Kali Ma, the fearsome blue-skinned goddess of Hindu mythology. Violent and devastating, she is often depicted with her tongue fully extended while rocking a necklace of the severed heads of her enemies while she dances feverishly on her consort Shiva.
Quite an image, right! But what’s the story behind Kali’s rage?
The Birth of Kali
It all started when the world was threatened by demons (known as the Asuras). They wanted to take over the world and overthrow all the gods. Their leader, Raktabija, had a special power that would allow him to get a thousand times stronger every time his blood was spilled.
The gods were at a loss and knew they must call on the warrior goddess Durga to find a way to defeat this formidable foe. Durga, beautiful, powerful, and highly skilled, rode into battle on the back of a tiger (like an absolute BOSS).
As a manifestation of Shakti, the divine feminine, she switched her form into different goddesses many times while slaying thousands of demons and striking Raktabija over and over again. But each time she did this, more and more demons sprang up. They laughed at her dilemma. Durga had had enough. She focused all of her energy and attention. All her frustration and anger. Then, from Durga’s furrowed brow, Kali was born.
Kali emerged blackish blue skin, hair flowing, with sunken wild eyes and a third eye on her forehead. She carried a skull-topped staff, a noose, and a sword. Her expression was pure rage. She turned her terrible gaze toward the demons.
Half dropped dead from the mere sight of her. She let out a severe cacophonous shriek and even more died. Then she completely unleashed her fury.
Kali outstretched her claw-like hands and gobbled up the demons. She gleefully laughed and drank their blood. She ate the demons’ elephants and horses. Then, when all of the demons had either fled or been devoured, she set upon Raktabija.
The Dark Goddess pierced his side and before the blood droplets could hit the ground, she drank them up. She drained the demon-general by lifting him high in the air and drinking every last ounce. When she was done, she cast his body aside. The Asuras had been defeated.
Kali and Shiva
But Kali was now drunk with Raktabija’s life force and her own immense power. She began dancing and twirling on the bodies of the deceased demons – reducing them to flattened corpses. Each step she took caused the entire world to tremble. Something had to be done to contain her.
The gods called upon Shiva to awaken her from her feverish rage. In a desperate act, he threw himself under her dancing feet. Her feet were pounding him until he was almost lifeless. Then right before Shiva was to succumb to his injuries, Kali realized what she was doing. She stopped immediately and both Shiva and the world were saved.
What We Can Learn From Durga and Kali
Durga is a warrior goddess who was called upon to battle the demons who sought the destruction of our world. Kali is the primal version of the warrior goddess Durga. She is the epitome of Durga’s raw energy. When Durga realized that she needed help, she looked within, focused, and summoned her inner power.
Durga could have panicked or given up in frustration and despair. We all have to pick and choose our battles, and this was one battle Durga couldn’t walk away from, and she knew it. The stakes were too high.
How many times have you been in a situation where you had to choose between throwing your hands up in the air or digging deep and summoning that inner strength you needed? The next time you are feeling overwhelmed and at a loss for what you should do, I want you to think of Durga and Kali. I want you to recognize your innate inner strength, because you are capable of accomplishing so much more than you give yourself credit for.
Shiva - friend or foe?
I’m torn about Shiva’s role at the end of this story, because in my opinion there are two ways you can read it. First, you can see Shiva as a friend. He and Durga are lovers, and since Kali is a manifestation of Durga, he cares for her and wants to keep her from destroying the very world she was trying to save. Like a friend saving you from yourself.
However, as a woman I also feel very much like the gods were THREATENED by Kali’s immense power, and wanted to contain her before she remade the world in her own way – because you cannot have creation (new ideas, new ways of life, new advancements, etc.), without destruction.
This happens often when there are men who call upon women to step into a role in which they are desperately needed, and then hold them back when that is no longer the case. For example, during WWII many women took on jobs in factories while the men went into combat. Without women manufacturing parts that were desperately needed, the war would have been lost. But as soon as the men came back, they wanted their old jobs back and women were told to go back home. For those that wanted to continue working, it was very difficult. The women did their duty, but when they wanted to continue to pursue their goals and ambitions they were thwarted by the men in power.
In situations like this, be like Kali (and Beyonce) and keep twirling’ on them haters. Keep doing your thing, and don’t let anyone hold you back.
But always make sure that you have someone in your life that cares about you, tells you the truth, and holds you accountable.
Sometimes we really do need someone to call us out when we are taking things too far and are too engrossed in our own desires at the expense of others.
But how do you know if you are being mindful or just people pleasing? Start an inner dialogue and ask yourself what your motivations are, and if the situation warrants the response it’s been given. The more you have these self-talks, the easier it will be to know what course of action to take.