy they call Her `Madonna Nera` (Black Madonna) or the romas who live in Southern France have their religious festival of St Sarah when they take the statue of a Black Madonna and carry it to the sea (the sea is very often the symbol of rebirth and purification). In modern psychology, therapists often refer to Kali as the archetype of the Dark Mother/Sister, the shadow archetype of Virgin/Holy Mary.
The dance of Kali represents the rhythm of endless creation and destruction of the Universe accompanied by Lord Shiva`s pure awareness. Re-connecting with Kali we can experience the mighty power of Mother Nature who is behind every aspect of life. She is the giver and the taker, the divine consort and the dark sister. All life belongs to her.