Kali makes her 'official' debut in the Devi-Mahatmya, where she is said to have emanated from the brow of Goddess Durga (slayer of demons) during one of the battles between the divine and anti-divine forces.
In many instances she is described as garbed in space or sky clad. In her absolute, primordial nakedness she is free from all covering of illusion. She is Nature (Prakriti in Sanskrit), stripped of 'clothes'. It symbolizes that she is completely beyond name and form, completely beyond the illusory effects of maya (false consciousness). Her nudity is said to represent totally illumined consciousness, unaffected by maya. Kali is the bright fire of truth, which cannot be hidden by the clothes of ignorance. Such truth simply burns them away.
The image of a recumbent Shiva lying under the feet of Kali represents Shiva as the passive potential of creation and Kali as his Shakti. The generic term Shakti denotes the Universal feminine creative principle and the energizing force behind all male divinity including Shiva. Shakti is known by the general name Devi, from the root 'div', meaning to shine. She is the Shining One, who is given different names in different places and in different appearances, as the symbol of the life-giving powers of the Universe. It is she that powers him. This Shakti is expressed as the i in Shiva's name. Without this i, Shiva becomes Shva, which in Sanskrit means a corpse. Thus suggesting that without his Shakti, Shiva is powerless or inert.
Kali's human and maternal qualities continue to define the goddess for most of her devotees to this day. In human relationships, the love between mother and child is usually considered the purest and strongest. In the same way, the love between the Mother Goddess and her human children is considered the closest and tenderest relationship with divinity. Accordingly, Kali's devotees form a particularly intimate and loving bond with her. But the devotee never forgets Kali's demonic, frightening aspects. He does not distort Kali's nature and the truths she reveals; he does not refuse to meditate on her terrifying features. He mentions these repeatedly in his songs but is never put off or repelled by them. Kali may be frightening, the mad, forgetful mistress of a world spinning out of control, but she is, after all, the Mother of all. As such, she must be accepted by her children- accepted in wonder and awe, perhaps, but accepted nevertheless. The poet in an intimate and lighter tone addresses the Mother thus:
O Kali! Why dost Thou roam about nude?
Art Thou not ashamed, Mother!
Garb and ornaments Thou hast none;
yet Thou Pridest in being King's daughter.
O Mother! Is it a virtue of Thy family that Thou
Placest thy feet on Thy husband?
Thou art nude; Thy husband is nude; you both roam cremation grounds.
O Mother! We are all ashamed of you; do put on thy garb.
Thou hast cast away Thy necklace of jewels, Mother,
And worn a garland of human heads.
Prasada says, "Mother! Thy fierce beauty has frightened
Thy nude consort.
The soul that worships becomes always a little child: the soul that becomes a child finds God oftenest as mother. In a meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, some pen has written the exquisite assurance: "My child, you need not know much in order to please Me. Only Love Me dearly. Speak to me, as you would talk to your mother, if she had taken you in her arms."
Kali's boon is won when man confronts or accepts her and the realities she dramatically conveys to him. The image of Kali, in a variety of ways, teaches man that pain, sorrow, decay, death, and destruction are not to be overcome or conquered by denying them or explaining them away. Pain and sorrow are woven into the texture of man's life so thoroughly that to deny them is ultimately futile. For man to realize the fullness of his being, for man to exploit his potential as a human being, he must finally accept this dimension of existence. Kali's boon is freedom, the freedom of the child to revel in the moment, and it is won only after confrontation or acceptance of death. To ignore death, to pretend that one is physically immortal, to pretend that one's ego is the center of things, is to provoke Kali's mocking laughter. To confront or accept death, on the contrary, is to realize a mode of being that can delight and revel in the play of the gods. To accept one's mortality is to be able to let go, to be able to sing, dance, and shout. Kali is Mother to her devotees not because she protects them from the way things really are but because she reveals to them their mortality and thus releases them to act fully and freely, releases them from the incredible, binding web of "adult" pretence, practicality, and rationality.
This is a batik painting. Batik is a medium that lies somewhere between art and craft, and is believed to be at least 2000 years old.
The technique of batik is a demanding one. In general, the final design must be conceived before the picture is begun. The batik artist works intimately with color; if he wishes parts of his design to be light yellow, for example, all these parts must be waxed at the same time before any subsequent dyeing. He cannot isolate one part of his design and complete it before moving on to the others as an artist in oils or watercolor may. He must create his design in stages, each of which encompasses the whole picture.
The basic process of batik is simple. It consists of permeating an area of fabric with hot wax so that the wax resists the penetration of dye.
If the cloth we begin with is white, such as bleached cotton, linen, or silk, then wherever we apply hot wax that area will remain white in the final design. After the first waxing the fabric is dipped into a dye bath whose color is the lightest tone of those to be used. When the piece has dried, we see an area of white and an area of cloth that is the color of the first dyeing. Wax is now applied to those parts in which we wish to retain the first color, and the entire fabric is immersed in the second dye bath whose color is darker in tone than the first. This process is repeated until the darkest tone required in the final design has been achieved. When the fabric, now almost wholly waxed, has dried it is placed between sheets of absorbent paper and a hot iron applied. As the sheets of paper absorb the wax they are replaced by fresh sheets until the wax is removed. At this point the final design is seen clearly for the first time.
As with painting, color is an integral part of batik. A painter uses pigment; a batik artist uses dyes. The Painter can, if he chooses, completely obliterate an undesirable color by covering it with another color. Perhaps he must wait until the unwanted color is dry, but there is no doubt about it, he has another chance, he can cover up his mistake.
In batik the correction of mistakes, in most cases, is impossible. The Painter is not limited in any way in the variety of colors he uses and juxtaposes. In batik, however, each color used is significantly changed by the proceeding color; or at least it is certainly affected by the color "underneath". The only pure color is the first one, so all other colors used are mixtures, determined largely by the first color, or the first strong color.
Of Related Interest:
Kali The Mother (Book)
Kali (Silver Pendant)
Kali in the Birth-Giving Posture (Miniature Painting on Paper)
Goddess Kali (Folk Painting from Orissa)
Kali the Terrible (Folk Painting from Bihar)
The Goddess Kali (Batik Painting On Cotton)
Jai Mata Di (Prayer Shawl)