A popular time to worship Goddess Kali is the new moon night falling on October/ November. Celebrated as Kali Puja in West Bengal, especially in Kolkata, the day is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali, the first of the ten incarnations of Goddess Durga. The name originates from Sanskrit- Kala- meaning black and death.
Hence, worshiped as the Goddess who destroys all the evil and brings hope and light into the world. The day coincides with the celebration of Diwali- a similar fest to honor the triumph of good over evil. While Bengal worships Goddess Kali to drive out the evil forces and spirits, the rest of India offer their prayers to Goddess Lakshmi to welcome wealth, health and prosperity into their homes. Also known as the Shyama Puja or Tantrik Kali Puja, the occasion is celebrated in North India with much pomp and decor and preparations will be in full swing a week before.
Legend has it that the gods in heaven and their pujas were constantly being interrupted by the demons- asuras who are engaged in disturbing the authentic ambience of the heavenly abode and attacking the gods. Despite many battles, the demons had their way and remained the supreme power. Abandoning their heavenly abode, the gods went to seek refuge in the Himalayas, the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Taking pity on their pleas and cries, a unique and enraged Goddess Kali, along with her escorts set forth to destroy the evil prevailing in the world. She killed and beheaded every demon she came across and also made a garland of the demon’s heads and wore it around her neck. The common image of Goddess Kali can be seen with the goddess having a garland of heads around her neck, a ferocious and terror filled sight. Though Kali succeeded in her mission to rescue heaven and Earth from the clutches of the demons, the rage in her did not subside and in the bloodbath she killed anyone who came in her way. To stop this turmoil, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. As soon as Kali stepped on Shiva, she was rid of her rage and came back to her senses. Kali stuck out her tongue in shock and put an end to the mass destruction. Hence, the image of Kali ever since can be seen as the goddess standing with one foot on Shiva’s chest with her tongue stuck out- an image powerful enough to scare anyone.
The Goddess is depicted with four arms- one holding a weapon, one holding the blood dripping head of the demons and the other two hands raised to bless the worshippers. This incarnation of the Goddess is worshipped by all as she is the destroyer of all evil and also an eternal mother with immense care to take care of her children and protect from evil. The rituals of the puja are performed after dusk with a life size sculpture of the goddess adorned with garlands and flowers in full glory.
The puja is celebrated in a grand manner in the state of West Bengal and prayers are offered with great devotion. The major practise during the ritual is the sacrificial killings. Mantras and tantriks will be echoing throughout the night and the final battle of overpowering evil and goddess regaining her senses occur exactly at midnight. Synonymous with Diwali, the main theme is same of good over evil with the Kali Puja celebrated to honour this victory.