Also known as the “Terrible Mother”, the Hindu Goddess Kali is making her way to the bodies of tattoo enthusiasts everywhere. Many legends and myths have evolved over time to explain the workings of the universe and forces of nature. Kali has come to symbolize the part of the world that we fear most. Death and destruction are two traits that Kali represents and adding the terrifying image of Kali makes her the type of image that end up being tattooed.
It is no surprise that someone wants to get the image of Kali tattooed on their body. In all honest, the image of Kali is jarring and it’s an attention getter. Most of us get tattoos because we want to display art on our canvas of a body. We want people to ask us about or talk about it. Getting a Kali tattoo is a great way to get a conversation going. However, one question you must ask is “why am I getting this tattoo?”.
In this post we will discuss what the Kali tattoo symbolizes and why someone would get this tattoo. We are going to talk about the history of Kali and some of the other variations of the tattoo that we have seen. By the end of this article we hope that you have a better understanding of what it means to have a Kali tattoo and the what it might symbolize to the person wearing it.
Kali is a Hindu goddess and one of ten Mahavidyas. This is a list of Buddhist and Sakta goddesses.
In Kali’s earliest appearances, she was known to destroy evil forces. Over the course of time, Kali has been worshipped in different ways. Many tantric sects and devotional movements have worshiped Kali as Mother of the Universe, Adi Shakti, Divine Mother or Adi Parashakti. Kali is also seen as the divine protector and the one who liberates.
As far as imagery goes, Kali is generally depicted dancing or standing on her companion, Shiva, who is calm beneath her. Many images of Kali depict her with her tongue hanging out of her mouth. Her eyes are described as being red from rage, her hair is unkempt, and she has sharp teeth.
In the most common image of Kali, she has four arms and is holding various objects including but not limited to a decapitated head, a trident, a sword and a bowl catching the blood from the severed head. However, there are other versions of the goddess Kali that we will talk about below. They are also ways that the Kali tattoo has been depicted.
Kali Tattoo Meaning
In discussing what the Kali tattoo symbolizes, you must understand what Kali, herself, represents and there might be some confusion. Although Kali is said to be the goddess of death and destruction, this is only partly true. It is said that Kali brings death to the ego as way of being self-centered. In no books or texts does it show Kali killing anything but demons and evil entities. Unlike the god Yama, Kali isn’t associated with any kind of human death. Only the idea that our body is a vessel and only here to house our soul. Our attachment to the body gives ego a place to grow. The Kali tattoo represents the death of the ego and the enlightened idea that our body is only temporary.
Kali is also known as the liberator. Just as she frees all her children, she frees us of our ego. The ego fears Kali because it sees its demise in the goddess. Ego sees Kali as the monstrous figure that many of these tattoos depict but if we are in spiritual practice and let Kali in to remove the illusion of ego, we would see her as a compassionate, sweet and loving goddess that loves her children.
Kali Tattoo Variations
Outside of the image of Kali we all know, there are multiple versions of the Goddess Kali that are also popular images that are tattooed in her name. Below are some of the other ways Kali is depicted.
Matangi Kali Tattoo
The Matangi Kali tattoo is the image of the destructive reincarnation of Saraswati. Because she is a goddess of the tantric, she lives on the edges of Hinduism. This image shows Kali in color of emerald green. In one hand she offers food that is either stale or partly eaten. This is the impure hand.
Chhinna Masta Kali Tattoo
This image of Kali is probably the strangest one you will see as Chinna Masta is defined as ‘beheaded’. In this Kali tattoo you will her holding her own severed head and she is drinking the blood coming out. At the bottom of this image shows a couple making love. This image symbolizes both creation and death.
Bhairavi Kali Tattoo
This version of Kali is described as the omen of death. However, Kali is only defending her children in this image. In this version of the Kali tattoo, you might see her in front of her many children.
Shamsana Kali Tattoo
This might be one of the most human versions of the goddess Kali. The Shamsana Kali tattoo depicts Kali with just two hands and no protruding tongue (which is usually one of her defining features). This from of Kali is worshipped in a Hindu Shamsana or Crematorium.
Bagala Kali Tattoo
The Bagala Kali tattoo depicts the goddess pulling out the tongues of demons. In this image, Kali is beautiful and her skin color is notably lighter. It is one of the more violent versions of the Kali tattoo.
Shodoshi Kali Tattoo
This Kali tattoo depiction shows Kali as a seducer. This form would show Kali as a younger woman rising out of the naval of Shiva. In this image, you might see members of the Hindu trinity praying to her.
These are just some of the ways that Kali is depicted in stories and tattoos. The fun part about the Kali tattoo is there are so many versions so depending on what you are feeling, you should be able to find an image of Kali that suits your needs.