Kali Puja

The image of Kali usually shows her foot on Lord Shiva’s chest, a severed head in one hand, her sword in the other, and wearing a garland of skulls. Kali is worshipped as the Mother Goddess who protects from evil. She also epitomizes strength or ‘Shakti’ and the darker side of life. The actual puja takes place at midnight on the day of the new moon. The national festival of the Bengalis, The Durga Puja ends with a somber tone. But soon, this melancholy slowly disappears with the arrival of Lakshmi Puja in between to finally the tri-festival of the Bengalis - Kali Puja, Diwali and last but not the least the ‘Bhai Phota’. Kali Puja coincides with Diwali, the North Indian New Year, the festivals of lights. Every households clean their houses and light up candles all over their houses. Children and adults set off firecrackers all night. No one sleeps on that night. 


Goddess Kali has always enjoyed a significant presence in our culture. She appears in various forms as an embodiment of Shakti, the eternal energy and cosmic power. She is also believed to be the eternal cosmic strength that destroys all existence. Her facial expressions depict the extent of her powers of destruction. The heads she holds in her hand instantly arouses mortal-fear in everybody and her protruding tongue symbolizes the mockery of human ignorance. She is also the Goddess of Tantrism or the Indian Black Magic. Beneath Goddess Kali’s feet one can figure Shiva. Mythology says that Shiva and Kali are the originating couple of the universe but Kali even mocks Shiva, as if she herself is the unique source of everything. There are several other Avtars of Kali also. One such is a striking contrast is Kali represented as the Benevolent Mother where she is the personification of Eternal Night of Peace. From the canons of orthodox Hinduism Kali, Durga, Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati are all different forms of the Ultimate Power that are revered on different occasions. Kali represents the crude powers to fight the evil, the core strengths required to battle your enemies. According to the Hindu tradition, we are living in the Kali Age; the time of a resurgence of the divine feminine spirit. Using the powerful imagery of paintings, sculptures, and writings, the celebration of Kali Puja explores and illumines the rich meanings of feminine divinity.

The blood-smeared image of Kali is after she killed the demon Raktavera. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Brahma granted the boon to Raktavera that for every drop of his blood that fell on ground hundreds of demons like him would be produced. Thus the only way of slaying Raktavera was by not allowing even a drop of his blood to fall on the ground. Thereby Kali pierced him with a spear and drank all his blood as it gushed out. Kali once gave free rein to her blind lust for destruction. To stop the world from being destroyed Lord Shiva brought himself to the feet of Kali. On sensing her husband beneath her feet she stopped and thus the world was saved. She acquired her name Kali meaning ‘conqueror of time’ as she subdued her husband Lord Shiva by trampling over him. This way Devi the symbol of fertility conquered Shiva, the inexorable destroyer, who was equated with time. Aspects of Kali are Chandi, the fierce and Bhairavi, the terrible in which she is the counterpart to Shiva’s aspect of Bhairava, when he takes pleasure in destruction. Another name of this form is Chamunda. Kali Puja is performed on a new moon night. As Kali is associated with dark rites and devil worship, the rituals performed are austere and offered with great devotion. In the Hindu religious texts, different representations of Goddess Kali are available viz. Siddha Kali, Bhadra Kali, Raksha Kali, Shwashan Kali and Maha Kali.


The Puja is held on the night of the New Moon in the Bengali month of Kartik, this occasion brings in a tidal wave of festive zeal amongst the various cross sections of society. It is said that Maharaja Krishnan Chandra of Nawadweep gave an order that everyone, in his domain should worship Kali. Punishment was given to the defaulters. Thus more than 10,000 images of Kali began to be worshipped in his domain. Before the present Kali Puja, Ratanti Kali Puja was celebrated in ancient times. It is believed that the present form of the image of Kali, is due to a dream seen by Lord Chaitanya’s contemporary Krishnananda Agambagish (a distinguished scholar of Indian charms, incantations black magic and voodoo - ‘Tantra’), author of Tantric Saar, that he should make her image after the figure, he saw first in the morning. The image should then be worshipped. At dawn Krishnanand saw a dark complexioned housing maid with left hand protruding and making cow dung cakes with her right hand. Her body was shining with white dots. While wiping off the sweat from her forehead with left hand, the vermilion had been spread in her parted hair. The hair was disarranged. Her unprecedented coming face-to-face with Krishnananda, an elderly, made her bit her tongue with shame. This posture of the housemaid gave vent to his imagination which he later utilized to envisage the idol of Goddess Kali. Thus was formed the image of Kali.