Friday, 28 October 2016

KALI PUJA – A RITUAL STEEPED IN MYTHOLOGY


Kali Puja or Shyama Puja is a ritualistic worship of Goddess Durga's most fearsome avatar, Goddess Kali. The origin of Kali is found in "Chandi" section of Makrenda Purana. She evolves from Devi Durga herself in the midst of battlefield. According to this ancient text Goddess Durga appears mainly in three forms and every time when the Gods are struck in any crisis and prayed for her help. On first occasion she appeared when Brahma pleaded her for killing Madhu and Kaitava. On second occasion she appeared as Mahishasurmardini. On the third occasion she was called through prayers for killing Sumbha and Nishumbha. The Goddess in her fiercest Shakti avatar is also referred to as Chamunda, Chandi and the fierce and Bhairavi, the terrible in which she is the counterpart to Shiva's aspect of Bhairava, the inexorable destroyer! As Bhairav is equated with ‘kaal’ or ‘time’, acquired her name Kali meaning 'conqueror of time' as she subdued her husband by trampling over him.
Goddess Kali on the Empire State Building

Kali Puja is performed on night of Kartik Amavasya in the Hindu month of Ashwin according to the Bengali calendar, the same night when the rest of the world celebrates Diwali. Though mostly celebrated in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, and Assam; it is celebrated in other parts of the country as well. Kali Puja was practically unknown before the 18th century, however a late 17th century devotional text Kalika mangalkavya –by Balram mentioned an annual festival dedicated to Kali. It's believed that Maharaja Krishnachandra of Navadvipa started the first of the ritual. The puja is usually it is done in Brahmanical form but there is a more virulent Tantric form of this puja in which She is offered animal blood in a skull, sweets, rice, lentils, fish and even meat. Animal sacrifice used to be a part and parcel of this system but it is gradually fading away.

The Goddess in Kali avatar has four arms. She holds in one a weapon, in another the head of an asura or demon, dripping blood; the other two are raised to bless the worshipers. Her body is covered with her 'ornaments', which include necklace of snakes, skulls and heads of demons and a belt from which hangs demon's hands, which signify Karma or action. Her tongue hangs out with blood in it, blood of Raktaveera, a demon who managed a boon from Lord Bramha that every drop of blood which fell from his body would be able to produce thousands more like him. Kali developed her thirst for blood after killing the demon Raktavera and drinking her blood!


Despite her fearful appearance, the relationship that devotes share with her is that of a loving and caring mother. She is considered the deity of time and eternity and worshipping her lightens up the darkness of ignorance and ‘maya’, or lust for worldly possessions, within the devotees. Moreover, with her eternal blessings, all the sorrow, misfortunes, and sufferings are healed. Dakshineshwar Temple and Kalighat Temple in Kolkata, and Kamakhya Temple in Assam are dedicated to Goddess Kali and visited by thousands of devotees every day. Swami Vivekananda’s Guru, Thakur Ramkrishna Paramhansa Dev remains the most celebrated devotee of Goddess Kali.