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The Kali Pooja in Bengal

In West Bengal, the Kali pooja coincides with Diwali. Read about the legend behind these celebrations.

The Kali pooja is a major celebration in West Bengal. This pooja is performed in the Hindu month of Kartik, on Amavasya, or the new moon night. This day coincides with one of the five days of Diwali. Ego and a negative outlook tend to hamper one's ability to achieve spiritual fulfilment and material prosperity. The Kali pooja is performed to rid oneself of these obstacles.

Goddess Kali

According to Hindu mythology, the goddess Durga has ten incarnations of which the goddess Kali is the first one. Her name is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Kal', which means time. She is considered to be the aggressive or fearful form of the goddess Durga. She is said to champion the cause of justice and is revered as the destroyer of evil. She is known by many names such as Shyama, Adya Ma, Dakshina Kalika, Tara Ma, Chamundi, Bhadrakali, and Shyamakali. Worshipping the goddess became popular due to a text called Devi Mahatmya, written in the fifth century AD.

Legend behind the Kali Pooja

In the past, the demons Shumbh and Nishumbh attacked all the gods in their heavenly abode. The demons even went as far as to attack Indra, the king of the gods. A large number of battles were fought but ultimately, the demons reigned supreme. They had grown so powerful that the gods were forced to abandon their heavenly abode and seek refuge in the Himalayas. This was the residence of Lord Shiv, and his wife Parvati.

While in the Himalayas, the gods beseeched the goddess Durga to help them. In answer to their prayers, a new goddess emerged from the forehead of goddess Durga. This was the goddess Kali or Kal Bhoi Nashini. She had two escorts, named as Dakini and Jogini. Accompanied by her escorts, the goddess set off to destroy the demons and rescue the heavens and the earth from their clutches.

The battle was long and hard. Finally, the goddess managed to destroy all the demons. She fashioned a garland out of the slain demon's heads and placed it around her neck. However, even after the demons were killed, goddess Kali was lost in the bloodlust. In her fury she began to go on a rampage and kill every living being she came across.

The gods were now in a quandary. Although Kali had destroyed their enemies, they themselves could not return to their homes. They were terrified that she would attack them as well. To counter the bloodlust within his consort, Lord Shiv devised a plan. He lay down before her. When she unknowingly stepped on him in the heat of the moment, she came to her senses and repented for her transgression. It is to celebrate this occasion that the Kali pooja is performed.

Kali Pooja Celebrations

The Kali pooja is one of the biggest celebrations in West Bengal. Since the goddess plays the role of the destroyer, she is asked to destroy the evil that resides within an individual as well as the evil outside which he is exposed to. She is asked to provide protection from disasters like war, flood, and drought. Praying to her is also believed to bring a devotee good health, wealth, peace and happiness.

Preparations for the Kali pooja are similar to those for the Lakshmi pooja of Diwali. Houses are decorated lavishly. A rangoli is drawn at the entrance of the house, in order to welcome the goddess. Before the pooja begins, earthen lamps are lit in her honour. Pictures or idols of the goddess always depict her with her tongue hanging out. This is to show her astonishment and repentance when she stepped on Lord Shiv.

The Kali pooja is said to be one of the symbols of great power. This pooja is always performed in the evening. Due to its perception as being a source of power, many sadhus (holy men) perform this pooja just before midnight. This is to ask the goddess for supernatural powers so that they might be able to help humanity.

Is Kali pooja performed in your home? Have you ever witnessed the Kali pooja celebrations in West Bengal? Did you know about the significance of this event? To share your tips, views, and experiences, click here.

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