Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West

Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West

Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West

Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West

Synopsis

"The editors have assembled a South Asian/History of Religions dream team, and the result is a book that captures the sexy, gory power of the dark goddess who is the most exciting of all Hindu deities-and perhaps the most controversial and notorious of all deities. Academically profound and theoretically subtle, these essays are also vivid and juicy."--Wendy Doniger, author of "The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade

"If any subject ever called for a book of many parts, it is Kali. These original and provocative essays, well chosen and thoughtfully organized, point to all sides of the Goddess's character. The result is a sharp and challenging book-the essential starting point for a new century of encountering Kali."--John Stratton Hawley, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion, Columbia University and co-editor of "Devi: Goddesses of India

Excerpt

The Goddess Kālī is almost always described as having a terrible, frightening appearance. She is always black or dark, is usually naked, and has long, disheveled hair. She is adorned with severed arms as a girdle, freshly cut heads as a necklace, children's corpses as earrings, and serpents as bracelets. She has long, sharp fangs, is often depicted as having clawlike hands with long nails, and is often said to have blood smeared on her lips. Her favorite haunts heighten her fearsome nature. She is usually shown on the battlefield, where she is a furious combatant who gets drunk on the hot blood of her victims, or in a cremation ground, where she sits on a corpse surrounded by jackals and goblins.

Many texts and contexts treat Kālī as an independent deity, unassociated with any male deity. When she is associated with a god, however, it is almost always Śiva. As his consort, wife, or associate, Kālī often plays the role of inciting him to wild behavior. Kālī's association with Śiva, unlike Pārvatī's, seems aimed at exciting him to take part in dangerous, destructive behavior that threatens the stability of the cosmos. Kālī is particularly popular in Bengal, although she is known and worshiped throughout India. in Bengal, she is worshiped on Dīpāvalī. in this festival, and throughout the year at many of her permanent temples, she receives blood offerings. She is also the recipient of ardent devotion from countless devotees, who approach her as their mother.

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