Libmonster ID: SE-327
Author(s) of the publication: V. P. KASHIN


Candidate of Historical Sciences

goddess of Kali Keywords:KolkataKali Puja festival

Thugs and heroes of Bengal's revolutionary underground persisted in seeking her favor. It terrifies its enemies, but protects those who turn to it in faith for help. The formidable goddess Kali is known as the patroness of Kolkata. Her temple in this city-Kalighat - is one of the centers of mass pilgrimage.


Of the dozens of incarnations of Parvati, the wife of the destroyer god Shiva, perhaps the most impressive is Kali (lit. "black"). She is depicted naked, dark-faced,with her hair down. She holds a sword in one hand and a severed head in the other. The goddess's necklace is made from human skulls, and her skirt is made from the severed hands of demons. Kali's long tongue falls out of her mouth and greedily licks her lips, where a trickle of blood runs down. Ferocious and merciless, she embodies the forces of the untamed elements and is ready to destroy entire worlds if her thirst for murder is not satisfied.

According to Hindu mythology, once the heavenly kingdom of Indra suffered a great disaster. The Asura brothers * Shumbha and Nishumbha rose immeasurably and managed to defeat the gods in a bloody battle. The gods fled in fear to the north and took refuge in the mountains. Kali came to their rescue. She speared the enemy army and killed many asuras. When Shumbha saw this, he became very angry. He assembled countless armies, placed the mighty demon Raktaviju at the head, and sent them to the foothills of the Himalayas.

The celestials unleashed all their weapons on the opponents, but they couldn't defeat Raktawiju in any way. Many wounds had been inflicted on him, but from every drop of his blood a new warrior rose and charged into battle. Then Kali appeared on the battlefield again. She struck down Raktaviju with her sword, drank his blood drop by drop, and devoured the remaining asuras. Then the goddess entered the abode of the wicked brothers. Shumbha and Nishumbha tried in vain to resist her, and fell down by her hand.1

After defeating her enemies, a triumphant Kali began to dance and forgot about everything else in the world. As a result, three worlds were threatened with destruction. This alarmed the celestials, and they begged Shiva to calm the violent consort. However, all his attempts were in vain. So he had no choice but to lie down in Kali's path himself. She stepped on her husband's chest and came to her senses.

In this myth, Kali represents the feminine principle and the material essence, while Shiva represents the masculine principle and the supreme consciousness that brings order to the world. If it is passive, then it is active. Why Kali is painted black or dark blue explains the power over time attributed to her. Shiva as the destroyer is identified with all-consuming time and is characterized by a white color. In contrast, Kali embodies the dark abyss of chaos. It transcends time, space, and causality.

Kali is also the goddess of natural disasters. Its energy brings bloodshed, pestilence, murder and death. The cult of Kali has an ancient aboriginal origin and is associated with the worship of the ancestral goddess Devi. It is a "relic of primitive barbarism" 2, to which many rites, ceremonies and dances go back.

The goddess Kali is worshipped throughout India, but she is especially popular in Bengal. I saw posters of her in Kolkata everywhere - in supermarkets, corporate offices, restaurants, taxis. First of all, her favors are sought by those whose professional activity is associated with any risk. In the states of West Bengal, Bihar and Assam, Kali altars are often seen at the entrance of coal mines. She is honored not only by Hindus, but also by representatives of other faiths.


Every year in India, a festival dedicated to the goddess Kali is celebrated, which is called Kali-pu-

Asuras are demons who oppose the gods.

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ja. It starts on the 14th day of the new moon of Kartik month (October-November) and lasts for two days. Traditionally, it is preceded by a colorful celebration of lights-Diwali. Unlike the noisy and fun Diwali, accompanied by the crackling of fireworks and the bursting of firecrackers and rockets, Kali Puja takes place in an atmosphere of mystery and awe.

Preparation for pei begins in a few months. In Kolkata, residents of many streets, blocks and individual houses order an image of the goddess made of gray clay taken from the bottom of the sacred Ganges. The sculpture is painted and decorated in gold and silk. Then it is installed on a temporary platform under a canopy (pandal). Near it, the priest performs the prescribed prayers, accepts offerings of fruits and sweets, and presents the faithful with prasad, i.e., part of the offering returned to the sacrificers as a symbol of divine grace.

On the first day of Puja, 108 lamps are lit in Kali temples, and burning lamps are placed in every corner and window in homes. This is necessary to avoid meeting with ghosts, monsters and other members of the escort of the terrible goddess. Kali worshippers enjoy an unsalted salad of 14 vegetables and herbs and boiled rice. They go around the pan-dala one by one and visit its temples. At this time, they are especially crowded. In the Ramakrishna Mission's Dakshineswar temple, built in 1855, pilgrims pour seashell water in front of the goddess ' altar with their right hand and circle a large brass bell with their left. 3

The puja participants spend the entire second day fasting and praying Kali. Exactly at midnight, numerous sacrifices are performed in the temples of the goddess. To do this, choose black goats and roosters, as well as buffaloes. Animal heads are painted with cinnabar, placed in a special frame and cut off. There are recesses in the floor in front of the altar for blood to drain out. Meat of sacrificial animals is distributed to pilgrims. Crowds of local slum dwellers flock to the temples. On this day, even vegetarians eat meat. Those who for some reason could not visit the temple, at midnight break the coconut at home.

At dawn, the pandals are dismantled, the clay goddess is mounted on a truck and taken to the riverbank. Kali is immersed in deep purple waters. An hour or two will pass and only wet paper remains on the surface. Clay dissolves in the Ganges, and man in God. In a year's time, it will all happen again.

It is believed that human sacrifices were once offered to Kali. In one of the sacred texts of Hinduism, the Kalika Purana, God Shiva tells his sons the following:: "Give antelope and rhino meat to my beloved, and she will be satisfied for five hundred years. A Devi is satisfied with a human sacrifice performed according to the established method for a thousand years, and with the sacrifice of three people for a hundred thousand years."4. Kali's devotees were the famous thaga strangler robbers. Referring to the goddess, they called her Kankali, i.e. Kali-ogress5. In the 19th century, cases were recorded when particularly zealous followers of the goddess inflicted deep wounds on themselves and applied them to the stone mouth of her statue. During the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-1859. at the altar of Kali, the rebels executed the captured British 6.


The most famous Kali temple is Kalighat. It is located in the southern part of Kolkata. The temple was built in 1809 with the money of a rich Bengali landowner S. R. Chaudhuri. It was formerly home to an earlier sanctuary and the village of Kalikata, which gave its name to the city of Calcutta, which was renamed Kolkata in 2000.

It is said that the once pious Sati threw herself into the fire and died to atone for the offense inflicted by her father.-

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tsom Daksha to the divine husband Sati-Shiva. Shiva took the remains of his consort from the sacrificial fire and, holding them to his chest, began to dance. To stop the mad dance, the guardian god Vishnu cut Sati's body into 108 pieces, which fell to the ground. Four toes of his right foot hit the spot where Kalighat now stands. They are kept in the temple in a silver shrine and are an object of worship.

Kalighat is a temple complex. Its central part is occupied by a rectangular building consisting of a large hall and an altar, topped by a domed structure with a square turret with three window slots on each side. The black stone statue of the goddess is placed on a low platform. She has four silver hands and a long golden tongue7. Kali's three bright red eyes attest to her absolute power over the three aspects of time-past, present, and future. Pilgrims greet the goddess by placing the palm of their right hand on the base of the platform.

On the left side of the building is a small temple dedicated to Radha and Krishna. Two storerooms and a kitchen are attached to it. On the right side is the place of worship of the goddess Shashthi, the protector of children, the goddess of smallpox Sitala and the queen nagoya* Manasa, as well as the temple of Bhairava, the wrathful incarnation of Shiva. In the room opposite they perform the rite homa or pouring oil on the fire.

Kalighat is open to the public from 5.00 to 14.00 and from 16.00 to 22.00. This is the only Kali temple where at least one animal sacrifice is performed daily. Their severed heads are brought to the temple of Bhairava.

On the example of Kalighat, one can observe how the sacred economy functions in modern conditions. Even on the far approaches to the complex, I was literally attacked by a crowd of men in white shirts with their hands out. For a fee of 200-300 rupees (4-6 US dollars). US$) they persistently offered the services of guides.

First, I was shown a small pool designed for ritual ablutions. It is called Kalikundu. Stone steps led down to the water's edge. On one of them stood a sculptured statue of Shiva. The "guides"piled a pyramid of plastic bracelets in front of him for the health of my parents and children and showed him a worn notebook with the names of donors and columns of numbers with several zeros. After I made my entry in it, we walked together in the direction of the temple.

There was a long queue along the Kalighat. The "guides" made room for me in front of the entrance with deft elbows and warned me to keep a sharp eye out for my pockets and my camera in the crowd. The room was dark, and I couldn't see much of anything. I remember something glinting in the light at the last moment. I was informed that I had been privileged to see the goddess, and we went outside. Along the way, I got bogged down in a mess of dust and blood and got prasadam in the form of a piece of dry dough with brown spots. I put it in a bag, paid off the "guides" and hurried back to the hotel.

As I left the temple complex, I saw a row of stalls selling posters of Kali in the typical Kalighat style of writing. It is distinguished by its simplicity of technique, naturalism, detail, lack of background and contrasting bright colors. The goddess has long had her own school of painting. Its artists lived at the temple, and their skills were passed down from father to son. The paintings were painted without sketches. Paints were applied with a brush on a wet base. When the paint dried, the artist finished drawing facial features, arms, legs, hairstyle and jewelry. Some of the images I saw were extremely beautiful. It is claimed that this is the image that her loyal fans see the goddess in.

The Indian Museum of Kolkata has the richest collection of these drawings. Nearby Kalighat is the home of Mother Teresa, Abbess of the Order of Mercy and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the headquarters of Mamata Bannerjee, the popular Trinamool Congress party in West Bengal.

In the temple and its surroundings, I had the feeling that time had stopped in Kolkata a long time ago. Flocks of scrawny and screaming crows were a reminder of the impermanence of existence. They roam from place to place, devouring everything in their path. Crows are especially plentiful in the Kalighat area.

Nagas - mythological creatures with a snake body.

1 Temkin E. N., Erman V. T. Myths of ancient India. Moscow, 1982, pp. 214-218.

2 Thomas P. Legends, myths and epics of ancient India. St. Petersburg., 2000, p. 108.

3 Harding E.U. Kali. The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar. Delhi. 2004, p. 132.

4 Thomas P. Decree. soch., p. 108.

5 V. Kashin Servants of the goddess Kali / / Asia and Africa today. 1992, N 9.

6 The Telegraph, 2 November, 1991.

7 Encountering Kali in the Margins, at the Center, in the West. Delhi. 2005, p. 66 - 67.


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