Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center in the West

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Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center in the West
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Encountering Kali explores one of the most remarkable divinities the world has seen. The Hindu goddess Kali has simultaneously understood as a blood-thirsty warrior a deity of ritual possession a tantric sexual partner and an all-loving compassionate mother. Popular and scholarly interest in her has been on the rise in the West in recent years. Responding to this phenomenon McDermott and Kripal's volume focuses on the complexities involved in interpreting Kali in both her indigenous South Asian settings and her more recent Western incarnation. Through the shifting lenses of scriptural history temple architecture political reflection and the goddess's recent guises on the Internet, the contributors pose questions that illuminate our understanding of Kali while addressing the problems and promises inherent in every act of cross-cultural interpretation.


" This book of enduring interest has a mine of information for any Kali zealot." --------The Astrological Magazine Vol.: 95, No. 1, Jan. 2006 "The questions and concept raised in this work are quite intelligent..........an attempt to understand India

About The Author

RACHEL FELL McDermott is an Assistant Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College. She is the author of Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kali and Uma in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal.

JEFFREY J. KRIPAL is the Lynette S. Autry Associate Professor in the Humanities at Rice University and author of Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna (1995, 1998) and Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom: botulism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism (2001).


About The Chapter Silhouettes

My work incorporates my interaction with a broad range of media, suitable to bringing out energies manifest in ideas that relate to what I call "meshes of the continuum." These meshes are a weaving of my mind, experienced through being touched by truth-a flow of relationships and events stemming from the evolving archaeology of my existence that began in India. I draw and paint to realize fragments and wholes, through a layering process using traditional as well as digital media. "Layering" is a metaphor to express whatever I wish to contain in space: the memory of time, deity, culture, power, and compassion, and my existence as a Christian amid myriad religiosities. These elements are brought together spatially in what becomes for me a layered mandala. I use colour as discrete units of energy in an attempt to portray an ineffable, archetypal luminosity. I assign meaning to evolve a new whole, energized by my breath and charged with a vision from a sanctuary of "knowing."

To arrive at a contemporary visualization of the Corpus Kali, I began looking for a model whose life and art spoke of intense sexual energy. The Lolitaesque renditions of Kali as seen in Indian calendar art and popular posters were simply not reasonable models of inspiration. I see her as a dancer, always moving in relation to a chronology of timelessness. In the dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, I have found an appropriate conceptual model for Kali. Her dances and technique come in part from a deeply sexual source. The image on the cover of the paperback edition of this volume is a homage to the Kali in Graham. Kali luxuriates in a very Graham-like expression of movement that thrusts the glory of her being out at us. It sings its eroticism right down to the particular velvet dark blue that contains her energy in perfect equipoise. Kali's dark, luminous colour and the expression on her face at once make her accessible emotionally and yet distance her from intimate communion. Visualizing the Goddess in this way stills the nervous system; one is becalmed under the fiery yet benevolent stare of the Devi, the luxuriant Goddess, the Mother and exemplar of intense feelings. Continuing to see her in the round, I have also created a series of fourteen drawings that appear as silhouettes throughout the book. These silhouettes help project the depth of Kali's force. She helps one be long, particularly in the nascent dawn of late capitalism. There is much to see and understand.

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