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|Observances||Prayers, Religious rituals (see puja, prashad)|
|Date||Decided by lunar calendar|
|2016 date||29 October|
|2017 date||19 October|
Kali Puja, also known as Shyama Puja or Mahanisha Puja, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Kartik especially in West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Assam and Bangladesh. It coincides with the pan-Indian Lakshmi Puja day of Diwali. While the Bengalis, Odias, Assamese and Maithils adore goddess Kali on this day the rest of India worships goddess Lakshmi on Diwali. Mahanisha puja is performed by the Maithili people of Mithila region in India and Nepal.
The festival of Kali Puja is not an ancient one. Kali Puja was practically unknown before the 18th century, however a late 17th century devotional text Kalika mangalkavya –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 and Assam.
Kali puja (like Durga Puja) worshipers honor 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, animal blood in a skull, sweets, rice and lentils, fish and meat. It is prescribed that a worshiper 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 and in Guwahati 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 has ncorporated wine consumption.
In the Kalighat Temple in Kolkata and in Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Kali is worshipped as Lakshmi on this day so as to reflect an essence of Vaishnava Haldars 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.
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. Two other major Kali Puja observations are Ratanti Kali Puja and Phalaharini Kali Puja. Ratanti puja is celebrated on Magha Krishna Chaturdashi and Phalaharini puja is celebrated on Jyeshta Amavashya of Bengali calendar. The Phalaharini Kali Puja is specially important in the life Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi, since on this day in 1872 Sri Ramakrishna worshipped Sri Sarada Devi as Shodashi. In many Bengali and Assamese households, Kali is worshipped daily.
- McDermott and Kripal p.72
- McDermott p. 373
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- McDaniel p. 223
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- Fuller p. 86
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- See Harding pp. 125-6 for a detailed account of the rituals in Dakshineshwar.
- Gambhirananda, Swami (1955). Holy Mother Shri Sarada Devi (1st ed.). Madras: Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Madras. pp. 48–51.
- Banerjee, Suresh Chandra (1991). Shaktiranga Bangabhumi [Bengal, The Abode of Shaktism] (in Bengali) (1st ed.). Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Pvt Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 81-7215-022-9.
- McDermott, Rachel Fell; Kripal, Jeffrey John. Encountering Kālī: in the margins, at the center, in the West.
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- Narasimhananda, Swami, Prabuddha Bharata, January 2016, The Phalaharini Kali.
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