The Legend Of Maa Kali
Kali puja is probably the most celebrated festival in West Bengal, after Durga puja. It coincides with Diwali, and is celebrated on Amavasya, or the moonless night.
As per mythology, of all the ten reincarnations of Durga, Goddess Kali was the first. In this form, she is depicted as terrifying and fierce. She is shown to have one foot on her husband, Lord Shiva’s chest, with a sword in one hand and a severed head in the other, wearing a garland made of skulls.
It is believed that long ago, there used to be two demons that went by the name of Shumbha and Nishumbha. They were very powerful and their tyranny was getting intolerable. One day, they posed a challenge to Lord Indra. The Gods all rushed to Maa Durga for help and it is at this time that her avatar of Maa Kali was born.
Maa Kali went on a rampage and started destroying the demons. Once she was done slaughtering them, she made a garland out of their heads and wore it around her neck. By now, she had lost control and it was a proper bloodbath. There was no stopping her and the only person who could stop her, was summoned. Lord Shiva came to calm his wife, but couldn’t. Out of desperation, he threw himself under her feet. This stopped her with a shock and the realization that she is stepping on her husband, made her stick her tongue out in surprise.
This explains her posture and expression in all her idols and photographs.
Like Diwali, Kali puja too is about lights. Houses are cleaned and decorated. There are lights everywhere. The famous Kali temples like Tarapith, Kalighat and Dakshineshwar are thronged by devotees of the goddess. Kali puja is an elaborate procedure and is carried out late in the night. Special bhog is prepared for the Goddess and all devotees known are invited to attend the puja and have a share of the bhog. I must add here that the bhog is to die for, so I suggest you don’t skip it! From the goddess, we seek peace, protection and happiness, and celebrating her is done on a large scale, like everything else Bengalis do.
Kali puja is not just celebrated in West Bengal but practically in every corner of the world where Bengalis are. While the puja is given a lot of attention, people also indulge in bursting crackers. Needless to say, new clothes are also worn. Few other names by which Maa Kali is known are Maha Kali, Bhadra kali (a gentle form), Adya Ma, Tara Ma, Chamunda, Maha Kali, Shyama Kali, and Dakshina Kalika.
This year, Kali puja will be celebrated on the night of November 10.