Indian Mythology

Devi: The Great Goddess

Who is Kali?

Kali is “the black one,” the dark aspect of Mahadevi, the anger of Shiva’s wife, Pārvatī. Kali thirsts for both wine and the blood of animal sacrifices. She dances wildly on the body of her husband, the apparently dead Shiva, who is nevertheless depicted in union with her.

Kali is the feminine form of the Sanskrit kala, meaning “time,” the inevitable devouring principle that consumes all things. Whereas Shiva’s dance is eternal cosmic time, Kali’s dance on Shiva is earthly time, which ends in death. Kali has bloody fangs and sometimes wears human heads around her head as a necklace. As a devourer, Kali is a logical wife, or Shakti, for Shiva the destroyer. Shiva’s sexual contact with her suggests fertility and perhaps the idea that death is a necessary part of the cycle of life.


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