The ultimate manifestation of the cosmos the form of Kali represents the fusion of contraries – not just as two co-existents but two essential aspects of the same, those of the goddess herself, as also those of the cosmos that she manifests. Whatever her variedly conceived imagery, incorporating a gesture assuring ‘abhaya’ – fearlessness, or ‘varad’ – accomplishing the ‘desired’, or not, benevolence is essentially the ultimate disposition of her mind; however in contrast, by her very appearance : a naked blood-smeared sword carried in one hand, a decapitated head in the other, and similar objects in the rest, a blood-coated lolling tongue, fearful eyes, not two but also the third – ‘tri-netra’, and dreadful fangs, a naked figure with fully exposed vulva and breasts, both not proportionate to the rest of the body’s anatomy, and her adornment : necklaces, girdles, ear-rings … made from human heads or skulls, severed hands and other body-parts, or corpses, sometimes those of children, she inspires the feeling of awe, and sometimes that of repulsion. Vashishtha Ganapati Muni has rightly called her as ‘mystery of contraries’, darkness that she seems to manifest, the ‘magic of self hidden light’ … and death that she inflicts, the ‘instrument of perpetual life’.
This four-armed figure of the goddess as this miniature represents, dark black with a blood coated lolling tongue, wearing a garland of decapitated human heads, girdle of severed hands, holding in one hand a bleeding and just cut human head, in another, a naked blood-smeared ‘khadga’ – sword with a chopper-like broad blade, and in yet another, large tongs, dreadful serpents coiling around her neck, arms and feet, blood-daubed palms, awful wide open eyes and as awe-inspiring ‘tri-netra’, and locks of hair yielding fearful fire, has been modeled like a normal human female revealing a certain degree of modesty and elegance, and thus, a form close to her Bhadrakali manifestation. Whatever her posture, body-colour, kind of her ornaments, or attributes in hands, her figure reveals feminine grace and beauty and is not as repulsive as Kali images usually are.
The goddess has been conceived with nude figure, breasts and vulva exposed to view but normally modeled : breasts full of milk as meant to sustain life, and vulva, as the tool of procreation, unlike their usual forms in Kali imagery : loosely hung age-worn breasts and vulva, a mass of repulsive wrinkled skin. Though not coiffured, and conceived flames-like, her hair is not disheveled as is usually in most of her images. Decapitated human heads and severed hands manifesting death apart, the figure of the goddess has been conceived as carrying a fully blown lotus, the symbol of life and the micro-miniaturised form of the cosmos acclaiming that she upholds life and all universes. There is all around her figure flames of fire but channeled tubes-like as are energy-circuits, not into the fire that burns and destroys. She stands over the figures of a copulating couple contended to be Shiva and Parvati. Lying over a dual lotus, red petals, symbolic of life, and white, of the formless void, the timelessness of Shiva. To this symbolic thrust of the dually conceived lotus the position of the copulating couple adds further dimension. What the upwards directed male organ creates has an upwards inclining mind.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.