“ The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.” - Mahatma Gandhi


Diwali & Kali Puja


Kali Puja (Bengali: কালীপূজা) or Shyama Puja (Bengali: শ্যামাপূজা) or Mahanisha Puja as it is known in Mithila, Bengal, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Kartik in Bengal. It coincides with the pan-Indian Lakshmi Puja day of Diwali. While the Bengalis, Oriyas and Assamese adore goddess Kali on this day the rest of India worships goddess Lakshmi on Diwali. Maithili people worship both Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Kali on this day.


History


The festival of Kali Puja is not an ancient one in Bengal. Kali Puja was practically unknown before the 18th century, however a late 17th century devotional text Kalikamangalkavya –by Balram mentions an annual festival dedicated to Kali. It was introduced in Bengal during the 18th century, by King (Raja) Krishnachandra of Navadvipa. Kali Puja gained popularity in the 19th century, with Krishanachandra’s grandson Ishvarchandra and the Bengali elite; wealthy landowners began patronizing the festival on a grand scale. Along with Durga Puja, now - Kali Puja is the biggest goddess festival in Bengal.

In the Mithila Region, Kali puja was always celebrated and tantric activities with animal sacrifices were practiced and alcohol was distributed as "prasad". The "aarti" of the Kali Goddess was done by keeping clay lamps lit in mustard oil kept on banana leaves.The puja usually begins after the Kojagara Night and continues up to the 15 Krishna PakshaAshvin. Shyama/Nisha Puja of the Kali Temple in the Darbhanga Palace Grounds,Mithila(Bihar)is thronged by many and is a major attraction in Mithila. Shyama Puja is a one day affair at many Maithil Homes where Goddess Kali is prayed along with Goddess Dhanvantri Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on the day of Deepawali and Lakshmi Puja.


Worship


Kali puja (like Durga Puja) worshipers honor goddess Kali in their homes in the form of clay idols and in pandals (temporary shrines or open pavilions). She is worshipped at night with Tantric rites and mantras. She is prescribed offerings of red hibiscus flowers, animal blood in a skull, sweets, rice and lentils, fish and meat. It is prescribed that a worshipper should meditate throughout the night until dawn. Homes may also practice rites in the Brahmanical (mainstream Hindu-style, non-Tantric) tradition with ritual dressing of Kali in her form as Adya Shakti Kali Animals are ritually sacrificed on Kali Puja day and offered to the goddess. A celebration of Kali Puja in Kolkata is also held in a large cremation ground where she is believed to dwell.

The pandals also house images of god Shiva - the consort of Kali, Ramakrishna and Bamakhepa- two famous Bengali Kali devotees along with scenes from mythology of Kali and her various forms along with Mahavidyas, sometimes considered as the "ten Kalis". The Mahavidyas is a group of ten Tantric goddesses headed by Kali. People visit these pandals throughout the night. Kali Puja is also the time for magic shows and theatre, fireworks. Recent custom involves drinking wine.

In the Kalighat Temple in Kolkata, Kali is worshipped as Lakshmi on this day so as to reflect an essence of VaishnavaHaldars on Kali worship. The temple is visited by thousands of devotees who offer animal sacrifices to the goddess. Another famous temple dedicated to Kali in Kolkata is Dakshineswar Kali Temple. The famous Kali devotee Ramakrishna was a priest at this temple. The celebrations have changed little from his time.