Her gruesome body and lolling tongue stream with blood. Around her neck she wears a garland of skulls. In her four hands she holds a sickle which has freshly severed the head she holds in another hand. We know that the head has been newly decapitated because blood can be seen sprouting from it. The goddess very judiciously collects it in a bowl held in a third hand. The fourth hand makes a gesture which says 'fear Me not.'
Through all the horror shines the beautiful nubile body of a sixteen year old woman at the height of her sexual powers which is absolutely irresistible to enemy, husband, and devotee alike. The Indian tradition views the age of sixteen as the perfect one, when the body of a woman is in full bloom. Indeed all Indian goddesses are thought ideally to be sixteen years old. Here Kali with her slim and lissome limbs projects this very ideal. Something of this, and the ambiguity of her nature that this implies can be seen in the following song by Ramprasad (1718-75):
Look, whose wife is this who dances in so frightful a fashion? Ah, who is this with body like a fresh blue raincloud? Who is she who falls naked into the pool of Siva's heart? Who has created this solitary figure With feet more beautiful than a red lotus - and why is the earth so utterly destroyed? I have this excessive burning desire to hold her with cords of love, So she floats gently on the pool of my heart. Who is she, reproached because her smooth and soft thighs stream with blood, Like angry lightning flashing from a cloud? Her budding breasts thrust firmly upward, and bees drink honey from her mouth. Her charms are displayed like a white lotus rising from dark water, Her sensuous mouth and fluttering tongue have entranced Siva, He seems confused and excited, as if drunk.... Ramprasad says, It's no use fighting with this woman, Under whose feet Siva lies pretending to be dead.
This sculpture comes from Bastar in Chattisgarh, where Ghadva metalsmiths, also known as Ghasias, make images using the cire perdue technique (lost-wax).