Why does Goddess Kali stand on Lord Shiva with her tongue sticking out?
Goddess Kali is the ultimate representation of feminine power of destruction. She is unabashed and untamable with the heart and mind set upon destruction and consumptive endeavours. Born out of the brows of Goddess Durga during one of her fights with demons, Kali is black in colour. She is seen with her hair untied, One of her four hands clutches a demon’s severed head and another is seen holding the Kharga or a curved sword. Two other hands are dedicated to her devotees, with the promise of protection and blessing. She wears a garland of severed demon heads and a girdle of severed demon hands. But if she is benign in the slightest sense then why does Goddess Kali stand on Lord Shiva with her tongue sticking out?
Goddess Kali represents the force of the ultimate devourer. She is bathed in blood and one of her leg is seen folded to her knee. The figure she represents is one that is sufficient to strike fear into the weak-hearted. It is no surprise therefore that early orientalist historians assumed Goddess Kali herself was a demon. Blood sacrifices of animals are not uncommon in her worship. In some places where dacoits worshipped the Goddess, she is known to have received human sacrifices too. Even Lord Shiva’s Taandav dance seems somewhat tame next to Kali’s dance of destruction. The tongue sticking out has a dual meaning. On the first instance, it underscores her insatiable, omnivorous appetite for all tastes this world of senses has to offer. When the Goddess allowed herself to get loose upon creation, she went on a raging rampage. No demon, human or God stood a chance at stopping her blood-lust. A collective prayer was made to Lord Shiva by all beings to try to stop this Maha-Shakti form of his consort. Such was the power of the Goddess that wherever she set foot, absolute destruction followed suit. Lord Shiva realised even he could not reason with such an elemental force. He had to reach out to her in terms of emotions. As such, he decided to lay down in the Goddess’ path. When Kali finally reached the spot where Lord Shiva was lying down, she did not notice him until she stepped on his chest. So far, everything she was setting foot on was being destroyed. This was an exception, Kali was forced to look down and found Shiva there. Sudden realization dawned on her and she snapped out of her reverie and found herself extremely ashamed, sticking out her tongue instinctively as a sign of regret.
The ability to realize propriety and adhere to sense even as she was drunk with the passion for destruction proves the Goddess’s ability for compassion. Artists and sculptors choose to depict this statue of the Goddess, in order to capture the perfect balance of passion and humility, alongside unbridled power and frank sense of accepting having made a mistake.
We learn from Goddess Kali’s example that even righteous anger, bore out of the desire to protect one’s devotees as a mother would protect her children, can turn into an orgiastic blood lust. That kind of anger is at times necessary to singe off all signs of bondage and evils of dependence on materiality. Goddess Kali is mostly referred to as “Maa” – a popular address directed to mothers. The worship of Goddess Kali therefore stands for the devotees’ desire to find the primal protection of the mother, to guard against material and spiritual evil.