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Kali
by Vivienne Kondos
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Kena Upanishad: A Study from Sakta Perspective
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काली उपासना: Kali Upasana
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Goddess in Tantra
In the Devi Mahatmya section of the Markandeya Purana the Devi assures the gods by granting them the boon that she will always become incarnate and deliver the whole world whenever it is oppressed by the demons. Of her incarnatory and other forms, Gauri, Sataksi, Sakambhari, Annapurna, etc., were undoubtedly the developed forms of the rudimentary Earth and Corn Mothers. The second stream leading to monotheistic Saktism was represented by the Uma- Parvati group which developed under the garb of Saivism. Uma of the Kena Upanisad and that of the Kumarasambhava or the Puranas are not the same. The epithet Haimavati (daughter of Himavat) was responsible for her identification with Parvati and Durga. The latter was associated with inaccessible regions, and it is also possible that she was originally conceived of as the protectress of forts (durga). However, fanciful explanation of Durga was invented on etymological ground by associating her with the slaying of a demon called Durgama. Whether a demon-slayer or saviour, Durga is equipped with many arms, a feature which is totally absent in the concept of Parvati-Uma who is extremely homely as the daughter of Himavat, wife of Siva, mother of Kumara.

Most of the Puranas do not insist upon the demon-slaying conception of the goddess and he terrible forms. It is in the Markandeya, Vamana, and the later Devi-oriented Puranas that we have her terrible demon-slayer form represented by Raktadantika, Bhima, Bhramari, Candika or Kausiki, Kali, Camunda, etc. These goddesses were evidently adopted in the Sakta pantheon from the surviving tribal divinities. Kali in the Kalanjara mountain, Candika in Makarandaka, and Vindhyavasini in the Vindhyas are mentioned in the Matsya Purana as the different manifestations of the supreme goddess. Her particular interest in wine and meat is found in the Visnupurana. In Banabhatta's Kadambari and in Vakpati's Gaudavaho we have references to the goddess cult of the wild Sabaras and their cruel rites. In Subandhu's Vasavadatta the blood-thirsty goddess Katyayani or Bhagavati of Kusumapura is mentioned. In the Markandeya and other Devi-oriented Puranas the Devi is conceived of mainly as the war goddess. The Matrikas or Divine Mothers also play a very important role in the Devi legends. Of all the major achievements of Devi, the story of her fight with Mahisasura became most popular as is proved by numerous Mahisamardini sculptures.

The Mahisasura episode of the Devi Mahatmya section of the Markandeya Purana suggests in itself a nice outline of the Sakta conception of Devi as the embodiment of an all-pervading power. The gods being defeated, humiliated and oppressed by Mahisasura went for protection to Visnu and Siva. Having heard their grievances, Visnu, Siva and other gods emitted flames of anger from their eyes. These were transformed into a mass of intense energy which, shortly afterwards, took the shape of an exquisite lady, called Candika, whose face was made by Siva's energy, hair by Yama's, arms by Visnu's, breasts by moon's, waist by Indra's, legs by Varuna's, hips by the earth's, feet by Brahma's. toes by sun's, hands and fingers by the Vasu's, nose by Kuvera's, teeth by Prajapati's, eyes by Agni's and ears by Vayu's energy. This conception of the goddess her creation from the energy of all gods became popular and was further elaborated in the later Puranas.

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