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Goddess of Time
Goddess Bhadrakali Worshipped by the Gods- from a tantric Devi series - Google Art Project.jpg
Bhadrakali worshipped by the Trimurti – in the North Indian Basohli style.
Other names
AffiliationDevi and Mahakali
Mantraoṁ glauṁ bhadrakālyai namaḥ
WeaponTrident, Scimitar, Sword, Cleaver, Discus, Conch Shell, Spear, Mace, Vajra, Shield, Waterpot, Drinking Bowl, Goad, Dagger, Demon Head
RegionSouthern India
ConsortVirabhadra (form of Shiva)

Bhadrakālī (Sanskrit: भद्रकाली, Bengali: ভদ্রকালী, Tamil: பத்ரகாளி, Telugu: భద్రకాళి, Malayalam: ഭദ്രകാളി, Kannada: ಭದ್ರಕಾಳಿ, Kodava: ಭದ್ರಕಾಳಿ) (literally "Good Kaali")[1] is a Hindu goddess popular in Southern India. She is one of the fierce forms of the Great Goddess Shakti or Adi Parashakti (also called Durga, Devi, Mahadevi, or Mahamaya) mentioned in the Devi Mahatmyam. Bhadrakali is a popular form of the Great Goddess, worshipped in Kerala as Bhadrakali, Mahakali, Chamunda and Kariam Kali Murti. In Kerala she is seen as the auspicious and fortunate form of Mahakali who protects the good.

This goddess is represented with three eyes, and four, sixteen, or eighteen hands. She carries a number of weapons, with flames flowing from her head, and a small tusk protruding from her mouth. Her worship is also associated with the Tantric tradition of the Matrikas as well as the tradition of the ten Mahavidyas and falls under the broader umbrella of Shaktism. Sarkara, Kodungalloor, Aattukal, Chettikulangara, Thirumandhamkunnu and Chottanikkara are famous Bhadrakali temples in Kerala.

Bhadrakali is primarily worshipped in 4 forms: Darukajit (as the killer of the demon Darika), Dakshajit (as the killer of Daksha), Rurujit (as the slayer of the demon Ruru) and as Mahishajit (as She who killed Mahishasura).


In Sanskrit, Bhadra means good.[1] A major religious interpretation of this name is that Bhadra comes from 'Bha' and 'dra', The letter 'Bha' means 'delusion' or 'Maya' in Devanagiri and 'dra' is used as a superlative i.e. meaning 'the most/the greatest etc.' which makes the meaning of Bhadra as Maha Maya.[2][3] The Sanskrit word 'Bhadra Kaali' therefore can be translated to Hindi as 'Mahamaya Kaali'.


There are at least five traditional versions regarding the origin-incarnations or avatar of Bhadrakali:

1) The first version is from Devi Mahatmyam of the Markandeya Purana, during the battle between Raktabija and Goddess Kaushiki (Durga). Kali was born from the wrath of Goddess Kaushiki, from her forehead. She slew Chanda & Munda and earned the epithet 'Chamundi'. She also slayed the demon Raktabija, which is her most famous feat. This Chamundi-Kali form is said to be the leader of the Sapta-Matrikas and is the most popular form of the Goddess.

2) The second is associated with the Daksha and Dakshayaga, according to the Shiva Purana, Vayu Purana & the Mahabharata. Goddess Bhadrakali was born from the matted locks of Shiva's hair. He ordered her to free Veerabhadra who was imprisoned by Lord Vishnu, as the latter was protecting Daksha. She succeeds and is later heard of as assisting in Daksha's assassination, and hence earned the title 'Dakshajit'.

3) The third version of her origins is from the Bhadrakali Mahatmyam of the Markandeya Purana, in which she is born from the third eye of Lord Shiva who is agitated by the misdeeds of the demon Darika. Bhadrakali, riding a Vetala marches to his fort, challenges him to war and successfully slays him. But her unbound rage even after her triumph disturbs the Devas who request Shiva to lay at her feet as a baby (in varying versions, Shiva asks Kartikkeya and Ganesha to do so). Shiva is able to calm Kali down and sucks the anger out of her, who attempts to suckle him forgetting her rage, mistaking him for an ordinary hungry baby. Widely worshiped in this form, she is often addressed as 'Darikajit'.

4) According to the Kalika Purana, Bhadrakali is said to have appeared in the second yuga to slay the 2nd out of the 4 Mahishasuras. It is believed that when the 3rd Mahishasura wished to know how he would die, he was given a vision of the fair-skinned Bhadrakali who rose out of the milky ocean and slew him in his previous incarnation. He asked to die again at her hands and the Goddess promised that she would incarnate as the 18 armed Mahalakshmi aka Mahishasura Mardini (the account detailed in the Devi Mahatmyam) and slay him. This version of Bhadrakali is worshiped as 'Mahishajit'.

5) According to the Varaha Purana, the Goddess Roudri (assumed to be equivalent to Goddess Parvati and Maheshwari) was meditating at the foot of the Neeli mountain. She came across the Devas who were fleeing, unable to bear the atrocities of the demon Ruru. Angered by the injustice she witnessed, Roudri created Bhadrakali from the embers of her rage and sent her to kill Ruru. Bhadrakali successfully did so and was awarded the epithet 'Rurujit'.

According to Tantra Rahasya, she arose from the North (Uttaramnaya) face (Amnayas) of Shiva, which is blue in color and with three eyes, as Dakshinakalika, Mahakali, Guhyakah, Smashanakalika, Bhadrakali, Ekajata, Ugratara, Taritni, Katyayani, Chhinnamasta, Nilasarasvati, Durga, Jayadurga, Navadurga, Vashuli, Dhumavati, Vishalakshi, Gauri, Bagalamukhi, Pratyangira, Matangi, and Mahishamardini.[4]

The Slaying of Darika[edit]

In Kerala, where the worship of Bhadrakali is prevalent even today, she is worshiped most commonly as Darikajit, based on a story that originated in the Markandeya Purana, and is called the "Bhadrakali Mahatmyam" or "Darika-vadham".

The demon Darika had a very chaste wife, Manodari, who had in her possession a special mantra that would keep her husband invincible, and thus her marriage forever safe. Arrogance took root in Darika's head, who used his newfound invincibility to torment the 14 lokas and usurp the kingdom of the Devas. When Lord Shiva came to know about the misdeeds of demon Darika, he became infuriated. He opened his fiery third eye and the massive flaming form of Bhadrakali emerged. In this incarnation, the Goddess was not his wife, but her daughter. She was huge, wore a ferocious look and had countless hands. Shiva ordered Bhadra Kaali to destroy Darika and she went through the forest.

She met with and struck a deal with a hungry vampiric creature called the Vetala, who was promised the blood and flesh of the demons the Goddess would kill in battle, if it were to serve Bhadrakali as her vehicle. The Vetala agreed and the army from Kailasa marched to Darika's fort (Darika-Puri). The Goddess challenged Darika to battle who marched out with his humongous army, which was easily routed by the Goddess.

However the Goddess found it impossible to kill the demon as he was ever in the protection of his wife's mantra chanting. The Goddess split her form into that of her fierce warrior self that continued to engage in combat and that of a common woman. As the commoner the Goddess went to Manodari, claiming to be the wife of a soldier who was fighting for Darika in his army in the losing battle. Taking pity upon her new "friend", Manodari broke her chanting to console the worried woman, which inadvertently for Daruka broke his invincibility shield. Kali immediately disappeared from Manodari's presence while on the battlefield she had already managed to injure Darika.

As Darika lay at her feet, about to be killed, he decided to appeal to her motherly nature. With faux praises and prayers, he tried to awaken the motherliness within Bhadrakali, hoping that she would let him go. But the Devas gathered there began to sing praises to the Goddess (which go along the lines of "Kante Kalatmaje Kaali, Kante Kali Namostute), thus reminding the Goddess of the atrocities Darika had committed that caused her birth in the first place. Turning a bling eye to Darika's faux innocence, Bhadrakali severed his head and held it aloft in her left hand as she danced around in the battlefield, in order to please her father, Shiva.

But her anger would not succumb and so the Devas invoked Lord Shiva to intervene and calm Kali down, as when in anger Kali had the tendency to reduce the universe into nothingness. Shiva lay in her path as a crying baby and this time, Kali's true motherliness was awakened. She let go of her angry demeanor and scooped up the baby. As she fed the baby with her breast-milk, Shiva sucked the anger right out of her. A now calm Kali expressed her wish to stay at the spot and protect the local people till the end of time. From then on, the spot where she remained came to be known as Kodungallur Shree Kurumba temple.

As Kali spend her time meditating and answering the prayers of the locals, Manodari performed severe austerities, seeking to gain the power to avenge her husband. She collected the sweat of Shiva and sprayed it on Kali, who grew blisters and infections all over her body - common symptoms of leprosy. Seeing an agitated Kali, Shiva incarnated from his ear as Gandakarna and cured Kali. Kali later sprayed Manodari with the remaining sweat, causing her to also contract leprosy. Manodari soon realized her mistake and took refuge at the feet of Bhadrakali who transformed her into the pox goddess, Vasuri-mala.

Gandakarna, Baby Shiva as "Kshetrapala" and Vasuri-Mala are still worshipped along with Bhadrakali at Kodungallur to date, which remains one of her 3 most auspicious temples in Kerala, along with Thirumandhamkunnu Temple & Parumala Valiya Panayannarkavu Devi Temple. It is also listed as one of the 13 'kaavu' temples of Kali and as one of the main 64 Bhadrakali temples in Kerala.

Various traditions and forms of worship[edit]

According to the Kerala traditions, the events described in the Markandeya Purana associated with Bhadrakali (her slaying of the demon Darika to liberate the universe from the evil) took place in Kerala, near Madayi in the Kannur District.[5] Bhadrakali temples in Kerala commemorate this event during traditional festivals and Bhadrakali is worshipped as the daughter of Lord Shiva, from whose third eye she sprung to defeat the demon. According to the Markandeya Purana, her worship purifies the devotee and grants liberation from the cycle of birth and death.[6] She is seen to protect the honour of women and to bestow all spiritual knowledge. In Kerala, she called Virabhadra her "brother" and refused to be treated by him when she was attacked by the deity Vasoorimala, who had marked her face with smallpox. She said that a brother must not touch the face of his sister. Thus, mild pockmarks are sometimes visible on her face in some Keralan depictions of her.[7][8]

Among the people of the neighboring states, especially in Tamil Nadu, this form of Shakti is known as 'Malayala Bhagavathy' or 'Malayala Bhadrakali', who provides protection to her devotees irrespective of caste and religion.

In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and the Southern Travancore area of Kerala, especially in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, the Tamil, Kannada and Telugu speaking communities worship a form of Mahakali as 'Ujjaini Mahakali', and they consider Emperor Vikramaditya as their first teacher in this spiritual tradition as having established the tradition in the South.

In other parts of India, the Tantric name 'Kali' or 'Mahakali' is generally more popular as the consort of Shiva in his form of Rudra or Mahakala, and Bhadrakali is identified as Durga's daughter who helped her during the battle with Raktabija. Other sources state that she is the sister of Virabhadra, who was himself born of the wrath of Shiva as Rudra, and that she is the consort of a form of Mahakala or Bhairava. The deeply Tantric-influenced traditions mostly consider 'Kali' as the consort of Shiva.

Goddess Bhadrakali, gouache on paper (ca. 1660–70)

Martial arts and Bhadrakali[edit]

It is believed Bhadrakali protects the practitioners of Kalarippayattu, a traditional martial arts form. In Malabar, it is believed that all the victories of Thacholi Othenan and other martial artists were due to the blessings of Bhadrakali of the Lokanarkavu Temple, also known as 'The Shaolin Temple of Malayalees'. Most traditional villages in Kerala have their own Kalari, the ancient martial arts schools and local temples dedicated to Bhadrakali associated with them. Among Tamils, Bhadrakali is equally important as the patron deity of traditional martial arts and a guardian of all law-abiding citizens.

Family deity of communities[edit]

Some communities, like the Kodavas, Thiyyar's, Poojaris,Billavas, Thlu Thiyyar's and some Kurup Nairs, worship this deity as family deity. They worship certain weapons at their temples which they believe to be the weapons used by the goddess. The Kuladevata or community deity of Kudumbi community is Kodungalluramma, the mother goddess of kodungallur. Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple is one of the most famous temples in Kerala, dedicated to Bhadrakali. During the 'thalappoli' festival, which is celebrated mainly on Makar Sankranti, kudumbi people from all over the state (mainly Malabar, Thlunad, Kodaka. Thiyyar's many temples in Northern Kerala and Karnataka they are called the Kali Sree kurumba, Cheermba, ParaDevatha ... ... etc..and they have the tradition 2500 more years)come to the temple. Bhadrakali is also the tutelary deity of the Nadar community of Tamil Nadu.[9] Kanyakubja Brahmins with roots in Bhadras, Kanpur worship her as Kuldevi. It is called Bhadras because of the presence of a very old Bhadra Kali Temple.

Kaalidasa and Vikramaditya[edit]

According to legends, the famous Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidasa became what he was thanks to the divine will of Bhadrakali. Another legend states that the emperor Vikramaditya and his brother Bhatti were also ardent devotees of Bhadrakali, whose blessings resulted in all the success showered upon them. Vikramaditya also helped to establish small wayside Bhadrakali temples and prayer centers for pilgrims in many parts of Southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu. The devotional traditions focused around these small temples exist even today.[10]

Folk Art ritual of Kerala and Bhadrakali[edit]

Murti of Bhadrakali in Madurai Meenakshi Temple

Kerala has a tradition of folk artist rituals and dances associated with worship of Devi in the form of Bhadrakali. These rituals are performed in places of worship called Kavu (roughly translated as grove) or in small temples. Besides the general welfare of the village, these rituals aim at warding off of such calamities like smallpox and other epidemic diseases. The ritual themes generally revolve around the triumph of Bhadrakali over the demon Darika and other evil characters.

The dance forms are:

  1. Theyyam
  2. Theeyattu
  3. Padayani
  4. Poothanumthirayum
  5. Mudiyettu
  6. Kuthiyottam
  7. Kettukazcha
  8. Alpindi Vilakku
  9. Thira

Famous Bhadrakali Temples[edit]

Ma Bhadrakali Temple Ujjain
Bhadrakali, circa 1675 painting; made in: India, MAHARASHTRA- Malvan Himachal Pradesh, Basohli, now placed in LACMA Museum (M.72.53.7)
Idol of Pathiyanadu Sree Bhadrakali

Himachal Pradesh[edit]

  • Bhadrakali mata temple at village Kolar tehsil Paonta Sahib, district Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh. It is 22 km from paonta sahib on NH72. The idol in this temple is huge. The temple is being visited by pilgrims. Hindu labana caste worship Maa bhadarkali.


  • There is a famous Bhadrakali temple in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is believed that she protects the city, hence the position of the temple is near the city fort.

Also second temple situated at Bhadran in Anand district.[11]


  • Bhadrakali temple at Itkhori, Chatra. It is 35 km on the East of Chatra and 16 km west of Chauparan connected with Grand Trunk Road. Along with the temple situated on the bank of river Mahanada (Mahane), surrounded by hill and forest, there is a water reservoir.[12]


  • Sree Bhadrakali Amma Temple, Bellur- Hudikeri, South Kodagu
  • Shree Prasanna Bhadrakaali Devi Temple, Gejjagadahalli, Dasanapura Hobli, Shivanapura Post, Off Tumakuru Road, Bengaluru 562123


Madhya Pradesh[edit]

  • Ma Bhadrakali Temple Ujjain
  • Ma Bhadrakali Temple, Badaura Kala in Chhatarpur District



  • Kalika Mata Temple, Chittorgarh
  • A temple of Bhadrakali is found at a place called Bajna at a distance of 36 km from Ratlam city in Malwa region. This Bhadrakali temple is of the period of Parmara rulers and known as Garhkhankhai mataji. This temple is situated in dense forested area of the valley at the sangam of Karan river and Mahi river. Raja Bhoj constructed this temple. This place is also recognized as shaktipitha in India. The excavations at this site has produced rare idols of Shiva in yoga pose, Lakshmi, Gajasursanhar, Surya and Nataraja. The world-famous 'Tripurasundari ma' temple at a distance of 60 km from this place is situated at village Talwada in Banswara district in Rajasthan. An inscription of 1540 AD found here reveals that this temple was constructed prior to the rule of Kanishka. Some people[who?] believe it to be constructed before the 3rd century AD. There was a very ancient place here known as 'Garhpoli' which is called as 'Umarai' at present. Excavations in 1982 at this place have produced idols of Shiva with Parvati on his thigh. Ganesha and Kartikeya are seated on both sides.[15]
Thoothukudi, Sivagnanapuram, Arulmigu Bhadrakali Amman

Tamil Nadu[edit]

Bhadrakali Amman in Sivakasi

Kanyakumari :- Sri Bhadreshwari Amman Temple at Kannathankuzhi is one of the very old and powerful temple worshipped by renowned Nadar family of Pandaram Nadar, Maathan, Sangili, Padmanabhan Nadars.

  • Thoothukudi, Poobalarayerpuram, Arulmigu Bhadrakali Amman Kovil – Amman kodai – Chithirai Last Tuesday, Dasara Car Festival.
  • Thoothukudi, Sivagnanapuram, Arulmigu Bhadrakali Amman Kovil – Amman kodai – Avani First Tuesday, Samy kodai – Panguni First Friday.
  • Vadamattam - 612201, Near Kumbakonam, Arulmigu Sree Vadapathirakali, facing north with Hongara roopam, Perumal molavar.
  • Theni Pathirakalipuram, Pathirakalipuram Arulmigu Bhadrakali Amman Kovil – Amman kodai – Chithirai 3rd Tuesday.
  • Sivakasi, Arulmigu Bhadrakali Amman Kovil.
  • Coimbatore, Mettupalayam, Arulmigu Vana-Bhadrakali Amman Kovil.
  • Madurai, Madapuram, sri bhadrakaliamman kovil.
  • sivagangai, kolangudi, sri vettudayar kaliamman kovil.
  • sivagangai, kandipatti, sri kaliamman kovil.
  • Thoothukudi, sindhalakarai, sri vekkaliamman kovil.
  • Trichy, oorayur, sri vekkaliamman kovil.
  • Madurai, mudakusalai, sri kaliamman kovil.
  • Rajapalayam, pachamadam, Arulmigu pachamadam Bhadrakali Amman Kovil .
  • Chengalpattu, Hanumanthapuram, Pidari Badhra Kaliamman Koil
  • Palamedu,Madurai,Pathirakalli Amman temple


Shri Kodungallur Bhagavathy
  • Bhadrakali Temple in Warangal, Telangana. Bhadrakali (Maha Kali Mata) was the principal deity of the Hindu Kakatiya kingdom of Warangal (Orugallu or Ekasila nagaram) that ruled most of Andhra Pradesh during that period. Rituals and animal (and human, by some accounts) sacrifices on a large scale were performed to invoke the blessings of Goddess Bhadrakali before the Kakatiya warriors went off for battle. As per the writings on the temple wall this temple is believed to be constructed by the King Pulakeshin II of Chalukya dynasty around 625 CE.

Uttar Pradesh[edit]

  • Bhadrakali temple is in Bhadras, Ghatampur, Kanpur.


An ancient temple situated near a scenic waterfall. Pant Brahmins from Khantoli are the traditional priests.[16]

West Bengal[edit]

  • Kalighat Kali Temple, Kalighat Kali Temple is a Hindu temple in West Bengal, India dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas.The temple is visited by pilgrims from all over India irrespective of sectarian differences.Kalighat is also associated with the worship offered to Kali by a Dasanami Monk by name Chowranga Giri, and the Chowringee area of Calcutta is said to have been named after him.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ "A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary". 2002-06-01. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  4. ^ Shakti and Shâkta by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), [1918], Chapter Six Shakti and Shakta. "4) The face in the North is blue in color and with three eyes. By this face, I revealed the Devis, Dakshinakalika, Mahakali, Guhyakah, Smashanakalika, Bhadrakali, Ekajata, Ugratara, Taritni, Katyayani, Chhinnamasta, Nilasarasvati, Durga, Jayadurga, Navadurga, Vashuli, Dhumavati, Vishalakshi, Gauri, Bagalamukhi, Pratyangira, Matangi, Mahishamardini, their rites and Mantras."
  5. ^ Maha Kshethrangalude Munnil, D. C. Books, Kerala
  6. ^ Markandeya Purana
  7. ^ the Horse-worship of the Prajapati Daksha The Mahabharata translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1883 -1896), Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section CCLXXXIV. p. 317. "I am known by the name of Virabhadra’’ and I have sprung from the wrath of Rudra. This lady (who is my companion), and who is called Bhadrakali, hath sprung from the wrath of the goddess."
  8. ^ Purana
  9. ^ Robert L. Hardgrave (1969). The Nadars of Tamilnad: The Political Culture of a Community in Change. University of California Press. p. 38. ISBN 81-7304-701-4.
  10. ^ Ujjaini Mahakali Ammanin Varalaru, Mahatmyam
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Padikkavilakam Bhagavathy Temple
  14. ^
  15. ^ Amit Nigam: Ratlam ki Tripura sundari, Democratic World, 28 December 2006
  16. ^

External links[edit]