By Ajit Mookerjee
Published by Destiny Books, Vermont - 1988
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Kali manifested herself for the annihilation of demonic male power in order to restore peace and equilibrium. For a long time brutal asuric (demonic) forces had been dominating and oppressing the world. Even the powerful gods were helpless and suffered defeat at their hands. They fled pell-mell in utter humiliation, a state hardly fit for the divine. Finally they prayed in desperation to the Daughter of the Himalayas to save gods and men alike. The gods sent forth their energies as streams of fire, and from these energies emerged the Great Goddess Durga.
In the great battle to destroy the most arrogant and truculent man-beasts, the goddess Kali sprang forth from the brow of Durga to join in the fierce fighting. As the ‘forceful’ aspect of Durga, Kali has been dubbed ‘horrific’ or ‘terrible’ in masculine-biased commentaries, without understanding of the episode’s inner meaning. The challenge of Sakti (feminine force) with its vast Sakta literature has not been properly presented to the world from the feminine viewpoint to bring out its truth. Even casual observations on the Durga episode by a woman writer may give a glimpse of a perspective which has been ignored and distorted by an extreme phallic culture.
‘What is there in the story [of Durga] for us?’ writes Leonie Caldecott in The Dance of the Woman Warrior'. ‘Well, to start with, the fact that the gods could not change their situation themselves, and they had to create a goddess , not another god, to do it for them. In a deadlocked situation, the woman is the only moving element . Another thing worth noting is that the dualism gods/anti-gods, good/evil, has a lot to do with the deadlock, a fact which is far from irrelevant to the actual cold wars with which military powers play in the world today. That dualism also makes a point of keeping women in their place, making the female condition the undesirable half of the dualistic equation. The only way Durga can alter the consequences of this division is by employing an adaptability not normally available under the dualistic regime .
‘Durga’s name means “Beyond Reach”. This to me is an echo of the woman warrior’s fierce, virginal autonomy. In fact many of the figures associated with her are officially virgin. This is not meant in the limiting sense understood by the patriarchal order, but rather in Esther Harding's sense: she is “one-in-herself”, or as Nor Hall puts it, “belonging-to-no-man”. More than this, part of the reach she puts herself beyond so adamantly is the reach of society’s attempt to describe her to herself. The more repressive the images available to women, the more the virgin condition becomes a defence against these. In extremis, women will reject womanhood itself, if the condition “unable to move around freely”, both physically and psychically, is seen necessarily to accompany it.’
Few Western scholars have understood the significance of Kali. She was derided by early Western writers and missionaries as the patron-goddess of bandits. Phoolan Devi, a contemporary ‘Bandit Queen’, who suffered rape and humiliation at the hands of the woman-eaters before her violent career was ended, surrendered to the authorities in 1983 beneath a picture of her chosen deity Durga; her younger sister commented that ‘God turns men into saints, but it is men who turn women into dacoits.’
Kali has been worshipped by saints as well as sinners. Her image today is reproduced by the latest electronic gadgets, and adopted in connection with the women’s movement as a symbol to convey their messages. These new appearances in no way diminish the significance of Kali. On the contrary, if we look deeply into the situation we will find we can explain many phenomena in terms of the same human values.
We have suffered the consequences of unbalanced power for long enough. Our world cannot any longer tolerate the disruption and destruction brought about by demonic force. In the present Kali Age, Kali is the answer, and she will have to annihilate again in order to reveal the truth of things, which is her mission, and to restore to our natures that divine feminine spirituality which we have lost.