Goddess kali

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?

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  • 4
    That's not entirely true. The whole disrobing of Draupadi in the Sabha Parva of the Mahabharata was about the removal of the upper garment. (Duryodhana insisted that since the Pandavas were now his slaves, they should remove their upper garments because slaves usually work shirtless, but it was when the same condition be imposed on Draupadi that there was a big hue and cry.). And in the Sundara Kanda of the Ramayana, Sita covers her chest with her knees in front of Ravana, because she has no upper garment to cover it. Oct 14 '14 at 14:33
  • It's true that certain tribal people in South India didn't wear upper garments, but as far as traditional Vedic society goes, high-caste women always had upper garments. Oct 14 '14 at 14:40
  • @KeshavSrinivasan I do not agree. Upper garment for men was merely the one piece of folded cloth which was thrown across the torso over the shoulder. Similarly, the upper garment for women was just the "aanchal" or the sari that was thrown over the shoulder to cover the breasts. Apart from that, tribal people didnt only exist in South India. Plus, as I have said, if you see the inscription of any goddess, or human female, in any ancient historical site, you will find them without any "dedicated" top garment.
    – Pawan
    Oct 15 '14 at 16:33

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?

  • 2
    Welcome to Hinduism!!! In this site we recommend to back answers with authentic scriptural evidences Jan 17 '19 at 13:39
  • Okay let me edit it:)
    – user17294
    Jan 20 '19 at 13:23
  • I have added a verse which describes the 8 pashas .. if u don't like it then u can undo the edit but it's relevant to ur answer..@ParthaBanerjee
    – Rickross
    Jan 20 '19 at 14:28
  • Yes. Actually "because the rishi who wrote down Her description saw Her in that form." answers the question. But citation or source for this would be good. let me find.
    – The Destroyer
    Jan 20 '19 at 16:40

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.

  • 2
    your point is good but this is out of scope of the question give the reason not the explanation.
    – Yogi
    Oct 14 '14 at 11:08
  • Downvoted as I agree with Yogi.
    – Wikash_
    Jan 19 '19 at 20:03
  • @yogi Kali is the a form of God. She is covered by the akasha itself. Jan 21 '19 at 14:31

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!


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 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. 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 universe, universal happenings, and can be only accessible through what sages call as divine love- as they remain imperceivable always.

  • 1
    Welcome to Hinduism SE! The answer posted here must be backed up by valid sources.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Jul 19 '20 at 7:00
  • You did not answered the question.
    – Wikash_
    Jul 19 '20 at 8:23

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