Yup, you are seeing it right – that’s Kali Devi on New York City’s Empire State Building (from August 2015). Designed by artist Android Jones as part of an exhibit by filmmaker Louie Psihoyos called Projecting Change, the intention was to call attention of massive wildlife extinction – with a statement that we need a “fierce goddess” like Kali Devi (which they called “the goddess of darkness”) to combat this disturbing trend.

Is it appropriate to call Kali Devi “the goddess of darkness?” She’s a little difficult to explain – especially to kids. She is, after all, a bit…er…violent in her appearance – with skulls around her neck, severed arms as a skirt, (almost) stepping on Lord Shiva – all while holding a head with dripping blood. And she’s often confused with Goddess Durga.

There’s so much to explain about Kali Devi – and an understanding of her and her symbolism would render a fairly comprehensive summary of Hinduism itself. But suffice it to say that she is a fierce form of the mother goddess – believed to have been born from the brow of Goddess Durga during a battle. During this battle, in her thoroughness, she got a little carried away in her destruction and Lord Shiva threw himself at her feet to stop her – at which point Kali Devi stuck out her tongue in shock.

In essence she is a reminder that our bodies are mere temporary dressings for the Atman – and is really a symbol of true liberation.


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