Thursday, June 9, 2011

The mystery behind the skull-garland of Bhadrakali

There is much difference of
opinion on the garland of human skulls worn around the neck of the Goddess
Bhadrakali, not only among the people of the West ,but also among the
Orientals. In fact these skulls represent the 52 letters of the Sanskrit
language. The proclamation “Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namah”, is nothing but the
vow to the effect that one is ready to study all the 52 letters of the
language. This mysterious code is deciphered using the ‘ KAPATAYATI ’ method.
In fact, the word ‘Kapalam’ does not mean the human skull at all. As per the ‘
Tantrakasa’, the letter ‘Ka’ means ‘Parashakthi’ and ‘Pala’ means to abide by
or adhere to. So the meaning of the word ‘ kapalam’ can be understood as the
merger or union of Shiva and Shakthi. No wonder that Kalidasan has said that
the relation between the word and its meaning is like that of ‘Parvathi
Parameshwara’ relationship. All the poets including even Kalidasa, knew well
that the skull worn by Bhadrakali strewn in the form of a garland depicted the
knowledge of the letters. Sir John Woodraff has authored a book ‘ The Garland
of Letters’, which deals at length with the knowledge and intellectual
understanding of alphabetic letters. He emphasizes that the skull-garland of
Bhadrakali is a euphemism. Nandikeshwaran, who is credited with the
interpretation of Panini’s ‘Vyakaranasutram’ makes it very clear that he is
also of the same opinion. But it is a dramatic irony that many could not
decipher this great and mysterious code. In fact , at a glance, the ‘Kapalam’
in the hands of Bhadrakali is a symbolic representation of the knowledge of the

When Sadhana is performed with deep and true intensity, nectar starts exuding
from the Brahmarantras situated in the brain. This flowing nectar is called
‘Somam’.There is a mention in the RigVeda about this.( Rig 10 – 5 – 3 ). It is
generally believed that ‘Somam’ is the crushed juice of the raw herbs. This is
drunk by the common man. But the somam known to Vedic exponents is beyond the
reach of the common man. This somam is the causative factor for the origin of
language. At another context in the Rig Veda ( Rig 10 -7 -14 ), which states as
follows – One cannot understand the meaning of the word in spite of looking at
the word, another cannot hear it , in spite of listening to it, but the one who
has understood the true meaning is the blessed one. For him, the Goddess of
learning throws open and offers Her Real Self. In other words, she offers her
genious( pratibha), just like an exhilarated, devoted wife, who is longing to
attain her beloved during the mating period. Those who worship Bhadrakali
achieve such pratibha( genious). There is an excellent description about this
Mahabharata ( Vanaparvam – 229 ). The word ‘pratibha’ means – light, that light
which is produced in the intellect of the listener , by the word which travels
from the producer of the word and enters the listener’s intellect.. This is the
flower which is blossomed out of this Sadhana. Again at another context in the
Rig Veda ( Rig -10 – 125 – 5 ), listen to the Goddess of words-“ It is me and
me alone, who says this fact which is dear to human beings, and the Devas ;
Listen; He whom I desire, I will make him brilliant and powerful, the knower of
all Vedas, a Rishi and a genious.”

It was for acquiring this genious , that all the people of India performed
Sadhana. When this practice deteriorated, our decline started.. The
transformation Bhadrakali to the family deity, the kapalam in the hands of the
Bhadrakali and the ‘somarasam’ contained in the kapalam-all these were nothing
but a euphemism (beautiful, figurative usage of the language). It is because of
the same reason that we have references in the Lalithasahasranaamam as follows-

Sarvajnayai Namah

Vaagwadinai Namah

Vidyayai Namah

Srividyayai Namah.

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