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Woman as Kali and Durga: Some dark and powerful Goddesses as a role models for women

4.4. Passage of Kali to Bhadra Kali

Here an attempt is that the derivation of an alternative role model of woman for self- construction and for self-other relationship from an analysis of a particular category of two contradictory addressed to Kali. According to Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, the "recuperation of the/a Hindu goddess as feminist is problematic at the present historical juncture both for its assumption of an undifferentiated 'woman- power' as well as for its promotion of a certain radicalized Hinduism" (Sunder Rajan,1998). The spiritual idea here is suggestive of ontological transformations without which even very self-consciously adopted socio-political agendas for change might not be effective. As the symbol of femininity, Kali may be read in two ways, as serving patriarchal purposes and emerging from male fear of female sexuality; or as genuine

feminine self-assertion and power, a mother who is not terrified of stepping out of the conventions of motherhood to express herself, her rage and her needs. But the point to be emphasized is that Kali always signifies more than the feminine.

This feminine aspect of reality is identified with knowledge and wisdom. The Mahāvidyas include Kālī, Tārā, Tripura-sundarī, Bhuvaneśvarī, Chinnamastā, Bhairavī, Dhūmāvatī, Bagalā mukhī, Mātaṅgī, and Kamalā. Their predominant characteristics are linked to death imagery, signs of decay, skulls, blood, cremation grounds, sex, wildness, outskirts, and outsiderhood. They also embody the frightening and the forbidden, as well as magical powers. They are fierce, independent, and dominant. In fact, they substantiate death, violence, pollution, and marginality, representing the opposite of what is accepted by conventional society. The association with death, destruction and graveyard, and also known as Smashan Kali and otherwise unwelcome and inauspicious goddess who is not included in the list of gram devi (village-goddess), when she seen as ‘smashan-kali’ and also so kept at a distance from the village also as a marginal similar to forest goddesses. Here we may also recall the image of Bandurga (forest Durga), which will not be allowed as a welcome goddess into the Hindu Brahmanical household, although more in demand with warriors, wanderers, homeless wonderers(tantricsidhhas), Kapalikas.The Aghori (Sanskrit aghora) panthis, who will be worshipping very dark and powerful Goddess as ‘smashan-Kali’, or at times ‘Bana-Durga’.

Here Kali represents death and destruction. Therefore, polluted and to be pacified with a magical and tantric antidote to keep her at a distance then welcoming her to villages and household, as we find in a transformed concept, a tamed Kali as Bhadra Kali or ‘a tamed non- warrior Durga’, who is worshipped and welcomed to the Hindu household as a daughter is welcomed for her annual visits to her maternal and paternal household with her kids Kartik and Ganesh during Durga puja annually. Here among the metropolitan, urban societies also there is need to annually appease the dark Goddess Kali and Durga with blood offering because the dark is found of red colour, here this ritual is also symbolically transformed into a domestic goddess adoration of her wifely role in the ritual that the Bengali women perform in ‘Sindur- Khela', exchange of sindur to the value of married women with blessings from the Goddess that interestingly glorifies the role of women as a mother and an ideal wife. Sindur Khela (Bengali: স িঁদুর খেলা), literally meaning 'vermillion game', is a Bengali Hindu tradition where women smear each other with sindur on Vijayadashami, the last day of the Durga Puja.

So here we have seen although the ferocious and dark side of Kali is associated at a distance from the village, not as a 'gram- Devi’, as ‘samshan-kali’, the same kali needs to be transformed to her motherly role while entering the household with Bhakti at heart and prayer to the Goddess. This differs from mantra-tantra used to pacify dark Kali when she remains inauspicious. In that case, she represents unwanted dark aspects of life, death, disease, as our current pandemic situation, which no one will welcome with prayer to grace their household, but will take recourse to the vaccine, medical recourses as needed when we remain victims looking for way out of the darkness, so here is a mantra r a tantra to drive away the dark forces, from attacking us and disturbing the life balance. These two sides her familiar image of dark goddesses as in Kali and Durga.

And later in Goddess Kali is portrayed as Uma, wife of Shiva as also synonymous with Durga and at a time we find more in the literature called ‘Smanasangit’ and ‘Umasangit’ or

‘agomoni and bijoya’ songs during Durga puja. This devotional Sakta poetry begins the process of ‘sweetening the Goddess from a frightening figure to a much acceptable motherly or wifely role. This was a gradual change. Interestingly, sometimes there is a variation of the goddess role in the ‘devimahattya’ from the local, regional variation of the Goddess. In Bengal itself, there are some regions where ‘Mahisa-mardini’ Durga puja in autumn comes in a clash with some local, regional goddesses. Sometimes village goddesses represent Durga and Kali, but sometimes they differ entirely. And also, when folk goddesses remain less associated with kings and politics with their more focus on household and family values.

In addition, most of the Mahāvidy ās may be considered antimodels of female behaviour, often being tempestuous, enraged, domineering, and wild. In fact, according to Kinsley, their meaning has to do with undermining and mocking social norms in order to reveal the fundamental truth of the cosmos that encompasses creation, destruction, as well as constant transformation. Therefore, in order to provoke shock and awakening, their forms may be depicted in disturbing, ambiguous, contradictory, and paradoxical ways (Frawley, pp60). Kālī has traditionally been worshipped by low-caste people and criminals in uncivilized and unfrequented places. She was a patron deity of the infamous Thugs and was believed to grant them magical powers. Nevertheless, since Kālī embodies liberation and empowerment and, similar to her predecessor Koṯṯavai, was worshipped. by a vast population in South Asia, it is not surprising that she came under the control of the Brahmanized elites and the British colonial rule. The Goddess was "reconfigured as a danger, chaos, and pollution”; was appropriated,

tamed, domesticated, and sweetened; and her maternal aspects were emphasized. In addition, female shamans and oracles were converted into male religious specialists dressed in goddess attire (Caldwell, “Margins” 254–62). This process led to the transformation of Kālī in Bengal

“from a wild, ferocious deity of death to a benign youthful mother.” In spite of the attempts to tame her, Kālī’s ferocious and independent aspects still persist, even when she is reconfigured as a mother. Like other powerful deities discussed in this book, Kālī is portrayed as independent and childless in the literal sense, but simultaneously she is the great “Mother of the Universe”:

‘O Mother, thou gives birth to and protects the world, and at the time of dissolution dost withdraw to Thyself the earth and all things; therefore, Thou art Brahmā, and the Lord of the three worlds, the Spouse of Śri, and Mahe śa, and all other beings and things. Ah-Me! How, then, shall I praise Thy greatness?’ (Karpūrādi-stotra 12: 78)” (Heather Ash Amara, 2014).

Iconographic representations of Kali and Siva nearly always show Kali as dominant. She is standing or dancing on Siva's body, and even in some writings mentioned, when the two are depicted in sexual intercourse, she is shown above him. Although Siva is said to have tamed Kali in the myth of the dance contest, it seems clear that she was never finally subdued by him and is most popularly represented as a being who is uncontrollable and more apt to provoke Siva to dangerous activity than to be controlled by him. In common, then, we may say that Kali is a goddess who threatens stability and order. Although she may be said to serve the order in her role as the killer of demons, more often than not, she becomes so furious on the battleground, usually becoming drunk on the blood of her preys, that she herself begins to destroy the world that she is thought to defend. Thus even in the service of the gods, she is eventually dangerous and be likely to become out of control. In relationship with other goddesses, she seems to symbolize their embodied wrath and fury, a frightening, dangerous aspect of the divine feminine that is unconfined when these goddesses become furious or are summoned to take part in warfare and killing. In relation to Siva, she seems to play a contradictory role from that of Parvati. Parvati calms Siva, counterbalancing his antisocial or vicious tendencies. It is she who brings Siva within the sphere of domesticity and who, with her soft glances, urges him to moderate the aspects of his tandava. She is at home outside the ethical-moral order and appears to be unrestrained by that order.