Shiva and Parvati: the Birth of Kali

I have across a fascinating version of the birth of goddess Kali. In this myth she came to the world as a result of Parvati’s anger, which she shed and transformed during her spiritual practice.

Lake Manasarovar at the foot of Mount Kailash where a yogi receives the Ganges from Shiva, Cleveland Museum of Art

After Parvati married Shiva, she moved with him to the icy caves of the Himalayas to pursue the life of asceticism. They lived on the mountain Kailasa close to the lake Manasarovar (lake of the mind):

“If Shiva’s principal function was destruction, hers was preservation and reconstruction, thus offsetting his violence. She had a calming, civilizing influence on Shiva. Under the soothing effect of her charming presence, he changed his wild, rude, and often mad behavior.

Many comparisons are given in the Puranas to show this interdependence. Shiva is the sky and Parvati the earth; Shiva is the ocean and Parvati the shore; Shiva is the sun and Parvati the light. Parvati is all qualities, and Shiva the enjoyer of all qualities. Parvati is the embodiment of all souls, and Shiva the supreme soul itself. Parvati is all forms, and Shiva the thinker of the forms. Parvati is speech and Shiva meaning.

The representation of the lingam and yoni also points to an aspect of this interdependence. As a great yogi, Shiva accumulates great sexual potency that must be released in creation so that it will not be utilized for destruction. … Shiva is the figure for moksha or liberation and Parvati for dharma or righteous living in the world.

One day Shiva teased Parvati about her dark color. In a fit of temper she went to the forest and started tapas in order to change her color. Seeing her intense austerities, Brahma came to her and asked her to take another form and rid the world of the two demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, who had been reincarnated and were terrorizing the world.

Acceding to this request, the goddess Parvati shed her dark skin and became fair in color. In this form she came to be known as Gauri, the radiant one, the shining one, the fair one. Her dark outer skin took the form of Kaali, the virgin goddess, with the luster of a black rain cloud. Kaali held the conch and discus of Vishnu as well as the trident of Shiva, for she had the strength of both. Gauri told her to go with Brahma to slay the demons.”

From Vanamali, “Shakti: Realm of the Divine Mother”

Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Kalkota

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