The word 'Kali' in Sanskrit means black, the color which devours all colors. It is also an extension of 'kala' which means time, the eventual devourer of all manifested existence. Kali is thus the annihilator of all. But, it must be stressed, this destruction is in tune with the rhythms of nature, as necessary to the dynamic cosmos as creation.
To fulfill her destructive purpose she carries on her self various weapons. Here two hands of the four-armed goddess are armed with a deadly sword and sacred trident respectively. The two left hands hold a severed head and cranial bowl of flames. The flames symbolize the cremation fire, which is the but the sacrificial fire that demands the ultimate sacrifice, namely that of our own mortal bodies. The gruesome decapitated head is of course a pointer to the fearsome nature of Kali.
Lithely astride the chest of her husband Shiva, Kali strikes a remarkable pose. Her entire being reverberates with a triumphal poise. The necklace of skulls adorning her upper body accentuates her naturally full feminine form, while the girdle made up of human hands is her only lower garment.
It is intriguing why Kali steps on her own, loving husband. It is believed that she once got so carried away in her own dance of destruction that the resulting havoc threatened to destroy the entire world. Nobody was able to calm her, not the gods, not the mortals, nor the demons. The baton was then passed to Shiva, who commanded her affections. Observing that she was blinded in her own dance of fury, not taking notice where she placed her destructive step, Shiva lay down in the field of her dance, which is but the entire universe. In a following moment, she stepped on the chest of her husband. Though she realized her folly in a split second, the deed had passed. Kali froze in an arrested moment of her dance, displaying a stilled gesture of her rhythmic movements, and lolled out her tongue in shame, at the realization of her gaffe.