This Picture of Maa Kali Atop Shiva has Many Meanings at Many Levels

Mahakali is the consort of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is the silent aspect of the Transcendental Reality, and Devi Kali is the dynamic aspect of the Transcendental Reality. Truth is complete when it is both dynamic and silent. Truth is complete when the dynamic aspect and the silent aspect function together. The story of the goddess Kali is told in the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana.

Goddess Kali is often portrayed standing on Lord Shiva, who is Her husband. Maa Kali stepping over Lord Shiva has an interesting story behind it.

The famous story is that Kali was very angry about the injustice and wrongdoings on earth. She wanted to finish the world and began her Tandava. All creatures went helter-skelter, looking for shelter, as the world began to crack up with earthquakes and demolitions.No one could stop her, she was unstoppable in her rampage.

It was true that evil had exceeded and needed to be stopped, but also true that not all people were evil, not all needed to be taken to task. Shakti can be glorious as Durga, and she can be fear invoking, as Kali, it depends on the Bhava we set for Her. If we trouble Mother Nature too much, she is bound to get into a Kali Mood. Lord Shiva, her husband laid down on her path, knowing that this will stop her. But she stepped even on Him. She instantly realized that this was her husband, and She calmed down, the wife in her emerged, and she lolled her tongue in a gesture of “sorry”.The Maha Pralaya was thus averted.

This is the Katha (story) for which we pray to Ma Kali. But God and Shakti are multidimensional, so there can be many understandings of the symbolism.The esoteric meaning can also be:

The power of Maya (Bhadrakali) is so great that it can even make God Himself forget his own self and slip into an unconscious state.

It is only when the force of His own Maya is lifted that he may slowly rise. This is somewhat on the lines of the Rishis of Kashmir Shaivism who state that this forgetfulness and remembrance of His own Nature is the eternal play of God and His own Maya. Because, she, as Shakti, is the equal Half of the Supreme.

It is said Shiva without Shakti is inert like a shava, till he doesn’t recognize that the shakti is His own, that in the highest reality, they are never separate. Shiva is also called Shaktimaan, the wielder of His own Maya. Therefore this portrayal encapsulates the great teaching that God also plays out the Lila of getting trampled by Maya before He regains His original position alongside her as The Lord Himself. Aum Namah Shivaya.

Article by Shail Gulhati, the Author of the book Shiva, The ultimate time traveler