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Kali manifests the cult of ferocious Hindu deity, the same as Tara in Buddhism. Kali’s worship extends from a shrine to a cremation ground, a metropolis to a tribal hamlet, a Brahmin's abode to a Shudra's mud-hut, and from a sage's cottage to a dacoit's hideout. Rituals related to worshipping the dark complexioned goddess are secretive and personalized often performed during dark nights, preferably Amavasya, the concluding night of the dark half of the month in murky cells or uninhabited forest, or around a burning pyre in cremation ground.
Unlike her usual form, not merely awesome or horrifying but rather repulsive, lean, aged and haggard looking, ugly fangs, disheveled hair, deep socketed eyes, boisterous laughter and mad dance, besides a bowl full of fresh blood in hand and a blood-smeared lolling tongue defining her form, wearing garlands of skulls, or corpses of children and girdle of severed hands or even heads around the waist standing or sitting on the back of a ghost, feeding on fresh human blood and residing in cremation ground this image of Kali, as this statue represents, is quite elegant abounding in feminine grace and beauty and is least repulsive, ugly or even age-worn. She has neither wrinkled face, fangs, skeleton like weak figure nor loosely hung breasts. Instead of, she has a balanced anatomy with well modeled breasts and a tongue lolling but not smeared with blood. She carries a bowl but not filled with blood, legs not moved to dance, nor fearful laughter bursting from her mouth. Rather, her figure bursts with youthful vigour revealing grace and elegance. This form of the goddess has been classified in texts as Bhadrakali, Kali in her aesthetic, auspicious, blissful and most sublime form.
Largely simplified, the figure of Bhadrakali has been conceived pursuing norms of human anatomy : well-modeled breasts, a well-built body abounding in youthful vigour and womanly grace enshrining her entire figure. She has been cast with ten arms carrying in them on right side disc, suckle, trident, mace and sword, and on the left, conch, bow, arrow and a decapitated human head, bowl and shield.
Unlike the usual technique of appending the extra arms around elbow-joints in this statue her all extra arms have been conceived as emerging from around the shoulders affording to the form of the goddess greater balance and more natural composition. Almost a round face, her figure has been conceived with a broad forehead, ‘tri-netra’ – third eye, large wide open eyes bursting with fiery energy, bold eye-brows, pointed but wide nose, small but heavy lips and well fed cheeks. She has a tall neck with ‘tri-bali’ – three-folds, considered highly beautiful in Indian aesthetic tradition.
The goddess is wearing a tall crown that comprises, besides other features, the forms of a peacock feather and a crescent, one the element of Krishna’s iconography, and other, that of Shiva. On her ears she is putting on ‘kundalas’ – ear-ornaments, the element of Vishnu’s icons. Though not as long as in most of her representations, the goddess has been conceived with beautiful hair thickly laid over her shoulders. The statue is a rare example of reconciling the two ever conflicting elements – awe and beauty. The sole ensemble of the goddess are her ornaments that grace her figure, the breast and neck ornaments, besides the large garland of skulls, covering her breasts. Similarly her girdle, or waist-ornament, consisting of decapitated human heads, a large garland of skulls and as large a laced garland consisting of ‘phalis’ – lotus-petal pendants, drape her figure below the waist. Besides, her figure has been adorned with a wide range of necklaces and rings around the ankles and wrists.
The wide spread Kali-cult contends that Kali with her immense energy overpowers Shiva and this same appropriately reflects in this manifestations that represents her as standing upon Shiva, an humble two-armed form carrying in the visible one his ‘damaru’ – double drum. He does not have any of his other attributes. ‘Damaru’ is his means of creation which he effects after dissolution has taken place. Under Shakta cult it is through Kali that Shiva effects dissolution, and after dissolution has taken place Shiva begins the process of Creation. Metaphysically, Shiva pervades the cosmos, and Kali pervades Shiva, she hence pervades the cosmos and is the supreme divinity. The statue has been installed on an oval pedestal consisting of a series of mouldings, the main being lotus moulding.
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.