With her sickle raised in jubilant triumph, the lithe-limbed Kali rejoices over the supine body of her husband Shiva. Though inert, Shiva continues to beat his hour-glass drum (damaru), from the sound of which is said to have sprung out the entire manifested existence. His body symbolically lies over heap of mounds, referring to his dwelling place high above in the Himalayas (Mount Kailash).
The sculptor seems to have stressed upon the aspect of Kali associated with the cremation grounds. Towards this end he has even adorned her head with a pair of crossed bones and human skulls. Her short skirt is entirely made up of severed human heads. Nonetheless, being the beautiful female that she is, numerous common ornaments preferred by young women also adorn her body. These include various long and short necklaces as also armlets, bracelets and earrings.
In three of her four arms, the goddess holds terrible attributes related to death. These include the upraised sickle, severed head and a bowl full of blood. The fourth however, makes an interesting contrast. It is in the abhaya mudra, or the fear-removing gesture. Thus Kali here bestows on her devotees the boon of fearlessness, specifically the fear of death. This, in fact, is the essential message of Kali - that pain, sorrow, decay, death, and destruction are not to be overcome or conquered by denying them or explaining them away. Pain and sorrow are woven into the texture of man's life so thoroughly that to negate them is ultimately futile. For man to realize the fullness of his being, for man to exploit his potential as a human being, he must finally accept this dimension of existence. Kali's boon is freedom, the freedom of the child to revel in the moment, and it is won only after confrontation or acceptance of death.
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