If there is one deity in the Hindu pantheon who's an out-and-out subversive, it's Kali.
That's why I like her, and that's why I'm blogging about her.
Naked (her nudity is part of her basis, her Kaliness, if I might put it like that), she is clad only in a necklace of human heads and a belt of human arms; she is a killer on the rampage, and treads on her own husband when he lies down in her path in an attempt to stop her from destroying all. She is dark (one meaning of her name is "dark" and to hell with the Indian fascination with fair skin), destructive, feminist, vital, and so alive.
Oh, she's gorgeous.
Many years ago, as a boy of eight (this was in 1978, if you're interested) I was visiting an uncle in the town of Jalpaiguri and took a look at a Kali temple there. The temple, though very small, was rather well known because the Kali image there was hundreds of years old and had been worshipped by bandit gangs before they went on their murderous forays (who ever said bandits can't be religious, huh?). Oh, well, that Kali was great. She was the colour of grey-green cement, completely naked (breasts and vagina almost excessively visible), with a wide open mouth dripping blood down her chin, sharp canines reminiscent of fangs, the hair of a crazed old woman, frizzy, loose, matted; and a face of an aged harridan in a towering rage. The picture on top (the least mild of the Kali images I could locate) is nothing on her.
In 1988, when I was in Jalpaiguri again, I went to that temple to have another look at the idol and to take a photo. And what do you think I found?
They had removed that idol and put up a damned namby pamby one in its place. Maybe they thought it would scare the kiddies. Damn.
I wonder what Kali, if she existed - the real Kali, the one who thought nothing of building mountains of skulls - would have thought of that.
After all, there is nothing the least bit conventional about Kali. She's bloodthirsty, completely female, elemental. In her original form she defies her consort, Shiva, and claims her territory for her own.
I wonder a few things.
I wonder how acceptable a modern day Kali figure of woman would be among the patriarchy. They would love women to stay barefoot and pregnant. Kali, er...
I wonder what the Hindu Right would do - seeing that they've been attacking even Hindu artists who depict Hindu deities in the nude, not to speak of Muslims like MF Husain - if they follow their instincts to the logical conclusion. Would they attack and demolish all Kali temples? Would they dress her in bikinis?
Some times I sort of wish Kali really existed and would come to life just one time.
Slash, slash, and how the heads would roll. Ha.