We've often seen in many photos that Goddess Kali is topless or half-nude.
- What is the meaning of this image?
- Is this image questioning Hinduism's morality level?
Hinduism Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for followers of the Hindu religion and those interested in learning more about Hinduism. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
The premise of the question, that Goddess Kali is like a human female, is incorrect. Ma Kali is the infinite Brahman according to the great spiritual figures like Ramprasad and Sri Ramakrishna. It would be a terrible mistake to read the iconography literally. I am posting one song by Ramprasad published in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna to make the point:
Once for all, this time, I have thoroughly understood.
From one who knows it well, I have learnt the secret of bhava(spiritual mood).
A man has come to me from a country where there is no night,
And now I can not distinguish day from night any longer:
Rituals and Devotions have all grown profitless for me.
My sleep is broken: how can I sleep any more?
For now I am wide awake in the sleeplessness of Yoga.
O Divine Mother, made one with thee in yoga-sleep at last,
My slumber I have lulled asleep evermore.
I bow my head, says Prasad, before desire and liberation;
Knowing the secret that Kali is one with the highest Brahman,
I have discarded, once for all both righteousness and sin.
The iconography of Ma Kali shows her to be completely nude and not just topless. What you think of as her skirt is not really a skirt. Her full breasts nourish all sentient beings. She is shown nude because no finite clothes can cover the infinite.
A philosophical explanation of this image is given in this article.
The answer to this question is two point.
The concept that toplessness is crude or vulgar is a western custom. It's one of the byproducts of Victorian morality that was forced into our cultural system. Before the arrival of westerners, there was no concept of a separate cloth to cover the top half of the body. In Europe, due to colder climate, they have to cover more than we have to. This requirement slowly trickled down into their tradition and toplessness became vulgar When they came to India, they found the one piece sari, which barely used to cover the breasts of women, to be very uncivilized. Hence, in their effort to "civilize" us, they introduced the concept of top cloth and the morality associated with it. If you go to any old temples, you will hardly see the idols covering the top half of the body for this reason alone.
Most of the paintings and images of gods and goddesses you see today are derivatives of the work of Raja Ravi Varma, who first started producing oil paintings of mythological characters. So he chose to dress them as he found appropriate. There is no deeper meaning being conveyed.
Toplessness is vulgar according to modern standards. In our original cultural, vulgarity was measured in terms of character and it's purity, not how many clothes you can wear.
Goddess Kali is not only topless but naked because the rishi who wrote down Her description saw Her in that form.(We get the dhyanamantra of Dakshinakali in Vrihattantrasaara compiled by Krishnananda Agamvagish. But he did not compose it.)Forms of God are not imaginations or symbolical. Many siddha saints have seen the forms. Sadhak Kamalakanta writes: কালোরূপে দিগম্বরী হৃদিপদ্ম করে মোর আলো meaning that Her nude black form illumines my heart-lotus.
Another great sadhaka Pemik writes: যিনি বিশ্ব-আবরণ, কে করে তাঁর আবরণ? implying that who can cover the One Who is the Cover of the World, ie covers everything by Her maya.
The God is above the eight bondages called the Ashtapashas, one of which is lajja.
GhrinA shankA bhayam lajjA jugupsA cheti panchami |
Kulam shilam tathA jAtir ashto pAshAh prakirtitA ||
Disgust, apprehension, fear, shame, feeling of insult, Kula-Shila-JAti (pride of family etc) are the eight bondages (pAshAs).
KulArnava Tantram 13.90
She is the ind-weller of all beings, so from whom would She get Lajja? Also, does a mother remain clothed when giving birth to a child? Does she become ashamed to the child?
Saguna Brahma has different forms. If our own human forms are not symbolical, why would we try to explain the meanings of the different aspects of the divine forms?
The connotations of all the forms of the representation of God are almost exclusively allegorical. By being partially nude the Goddess in the fullness of Her terrible beauty stands revealed to us. It speaks to us of a wonder beyond beauty and ugliness. God is beyond human concepts of good and evil. God is beyond shame.
If the Divine Mother reveals Herself to you, will you ask Her why She does not have shame? Or maybe you should ask why you still have shame in your own mind? The Lord only reveals Himself to a person who has gone beyond shame and shamelessness, good and evil.
Perhaps The Goddess Shiva is portrayed topless because the human artists that depicted the images lived in a time where it was the norm in their societies. Early artists and writers- priests, would have had only stories and legends and scientific knowledges about these gods and goddesses and thus to portray an image of a god is to make the image what people will believe, understand and will make them unified and together in thought. It is only a psychological phenomena that many humans create for the enjoyment of others. And artists know that our gods should look like us in our art for the sake of speaking the same language. We are all together, spread out, and together!
A small and tiny description of Maa Kali (Adi-Shakti).
अहं पञ्चभूतान्यपञ्चभूतानि । अहमखिलं जगत् । वेदोऽहमवेदोऽहम् । विद्याहमविद्याहम् । अजाहमनजाहम् । अधश्चोर्ध्वं च तिर्यक्चाहम् । अहं रुद्रेभिर्वसुभिश्चराम्यहमादित्यैरुत विश्वदेवैः । अहं मित्रावरुणावुभौ बिभर्म्यहमिन्द्राग्नी अहमश्विनावुभौ । अहं सोमं त्वष्टारं पूषणं भगं दधाम्यहम् । विष्णुमुरुक्रमं ब्रह्माणमुत प्रजापतिं दधामि । अहं दधामि द्रविणं हविष्मते सुप्राव्ये यजमानाय सुन्वते॥३-६॥
3-6. I am the five elements as also what is different from them. I am the entire world. I am the Veda as well as what is different from it. I am the unborn; I am the born. Below and above and around am I. I move with Rudras and Vasus, with Adityas and Visvedevas. Mitra and Varuna, Indra and Agni, I support, and the two Asvins. I uphold Soma, Tvastir, Pusan and Bhaga, The wide-stepping Vishnu, Brahma, Prajapati. To the zealous sacrificer offering oblation And pressing the Soma-juice do I grant wealth; I am the state, the Bringer of Wealth; Above it all, place I its protector. (Devi Upanishad).
So, basically She is the ehole Universe and every single thing is inside her only.
I don't think any tailor has the capacity to sew or made cloth for the whole universes or even can gather that amount of cloth material.
And What morality level.? Every one comes naked in this world and after death also goes naked only leaving all the belongings.
Every thing is her only, so why she has to be shy of herself.
That's why Lord Shiva is called as Digambara and Mother Shakti is called as Digambari which means the one who has the directions as her garments. In simple language "Naked".
I hope this clarifies your queries.
She is Maa Kali, the eternal mother! Remember she is mother of whole humankind. So, When a son or daughter looks at his or her naked mother or a child sucks milk out of bosom of a mother, does it question morality? Ask yourself. She appears as nude woman only to those whose perception is bound by AGYANA. So what matters is the perception here. Look at her like a mother n feel like her child then such questions will never arise in your mind.
Maa Kali manifested herself in that form to help Ma Durga to kill a demon named Rakta Beej. He was a horrible demon whose blood when fallen would create another copy of him. So Maa Kali started drinking every drop of blood of Rakta Beej and saved the mankind n universe.
Do not look at her as if she is an ordinary naked woman coz she is the mother of the universe!
Although Shiva-Shakti are inseperable Brahmanaswaroop , but in the manifested world Lord Shiva is the eternal Masculine, while GODDESS MAHAKALIKA is the eternal Feminine. After her ritualistic marriage, Goddess Parvati who lived as any other queen, too started living with Mahayogi SADASHIVA on the holy mountain KAILASH with bare minimum, giving up all false material attachments as did Shiva lived. She was thus, not obeyed at Daksha yagna as well by his father Daksha, because of her extreme attachment with Mahayogi Lord Shiva and his yogic peaceful way of living. No body has ever seen Lord Shiva as such except for their sacred-marriage day when LORD SADASHIVA comes to marry Goddess Kali and takes her to his eternal abode KAILASH parvat, that's why we all worship Shiva-Shakti as formless Jyotirlingam swaroop.(Note: Lord Shiva was again seen secondly to world when he came to rescue the escalating situation as nectar finished by Deva and he swallowed the deadly hot poisonous Halahal to save universe thereafter on Trinity's special request.) Goddess Parvati too lived on Himavat parvat, so after her marriage with Shiva, she was named as Kalika for her ferocious nature (she provided complete protection to the devotees who remembered her) and thus, after marriage none seen Shiva-Kalika ever. But, pictures displayed anywhere in the world/books are imaginations only assuming as a Yogi Shiva isn't attached to clothes,etc so does her yogini Kalika, but no one was ever able to see them as they are always situated in their own YOGAMAYA, and are eternal parents of all this 5-elemental universe, universal happenings, and can be only accessible through what sages call as divine love- as they remain imperceivable always in their own Spiritual abode.
Reason:According to sacred scriptures the God is formless Sadashiva, he takes form as Mahashiva and Mahamaya and from Mahamaya these three gods are born Bramha ,Vishnu and Rudra, and there consorts Brahmini, Lakshmi , and Kali-being born of Mahamaya(higher spiritual arrangements) they all are Swatantra and powerful but are under Mahamaya as we are under Maya there Maya is VIDYA MAYA -she controls all the activities and designs the course of destiny of trinity and synchronizes 10 avtars of Sri Hari Vishnuji,various leelas of devas and other happening of universe. Sadashiva is father wrt the Householder Lord Shiva who does leelas along with Shakti KALIKA,and actually vishnu and shiva are synonyms they are not different and brahma as well the trinity is actually three different understandable powers of one Sadashiva...He is yagna purush ,Hiranyagarbha Tatpurush,kaivalyabramha,Poorna Parmeshwarr,Adideva,Sarva sakshi, Aptakaam,Param karan,Sat Chit Ananda of Vedant.and all Agam Nigam Shastras, and the only god who is free Swayambhu. Only Shiva as far told verbally "I am God, I am Shiva", to both Brahmaji and Vishnuji to end their quest for higher knowledge than themselves.
Is this image questioning Hinduism's morality level ?
Not at all, gods are different from humans.
viShNu sleeps on cobra bed, rudra wears serpent as sacrificial-cord - are these guidelines for humans have to follow ? Not at all because if humans do that then human race will end as all humans will get bitten by snakes.
Same logic applies for nudity of some gods/goddesses i.e. these are symbolic and are not dressing guidlines for humans.
These things (nudity, serpent, etc.) symbolize supernatural powers of God i.e. God can do what humans are incapable of doing.