Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Angry Goddess who we love, unabashedly.


Dark, unclad, red-eyed and undomesticated. Wild and sovereign, magnificent beyond all possible definitions. Immeasurably beautiful and terrifying beyond comprehension. The figure that evokes fear, confusion and even repulsion in the uninitiated, is the same form that evokes love that knows no depths in the hearts of the faithful who behold Her as the Eternal Mother.

Image depicting Mother Kali of Kalighat temple, Kolkata.
I was inducted into Kali worship at a tender age, when I was taken to a humble, unassuming shrine in Theni, housing a 3 foot high figurine of the female deity identified as Veeramaakali Amman (Veera - Valour; Maa - Great; Kali Amman - Mother Kali : adds up to 'Mother Kali of Great Valour'); my maternal grandmother (Ammachi, as we say in Tamil), said : "They call Her the powerful, angry Goddess; but you should regard Her as your own Mother, fearing Her only when you go wrong."
As it is, I developed a genuine affection for the Angry Goddess, who, by my mother's own definition, never ever judged or abandoned people who loved Her. 

Thus I grew up nurturing love for the form of the Divine Feminine, referred to by theoretical objectivists as 'a shockingly unconventional and unruly goddess who revels in power, destruction and bloodlust'. Too narrow a description, She might say in good jest. 

I devoured stories that spoke of Her, particularly, the earthy, folksy versions. I came across several folktales that speak of Her immense sense of humor - legend has it that Tenali Rama, the wise jester who adorned the royal court of the great king Shri Krishnadevaraya, was himself a great devotee of Mother Kali; The royal jester was rewarded with many boons, including his characteristic presence of mind, for his sense of humor that amused the Mother. 

Also, there remain several stories where She is manifest as the bestower of knowledge, literary prowess and esoteric wisdom; Kavi Kalidasa, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda and (the sadly under-recognized) Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathi were all devotees of the Mother and attributed their collective wisdom to Her Divine Grace. Mahakavi Bharathi's work of poetry titled 'Kaali paatu' (காளிப் பாட்டு) or the Song of Kali, is an exemplary piece of work that depicts his boundless devotion to Kali and his poetic genius.

And of course, Kali has always been the patron deity of battlefields, valour, power and victory. The iconic Mahabharata and the Ramayana have several instances where She was worshipped on the precincts of a raging battle. Some folktales identify Lord Krishna and/or Draupadi with Kali.

BhadraKali in all magnificence as seen at
 Meenakshi Amman Temple,  Madurai.
Delving into Tamil literature, one comes across Kottravai, the primordial Mother Goddess of the ancient Tamils. She was revered as the Supreme Godhead, as the Goddess of War and Victory and the embodiment of Nature - one might as well interpret that Kottravai could have been Kali by another name.

Ancient Sangam literature draws references to the Goddess as one who is seen wandering on the battlefield as the very embodiment of rage (Kalingathuparani). Often, the valour of the brave warriors and the rage they poured out were attributed/compared to that of Kottravai Herself (Sirupānātruppadai). The ancient epics of Silappadikaram and Manimekalai are, again, treasure troves of information on Kotravai/Kali worship. True, human sacrifices had been in vogue and it is noteworthy that most of them were cases of self-sacrifices, as in the story of Aravan (of Mahabharata). Kali/ Kotravai worship, despite the bloodshed involved, seems to have flourished from times immemorial.

With evolving times, human sacrifice gave way to animal sacrifice and the latter was sufficiently abolished in several parts of the country, save temples like that of the legendarily powerful and mysterious Kamakhya. Perhaps, as popularly established, the Divine would accept any offering 'offered with love by the devotee in pure consciousness'. For where the human mind is limited by judgement, the Divine exceeds all boundaries and definitions.

One might delve even deeper to realize that we are all but instruments of Her Divine play and what we do to please Her, may not be attributed to our mortal selves, but always to Her Divine Will; where it is only by Her Divine Grace that we might even choose to think of Her.

"யாதுமாகி நின்றாய் காளி! - எங்கும் நீ நிறைந்தாய்;
தீது நன்மை யெல்லாம் - காளி! - ,தெய்வ லீலை யன்றோ." 

(Mother Kali, it is You who pervades the Universe. You are what is manifest in all objects and beings. Be it good, be it evil, all actions are always attributed to nothing but Your Divine Play.)
- Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathi












Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sea of Fire

I hold back my tears.
It is not pain that I fear.
I fear the Fire.
The face of the Primal force,
beholding itself in a massive sprawl-
just a breath away.
I gaze into its depths.
I see no end or beginning.
A massive Sea of Flames
is how it stands to be seen;
blazing with glory.
Lashing with grace.

I stand two chances-
To plunge
or to retreat.
Pride holds me rooted.
In my Honour I believe.
I know. I will not step back.
Within me wells pure fury
as cold as steel.
The fire sea beckons me;
Into this I shall pass.

Now I take a gamble-
I take the mortal plunge.
In Nature's sense of Justice
prevails my sole refuge.
Mercy I seek not
for redemption or from doom.
If guilty I shall perish,
In purity I will redeem.
If I should return
unscathed,
untouched-
No mortal I shall be.
Then My graces will know no bounds
and so shall My Fury.

Monday, October 12, 2015

பெருவரம் கேட்டேன்.

அவள் ஆடுகிறாள்.
அன்னையாய் சகியாய்
குருவாய்.
அவள் பாதம் இட்ட இடம் சுட்டும்
மணலை நீறுபூசி
தோற்றம் நீங்கி
தேசம் செல்வம்
பெயர்கள் துறந்து
அற்று போகும்
அற்றை நிலவாய்
கொற்றவை அவள் பாதம் பணிய
சின்ன முறுவலில்
ஞானப் பேழை
சன்ன பார்வையில்
அம்ருதம் அடைந்து
ஸ்தூல ஜென்மம்
முழுதும் கடந்து
மோன மொழியில் சாத்திரம் அறிந்து
அவளில் கரைந்து
அருகில் சமைந்து
எழுத ஆயிரம்
பாடல் சுரந்து
மறைகள் உரைக்கும் உண்மை உணர்ந்து
உருகி உறையும்
உள்ளம் அழிந்து
அவளின் மடியில்
அவளின் மகளாய்
உறங்கிப் போய் விடும்
பெருவரம் கேட்டேன்.

Image result for kaali maa

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Other Side of the Feminine.

Loving, nurturing, patient and tame. That is what a woman is perceived to be, expected to be. The face of the moon, to the world below, she is. But what of the other side? 

Why is Gauri worshipped and Kali feared in many parts of the world? Why is mankind afraid of the wild, uncontainable form of the feminine? Why are the protective, sacrificial and persevering aspects of a woman highlighted and celebrated as against the downplay of her territorial, defensive and vengeful attributes of self-interest?

When Gauri as a concept is conceivable and agreeable, man relents to fear and denial when confronted with the notion of Kali. 

Gauri exists because Kali does. Mythology warrants that Gauri arose from Kali. Woman is by nature powerful, sovereign, independent and untamed. For she is nature personified. Nature does not perceive favourites. It protects and destroys simultaneously and nonchalantly, with an absolute sense of definiteness. 

Nature sets the arena for survival and its conditions are to remain neutral. It respects and recognises the sovereignty of the players in the arena, be it a plant, beast or a man. The choice of victory or defeat in the clamour for survival rests with the ability of the player. The strongest survives and the weakest succumbs. Nature prevails over and watches; dutifully rewards the winner and walks over the slain. Uncompromising and resolute, nature deserves respect. When denied respect, it takes over and makes a demand for respect that is rightfully earned. Nature or Prakriti will then transform into Kali, the Raudri.

The Raudri will not rest, She will not relent. Righteous rage shall blaze over and prevail until Her score is settled. The unthinking, unwavering single-minded focus on the final, single objective is one that is awe-inspiring and terrifying at once. The all-pervading, providing Prakriti morphs into the absolute annihilator. She sets off on Her warpath, reaps what She deserves, appeases the imbalance and returns to Her state of self-containment.