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Her Many Forms

Kali is usually considered to be an aspect of Parvati, the wife of Shiva. (Parvati is also sometimes known as Uma.) Another aspect of Parvati is Durga, the ten-armed demon-slaying goddess celebrated in September-October during Durga Puja, the largest religious festival in Bengal.

Ma Kali, as devotees affectionately call her ("Mother Kali") is known to take on many different forms or moods, some related to particular places, miracles, or incidents (comparable to the many manifestations of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of the Springs, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc.). Kali's forms range from the benign protectress to the terrifying demon-slayer. Even robbers who waited in the forests of Bengal to ambush travelers used to worship their very own form of Kali: Dakait Kali.

Her Symbolism

In spite of the variety of forms She takes, Kali can always be recognized by certain characteristics. Her long hair flies about wildly (unlike the meticulously plaited hair of a modest Hindu woman), indicating Her infinite freedom. She is usually depicted standing on the prone body of Shiva, with Her tongue out. In contrast to Shiva's pure white complexion (He is smeared with ashes in the tradition of a sannyasin), Kali is the deep black of a limitless Void that has the power to swallow up everything. Her name comes from the Sanskrit word kala, "time"; she is the power of time, which devours all.

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