Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal

in Encountering Kālī

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780520232396
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928176 | DOI:

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This chapter, a reprint of the chapter on Kālī in David Kinsley's book Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, provides an introduction to Kālī's basic story for those who are unfamiliar with it. It surveys Kālī's Sanskrit and Bengali textual history, proposes likely reasons for her growing importance in Tantra during the medieval period and in devotionalism in late eighteenth-century Bengal, and concludes by explicating her theological significance as a symbol of unconventionality, death, and the possibility of spiritual awakening. Iconographic representations of Kālī and Śiva nearly always show Kālī as dominant. She is usually standing or dancing on Śiva's prone body, and when the two are depicted in sexual intercourse, she is shown above him. Kālī occupies a central position in Hindu piety and is of central importance in Tantrism, particularly left-handed Tantrism, and in Bengali Śākta devotionalism.

Keywords: Kālī; Śiva; piety; Tantra; devotionalism; Bengal; unconventionality; death; spiritual awakening; Tantrism

Chapter.  7294 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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