Monday, August 8, 2016

Dorin Popa writes

how closely have we passed today
one by the other
I had raised my white hat
you were smiling from your floating island
the air between us spiky like the nettle

only late
through the deserted town
have I come to long for you
and much later
in my room at the centre of the universe
have I finally arrived
(your scent was dancing its naked heels on my chest
and your fair hair was really making my eyelids heavier )

                                             Kali in union with Bhairava, atop Shiva.


  1. “Kali” is the feminine form of “kalam” ("black,” “dark colored") and is associated with the blackness that existed before Creation and out of which everything came into existence. Her names include Kalaratri ("the night of death" or "the night of destruction") and Kalika ("the black one"), but her root name also shares the meaning of the masculine noun “kala” (“the one who is death,” "time," "one who is time," or "the fullness of time," and by extension, time as "that which brings all things to life or an end"). By folk etymology the homonymous “kala” ("appointed time") has come to mean "force of time" as well. “Kala” is also an epithet of Shiva, so the feminine form, Kali, indicates Shiva’s consort. Shiva is the “Kala” (Time), and "I" means cause, so Kali represents cause in a time and beyond time. First appearing in the “Mundaka Upanishad” as the black tongue of the seven flickering tongues of Agni, the god of fire, she did not emerge as a distinct devi (goddess) until ca. 600. In the 10th-century “Karpuradi-stotra, she was identified as the supreme mother of the universe, associated with the five elements. In union with Shiva, she created and destroyed worlds. She came to represent Time, Change, Power, Creation, Preservation, and Destruction alike. Embodying shakti (feminine energy, creativity, and fertility), she was irresistibly attractive to mortals and gods alike, and represented the benevolence of a mother goddess while also being symbolic of sexuality, violence, and death. A divine protectress, she bestowed moksha, or liberation from rebirth. She wore a garland consisting of 51 skulls, each representing a letter in the Sanskrit alphabet (and therefore as the primordial sound of “Aum” from which all creation proceeds) and thus a different form of energy, or a form of Kali, so she was regarded as the mother of language and of all mantras. In the “Devi Mahatmya,” she was the agent who allowed the cosmic order to be restored, the 1st of the 10 Mahavidyas (manifestations of the Great Goddess) and, as Mahakali (“Great Kali,” etymologically the feminized variant of one of Shiva’s epithets, Mahakala or “Great Time” or “Death”) she was worshipped as the ultimate reality (Brahman) by some Shakta Hindu sects. In her Mahakali form she was depicted as shining like a blue stone and having 10 heads, 3 eyes (sun, moon and fire, the driving forces of nature) in each head, 10 legs, and 10 arms, each bearing some implement representing the power of one of the devas, implying that she subsumed and was responsible for all their powers, through her own grace. The “Kalika Purana” described her as perfectly beautiful though with four arms holding a sword and blue lotuses, possessing a soothing dark complexion, with unrestrained hair and a body that was firm and youthful, riding a lion.

  2. But generally, she was portrayed as a naked goddess (since she was pure being-consciousness-bliss) with dark blue or black skin (since she was brahman in its supreme unmanifest state, with no permanent qualities; the concepts of color, light, good, and bad did not apply to her, and she will continue to exist even when the universe ends), wearing a gilded Bengali crown of clay. She sometimes had 8, 12, or 18 arms and 8 feet. In her most common representation, however, she had 4 arms and carried a trident (a weapon associated with Siva), a noose, a sword (signifying divine knowledge) and a severed head (the human ego which must be slain by divine knowledge in order to attain moksha) in her left hands, while her right hands were in the shape of the abhaya (fearlessness) and varada (blessing) mudras, indicating that her followers will be safe as she guides them in life and in the hereafter. If clothed, she wore a skirt of severed human arms (her devotees’ karma that she had taken on), a necklace of decapitated heads, and earrings made of dead children, and her tongue lolled out of her fanged mouth, dripping blood. She was often accompanied by serpents and a jackal and was usually standing or dancing on a reclining, blissfully smiling Shiva. This strange appearance was derived from one story of her birth: Once when the warrior goddess Durga fought against Mahishasura (Mahisa), the buffalo demon, she became so enraged that her anger burst from her forehead in the form of Kali, who immediately went on a rampage and ate all the demons and wrongdoers she came across, but Shiva lay down in her path to receive Kali's grace by receiving her foot on his chest. Seeing her consort under her foot, she realized that she had transgressed and calmed down.

  3. As was common in Hindu mythology, many variations of the story appeared. For instance, Durga was attacked by the asuras (demons) Chanda and Munda, and Kali emerged from her forehead to defeat them. Or, she was born in the battle against Raktabija (Blood-seed), who reproduced himself every time a drop of his blood fell to the ground. In order to defeat him, the gods combined their divine energy (shakti) to produce a single being for the purpose; armed with all of the divine weapons, Kali lopped off Raktabija’s head with a sword and drank his blood, then swallowed his clones and danced on the corpses of the slain. The blood became a symbol of uncontrollable desires that agitate human minds, and her tongue the power of yogic will to devour them so that true human awareness can reveal itself. According to Swami Jagadiswarananda’s translation of the 6th-century “Devi Mahatmyam,”’Out of the surface of [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 was also an incarnation of Shiva’s wife Parvati. In the “Linga Purana,” the gods recruited Parvati to defeat Daruka, who could only be killed by a woman. In response, Parvati jumped down Shiva’s throat and merged with the remnants of halahala, the poison which had arisen from the churning of the ocean during Creation, which Shiva had swallowed to prevent it from polluting the world. In this way Parvati was transformed into Kali, who leaped from Shiva’s throat and slew Daruka. But her bloodlust got out of control until Shiva’s intervention. Or, alternatively, Shiva, seeing Parvati, had choked his throat closed so it could not reach his stomach, which contained the entire universe; since Shiva was beyond death he did not die, but his neck turned blue and he was in severe pain, so he became a child so Kali could feed him with her soothing milk. In yet another version of her birth, in the “Vamana Purana,” Shiva offended Parvati by calling her “kali,” who then performed austerities in order to shed her dark complexion and become Gauri, “the golden one.” Her dark skin became Kaushika (the Sheath), who, when enraged, created Kali.

  4. Although Parvati was regarded as the recipient of the Tantras (Shiva's wisdom), Kali dominated Tantric iconography, texts, and rituals; in many texts she was praised as the highest reality and greatest of all deities. The “Nirvana-tantra”claimed that Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva all arose from her, like bubbles in the sea, ceaselessly arising and passing away while leaving their original source unchanged. In the 18th century, Krishnananda Agamavagisa, the Bengali author of “Tantrasara,” a tantric encyclopedia, popularized her worship as Dakshinakali. Yama, the lord of death, lived in the south (daksina); when he heard Kali's name he fled in terror, and so those who worship Dakshina Kali are able to overcome death. South was also the direction associated with a smashan (cremation ground). If Kali was depicted as striding with her left foot and holding her sword in her right hand, she was the Smashan Kali; her tantric followers believed that practicing spiritual discipline on her behalf in a smashan brought quick success and (according to the “Karpuradi-stotra”) they would become “a great poet, a Lord of the earth, and ever goes mounted upon an elephant.” Dakshina were also the gifts given to a priest or to guru, traditionally with the right hand, so Daksinakali's two right hands were traditionally depicted in gestures of blessing. Her right foot was on Shiva's chest (instead of the left foot, the one associated with her more fearsome aspect).

  5. Bhairavi, the 6th Mahavidya (Kali being the 1st one), was largely indistinguishable from Kali. Like her, she was depicted sitting on Shiva, with four hands carrying a sword, a trident, a noose, and a cup full of blood and forming the abhaya and varada mudras. Her main distinguishing feature was that she was the consort of Kala Bhairava (from the Sanskrit “bhiru,” which means “frightful”). He was shown ornamented with a range of twisted serpents which served as earrings, bracelets, anklets, and sacred thread, wore a tiger skin and a ritual apron composed of human bones. He had 2, 4, or 8 arms, 3 eyes, a fanged, gaping mouth, and a girdle and anklets made of live serpents. In his right hands he held a staff with a skull on top, a trident, and a sword, and in his left he held a skull and made the abhaya and varada mudras. He was “digambara” (naked as space) and sometimes blue in color, though often with red limbs. (And, in a different etymological interpretation, “bha” means creation, “ra” means sustenance, and “va” means destruction, so Bhairava was the one who created, sustained and dissolved the three stages of life. His name may also be a shortened form of Kala Shakti Bhairava, “the Lord who controls the Shakti of Kala, the Power of Time.) In some sources, Bhairava had 8 manifestations, including Kala (black), Asitanga (with black limbs), Sanhara (destruction), Krodha (anger), and Kapala (skull).

  6. According to the “Shiv Mahapuran,” Brahma, the most learned of the gods, told Vishnu to worship him as supreme creator, and, since both gods were equal because they both had five heads, he began interfering with Shiva’s tasks and forging Shiva’s work. So Shiva created Kala Bhairava from the nail of his left thumb and used him to decapitate one of Brahma’s heads, destroying his ego and allowing him to become enlightened. In another telling, Brahma lusted after his mind-borne daughter and grew 4 heads so he could see her continuously, thus dividing the world into four directions. However, embarrassed by his constant attention, she ascended to Heaven; when Brahma merely manifested a fifth head, the quintessence of the other four, Shiva cut it off with his sword. Or perhaps Kala Bhairava emerged from Shiva's forehead and severed one of Brahma’s heads. It stuck to Bhairava's left palm and, in expiation, Bhairava had to wander the world as a naked beggar using the skull as his begging bowl. On his journey, he entered the forest of Dâru, where a group of ascetic sadhus were performing their rites. Acording to Alan Daniélou’s translation of the “Shiva Purana,” he was “completely naked, his only ornament the ash with which his whole body was smeared. Walking about, holding his penis in his hand, he showed off with the most depraved tricks… Sometimes he danced lasciviously; sometimes he uttered cries. He wandered around the hermitages like a beggar. … Despite his strange appearance and his tanned colour, the most chaste women were attracted to him. … They let their hair fall loose. Some rolled on the ground. They clung to each other and … made wanton gestures at him, even in the presence of their husbands.”The sages cursed him, causing his to lingam fall off, transformed into a pillar of fire. Some variants say another appeared to replace it, and the whole episode kept repeating itself; in another popular version, the cursed phallus became an immense pillar which pierced the Three Worlds (Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld); others claim that Bhairava vanished when he lost his phallus, or that he took the women with him and left the forest. But according to the “Shiva Purana,” the sages finally recognized Shiva/Bhairava, who told them,"The world shall not find peace until a receptacle is found for my sexual organ. No other being except the Lady of the Mountain may seize hold of my sexual organ. If she takes hold of it, it will immediately become calm." (In the “Linga Purana,” Brahma taught them how to care for the lingam: "As long as this phallus is not in a fixed position, no good can come to any of the three worlds. In order to calm its wrath, you must sprinkle this divine sexual organ with holy water, build a pedestal in the form of a vagina and shaft (symbol of the goddess) and install it with prayers, offerings, prostrations, hymns and chants accompanied by musical instruments. Then you shall invoke the God, saying 'You are the source of the Universe, the origin of the Universe. You are present in everything that exists. The Universe is but the form of yourself, O Benevolent One! Calm yourself and protect the world.'")

  7. Then Bhairava went to Vishnu’s home, but Visvaksena, the doorkeeper, did not recognize him and blocked the door. Bhairava killed him with a trident. In an attempt to fill Brahma’s skull-bowl, Vishnu caused blood to spurt from his forehead, but Bhairava danced on, carrying the skull with Vishnu’s blood and Visvaksena’s corpse with him, until he reached the holy city of Varanasi on the Ganges river, when the skull fell from his hand and shattered, releasing him from his penance. As a result, Shiva, in the form of Kala Bhairava, guarded every Hindu temple. (Actually, there were 64 Bhairavas grouped into 8 categories, each headed by an Aṣṭanga Bhairava in control of one of the 8 directions of the universe and representing air, fire, water, earth, sun, moon, and Atman (soul, self); they were all controlled by Kala Bhairava, the supreme ruler of time, who was the protector of travelers, the timid, and women.) (Also called Benares, Varanasi is near Sarnath, where Siddhartha gave his first sermon, "The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma," in 528 BCE, and Guru Nanak Dev’s 1507 visit to Varanasi to celebrate Shivratri, the anniversary of Shiva’s marriage to Parvati, played a large role in his founding of Sikhism; in the 8th century, Adi Shankara consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta , thus unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism, and established the worship of Shiva as the city’s official sect.) In a variation of the Daruka myth, Parvati invoked Kali to fight against Dahurasuran, who could be killed only by a woman. Afterwards, Kali’s wrath metamorphosed into a child, which Kali fed with her milk. Then Shiva merged both Kali and the child with himself, creating the 8 Aṣṭanga Bhairava. Alternatively, in a war between gods and demons, Shiva created Kala Bhairava, from whom the Aṣṭanga Bhairavas came; they married the dark-colored, multi-limbed Ashta Matrikas, mother goddesses who were created by Durga to slaughter demons; when Shumnha challenged Durga to single combat, she absorbed the Matrikas into herself and proclaimed that they were her different forms. In “Devi Mahatmya,” one of them, Chamunda, was clearly an analog of Kali, with the same black skin, the same utensils, the same garland of skulls, riding a jackal or standing on the corpse of a man. The others included Brahmani, the shakti of Brahma; Vaishnavi, the shakti of Vishnu; Maheshvari, the shakti of Shiva; Indrani, the shakti of Indra, the lord of the heavens; Kaumari, the shakti of Kumara (Skanda), the god of war; Varahi, the shakti of Varaha, the boar-headed avarar of Vishnu; and Narasimhi, the shakti of Narasimha, Vishnu’s lion-man avatar. Other sources name Yami, the shakti of Yama; Gananayika, the shakti of Ganesha; and Yogishwari, who was created by flames emerging from Shiva's mouth. In the “Matsya Purana,” Shiva the Matrikas to combat Andhaka, who duplicated himself from each drop of his blood; they drink up his blood and helped Shiva defeat him, then started to devour other gods, demons, and humans. Narasimha created 32 benign goddesses to calm the Matrikas and then ordered the Matrikas to protect the world instead of destroying it. At the end of the episode, Bhairava was enshrined with the images of the Matrikas where the battle took place. By the 6th-8th centuries, at Ellora, the Martikas were always portrayed in the presence of Kala in the form of a skeleton. From the unions of the Ashta Bhairavas and the Ashta Matrikas, 64 Bhairavas and 64 Yoginis were created; in Sanskrit literature, they were the attendants or manifestations of Durga. In modern Kundalini Tantra usage, a yogini is a female aspirant of Tantra, while one who has succeeded is a Bhairavi, beyond the fear of death.


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