O Kali, my mother full of bliss! Enchantress of the almighty Shiva! In Thy delirious joy Thou dances, clapping Thy hands together! Thou art the Mover of all that move, and we are but Thy helpless toys. -- Ramakrishna Paramhans
Kali is one of the most well-known and worshipped Hindu Goddesses. The name Kali is derived from the Hindu word that means "time", and that also means "black". Kali in Hinduism, is a manifestation of the Divine Mother, which represents the female principle. Frequently, those not comprehending her many roles in life call Kali the goddess of destruction. She destroys only to recreate, and what she destroys is sin, ignorance and decay. She is equated with the eternal night, is the transcendent power of time, and is the consort of the god Shiva. It is believed that its Shiva who destroys the world, and Kali is the power or energy with which Shiva acts. Therefore, Kali is Shiva's Shakti, without which Shiva could not act. Kali receives her name because she devours kala (time) and then resumes her own dark formlessness. This transformative effect can be metaphorically illustrated in the West as a black hole in space. Kali as such is pure and primary reality (the "enfolded order" in modern physics); formless void yet full of potential. The Matsyapurana states that Kali began as a tribal Goddess of the high mountain region of Mount Kalanjara, which is in north-central India and east of the Indus Valley. However, because of the relatively recent origin of the Matsyapurana we cannot be certain when or where the worship of Kali actually began. We do know however, that she was mentioned in the Upanishads, which were written a thousand years before the Matsyapurana. In the Vedas the name is associated with fire god Agni, the god of fire, who had seven flickering tongues of flame, of which Kali was the black, horrible tongue. One shouldn't jump to the conclusion that Kali represents only the destructive aspect of God's power. What exists when time is transcended, the eternal night of limitless peace and joy, is also called Kali (Maharatri). And it is she who prods Shiva Mahadeva into the next cycle of creation. In short, she is the power of God in all His aspects. A very apt and poetic description of the Great Mother Kali has been given by Pirsig, who wrote, "Kali, the Divine Mother, is the symbol for the infinite diversity of experience."