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Kali Katha of Kolkata: How the capital city of West Bengal got its name from Goddess Kali

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By Newsgram Staff  Writer

She is furious. She is wild. She is a rebel. She symbolizes raw power. In Hindu mythology, it is said that goddess Kali originated from the forehead of goddess Durga in order to kill the demons Thimphu and Nishumbhu.

Although worshiped in two different forms, both Durga and Kali are the manifestations of feminine energy. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Kali adorns a garland of human skulls around her neck and human limbs around her waist. She is an epitome of women’s liberation and her dance is the dance of destruction. She creates Maya. Her favorite haunt is the crematoriums. Hers is a world that is dark, evil and gory to the normal eye. Yet, she is the mother to many and a powerful identity of the Hindu religion

Kali’s Journey to Kolkata

Kali is a subaltern goddess and in the past, tribals, dacoits, and the people living away amid hostile conditions sought her help to protect them from the natural calamities. Kali became the God of these people and her temples came up in thick jungles. It was much later, perhaps when these forests were encroached upon, that Kali got a place in the altars of the famous Babu culture of Calcutta.

Kali is the presiding deity of the city of Kolkata and it is after her the city has been named. The city was named Kalikata and was later anglicized to Calcutta after British took control of India. It is said that it was the wrath of Kali that fell on the young Nawab leading to his devastating defeat in the Battle of Plassey and the rest is history (of colonial Calcutta).

According to some historians, the name ‘Kolikata’ was derived from the Bengali term kilkila (“flat area”). But the most widely accepted theory is that it is linked with Goddess Kali. Kali is to Kalikata what Mumba Devi is to Mumbai and Athena is to Athens –it is not only the presiding deity of the city, but also what has given the city its identity and its name.

The term ‘Kalikata’ may have come from Kali Kota which means ‘temple of Kali’. The temple of Kalighat, regarded as one of the 51 shakti peethas, has found mention in texts written as early as 15th century. Thanthania Kalibari was set up in 1703 by another babu of that period Shankar Ghosh.

People of Kolkata have now absorbed Goddess Kali as an integral part of their heritage and culture. The famous festival of Kali Puja is a celebrated event and people from across the world come to this part of this country to experience the festivities.

In what may seem bizarre, on the day of Kali Puja a religious ceremony is also performed in the famous Keoratola crematorium, near Kalighat on where a dead human body is kept in front of the idol as an offering.

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