Does Kali Really Trample Upon Her Husband Shiva?

Does Kali Really Trample Upon Her Husband Shiva?
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With the blazing fire of the cremation ground rising like a halo behind her, the four-armed Goddess Kali, wearing her hair like a horrendous cape, stands with one leg placed on her husband's Shiva's thighs and the other in the process of crushing his chest. Given the fact that texts abound with stories where Kali is shown to be extremely dedicated to her spouse, the humiliation she imposes upon him is paradoxical to say the least. Numerous 'explanations' have been offered by her devotees. Ramprasad, the prominent Bengali poet, sings for example:

It's not Shiva
at Mother's feet.
Only liars say that.

Markandeya wrote it clearly:
while killing demons,
saving the gods from their fix,
Ma stepped on a demon child
fallen to the ground.

At the touch of Her feet
the demon boy changed;
suddenly he was Shiva
on the battlefield.

As a good wife
would She ever
put Her feet
on Her husband's chest?
No, She wouldn't.
But a servant is different:
Ramprasad pleads:
"place those fear-dispelling feet
on my lotus heart."

The suggestion being that blessed is the worshipper whom the Great Mother deems fit enough to place her feet upon. Some devotees conjecture that Kali thus trampled on her husband in error and therefore lolls out her tongue in shame and repentance. Others like the poet Kamalakanta Bhattacharya take it upon themselves to point out her folly:

Is everything you do misleading?

Look, your beloved has thrown Himself,
under your feet! Mother
I beg you with folded hands:
don't dance on top of Shiva

Kind woman, just this once,
You're the murderer of Your own husband;
You're killing Your lord.
The King of Living Beings
is almost dead.

Mother! The Man you're standing on
is the Three-Eyed One!
Calm down, look at Him;
it's the Naked Lord!

Some others speculate that carried away in the waves of her own wrath, Kali once set out to destroy the world. Nobody dared stop her rampage. However her husband Shiva lay inert in a field, and as soon as Kali, dancing in her fury, stepped over him she realized her folly and calmed down; thus did Shiva save the world from imminent destruction.

Whatever be the reason, it remains a fact that nearly all visual representations of this awesome goddess show her trampling her husband. Here the latter seems to be not the slightly discomfited at his wife's aggression and his own apparent humiliation. In fact, her rather seems to enjoy the proceedings; lying at ease with the right hand supporting his head. His matted coils are held together at the top with a crescent moon and serpent and the tresses neatly fan out at the back, forming comfortable cushion for his repose. His trident stands obliquely in the foreground, encoiled with a snake and the damaru attached at the neck. The sacred water pot (kamandal) also stands in front of the couple. Shiva's body is sturdy and well-formed. Kali is depicted in her traditional iconography with the ubiquitous garland of severed heads and the girdle of human arms. She has conical breasts over which cascade down her numerous necklaces. Three of the hands respectively hold a freshly cut human head a sickle and a bowl of flames. The fourth blesses her devotees.

Of Related Interest:

Books on Kali


The Tantrik Goddess

A Strange and Rare Image of Kali

Kali, The Terrible

Kali and the Fear of Death

Kali and the Arrested Moment

The Triumph of Kali

Worshipping Kali

Rejoicing Kali's Victory

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