Kalaratri is regarded as a manifestation of Durga, the supreme Goddess. She is the seventh of the nine aspects of Durga and is considered as the most aggressive form of the Goddess. Kalaratri is a ‘Dark Goddess,’ and that is what her name itself suggests. The word ‘Kal’ can mean time, death and also darkness, and ‘Rathri’ is the night. ‘Kalaratri’ can thus be ‘the one who is death to the night-like darkness and ignorance’ or ‘the Goddess of the dark night.’ She is frightening to look at but remains essentially as ‘Shubhamkari,’ the one who brings auspiciousness. Called also in the names Raudri and Dhumorna, this Goddess is said to indicate the dark sides of life and is believed to destroy the demonic forces and evil energies, and bestow the world with peace and goodwill. As the seventh aspect, she is worshipped on Saptami, the seventh day of the nine-day Navaratri festival.
Her Striking Form
True to her name, Kalaratri is black in color, like a moonless night sky. Her hair is disheveled; a shining necklace is flashing around her neck; and flames keep emanating out of her nostrils, as she breathes in and out. She has three fiery eyes, denoting the past, present and the future. She is also four armed. In one of her left hands, she holds a blood-stained hatchet and in the other, a thunderbolt. Her right hands are holding the fear-removing and boon-giving postures, the Abaya and Varada mudras, respectively. Said to be clad in colors like red, blue and white, she is adorned with a tiger skin like Lord Shiva and is riding a donkey.
Facts About Kalaratri
There are many mythological stories about Goddess Kalaratri, and the principal one is associated with demon Raktabeeja. He had obtained a boon that every drop of blood that fell from his body on earth, gave rise to one more Raktabeeja. Emboldened by this incredible ammunition, he started terrorizing all, when the supreme Goddess took the fearful form of Kalaratri and destroyed the demon, ensuring in the process that she drank every drop of his blood before it fell on earth.
However, there is a very early reference to her in the great epic Mahabharata, where she is said to have appeared at the very end of the fierce war. Dronacharya, the teacher of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas, fought the battle on the side of the former when he was tricked and killed by the latter. Drona’s son Ashwattama took treacherous revenge for his father’s death, through unethical means, by destroying the sons of the Pandavas and their kin, at the dead of the night, when they were all asleep. As per the epic, Kalaratri appeared then in her terrible form- dark, old, with crimson eyes, bloodstained mouth, clad in a single red cloth and holding lethal weapons.
However, Skanda Purana paints a different picture, altogether. As the Purana, Goddess Parvati sent Goddess Kalaratri at the behest of her consort Lord Shiva. She sent her to help the Devas win demons like Durgamasura. According to another legend, Goddess Chamunda created Kalaratri, who then fought with the demons Chanda and Munda, caught hold of them and handed over to Chamunda, who then slew them.
Whatever be the account, Durga Saptashati hails Kalaratri as the primal source of all things and as the cause of all the three fundamental qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.