Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Kali Mean?

Kali is the name of a fearsome form of the Hindu mother goddess associated with empowerment and death. The name is from the Sanskrit, kal, meaning “time” and “black.” It is usually translated as “the black one” or “beyond time.” Although this makes her seem like a negative force, she is one of the most well-known and worshipped of the Hindu goddesses, and one who may be misunderstood by non-Hindus.

Kali is an incarnation of the mother-goddess Durga, and of Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and devotion, among other attributes.


Yogapedia Explains Kali

Because she is connected with death and destruction, Kali is sometimes depicted as the goddess of death, but that can be a misleading portrayal. She is the destroyer of evil forces, ignorance and sin. Kali is also revered as the goddess of time, creation, power and change. The destruction of ignorance, for example, makes way for change that can lead to enlightenment. The ability to create such change gives Kali her power.

As the goddess of death, Kali grants liberation (moksha) from the life-death cycle by destroying the illusion of the ego, or the individual's self-centered view of reality. To someone attached to the ego, Kali is a frightening deity, but to an enlightened person, she is viewed as affectionate and loving.

Kali is depicted with a black complexion and naked, symbolizing a transcendental nature and freedom from illusion. Although it seems gruesome, her girdle of severed hands symbolizes liberation from the cycle of karma, and her sword represents destruction of false consciousness. She is pictured with three eyes, signifying time – the past, present and future.

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Goddess Kali

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