Maa Kali is the fearful and ferocious form of Maa Durga. She is usually shown with her feet on the chest of Lord Shiva and wearing a garland of skulls. She symbolizes the darker side of life and epitomizes strength or “Shakti.” Kali is worshipped on the night of Kartik Amavasya in October/November. The day is also celebrated as Shyama Kali, the first 10 avtaars of Devi Durga. The reason behind worshipping Kali is destroying all evil both that lies in the outside world and within us.
Kali Puja is a major festival for the people of Bengal after Durga Puja. It is celebrated with gusto and enthusiasm. Like Diwali, people in Bengal light lamps, and fire crackers to welcome Ma Kali. Houses are decorated and rangoli is drawn in front of the houses. Kali puja is carried out late in the night. People seek he blessings of Maa Kali during the puja.
Kali became popular as a powerful goddess with the composition of the text Devi Mahatmya in the 5th and the 6th century AD. The legend goes that two demons, Shambhu and Nishambhu disturbed the peace of Lord Indra. After endless battles when the gods failed, they sought help from Lord Shiva and Parvati. The gods sought protection of Maa Durga or Shakti. Kali was born out of Durga’s brow as Kal Bhoi Nashini.
Along with her two escorts, Dakini and Jogini, she was meant to destroy all evils and the growing cruelty of demons. It is believed that Kaali was so much engrossed in the killing spree that she went on killing everything within her sight. To stop this, Lord Shiva, threw himself under her feet. She was so shocked with this act of Lord Shiva, that she stuck her tongue out in disbelief. Hence we have the common image of Kali standing with her feet on Shiva’s chest and her tongue out.
Kali puja is celebrated with lots of gusto and fanfare in Bengal after Durga Puja during the time of Diwali. It is believed that Maharaja Krishnan Chandra of Nawadweep was the first to celebrate Kali Puja in his territory. Everyone was ordered to celebrate Kali puja and thus 10,000 images of Kali were worshipped. Ratanti Kali Puja was celebrated in ancient times before the present Kali puja. It is believed that the present form of Kali is due to a dream by a distinguished scholar of Indian charms and black magic or ‘Tantra’ and the author of Tantric Saar, Krishnananda Agambagish, a contemporary of Lord Chaitanya. In his dream he was ordered to make herimage after the first figure he saw in the morning. At dawn, Krishnanand saw a dark complexioned maid with left hand protruding and making cow dung cakes with her right hand. Her body was glowing with white dots. The vermillion spread over her forehead while she was wiping the sweat from her forehead. The hair was untidy. When she came face to face with an elderly Krishnananda, she bit her tongue in shame. This posture of the housemaid was later utilized to envisage the idol of Goddess Kali. Thus was formed the image of Kali.