Forms

There are different forms of Kali worshipped by devotees. Sometimes she is four armed or ten armed. Sometimes she is black or blue. The following are the popular forms of mother goddess.

Kaalratri  is one of the major forms of Mother Goddess – Kali, Mahakali, Bhadrakali, Bhairavi and the seventh form amongst the Navadurga (9 forms of durgs). On the seventh day of Navratri pooja (ritual) is dedicated to Kalaratri. Conceptually she is the protector who washes away a dark night or a night of a great battle (kaal means time and ratri means night). She is the one who destroys ignorance and removes darkness. Her power is ultimate that destroys human acts by the power of time (kaal). Kaalratri is also known as Shubhamkari or “good-doing”. We can find goddess Kali’s apparence in the Hindu epic Mahabharata on the battle ground of Kurukshetra. She takes away spirits of dead worriers. Kaalratri holds scimitar (symbolizes power) in left upper hand and a thorn like weapon (symbolizes time that washes past) by her left lower hand. Her right upper and lower hands shows Avaya and Vara mudra (the gestures of fearlessness and boon). Argala Stotram (the devi verse) starts with her salutations :

1.1: Jaya Tvam Devi Caamunndde Jaya Bhuu-Taapa-Haarinni |
1.2: Jaya Sarva-Gate Devi Kaalaraatri Namostu Te ||

means:

1.1:  Victory to You, O Devi Chamunda, Victory to You Who are the Remover of Worldly Afflictions and Sorrows,
1.2: Victory to You O Devi, Who are Present in All Beings; Salutations to You, O Devi Kalaratri .

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Goddess Kaalratri

Dakshina Kali The most popular form of the goddess is Dakshina Kali. Dakshina Kali is benign and considered the protector goddess. She is worshipped in temples and by householders. Devotees believe that she is the most approachable form of the goddess. Dakshina Kali has four hands. Upper left hand with scimitar, lower left hand with severed head, upper right hand with Avaya Mudra and lower right hand with Varada Mudra. Her right foot is on Lord Shiva’s chest.
Dakshina Kali idol was first initiated by Krishnananda Agamavagisha who is the author of the book Tantrasara and teacher of Ramprasad Sen. He wanted to portray Kali as a benevolent mother after understanding Kali’s deep iconography and symbolism. One dawn when Krishnananda came out of his house, he found a young cowherdess engaged in her work. She was standing with the right knee thrown to the front and the left leg firm behind in a slanting position. Her complexion was dark. Her hair was open and the black lady was keeping her hands as raised. On the sudden consciousness of being noticed by Krishnananda the woman felt very much ashamed and pressed her tongue that lolled with her teeth. The appearance of the woman as seen by Krishnananda Agamavagisha is worshipped as the image of Dakshina Kali.
Dakshina Kali is either black or blue. The blue form of Dakshina Kali is called Shyama Kali due to the same complexion of Shyam (Krishna).

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Goddess Bhabatarini in Dakshineswar Kali Temple

Vama Kali If the Kali steps out with the left foot and holds the scimitar in her right hand, she is the terrible form of Mother, the Vama Kali or Smashan Kali ( Kali of the cremation ground ). Smashan Kali is the chief goddess of Tantric texts. She is worshiped by tantrics in the cremation ground to brings success quickly. She is not worshiped by householders.
Maha Kali Maha Kali literally translated as Great Kali means Great Time. She is always fighting against the hostile forces, human limitations and death. She is the epithet of the God Shiva in Hinduism. She has ten heads, ten arms and ten legs signifying she is looking and acting in all ten directions. She is worshiped as the warrior mother. Each of her ten hands holds different weapons provided by different Hindu Devas (Deity) signifying the powers of the various Gods come only through Her grace.

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Goddess Mahakali

Bhadra Kali Bhadra Kali is the gentle form of the Goddess.  The letter ‘Bha’ means ‘delusion’ or ‘Maya’ in Devanagiri and ‘dra’ means ‘the greatest’. So the meaning of Bhadra is Maha Maya and Bhadra Kali means Mahamaya Kali. According to Markendaya Purana she is same as Durga with ten arms. In Mahabharata Bhadrakali is another name of goddess Durga. She is the slayer of demon Mahisasura and also the one who destroyed Daksha yajna.In south India there are several temples of bhadrakali.

This form of Kali is without her garland of human heads, girdle of human hands, a skull-bowl in one of her hands and a lolling tongue , the exceptionally graceful and majestic form of the goddess. The goddess has been conceived carrying ‘vina’ – a kind of lyre, in one hand, and a lotus in the other, and a few other in her crown. She has a round face except a little protruding chin, large lotus eyes, broad forehead, small elegantly shaped lips and sharp nose. She is carrying a sword, pestle, lotus and chopper in her hands on the right, and conch, goad, noose and ‘vina’ in those on the left. Her figure has been enormously bejeweled and elegantly costumed.

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Goddess Bhadrakali

Maternal Kali During Samundra Manthan (churning of the ocean), a poison raised to destroy world. There were no god who could consume the poison except Lord Shiva as he is eternal. But when He drunk the poison emerged in the sea he suffered by the effect of poison. Then Kali took the form of a mother feed Shiva her milk which soothed the effect of the poison. This form of Kali is known as Maternal Kali.

Raksha Kali In times of natural disaster she is invoked as the protective Raksha Kali. In some places Raksha Kali is two-armed and the left leg forward, placed on the chest of Shiva depicting her protecting form. It is believed that she gives protection from epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought and flood. The idol is painted on the same day of the Raksha Kali puja which is performed on a new moon day. The idol is immersed in river before sunrise of the same night.