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 letters.
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-