Goddess of death and destruction, horrible form of goddess Parvati. The Kali is perhaps the most enigmatic to the modern mind. Who will not recoil in horror and disgust from the form of a dark nude woman wearing an apron of human hands and a garland of human heads, especially if she is also holding a freshly severed human head and the chopper used in the slaughter, dripping with blood?
Her name comes from the word kala - time. She is the power of time. Time as we are all well aware, is all-destroying, all-devouring. That's why Lord Krishna says in the Gita, that he is the time which has grown to infinite proportions and is destroying the worlds.Let us now to turn to the Kali imagery as normally found in the scriptures, pictures and icons. The background is a cremation ground or a burial ground or a warfield, showing the dead bodies including the mutilated ones. She herself is standing in challenging posture, on 'dead' body, which is her spouse Shiva himself. God is said to have created this universe and then entered into it. So the universe become a veil, cloak for the divinity. When that is destroyed, the divinity remains unveiled. That is meaning for being Kali naked. She is termed Digambara, having the vast space as her only vesture. She represents the state where time, space and causation have disappeared without any trace as it were. Hence she is black. The hand represents capacity for work. Hence the apron of severed hands signify that she is so pleased with offering of our works. The dishevelled hair bespeaks her untrammelled freedom. And then garland of skulls or heads which number fifty. They represents the fifty letters of the alphabet, manifestation of sound itself, from which all creation proceeded. Since she is the supreme energy responsible for the dissolution of the created universe, her form as depicted here naturally strikes awe and fear. But then she is the creatix, the Mother also. Hence she is reassuring her fear stricken children through abhaya mudra saying 'Don't be afraid!' I'm your own dear Mother. Shiva Mahadeva is Brahman, the Absolute, which is beyond names, forms and activities. Hence hi is shown lying prostate like a corpse. Kali represents his energy. This energy however cannot exists apart from its source. Kali is not only the destructive power of God. What exists when time is transcended, the eternal light, limitless peace an joy, is also Kali. She is God's power in all aspects.