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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(or KALEE) is the name of one of the many forms of Doorgd, so popularly and variously worshipped in Hindustan.
Names and History. — Doorga is the female principle in the production of the world who appears throughout the Hindu Shastras as Prakriti or Bhagwati. She is said to have had a thousand names, and to have appeared in a vast number of forms in different periods: thus, as Sati, she first became the wife of Siva, but renounced her life on hearing her father reproach her husband. She again appeared as "the mountain-born goddess" under the name of Parwati, and again married Siva. After giving birth to her sons Ganesh and Katik, she became renowned for her achievements in war against the giant enemies of the gods.
This goddess assumed the name of Kali on the occasion of a battle with a thousand-headed giant demigod whom she slew. In her excessive delight over her victory, she danced till she shook the foundation of the earth, and the gods were compelled to induce her husband Siva to influence her to stop, which, however, he found no means of doing till he resorted to the expedient of throwing himself among the bodies of the slain. Kali, observing herself dancing on the body of her husband, was shocked, and, protruding her tongue in her surprise, stood still. In this attitude she is represented in the images of her now made, and sold, and worshipped throughout Bengal.
Images. — In allusion to the above contest with the giant, Kali is often represented as "a ten-armed goddess." Her image in this aspect is that of a yellow woman with ten arms, richly dressed and ornamented, standing erect, resting her left foot on the back of a prostrate buffalo, and her right on that of a couchant lion, holding in her hands a spear, an axe, a discus, a trident, a club, an arrow, and a shield.
Her most common image, however, is that of a black Or very dark blue- colored woman with four arms; the upper left arm holding a cimeter, the lower left a human head by the hair The other right arm is held up to indicate either that she is bestowing a blessing or the restoration of nature from the devastation which she has caused, and to which her lower right hand is pointing. All her hands are bloody. In this form she is standing on the body of her husband, who is a white man, stretched at full length upon his back. Around her waist, as a covering, she wears a string of bloody human hands. She wears an immense necklace, reaching below her knees, which is composed of human skulls. In some images a pair of dead human bodies hang by the hair from her ears. Her tongue, as above set forth, protrudes from her mouth upon her chin.
She appears, moreover, under other forms: sitting on a dead body, with two giants' heads in her arms; as a black female sitting on a throne, etc.
Character. — Kali, in Hindu mythology, is nothing more nor less than a female Satan. She is a very sanguinary goddess; her eyebrows are bloody, and blood falls in a stream down her breast. Her eyes are red, like those of a drunkard.
Sacrifices. — Mr. Ward makes a summary from one of the Puranas to the effect that a tiger's blood offered to her in. sacrifice will please her for a hundred years; that of a lion, a reindeer, or a man, a thousand years; and that of three men for ten hundred thousand years. In the event of a human person being offered in sacrifice, it must be performed in a cemetery, or at a temple, or in a mountain. Only a person of good appearance should be offered. The victim should be adorned with chaplets and besmeared with sandal-wood, after various ablutions. The deformed, timid, leprous, or crippled must not be offered; nor must a priest, nor a childless brother. The victim must be prepared the day before the offering, his neck being besmeared with blood from the axe with which he is to be sacrificed. Besides this, however, persons may draw blood from their own bodies, or cut off their flesh, to be presented to this goddess as a burnt-offering, or burn the body by the flame of a lamp.
Worshippers. — Many Hindus adopt the ten-armed Doorga as their guardian deity, and she is considered as the image of the divine energy. Her worship in Lower Bengal is so popular that on the occasion of a great annual festival all business is suspended, and even the European courts, custom-house, and other public offices are closed.
The professional robbers and murderers so long known and dreaded throughout India, and notorious elsewhere as Thugs, are the special devotees of the four-armed Kali. In the hope of greater success in their work, they consecrate to her their instruments of death, and their victims are held to be immolated in her honor. These men will join travellers, and accompany them for days,/gaining their confidence if possible, under some disguise, until, watching their opportunity, they can administer drugs, or choke them with a small cord, and then rob them of all they possess. Formerly, it is supposed, the goddess rendered them much more assistance than of late, by putting out of the way the corpses of those slain; but, in consequence of one of their number looking behind him after a murder, she ceased to render them so certainly this assistance, as this was a violation of the express condition on which she kept secret all traces of their deeds. The accounts of the occasion of their losing her assistance in this particular are conflicting, and scarcely worthy of reproduction. Persons wishing to trace the matter may refer to Illustrations of the History, and Practices of the Thugs (Lond. 1837). (See THUGS).
Ceremonies.-Distinct from the great festival alluded to above in honor of Doorga as the "ten-armed goddess" is a famous and popular festival held in her service under the special form of Kali. It is observed with much the same form as the other. Annual sacrifices of sweetmeats, sugar, garments, rice, plantains, and pease are offered in great abundance. The first day ends with singing, dancing, and feasting, and with the lower classes in great debauchery and shameless licentiousness, the arak, an intoxicating liquor, being consecrated to the idol goddess. On the- second morning images of all sizes representative of the goddess are made, and, after consecration by the Brahmans, are carried through the streets in procession to the Hooghly River, and there, carried out in boats, are thrown into it, and with this act terminate these wild and terrible orgies. Immense sums are expended by many of these devotees during these festivals. Mr. Ward estimates as much as £9000 sterling to have been expended annually at the single shrine in Calcutta, and narrates cases of individual offerings, at one time, of £10,000, comprising rich. beds, silver plate, and food for the entertainment of a thousand persons.
Temples. — There are many buildings devoted to her worship. The greatest and most popular of these is that of Kali-Ghat, about three miles to the south of Calcutta. There are fifty other edifices in various parts of India devoted to Doorga under her variety of forms and names. All these are said to have originated in an incident connected with her history previous to her having assumed the shape of Parwati, when Vishnu severed her body into fifty-one separate pieces, which were strewn over the earth, and conferred a peculiar sanctity on the places where they happened to fall. All of these became sites of temples, in which an image of some one of her thousand forms was set up. The, whole of the country to the south of Calcutta, including the spot known as Kali-Ghat, was thus rendered sacred, the toes of the right foot being deposited at the latter place. The temple at Kali-Ghat consists of one room, with a large pavement around it. The image of Kali is in this temple (Ward, ii, 157).
There is, perhaps, no fabled impersonation in all the Hindu mythology exerting a greater or more gloomy influence over millions of men than Doorga under the itle of Kali.
Literature.— Journ. of the Asiatic Society's Researchs, vol. v.; Coleman, Mythology of the Hindoos; Moor, Hindoo Pantheon; Ward, Hindoo Mythology; account of temple at Kali-Ghat in the Calcutta Christian Observer, Sept. 1833; Col. Sleeman, Journey through Oudh. (J. T. G.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Kali'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/k/kali.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.