Pigments on paper
India, Mandi, First half of the 18th century
Height: 20,5; Width: 15 cm
This very strong image is depicting the fierce Kali. Naked, dark-coloured, her neck and arms adorned with human bone necklaces. The terrible Kali is licking the blood of a freshly cut out human skull. Her eight arms are holding a sword, a human freshly cut head, the trident, a spine, a rope, a mala rosary, a stick and a skullcap.
Kali symbolizes Time: raging everything in its way. She is named “Digambara”, which means “Naked in space”. The immensity of space is her coat. The dark colour of her skin represents the moment where space and time do not exist any more. She is one of the most powerful deities and for sure the most powerful feminine one. This painting is different from traditional representations of Kali. She is normally depicted trampling on the burning corpse of Shiva in cremation ground.
This painting can be linked to a series of painting by a painter identified as The Master at the court of Mandi active at the same period, like the Shiva painting kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum (IS. 239-1952).
See: Harshananda, S. (1982) Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, pp. 116 – 121.
For a painting with a very closely related iconography, see: Menzies, J. (2006) Goddess Divine Energy, Art Gallery of New South Wales, p. 134, N°84.
See also: Kossack, S., Exhibition Catalogue, Metropolitan Museum New York (From the 25th of March to the 6th of July 1997) Indian Court Painting – 16th – 19th century, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, ill. 44.