The traditional symbolic representation of the Great Cosmic Power, KALI
The description of the Great Cosmic Power Kali, as it is revealed in the Kalitantra text, describes the goddess as having her skin the color of a dark and purple cloud before the storm. She dances over the inert white body of Shiva, this representation signifying the two fundamental aspects of reality: on the one hand, the static and transcendent aspect of Consciousness (which is identified with Shiva), and on the other hand the dynamic and immanent aspect of consciousness (which is identified with Kali’s dance). In this iconographical representation, Shiva is white because he signifies the infinite divine light without support (prakasha), he is inert and motionless as a corpse (Shava), because in the absence of action and movement, Consciousness is pure, homogenous and compact. On the contrary, the dance of the Great Goddess Kali most importantly signifies the dynamic and active aspect of the Divine Consciousness in Manifestation, and the dark color of her skin shows that in the processes taking place in Creation, Kali “dissolves” everything, which is associated with darkness and existential vacuum.
The various depictions of the goddess have in common some fundamental elements, which are: Shiva’s corpse, a glorious attitude, black color, etc., but they may however differ in other details, that constitute as many shades of the role that Kali plays in Manifestation. Thus, in one of these images, the great Goddess is represented in a stately, profoundly meditative attitude, overwhelmed by the nectar of the endless spiritual bliss; she is on top of Shiva’s chest, who is lying on the ground in the corpse posture (shavasana).
Kali is represented in the well-known position of the archer, with her right leg bent forward, with the sole on Shiva’s chest, and her left leg bent backwards. Both images (both that of Kali and the one of Shiva) are illustrated in the midst of a place corpses are burnt, meaning that all illusory objects of the world are finally reduced to “ashes” due to their terrible consumption in the fire of the passage of time (time being the main way of manifestation of Kali in Creation), or that such ephemeral things (matter, objects, human beings. phenomena, actions) return to their primary stage of essence origin causal synthesis.
As usual, also in this representation Kali is black, being thus the source of any other color that springs from the unknown abyss of the fundamental quality of sustainment (tamas guna). Although, this suggests that she is associated with the occulting depths of the Supreme Consciousness of God in Creation under the densest forms of matter and action, still Kali is also surrounded by a bright white halo of light that does not cause blindness or eye pain to the eyes that look at it, but on the contrary it calms them down and relaxes them due to the deeply “cooling” nature of this energy (amrita), which is like the effulgent manifestation of the nectar released by millions of subtle and spiritual worlds.
In this picture, Shiva’s corpse signifies that the power of divine consciousness is inherent even to inanimate matter. Kali has her mouth wide open and her tongue much pulled out, representing thus symbolically the gesture (mudra) of “devouring” or “consumption” of the entire Creation. At the same time, however, this awesome and scary aspect (for those who do not know the profound esoteric meanings of this image) is doubled by a smiling attitude of the Great Goddess, who looks with kindness and affection to all the beings in Manifestation and supports their life and evolution feeding them to the huge breasts of an all-loving Divine Mother.
On the other hand, Kali’s laughter signify her ironic attitude towards all those who, ignoring the laws of macrocosmic harmony and balance, imagine that they can escape from their spiritual evolution as individuals and also as parts of a unique and perfect Whole. The great Goddess has three eyes “overseeing” all worlds which operate in the three aspects of time (trikala): past, present and future. In one of the hands she holds a skull which symbolizes, firstly, a receptacle of the mysteries of Creation, of the occult teachings and of the origin of the three main spheres of consciousness (physical, subtle and causal), and secondly, it represents figuratively what remains in the end after the destruction or the dissolution of the whole Macrocosm.
In the other hand Kali holds a sword (khadga) which is intended to symbolize the cutting of the links and attachments to the manifested world in order to prepare the believer for the moment of the supreme spiritual liberation. It is also interesting to note that the hair of the Great Goddess is represented as being long and waving in the wind, which signifies the power of the full grace of this Great Cosmic Power to confer the human being the liberation from the heavy “chains” of the karma in Manifestation. Kali’s goodwill and compassion are also highlighted by the specific position of two of her hands that perform the gestures to remove fear (abhaya mudra) and to render spiritual gifts and paranormal powers (varada mudra).
The goddess wears around her neck a bead made of the decapitated heads of demons and some evil entities proving the complete and always present victory of the good and the fair action in Creation. Her naked body is sprinkled with blood that drips from the decapitated heads, and as earrings she wears the bodies of two human corpses. The whole terrible aspect of Kali is amplified by the blood that flows through the two sides of her wide open mouth, which as explained above, signifies the continuous “devouring” of any manifested aspect.
The nakedness of the goddess symbolically indicates that her power is not limited by any aspect of Creation and also that the goddess herself is the creator of the entire universe (Macrocosm), but also represents the constituents (i.e. things, beings, etc.) it consists of. Sometimes it is represented on top of Shiva in a reversed romantic act of making love (viparita rati), indicating that the mahavidya upasana (or, in other words, the adoration full of fervor and devotion of this Great Cosmic Power (Kali)) essentially symbolizes the principle of resorption of the entire universe (prapancha) into the consciousness now infinitely expanded of the believer, through the grace of the Great Goddesses Kali.
This is the complex in significances representation of the terrible shape of Kali, form known as Dakshina Kali or Shyamakali.
15 February 2012