Kali is the ferocious aspect of Durga perfectly personified. According to the
Purana, this image of Durga as Kali, so widely worshipped in eastern parts of
India, owes its origin to the battle of Durga with Sambhu and Nishambhu. She
after her victory over these demons was so overjoyed that she started the dance
of death. Here the story resembles that of Tara. In her great ecstasy Kali continued
the destruction. As the prayers of all gods could not calm her, Lord Shiva had
to intervene. Seeing no other way of dissuading her the god threw himself amongst
the bodies of slain demons. When Durga saw that she was dancing over the body
of her husband, she put her tongue out of her mouth in sorrow and surprise. She
remained stunned in this posture and this is how Kali is shown in images with
the red tongue protruding from her mouth.
Adhyatma Ramayana gives another story of the origin of Kali. It says that when
Rama returned home with Sita after destroying Ravana, he was boastfully narrated
the stories of his victories to Sita. She smiled and said, "You rejoice
because you have killed a Ravana with ten hands. But what shall you do with a
Ravana with one thousands hands?'" Ram very proudly boasted that he would
destroy that demon too. At this challenge of his wife Rama
collected his whole army and the army of all his allies and started for Shatdweep,
the abode of this new demon with one thousand hands. This new Ravana was a powerful demon. When
attacked he discharged three magic arrows from his bow.
One of these sent all
the monkeys to Kishkindha, their place of residence;
another sent the army of
Vibhishana, who was an ally of Rama and the ruler of Lanka after Ravana's death,
back to their region beyond seashore;
while the third arrow sent all soldiers
of Rama back to Ayodhya, Rama's capital.
Rama felt humiliated and then Sita laughingly
assumed the form of terrific Kali; she attacked this new Ravana with one thousand
heads. After a long fight she killed the demon, drank his blood and began to
dance and toss about the limbs of his body. Shiva calmed her. However, this story
has not received popular approval.
In the images commonly worshipped Kali is shown as a very black female with four
arms. In one hand she has a scimitar, in another the head of a demon which she
holds by his hair, the third hand is spread flatly open bestowing a blessing
and in the fourth she holds another weapon, usually a spear. She wears two heads
of demons in place of earrings and has a necklace of skulls. Her tongue is blood
red and hangs down upon her chin. Blood is also seen streaming from her tongue
and upon her body. She is shown standing with one foot on the breast of Shiva
and the other rests on his thigh.
At Kali Ghat near Calcutta is the most celebrated image of Kali. Other
forms of Kali are CHAMUNDI, SHAMSHAN KALI (goddess of the cremation ground),
BHADRA KALI, UGRA CHANDI, BHEEM CHANDI, SIDDHESHWARI, and SHEETLA (the goddess
of small-pox).People also worship her to protect their children from dreaded diseases and their
homes from ill omens.