(7) Kalaratri Devi
ॐ देवी कालरात्र्यै नमः॥
Om Devi Kalaratryai Namah॥
Inevitably on the spiritual path we become acutely aware of our egoistic tendencies.
We witness the ideas of “me, mine, and I,” which are so conditioned in our thinking process that we blindly, yet ambitiously, go through life, trying to get more and more for ourselves.
Unfortunately, unless we get help, these thoughts are an endless succession in a perpetual cycle. What do we do?
To the rescue is the seventh form of Durga, Kalaratri Devi, the fiercest form of Durga who we worship on the seventh night of Navaratri.
Rātri means night. Kāla means time, death, black or dark. So Kalaratri is She who is beyond time, the darkness of night. Kalaratri Devi is the great Dark Night Mother of overcoming egotism.
She represents the unfolding of time: the time on the clock that keeps moving forward, making us older, leading us to our death (hence it also means death- your time has come). It is a heavy crushing energy that makes even the greatest nations fall one day.
Kālarātri can be translated as Dark-night goddess, or Death-night goddess. Death is similar to sleep, you let go from your body and enter the dark realm where you have no body but just the thought forms within you.
She is a fierce form of Durga, who burns our egoistic tendencies in the fire of sacrifice.
Though Her appearance appears fearful to the eye, She is not to be feared, because when She is pleased, She grants very auspicious fruits to spiritual aspirants. She takes aspirants beyond the darkness of attachment into the illumination of wisdom.
For a spiritual aspirant this process of surrendering the ego can feel painful. Ultimately though, the removal of the darkness opens up space for the Divine Light to penetrate our awareness, moving us into wisdom.
Kālarātri is black and naked except for her ear-ornaments on her large ears. Her lips hang open (lamba-oṣṭhī), her body is covered in oil, and she sits on a donkey.
She has a single braid in her hair. Her hair is unbound and flies wildly in all directions. She wears a garland of lightning, and from her body emanates a light, that is as bright as fire.
She holds an iron scimitar in her upper left hand and a lightning bolt in her lower left hand. Her other hands are granting blessings and protection. Here is the significance of her form:
black: takes away darkness from mind
donkey: strong and sure-footed
iron scimitar: sharp cut to negative forces
lightning: diamond hard shakti
upper right hand: grants boons
lower right hand: blesses with fearlessness
braid: single braid representing mourning
unbound hair: fierce, wild, untamed
This energy of lightning has a very special significance. Lord Shiva gave Rishi Dadhici the boon that his bones would be indestructible. Indra needed a very strong weapon with which to fight the asuras, and so he asked the rishi for his bones. Rishi Dadhici gladly gave up his life so that his bones could be fashioned into Indra’s weapon.
The weapon had so much energy and shined with the radiance of tapasya, and it was that weapon which was used to slay many of the asuras. For that reason it is often called shakti (energy), vajra (lightning or diamond hard), or parigham (fashioned like an iron bar).
Kaalratri is also known as Shubhankari (शुभंकरी) - meaning auspicious/doing good in Sanskrit, due to the belief that she always provides auspicious results to her devotees. Hence, it is believed that she makes her devotees fearless.
She is also associated with the crown chakra, thereby giving the invoker siddhis (perfection in qualities).
Today, chant Her mantra and pray for Kalaratri Devi to destroy the darkeness in our minds, to let go of attachments, and to open the mind to the light.
A Deeper Philosphy on Kālī
(for those who want to hear the naked
Truth of Kali‘s energy)
Kālarātri is the night- the dark unknown that allows our mind to fill itself with fears.
Fear is all relative to the thought forms we have in our mind and how we relate to them. There are many small fears, but the fear of death is one of the largest, most frightful of them all.
She can be the acceptance of fears, as they are. You can have a fear of something and know that it is there, and not have it run your life.
Kālarātri is the Kālī form of Durgā, just as Kamalātmika is the Śrī-śakti form of Kālī. She is associated with death, killing, murder, maiming, and disease that makes us suffer slowly and painfully.
In the Mahābhārata (Sauptika Parvan 10.8.64-65), there is the first textual reference to Kālarātri. She is seen on the battle field where men are killing each other, limbs and heads being hacked off in battle; rivers of blood flowing. In this destruction, it states
“The warriors in the Pandava camp beheld the embodied form of Kālarātri- a black image, of bloody mouth and bloody eyes, wearing crimson garlands and smeared with crimson unguents, attired in a single piece of red cloth, with a noose in hand, and resembling an elderly lady, employed in chanting a dismal note and standing full before their eyes, and about to lead away men and horses and elephants all tied in a stout cord.”
Another reference to Kalaratri in the Mahābhārata (Karṇa Parva 8.34), states,
“each part of Śiva is described as it is composed of the various gods and goddesses. Śiva’s bow is made of the cycle of the year and decorated by the seasons. And Rudra’s own shadow which is the Kālarātri is the indestructable string of his bow.”
In modern psychology, Kālarātri represents our shadow nature. She is symbolically god’s shadow- the darker side of life, the darker power of being. This intense dark energy lives in all humans. Everyone has a shadow nature. It is a power that is a part of who we are, and so we must acknowledge and accept it.
To avoid looking at this darkness is to give it power over you. To take the appropriate time to look deeply at yourself, acknowledge these darker forces of consciousness pacifies these forces.
This is why Kālarātri is worshipped - not to bring darkness, but rather to acknowledge that it exists so that we can be at peace with it.
Carl Jung talked about how we bring more light into ourselves not by going only towards the light, but by bringing light to our darkness. He recognized that this darkness was in everyone. By not avoiding it, he helped to heal others and bring greater discrimination in dealing with it.
Kālarātri is the destructive part of who we are. In the Mahābhārata (Śalya Parvan 9.11), she can be likened yo the energy of Bhīma on the battlefield. He was infuriated with rage and had a mace (resembling the bludgeon of death) that is compared to Kālaratri - exceedingly destructive, fierce as a she-snake, hard as thunder, smeared with marrow, fat and blood, resembling the tongue of the God of Death, producing shrill sounds like the thunder of the King of Heaven.
In a nutshell, Kālarātri‘s energy is the heavy, dark, painful, suffering force that exists in the universe. Worshipping Her pacifies this energy; it removes poverty, sadness, grieving and sickness.
We all have tough times in our life. It is the tough times that build our character, that make us appreciate all we have, and that make us grow. Those who haven’t had times of suffering, live in a fluffy superficial level less in touch with the deeper nature of the universe.
We praise that form of the Mother that gives us times to make us more mature, to make us appreciate life more deeply, and who helps us to come out stronger on the other side of any ordeal.
Jai Kali Maa!