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Kali Puja

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Kali Puja
Goddess Kali
Observed byHindus
ObservancesPuja, prasadam
DateAshwayuja 30 (Amanta)
Karthika 15 (Purnimanta)
2023 date12 November
2024 date31 October

Kali Puja (ISO: Kālī Pūjā), also known as Shyama Puja or Mahanisha Puja,[1] is a festival originating from the Indian subcontinent, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. It is celebrated on the new moon day (Dipannita Amavasya) of the Hindu calendar month of Ashwayuja (according to the amanta tradition) or Kartika (according to the purnimanta tradition). The festival is especially popular in the region of West Bengal, and other places like Mithila, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, and Tripura, as well as the town of Titwala in Maharashtra, along with the neighbouring country of Bangladesh.


The festival of Kali Puja is not an ancient one. Kali Puja was practically unknown before the 16th century; famous sage Krishnananda Agamavagisha first initiated Kali Puja. A late 17th-century devotional text, Kalika mangalkavya, also mentions an annual festival dedicated to Kali.[2] In Bengal during the 18th century, King (Raja) Krishnachandra of Nabadwip also made this puja wide spread.[3] Kali Puja saw a surge in popularity in the 19th century, coinciding with the rise in prominence of the Kali devotee Shri Ramkrishna among Bengalis. This period marked a significant shift, as affluent landowners began to sponsor the festival extensively, leading to grander and more elaborate celebrations.[4] Along with Durga Puja, Kali Puja is the biggest festival in Tamluk, Barasat,[5] Barrackpore, Naihati, Dhupguri, Dinhata, Tapshitala. It is also famous in Bhagalpur of Bihar.


Artisan making an idol of goddess Kali at Kumortuli, Kolkata.

During Kali Puja (like Durga Puja) worshippers honor the goddess Kali in their homes in the form of clay sculptures 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, sweets, rice, and lentils. It is prescribed that a worshipper should meditate throughout the night until dawn.[6] Homes and pandals 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 and no animals are sacrificed. She is offered food and sweets made of rice, lentils, and fruits.[7]

However, in Tantric tradition, animals are ritually sacrificed on Kali Puja day and offered to the goddess.[3] A celebration of Kali Puja in Kolkata is held in a large cremation ground[8] (Kali is believed to dwell in cremation grounds).[9] Barasat, Barrackpore, Naihati and Madhyamgram region of North 24 Parganas, In North Bengal: Dhupguri, Dinhata, Coochbehar is well known for their majestic pandals, lightings and Idols. Durga Puja of Kolkata is often said synonymously with Kali Puja of Barasat. The region experiences Lacs of footfalls during the days of the festival. People from different regions gather to witness the majestic pandals.

The pandals also house images of Kali's consort, Shiva, two famous Bengali Kali devotees named Ramakrishna and Bamakhepa, along with scenes from mythology of Kali and her various forms, including images of the Mahavidyas, sometimes considered as the "ten Kalis." The Mahavidyas is a group of ten Tantric goddesses headed by Kali.[10] People visit these pandals throughout the night. Kali Puja is also the time for magic shows, theater, and fireworks.[7] Recent custom has incorporated wine consumption.[11]

At Naihati, the goddess Kali is worshipped as Boro Maa(Kali), otherwise known as Boro Kali.[12] Her idol, which is an astounding height of 21 feet, is worshipped with pomp on the night of Diwali. She is adorned with several kilograms of gold and silver jewelry.

Idol of Boro Maa, Naihati

In the Kalighat Temple in Kolkata, Kali is worshipped as Lakshmi on this day. The temple is visited by thousands of devotees who give offerings to the goddess.[3][8] Another famous temple dedicated to Kali in Kolkata is Dakshineswar Kali Temple, where Sri Rāmakrishna performed rites.[a]

Other celebrations[edit]

A Kali Puja pandal with a replica of the Kalighat Kali Temple icon.
Idol of goddess Kali kept near Nimtala ghat for Visarjan or Immersion in the waters of river Hooghly
A child bursting firecracker in Bengal during Kali Puja

Although the widely popular annual Kali Puja celebration, also known as the Dipanwita Kali Puja, is celebrated on the new moon day of the month of Kartika, Kali is also worshipped in other new moon days too. Three other major Kali Puja observations are Ratanti Kali Puja, Phalaharini Kali Puja and Kaushiki Amavasya Kali Puja. Kaushiki amavasya Kali Puja is greatly associated with the goddess Tara of Tarapith as it is considered the day when Devi Tara appeared on earth and blessed sadhak Bamakhepa, also according to the legends on this day the doors of both the "Naraka" and the "swarga" open for some time, while Ratanti puja is celebrated on Magha Krishna Chaturdashi and Phalaharini puja is celebrated on Jyeshta Amavashya of Bengali calendar. The Phalaharini Kali Puja is especially important in the life of the saint Ramakrishna and his wife Sarada Devi, since on this day in 1872, Ramakrishna worshipped Sarada Devi as the goddess Shodashi.[13] In many Bengali and Assamese households, Kali is worshipped daily.[14]


  1. ^ See Harding 1998, pp. 125–6 for a detailed account of the rituals in Dakshineshwar.



  1. ^ "Diwali". Archived from the original on 30 November 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  2. ^ McDermott 2001, p. 373.
  3. ^ a b c McDermott & Kripal 2003, p. 72
  4. ^ McDermott 2001, p. 173.
  5. ^ McDaniel 2004, p. 223.
  6. ^ McDaniel 2004, p. 234.
  7. ^ a b McDaniel 2004, pp. 249–50, 54.
  8. ^ a b Fuller 2004, p. 86.
  9. ^ Crooke, William (1909). "Death; Death Rites; Methods of Disposal of the Dead among the Dravidian and Other Non-Aryan Tribes of India". Anthropos. 4 (2): 457–476. JSTOR 40442412.
  10. ^ Kinsley 1997, p. 18.
  11. ^ Harding 1998, p. 134.
  12. ^ "Naihati's Boro Maa Kali: Where grandeur meets devotion". The Telegraph. Kolkata. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  13. ^ Gambhirananda 1955, pp. 48–51.
  14. ^ Banerjee 1991, p. 114.

Works cited[edit]

  • Banerjee, Suresh Chandra (1991). Shaktiranga Bangabhumi [Bengal, The Abode of Shaktism] (in Bengali) (1st ed.). Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN 81-7215-022-9.
  • Fuller, Christopher John (2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12048-5.
  • Gambhirananda, Swami (1955). Holy Mother Shri Sarada Devi (1st ed.). Madras: Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama.
  • Harding, Elizabeth U. (1998). Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar. India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-81-208-1450-9.
  • Kinsley, David R. (1997). Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-91772-9.
  • McDaniel, June (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-534713-5.
  • McDermott, Rachel Fell (2001). Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kali and Uma in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-803071-3.
  • McDermott, Rachel Fell; Kripal, Jeffrey John (2003). Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23240-2.

Further reading[edit]

  • McDermott, Rachel Fell (2011). Revelry, Rivalry, and Longing for the Goddesses of Bengal: The Fortunes of Hindu Festivals. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-12919-0.
  • Kali Puja. Translated by Saraswati, Swami Satyananda. 1st World Publishing. 1999. ISBN 1-887472-64-9.

External links[edit]