Goddess Kali is a ferocious and fiercest form of the divine mother Durga. Goddess Kali is Durga's darker aspect, who is represented as the consort of the lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. She is the goddess of time and of the transformation that is death. Lord Shiva and Mother Gauri in their destructive form are known as Mahakala and Mahakali or Kali. Goddess Kali or the Dark Mother is the goddess with whom devotees have a very loving bond, in spite of her fearful appearance. In this relationship, the worshipper becomes a child and Kali assumes the form of the caring mother. She is sometimes referred as the goddess of death, but actually Kali brings the death of the ego. She is the all pervading divine mother of the universe and her name in Sanskrit is derived from the word Kal which means time. She is also not associated with Yama (the Hindu God of Death). She is also known as Kalikamata and Kalaratri (black night), who is worshipped particularly in Bengal. Her best-known temples are in Kalighat and Dakshineshvara.
Goddess Kali is the most compassionate of all the forms of goddesses and she provides salvation to the devotees. She is considered equivalent to lord Shiva because both of them are the destroyers of evils and demonic powers. Goddess Kali’s appearance is fearsome and dangerous, baleful eyes, a protruding tongue and four arms are fearful. In her two arms, she holds a bloody sword and a severed head of a demon. With her upper right hand she blesses her devotees. She wears a garland made of skulls and a belt made of dismembered arms of demons. As the Divine Mother she is often represented standing or dancing on Shiva with numerous hands and legs.
Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva, both are considered to inhabit cremation grounds. Devotees go to these places to meditate with the purpose of overcoming the ego. The cremation grounds emphasize the idea that the body is temporary. The way people look and worship goddess Kali depends on the form of their sense of self. She most famously appears in the sixth century Devi Mahatmyam as one of the Shaktis of the divine mother, who killed the demon Raktabija. The tale of Raktabija can be found in the eight chapter of the Devi Maytram. Raktabija was a powerful demon, who got a boon from Lord Brahma, whenever a drop of his blood fell on the ground; a duplicate Raktabija would be born at that spot. Raktabija was wounded, but drops of blood falling on the ground created innumerable other Raktabijas, and Durga was in difficulty. At this point, the goddess Durga created Kali, who made her tongue onto the earth, and sucked off the blood of Raktabija, thus Raktabija was killed.
The tenth century Kalika Purana venerates Kali as the ultimate reality or Brahman. The Tantric approach to Kali is to display courage by confronting her on cremation grounds in the dead of night, despite her terrible appearance. She is often regarded as the Shakti of Shiva, and is closely associated with him in various Puranas. The Kalika Purana depicts her as Adi Shakt. She is free from the illusory covering and beyond the all maya or false consciousness. Kali's garland of fifty human heads stands for the fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. The common images of goddess Kali shows her, standing with one foot on Shiva's chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out. Goddess Kali is commonly associated with death, violence, sexuality and paradoxically with motherly love. Her appearance and ornaments has special significance and meaning. The garland of 52 skulls and her skirt made of dismembered arms symbolizes the destruction of the body and hence the ego attached with the body.All paintings are courtesy of Art of legend India. Source: Click Here