|two versions of kali – one by raja ravi varma and a more totemic local one.|
we were in kolkata this past week, just after durga puja, the holiday for the goddess durga, and two weeks before kali puja, the holiday for the goddess kali. kali is the goddess of time and change, and is pretty badass. when the goddess durga is unable to kill the demon raktabija and his minions – duplicate raktabijas that spring up whenever the demon’s blood hits the ground – she calls upon (or transforms into) kali:
out of the surface of her (durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas.
kali destroys raktabija by sucking the blood from his body and putting the many raktabija duplicates in her gaping mouth. pleased with her victory, kali then dances on the field of battle, stepping on the corpses of the slain. … (source: wikipedia)
in the kumartuli neighborhood, shop after shop of craftsmen are busy creating statues of kali to put around the city at various celebrations. they come in various styles, but they are fairly benign in appearance, which is surprising, considering kali’s fierce reputation.
deeper in the neighborhood, however, the craftsmen get a little more creative. photographing these was like eating potato chips …
sadly, i can’t get back to kolkata in time for the holiday, but now i have a reason to come back to india after 2013.