There are myriad traditions of
how Kali came into existence. One version relates when the warrior goddess
Durga, having ten arms, each equipped with a weapon and who rode a lion or a
tiger in battle, fought with Mahishasura (or Mahisa), the buffalo demon. Durga became
so enraged that her anger burst from her forehead in the form of Kali.
Once born, the black goddess went
wild and consumed all the demons she came across, stringing their heads on a
chain which she wore around her neck. It seemed impossible to calm Kali’s
bloody thrashings, which now extended to any wrongdoers, and both people and
gods were at a loss what to do. Fortunately, supreme Shiva stopped Kali’s
destructive rampage by lying down in her path, and when the goddess realized
just who she was standing on, she finally calmed down. From this story is
explained Kali’s association with battlegrounds and areas where cremations are
In another version of the
goddess’ birth, Kali appeared when Parvati shed her dark skin which then became
Kali, hence one of her names is Kaushika (the Sheath), whilst Parvati is left
as Gauri (the Fair One). This story emphasizes Kali’s black aura which is
symbolic of eternal darkness and which has the potential to both destroy and to
In a third rendition, men and gods
were being terrorized by Daruka who could only be killed by a woman, and
Parvati was asked by the gods to deal with the troublesome demon. She responded
by jumping down Shiva’s throat. This was because many years previously Shiva
had swallowed halahala, the poison which had risen from the churning of the
ocean during the creation and which had threatened to pollute the world. By
combining with the poison still held in Shiva’s throat, Parvati was transformed
into Kali. Leaping from Shiva’s throat in her new guise, Kali swiftly defeated
Daruka and all was well with the world once more.
…because we express multiple emotions with the same ‘signal’. ‘i’m screaming’ can indicate happiness or outrage or pretend-outrage; crying can mean any emotion that’s overwhelming enough. Aliens, who usually have something much closer to a 1:1 signal/particular emotion ratio, or think of emotions in a completely different way entirely, are baffled.
Alien zZ’zZZziko: Human Mirjam? According to my Human Studies class, a proposal is a happy human occasion, and according to my observations of you and Human Gauri, you enjoy each others’ company. You said yes to her proposal! But you also cried. I do not understand.
Human Mirjam: I was crying from happiness, zZ’zZZziko!
zZ’zZZziko: I thought crying was a sadness-signal.
Human Mirjam: It is, but it can also indicate other extreme emotions, like happiness or rage. It’s like… humans sometimes smile when we’re nervous? To sorta… diffuse the tension. Things like that can all mean different things.
Alien zZ’zZZziko: …How do you *ever* know how each other feel???