Kālī the Terrific and Her Tests

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:
Kālī the Terrific and Her Tests

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This chapter describes the Mahābhāgavata Purāna, a late medieval Śākta text that glorifies the Goddess in her form as Kālī. It shows that the Kālī to emerge from this work is not simply a blood-thirsty, demon-slaying deity but also a magnificent mother, who tests and then lovingly rewards her devotees. It sees in this text an early prototype of what later happens in the eighteenth-century Śākta bhakti poetry of Bengal: the Goddess is sweetened as her rough edges and extremities are increasingly downplayed and muted by devotion, public popularity, and modern sensibilities. The Mahābhāgavata Purāna develops a devotionalism to Kālī centered on Mahādevī, the Great Goddess. Its portrayal of Śiva's relationship with the Goddess and his passage through her test culminates in a myth of origin for the Daksinākālī image, in which Kālī stands on Śiva's chest. The Mahābhāgavata consistently places the Goddess's (various) parents in devotional relationship with her. Prasūti, Satī's mother, passes Kālī's test with flying colors. Daksa fails miserably.

Keywords: Kālī; devotionalism; Śākta; parents; Mahābhāgavata Purāna; tests; mother; bhakti poetry; Bengal; Śiva

Chapter.  10287 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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