Kali Puja or Shyama Puja is a popular Hindu festival celebrated on the new moon night of the Hindu month Ashwin, dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess Kali. While the people of Bengal, worship goddess Kali on this day, the rest of India worship goddess Lakshmi. According to Hindu mythology, the Goddess Durga has ten incarnations of which the goddess Kali is considered to be the first one. Her name has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kala’ which means black, time, death, the lord of death. Depicted with a stern face and terrifying look she is regarded as the most aggressive form of Goddess Durga. Thus she is worshiped as the Mother Goddess who is known to destroy all evils and cleanse the world.
Celebrated lavishly in the state of West Bengal, especially in Kolkata, Kali Puja is performed on a new moon night. As Kali is associated with dark rites and demon worship, the rituals performed are with austerity and offered with great devotion. The rites related to this festival whose whichinvolves sacrificial killings.
The common image that we often get to witness about the goddess is that of four arms holding a weapon, in one, whereas the other the hand is holding the blood dripping head of the Asura, and the rest of the two are raised to bless the worshippers. Her body is naked except for her 'ornaments', which include necklace of snakes, skulls and heads of her sons and a belt from which hangs demon's hands, which signify Karma or action.
Legend behind the Kali Puja
It is believed she is born from the brow of Goddess Durga during one of her battles with the evil forces. As the legend goes, in that battle she got carried away to such an extent that she went on the killing spree and began destroying everything in sight. In order to stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. Shocked at this sight, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her homicidal rampage. Hence this posture became a milestone image depicting goddess Kali, standing with one foot on Shiva's chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out.
There is another legend attached to the birth of the goddess of evil. According to the legend, long ago there lived two demons named Shumbh and Nishumbh who disturbed the peaceful ambiance of the heavenly abode. The demons even went as far as to attack Indra, the king of the gods. A large number of battles were fought but unfortunate enough, the demons reigned supreme. They had grown so powerful that the gods were forced to abandon their heavenly abode and seek refuge in the Himalayas, the holy mountains, the home of Lord Shiva and Parvati. The gods were so petrified that pleaded to the goddess Durga to help them. In answer to their prayers, a new goddess emerged from the forehead of goddess Durga. This was the goddess Kali or KalBhoi Nashini. She had two escorts, named Dakini and Jogini. Accompanied by her escorts, the goddess set off to destroy the demons and rescue the heavens and the earth from their clutches.
The battle was a long lasting one but finally the goddess managed to demolish all the demons. She then made a garland out of the slain demon's heads and wore it around her neck. However, even after the demons were killed, goddess Kali was lost in the bloodthirstiness. In her fury she began to go on a rampage and kill every living being that came across. But still the group of gods were in a dilemma, as they were now terrified the Goddess might attack them as well. To counter the bloodlust within his consort, Lord Shiv devised a plan. He quickly threw himself under the feet of the Goddess. Unknowingly stepping on Him, in the heat of the moment, she came to her senses and repented for her transgression. Thus in order to celebrate this occasion, Kali Puja is performed.