Kali Puja or Shyama Pujo is the second largest festival in Eastern India (especially Bengal) after Durga Puja. Kali Puja is celebrated on the new moon night (Dipannita Amavasya) in the month of Kartika by the Hindu calendar (October/November). Goddess Kali, the epitome of ‘Shakti’ (energy and strength) is worshipped as the ultimate destroyer of evil. Generally, the day coincides with Diwali, the festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil. It is believed that on this day Rama, the King of Ayodhya, returned to his kingdom after 14 years of exile after fighting and winning battles against demons and their king, Ravana.
Kali or Shyama is called so because she is generally presented as the dark goddess, in a ruthless form, driving away evil. Kali or Shyama means black or dark. She stands on her consort, Lord Shiva; with her tongue out as a gesture of consciousness. She is one of the major Tantric goddesses. The shakti worshippers celebrate Kali Puja with great devotion. Some worship at their home and there are numerous public pujas and celebrations too. Some people fast till the puja is over. It is a festival of light. Lamps and candles are lit in the houses and the cities glisten with lighting. Firecrackers are burst. However, it is requested to shift to green crackers or minimalise or no crackers at all, to reduce pollution. This year definitely, the scale of celebrations needs to be as low as possible.
In ancient times, Kali Puja was performed mainly by the tantric cult. Today’s style and culture of celebrating Kali Puja are not age-old. It was introduced in Bengal by Raja Krishnachandra, the king of Krishnanagar (presently a town of Nadia district in West Bengal) in the 18th century. Kali Puja gained popularity in the 19th century, with Krishanachandra’s grandson Ishwarchandra and other Bengali elite families. The zamindars began patronizing the festival on a grand scale. Saints like Sri Ramakrishna and Sadhak Bamakhepa and devotee poets like Ramprasad and Kamalakanta have also instilled the faith strongly amidst the common people.
Influence in Eastern India
In eastern India (Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya), there are numerous ‘Sati/ Shakti Peeths’. The presence of the popular shakti sites like – Kalighat in Kolkata (West Bengal), Shakti peeths in Bhirbhum district of Bengal including Tarapith Temple, Chinyamastike Temple in Rajarappa (Jharkhand) and Kamakshya Temple in Guwahati (Assam), have influenced Kali Puja in such a large scale in eastern India. Dakshineswar Kali Temple at Kolkata needs a special mention. Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda’s Guru/teacher was a devotee of the goddess and worshipped the idol at the temple.
I am always excited about Kali Puja because it is symbolic or metaphoric in many ways. This festival is a celebration of rustic womanhood to the core. We would not feel the need of light had darkness not prevailed. Hence we can be each other’s light. Let’s promise to light up lives this Kali Puja. Kali Puja happens on a new moon night implying infinity of the universe and beyond. Kali Puja marks our journey from the darkness of ignorance towards enlightenment and wisdom like the lunar cycle of the new moon to the full moon.
Tamaso Ma jyotir gamaya….
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.