Kali Puja 2023
Kali Puja takes place between October and November during the new moon of the Hindu month of Kartik. This year, it takes place on November 12. It’s a day dedicated to Kali — the goddess of life, death, and transcendence. As goddesses go, Kali is one of the most fascinating in Hindu mythology. The scriptures describe her as a dark woman with four arms - one hand yielding a sword and the other with the head of a slain demon. Kali wears a necklace of skulls. She stands menacingly with her tongue protruding from her mouth.
In some areas, she retains the status of a tribal goddess protecting people and specific regions. To others, she’s the mother of universal strength or represents divine fury. Regardless of multiple depictions, Kali’s many forms indicate her transformative power. Goddess Kali finds a special place in the hearts of the Bengalis, Assamese, and Odia in India. Kali Puja is their version of Diwali, traditionally the more Pan-Indian festival.
Harold E Winkler Middle School
Saturday November 11th 2023
3:00 pm - 11:00 pm
History of Kali Puja
While the rest of India celebrates Diwali and Laxmi Puja, the state of West Bengal does things differently. You’ll uncover different rituals, customs, and foods. And unlike the rest of the country, worship (puja) in West Bengal involves the fierce goddess, Kali. Kali symbolizes divine energy or shakti. She destroys evil within the world and outside it — the universe owes its redemption to her. Kali (also called Kalika) is the first among 10 indomitable goddesses or the Dasa Mahavidyas of Hindu mythology.
Her name also means time, death, and darkness. If one looks at statues depicting her likeness, it’s easy to see why. Kali wears a garland containing the heads of decapitated demons with one foot on Lord Shiva’s chest. It’s an awe-inspiring, terrifying sight and a story with great mythological significance.
Legends say that two demons (Nishambhu and Shambu) once roamed the heavens, creating chaos and destruction in the realm of Indra (the King of Gods.) The demons became powerful, forcing the Gods to take refuge in the Himalayas, where they sought guidance from Goddess Durga. To restore balance, Kali was born out of Durga’s forehead.
Kali embarked on a quest to destroy the demons. She killed them and made a garland of their heads to wear around her neck. But power and rage overwhelmed Kali. She went on a rampage, slaughtering everyone in her path. Lord Shiva decided to intervene, but a rage-fuelled Kali stepped on Shiva unknowingly. She finally realized what she had done. When you look at popular depictions of the goddess Kali, artists and sculptors immortalize this moment in mythology.
The legend has been around since the dawn of time. The festival, not so much. Kali Puja celebrations gained popularity in West Bengal as recently as the 19th century. King Krishnachandra of Navadvipa spearheaded the movement, along with wealthy landowners in Bengal. Although ordinary folk went along with it initially to avoid the king’s wrath, the practice slowly became a tradition. Today, Kali Puja and Durga Puja are synonymous with life and culture in Bengal. People pay tribute at various Kali temples and shrines. Some embark on long pilgrimages for her. Celebrations each year are grand and only get bigger.