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K A L I
All the representations of the goddess have in common the following fundamental elements: Shiva's dead body, her glorious attitude, the black color, but they may differ in other details, which underline her specific role in the universe, characteristic to a particular representation.
One representation of Kali reveals her in an imposing attitude, meditating in a state of infinite bliss on Shiva's chest. Another representation is while shooting an arrow, with her right foot bent, on Shiva's chest.
Both figures (Kali and Shiva) are in a cremation place, suggesting that all illusory things are finally reduced to ashes, burnt in the fire of time, or that they return to their primordial essential state.
As usually, Kali's skin is black, the source of all colors. This also indicates the fact that she is associated to the depths of God's mystery.
Nevertheless, she is surrounded by a white hallo, a gentle light whose nature is amrita and that brings peace to the eye. In this representation, Shiva's body indicates the fact that the power of God's consciousness is inherent to the unanimated matter as well.
Kali's mouth is wide open and she pulls her tongue out, symbolizing the mudra of the devouring, or consuming the universe.
However, this terrible and scaring aspect is backed up by a smiling attitude of the goddess, looking upon the being of the universe with kindness and affection, sustaining their life and nourishing them with her immense breasts.
Her ironic laughter is for all those who, due to ignorance for the laws of harmony and balance imagine that they can elude spiritual evolution. The Great Goddess has three all-seeing eyes, "supervising" the universes from the past, present and future.
In her other hand she holds a skull, whose significance id double: on one hand it is the receiver of the universal mysterious teaching, and on the other hand it is a reminder of what endures after the dissolution of the universe.
THROUGH HER INFINITE GRACE, ALL UNIVERSE DISOLVES IN YOU
In another hand, Kali holds a sword (khadga), whose role is to cut all worldly connections and attachments, so that the worshipper is prepared for the ultimate spiritual freedom.
It is also interesting to mention that her hair is long and dishevelled, standing for the power of this great cosmic power's all-pervading grace.
Her benevolence and compassion are underlined by two of her hands that perform the gesture of casting away the fear and that of offering spiritual gifts and powers.
Around her neck there is a necklace made of skulls belonging to various demons and other malefic entities, symbolizing her complete victory over the evil.
Her naked body is splashed with the blood of these entities, and her earrings are in fact two decapitated human bodies. This is Kali's complex representation in her terrible form, known also as Dakshina Kali or Shyamakali.
In the Hindu iconography, Kali appears under a number of other forms, with minor differences as regards the number of the arms, face, of symbolic objects she holds.
Thus, Shamasana Kali, Siddha Kali, Maha Kali, Guhyakali represent just as many aspects of the Goddess, worshipped in different areas of India.
Among these forms, remarkable is the form of Bhadra Kali, described in Tantasara as a hungry deity, ready to devour any illusory aspect of the universe, having three eyes, four hands holding a skull, a drum, an ax and a trident.
A variant of Bhadra Kali is Chamunda Kali, who although pleasant to the eye has terrible teeth and holds a long human bone with a skull at one end, a sword, a chain and a human head. Unlike the other representations of Kali, Chamunda Kali wears a tiger's fur and sits on a body.