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Mahakali
Mahakali
(Sanskrit: Mahākālī, Devanagari: महाकाली), literally translated as Great Kali, is the Hindu
Hindu
goddess of time and death, considered to be the consort of Mahakala, the god of consciousness, the basis of reality and existence. Mahakali
Mahakali
in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
is etymologically the feminized variant of Mahakala
Mahakala
or Great Time
Time
(which is interpreted also as Death), an epithet of the god Shiva in Hinduism. Mahakali
Mahakali
is the form of Adi parashakti, who is beyond time and space. Kali
Kali
is the force of anger of Adi parashakti
Adi parashakti
and therefore her color is black. She is the greatest aspect of Kali
Kali
whom many Hindus hold as a Divine Mother.

Contents

1 Meaning 2 Iconography 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

Meaning[edit] Mahakali's history is contained in various Puranic
Puranic
and Tantric Hindu Scriptures (Shastra). In these She is variously portrayed as the Adi-Shakti-Goddess Durga, the Primeval Force of the Universe, identical with the Ultimate Reality
Reality
or Brahman. She is also known as the (female) Prakriti
Prakriti
or World as opposed to the (male) Purusha or Consciousness, or as one of three manifestations of Mahadevi
Mahadevi
Durga (The Great Goddess) that represent the three Gunas
Gunas
or attributes in Samkhya
Samkhya
philosophy. In this interpretation Mahakali
Mahakali
represents Tamas or the force of inertia. A common understanding of the Devi
Devi
Mahatmya ("Greatness of the Goddess") text, a later interpolation into the Markandeya Purana, considered a core text of Shaktism
Shaktism
(the branch of Hinduism
Hinduism
which considers Devi
Devi
Durga
Durga
to be the highest aspect of Godhead), assigns a different form of the Goddess (Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi, and Mahakali) to each of the three episodes therein. Here Mahakali
Mahakali
is assigned to the first episode. She is described as an abstract energy, the yoganidra of Vishnu. Brahma
Brahma
invokes Her and She emerges out of Vishnu
Vishnu
and He awakenes. Thereafter kills the demons Madhu-Kaitabha.[citation needed] Iconography[edit]

The ten-headed Mahakali.

Mahakali
Mahakali
is most often depicted as blue in popular Indian art. Her most common four armed iconographic image shows each hand carrying variously a sword, a trishul (trident), a severed head and a bowl or skull-cup (kapala) catching the blood of the severed head. Her eyes are described as red with intoxication and in absolute rage, Her hair is shown disheveled, small fangs sometimes protrude out of Her mouth and Her tongue is lolling. She has a garland consisting of the heads of demons she has slaughtered, variously enumerated at 108 (an auspicious number in Hinduism
Hinduism
and the number of countable beads on a Japa
Japa
Mala for repetition of Mantras) or 50, which represents the letters of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
alphabet, Devanagari, and wears a skirt made of demon arms.

Mahakali
Mahakali
Yantra

Her ten headed (dasamukhi) image is known as Dasa Mahavidya
Mahavidya
Mahakali, and in this form She is said to represent the ten Mahavidyas
Mahavidyas
or "Great Wisdom (Goddesse)s". She is depicted in this form as having ten heads, ten arms, and ten legs but otherwise usually conforms to the four armed icon in other respects. Each of her ten hands is carrying an implement which varies in different accounts, but each of these represent the power of one of the Devas or Hindu
Hindu
Gods and are often the identifying weapon or ritual item of a given Deva. The implication is that Mahakali
Mahakali
subsumes and is responsible for the powers that these deities possess and this is in line with the interpretation that Mahakali
Mahakali
is identical with Brahman. While not displaying ten heads, an "ekamukhi" or one headed image may be displayed with ten arms, signifying the same concept: the powers of the various Gods come only through Her grace. In either one of these images she is shown standing on the prone, inert or body of Shiva. This is interpreted in various ways but the most common is that Mahakali
Mahakali
represents Shakti, the power of pure creation in the universe, and Shiva
Shiva
represents pure Consciousness which is inert in and of itself. While this is an advanced concept in monistic Shaktism, it also agrees with the Nondual
Nondual
Trika philosophy of Kashmir, popularly known as Kashmir
Kashmir
Shaivism
Shaivism
and associated most famously with Abhinavagupta. There is a colloquial saying that "Shiva without Shakti
Shakti
is Shava" which means that without the power of action (Shakti) that is Mahakali
Mahakali
(represented as the short "i" in Devanagari) Shiva
Shiva
(or consciousness itself) is inactive; Shava means corpse in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
and the play on words is that all Sanskrit
Sanskrit
consonants are assumed to be followed by a short letter "a" unless otherwise noted. The short letter "i" represents the female power or Shakti
Shakti
that activates Creation. This is often the explanation for why She is standing on Shiva, who is either Her husband and complement in Shaktism, the Supreme Godhead in Shaivism. Another understanding is that the wild destructive Mahakali
Mahakali
can only stop her fury in the presence of Shiva
Shiva
the God of Consciousness, so that the balance of life is not completely overrun over by wild nature. See also[edit]

Advaita Brahman Daikokutennyo (大黒天女) Kashmir
Kashmir
Shaivism Pashupatinath Abhinavagupta Samkhya Shakti Tridevi Durga Parvati

References[edit]

The Goddess Kali
Kali
of Kolkata (ISBN 81-7476-514-X) by Shoma A. Chatterji Encountering The Goddess: A Translation of the Devi-Mahatmya and a Study of Its Interpretation (ISBN 0-7914-0446-3) by Thomas B. Coburn Dictionary of Hindu
Hindu
Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar (ISBN 0-89254-025-7) by Elizabeth Usha Harding In Praise of The Goddess: The Devimahatmyam and Its Meaning (ISBN 0-89254-080-X) by Devadatta Kali Hindu
Hindu
Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu
Hindu
Religious Traditions (ISBN 81-208-0379-5) by David Kinsley Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine (ISBN 0-520-20499-9) by David Kinsley The Sword
Sword
and the Flute: Kali
Kali
& Krsna (ISBN 0-520-03510-0) by David Kinsley Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal (ISBN 0-195-16791-0) by June McDaniel Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West (ISBN 0-520-23240-2) by Rachel Fell McDermott Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kali
Kali
and Uma in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal (ISBN 0-19-513435-4) by Rachel Fell McDermott Kali: The Feminine Force (ISBN 0-89281-212-5) by Ajit Mookerjee Seeking Mahadevi: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu
Hindu
Great Goddess (ISBN 0-791-45008-2) Edited by Tracy Pintchman The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu
Hindu
Tradition (ISBN 0-7914-2112-0) by Tracy Pintchman Kali
Kali
Puja (ISBN 1-887472-64-9) by Swami Satyananda Saraswati Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair: Selected Poems to the Mother Goddess (ISBN 0-934252-94-7) by Ramprasad Sen Aghora, at the Left Hand of God (ISBN 0-914732-21-8) by Robert E. Svoboda

External links[edit]

Media related to Mahakali
Mahakali
at Wikimedia Commons

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