Kali, also known as Adi Shakti and the Divine Mother, is a Hindu Goddess first mentioned in the Atharva Veda, in the Kathaka Grhya Sutra. She is a form of Parvati, Shiva’s consort, and her opposite. While Parvati is considered to be sweet in nature, Kali is fierce and causes destruction of all evils, including ignorance. While Kali has manifested for destroying many demons, one of the most prominent destructions that’s widely celebrated in India is that of the slaying of the demon Mahiśāsura. The Sanskrit stotram/slokha Mahiśāsura Mardini is the retelling of this fight between the Goddess Kali and Mahiśāsura.
In Sanskrit, her name translates to “The Black One.” Kali is depicted with dark black skin, multiple arms, a necklace of skulls, her tongue bright red and sticking out, and dark flowing hair that is let loose. In Hindu culture hair can be representative of nature and describes feelings. For example, while Kali’s hair is unruly and loose, her counterpart’s is always braided. Also, in the Mahabharata, Draupadi leaves her hair loose when showing her anger towards her situation.
The significance of her tongue sticking out goes back to after she killed Mahishasura. In order to slay him, she required so much anger that even after her task was finished she was in an uncontrollable rage. Fearing the destruction of the world, the Gods send Lord Shiva to appease her anger. Not finding another way to calm her down, he lies in her way, so she is forced to step on him. Once realizing her mistake, she calms down and in shock, sticks out her tongue.
The Goddess is worshiped during the Kali Puja, which falls on the new moon day of the Kartik (typically overlaps October and November) month. It is one of the largest festivals in the regions of Bengal and Assam in western India. During this time, she is honored at home with flowers, rites/mantras, and prasād (sanctified food offerings) or naivedya. Two other Kali Pujās are the Ratanti and Phalaraini Kāli Pujā, celebrated on Māgha Krishna Chaturdashi, and Jyeshta Amāvasya.
Sloka- Mahishasura Mardini (first stanza)
अयि गिरिनन्दिनि नन्दितमेदिनि विश्वविनोदिनि नन्दिनुते
गिरिवरविन्ध्यशिरोऽधिनिवासिनि विष्णुविलासिनि जिष्णुनुते ।
भगवति हे शितिकण्ठकुटुम्बिनि भूरिकुटुम्बिनि भूरिकृते
जय जय हे महिषासुरमर्दिनि रम्यकपर्दिनि शैलसुते ॥ १ ॥
Āyi Giri Nandini Nandita Medini Viśva Vinodini Nandi Nute
Giri Vara Vindhya-Śiro-dhi-Nivāsini Viśnu-Vilāsini Jiśnu Nute |
Bhagavati He Śiti Kanṭha Kuttumbini Bhuri-Kuṭumbini Bhuri Krte
Jaya Jaya He Mahiśāsura Mardini Ramya Kapardini Śaila Sute || 1 ||
Salutations to the Daughter of the Mountain, who fills the whole world with joy, for whom the whole world is a divine play and who is praised by Nandi
Who dwells on the summit of the Vindhyas, the best of the mountains, who gives joy to Lord Vishnu (being his sister) and who is praised by Lord Indra
O Goddess, who is the consort of the Blue Throated One (Lord Shiva), who has many many relations in this world (being the Cosmic Mother) and who created abundance (in creation)
Victory to You, the destroyer of the Demon Mahishasura,
You, who has beautiful locks of hair and who is the daughter of the mountain
Key Kali Temples
- Kalighat (Kolkata, West Bengal)
- Dakshineswar Kali Temple (Kolkata, West Bengal)
- Kalibari (Kolkata, West Bengal)
- Karni Mata Temple (Bikaner, Rajasthan)
- Shree Bhima Kali Ji (Sarahan, Himachal Pradesh)
- Shree Ambabai Temple (Kolhapur, Maharashtra)
- Thillai Kali Amman Temple (Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu)
- Madras Kali Bari (Chennai, Tamil Nadu)