Artists: Notes on Art Making

Published in India Magazine, July 1935, pp. 51-52

There is something new, refreshing, and authentic in this model image of Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Sakti (Power) which has come to be worshipped in Calcutta since 1933. Designed by a young Bengali artist, the conception of Hindu Pantheon - represented in one all-powerful destructive Female Energy-has been an attack on the belief that was set up a few centuries ago by Krishnanda Aganbaghish, a scholar and a devotee of the cult of Saktism from Nabadwip.

According to Krishnanda’s conception and design - She is dark in complexion, fourhanded, with eyes burning with rage, made for destruction, and standing over Siva, Her consort, in awful consciousness. In one of Her hands she holds a human skull, in another a sacrificial sword, and the other two are left free for offering blessings on mankind.

In this mage, however, She posses a shining complexion resembling pounded collyrium. She is four-handed and is standing over Shiva smiling a placid smile of the Self-satisfaction. The human skull is replaced here by a pot made out of a skull. Her second hand offers blessings; the third grips the sword, and the last holds a trident with two additional wings.

The Mythology

It was asserted in Brahminical Theism that the supreme Deity was revealed mainly in threefold aspects; firstly, as Creator; Secondly as Preserver; and thirdly, as Destroyer. In the Sakta conception of the Trinity the female energy was contemplated as being the essence of Reality, the Mother Goddess of the cosmos. She was regarded according to the cult of Saktas (from Sakti which is a feminine gender), under twin forms - namely (a) as Power-holder, and (b) as Power or Sakti, the Divine Spouse and Mother.

It is described further in the sacred texts that whilst the Mother Goddess was killing the demons in Her furious contemplation of Destruction, a supreme Energy emanated from Her dark, blood coloured forehead, and became manifest in Mahakal (Eternal Time). Kal proceeded from Mahakal as Destruction, and was symbolised and represented in Kali.

It is also said that Kali was born at the deadly hours of night just before the advent of the first Moon, and owing to a phenomenon of the Devine inertia in the Himalayas. Having had a complexion similar to that of thickening clouds, She was named as Shyama, meaning neither ‘black’ nor ‘fair’ but somewhat ‘bluish’.

Old vs. New

This mythological account of the Sakti conception of the Trinity has apparently been our source of inspiration in the matter of designing the image of Kali. If that is so, is a deviation in the mode of expression possible? Or is such deviation right? Let us think of it carefully. The conventional method of decorating image with a black colour, and of associating a dark atmosphere with Kali (according to Krishnanda’s views) is not totally justified. For, her name neither suggests that She should be black (because the name Kali was never borrowed from the word Kali meaning black), nor do the accounts available maintain it. Further, the idea that black is an all-absorbing colour signifies only its destructiveness but never implies the existence of creative and preservative aspects. But Kali, though She represents necessarily one of the aspects of the Trinity, is at the same time a form of the Trinity, a variation of the mode of self-manifestations. In such a respect the latter view, as it presented in the picture, is more authentic, for it conforms to the rules of the old conception. And besides, blue or violet almost represents all the virtues of the Trinity (if the activities of Science are taken into account).

Secondly, in Krishnanda’s Kali there is no emblem of Trinity, whereas our image shows that a trident is put into one of the two resting hands of Krishnanda. It signifies and symbolises every quality that is an Absolute power. This She takes up with the lower left hand.

Naturally, the sword is held up by the left upper hand to represent Power, Destruction and Justice. In the convention this essential point is, however, over-looked, and the sword is placed on the right upper hand.

It is seen in the fourth place that a pot of skull, which is supposed to contain nectar, is placed in Her right upper hand instead of a mere human skull; which symbolizes Immorality and Eternal Time (as Sakti behind the Mother Goddess) more than what the human skull does. For, the skull conveys only the sense of ‘morality’ of Man who worships Her; it does not thoroughly describe Her essential quality of being an Immortal by virtue of Her having proceeded from Eternal Time.

Lastly, it is thought that Her blessings, unseen, are showered on all, the lowliest, the loveliest, and the lost. She is the benign Mother Goddess behind every living principle. And this symbolic function of Hers is described in a very beautiful manner by putting a flower in Her lower right hand.

The New Order

These are the new, refreshing and authentic ideas with which the artist has improved upon the image of Kali in symbolic art. Indeed, he has set up a new order to the image of Kali. But it may be added that something more must be done to make the symbolised image of Kali, a true pattern of the Age, and yet a true ideal of the old. The white colour, for instance, will suggest more of Her personified form than either black or blue. For, is it not scientifically true that only solar light creates, preserves and destroys? It is the combination of all true representative of all powers.

The trident with two additionals wings indicates that the Earth received the light first in the North-East direction. True it is so far as the Astronomical Theory stands. But can it not be represented by a monodent? In this realistic world of today, the Atom comprising Electrons and Protons is the most powerful element that ever, exists. It is One, the indivisible, which can exist in an independent state as the Mono-atomic Molecule. It can create, preserve, or destroy. Is it not them a truer emblem of Trinity manifest in cosmic life which worships the Personal Absolute?

Then, Mahadev, the consort of Kali, can be safely omitted in the worship of the Mother Goddess, the essence of Reality. According to Saktism - Prakriti is secondary item. What is essentially needed is therefore a symbolic expression of Sakti, with all Her aspects and forms.

Published in India Magazine, July 1935, pp. 51-52
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