“Kali”

Misericordia University


“Kali” Painting
Kali has many aspects to look at as a whole. Some of these aspects are very grotesque and somewhat disturbing to look at such as the blood and skulls that are strewn throughout the painting. There is also a beautiful factor of the painting and that comes with the symbolism behind the different aspects of the goddess Kali. All which appear to perfectly balance each other within its symbolism. The technical aspects of the painting also appear to be more complicated than they do at first site.

The Story
A portion of what makes this painting grotesque is the back story of the goddess Kali. To aid her son in his endeavor to rid the three worlds of the multiplying demon, Raktabija, Parvati entered the cosmic battlefield as the dreaded goddess Kali - dark as death, gaunt with sunken eyes, gaping mouth, with long disheveled hair covering her naked body.
Kali spread her tongue over the battlefield and licked the demon's falling blood, catching it on her long, outstretched tongue before any drop could find its way to the ground springing a demonic life again. Raktabija, without being able multiply his numbers by the blood was left powerless. Skanda was able to destroy Raktabija and all his remaining spawn with little difficulty.
Skanda thanked his mother for her timely help. To celebrate her victory, Kali danced wildly on the battlefield, bedecking herself with a garland of served heads and a girdle of severed hands.

Shiva Calms Kali
Intoxicated with Raktabija's blood, Kali ran across the three worlds, destroying everything and everyone in her sight.
To restrain her, Shiva took the form of a corpse and blocked her path. As the goddess, blinded by bloodlust, she tripped on his lifeless body and was jolted out of her frenzy. She wondered if she had killed her own husband. She placed a foot on Shiva's chest and brought him back to life.
Shiva then took the form of a little child and began to cry, stirring maternal love in the heart of Kali. This forced her to shed her fierce form; Kali became Gauri, the radiant mother, bestower of life.
The Grotesque

The grotesque identifies a class of imagery that has never fit comfortably within the normal boundaries of society and is a questionable term from the start as it is different and has different levels based on one’s perspective (Connelly, 2003). Kali appears to be a deformed human with a human like body but numerous arms that each holding some sort of grotesque object. In one arm she is holding a sword and in another is the head of a demon that she has slain. Blood covers most of Kali’s face and chest as she stands on the chest of her husband Shiva, blood drips from many of the severed head and hands that adorn the body in the painting and it also shows the dripping of blood from Kali’s mouth down her chest and eventually down her legs but never touching the ground. The remaining arms are outstretched to her worshippers and again have pools of blood in them. All these aspects are outside the normal boundaries that western society deems acceptable (Connelly, 2003). Kali is an abomination that fits into no normal or established reality. She had numerous accessories to her wardrobe that are decapitated and decomposing heads and limbs all which are grotesque in nature.


Beauty in the Grotesque
Thus far the painting portrays only the grotesque as we perceive it. There is however, a beautiful aspect of the paintings found behind the symbolism of the disturbing image. The painting shows the goddess Kali as being naked or void of clothing. Many would find the very aspect of nudism as being disturbing but the symbolism behind it is that she is void of clothing just like she is void of illusionary coverings The fifty heads that make up the garland seem once again very disturbing however the heads merely stand for the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet which in turn symbolize infinite knowledge which isn’t nearly as disturbing as it could be if it symbolized something to the extent of fifty heads of battle. It also, knowing some of the background of the goddess, could possibly stand for liberating the spirit for the flesh, since it