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Kali

KALI (black), or Kali Ma (the Black Mother), in Hindu mythology, the goddess of destruction and death, the wife of Siva. According to one theory, Calcutta owes its name to her, being originally Kalighat, " Kali's landing-place." Siva's consort has many names (e.g. Durga, Bhawani, Parvati, etc.). Her idol is black, with four arms, and red palms to the hands. Her eyes are red, and her face and breasts are besmeared with blood. Her hair is matted, and she has projecting fang-like teeth, between which protrudes a tongue dripping with blood. She wears a necklace of skulls, her earrings are dead bodies, and she is girded with serpents. She stands on the body of Siva, to account for which attitude there is an elaborate legend. She is more worshipped in Gondwana and the forest tracts to the east and south of it than in any other part of India. Formerly human sacrifice was the essential of her ritual. The victim, always a male, was taken to her temple after sunset and imprisoned there. When morning came he was dead: the priests told the people that Kali had sucked his blood in the night. At Dantewara in Bastar there is a famous shrine of Kali under the name of Danteswari. Here many a human head has been presented on her altar. About 1830 it is said that upwards of twenty-five full-grown men were immolated at once by the raja. Cutting their flesh and burning portions of their body were among the acts of devotion of her worshippers. Kali is goddess of small-pox and cholera. The Thugs murdered their victims in her honour, and to her the sacred pickaxe, wherewith their graves were dug, was consecrated.

The Hook-swinging Festival (Churruk or Churuck Puja), one of the most notable celebrations in honour of the goddess Kali, has now been prohibited in British territory. Those who had vowed themselves to self-torture submitted to be swung in the air supported only by hooks passed through the muscles over the blade-bones. These hooks were hung from a long crossbeam, which see-sawed upon a huge upright pole. Hoisted into the air by men pulling down the other end of the see-saw beam, the victim was then whirled round in a circle. The torture u sually lasted fifteen or twenty minutes.

See A. A. Macdonell, Vedic Mythology (Strassburg, 1897).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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