Devi: The Great Goddess
Devi (in Sanskrit and in English)
HomepageAspects of Devi
Cosmic Force
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Chamunda. Lent by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund.
Kali may be said to represent the darker side of Devi's power. Her emergence is chronicled in the third story of the Devi Mahatmya. Confronted by the insolent remarks of the demon generals, Chanda and Munda, a fiery burst of energy emerges from Devi's forehead and takes the dark skeletal form of goddess Kali. Kali overpowers and beheads two demon generals, Chanda and Munda, and when she carries their heads to Devi she is named Chamunda. She is often portrayed as emaciated, black, and with a necklace of skulls. (The story continues in which Devi, Kali and a group of matrikas, or mothers, destroy the demon brothers Shumbha and Nishumbha. In the final battle against Shumbha, Devi absorbs Kali and the matrikas and stands alone for the final battle.)
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Kali Drinks the Blood of Raktabija. Lent by Mr. and Mrs. John Gilmore Ford.
During a fierce battle in which the Great Goddess demonstrates her omnipotence by defeating powerful demons who terrify even the gods, she encounters the fierce Raktabija. Every drop of blood he sheds turns into another demon as it touches the earth. A unique strategy has to be devised to contain him. Devi asks Kali to step in and contain the demon. With her huge mouth and enormous tongue she ferociously laps up Raktabija's blood, thus preventing the uprising of further demons.

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The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560.
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