On the day of Diwali, when the rest of the nation will be busy celebrating Diwali, Bengal along with some parts of Assam and Orissa will celebrate Kali Puja. This dichotomy in Indian culture is absolutely mind boggling. On one hand we have the festival of lights, Diwali. On the other hand, people worship the Dark Mother, Kali.
The main difference is that of deity. The rest of India does Ganesha and Lakshmi puja on the day of Diwali. But in the Eastern parts of the country, Goddess Kali is worshipped with great pomp and show. Let us delve a little deeper into this difference.
History Of Kali Puja
You may not be aware of the fact that most of the pujas in Hinduism are not based on the Vedas. They are based on individual traditions. Bal Gangadhar Tilak started the Ganapati festival in Maharashtra to foster nationalism and it has been a custom ever since. In a similar way, Raja Krishnachandra who was the king of Navadipa started this Bengali puja of Mahakali in the 18th century. The tradition was carried forward by his descendants and the other wealthy zamindar families in Bengal.
As this puja was basically under the patronage of the rich and famous, it survived on a grand scale. Today, Kali puja is second in grandeur only to Durga puja in Bengal.
The Myth Of Mahakali
There is always mythical story to explain our rituals or pujas. So it is for kali puja. Once upon a time, two asuras, Sumbho and Nishumbho plagued the Earth and the Heaven. Thus the gods prayed to Goddess Durga who is the eternal Shakti of the Universe. To answer their prayers, Kali was born from the forehead of Durga.
Kali attached the errant asuras with a 'khara' which is kind of twisted sword in her hand. Once she started slaying the asuras, her thirst for blood was aroused. She made a garland of the heads of dead asuras and wore around her neck. Then she started slaying anyone who came in her way. To soothe her anger, Shiva (who is her husband) lay in her path. When she stepped on her husband in her fury, she stuck her tongue out in regret. Her fury ended at than moment and that is why she is portrayed with her tongue stuck out and her foot on Shiva.
The Dark Mother
To outsiders, Kali might seem like a very fierce and fearsome goddess. But for her devotees, she is the dark mother. Although she is a Tantrik goddess worshipped, people worship her at home. Kali puja happens at midnight on the amavasya or no moon night of Kartik maasa (a month in the Indian lunar calendar). She is like an all powerful mother who shall rise to protect her children against evil. Earlier she was worshipped to get protection and victory in war. Now she is evoked to avoid droughts, floods and other natural calamities.
The fact that Kali puja coincides with Diwali is a perfect example of India's composite culture. Don't you think so?