Goddess Kalaratri, also spelled as Kalrathri, is the seventh Goddess among the Navadurgas and is a representation of the destructive power of Shakthi. She takes the lead as the primary deity on the seventh day of Navarathri’s.
Although Goddess Kalaratri looks very fierce among the Navadurgas, it is only for the demons and the wicked. But for a devotee, maa Kalaratri is a very generous goddess who is kind at heart and brings auspiciousness.
The name Kali and Kalaratri are usually used interchangeably by many, mainly due to their similarities in their appearance and nature.
But many Hindu scholars and those who are well versed with Saktheya literature disagree with that.
What do Hindu Scriptures say about Goddess Kalaratri?
The description of Kalaratri is present in Shaiva and Shaktheya Agamas, Puranas like Markhandeya purana, Skanda purana, Devi Bhagavata purana, Varaha purana and others.
Also, the details about the Goddess Kalaratri were also present in Itihasas like the Ramayana and Mahabharatha along with several Shaivite and Shaktheya scriptures.
The Varaha Purana describes Kalaratri as a fiercely form that was born from the darkness and went to the blue mountain to perform penance and can cause destruction to the enemies.
Hymns on Goddess Lalitha describes Kalarathri as one among the 12 Shaktis associated with the 12 petals of the Anahata Padma of Anahata Chakra.
In the Padamala mantra vidya of Chamunda, Goddess Kalaratri was mentioned in the sixth hymn as the one who is like the darkest night.
In several invoking mantras of Devi, Goddess Kalarathri is mentioned indicating the internal meaning that this Goddess eliminates the obstacles that are caused in time and grants success.
In the tantra shastra and mantra vidyas, the Goddess Kalarathri is worshipped to attain the sadhakas wish to vanish and reappear.
Also in Puranas, that which explains the Sumbha Nisumbha vadha and the battles of destroying the Dhumralochana, Chanda, Munda ,Ruru. Often the names of Kali and Kalarathri are used interchangeably.
The Markhandeya Purana gives another version that Kalarathri along with other Goddesses like Ekavira are the distinguished form of Maha Lakshmi.
In some stories, Kalarathri is also mentioned as a powerful Shakthi at the southern opening of Mount Kailash.
Shilpa Prakarsha, a book on Shilpa shastra had described the Goddess that rules the night portion of day, referring to the Saudhikagama.
Several tantric scriptures also depict the Maa Kalaratri is the one who rules a portion of the night.
Iconography of Kalarathri
Having a grim smile on her face, Kalaratri is described as a fierce form with the dark complexion.
The Devi is described as one with three eyes and four arms, holding a curved sword and a vajrayudha in her left hands and showing Abhaya (the pose of protection), Varada mudras (the pose of bestowing) by her right hands.
She is also described as the one with bounty hair or sometimes with a single braid of hair.
The Goddess is also described as having Japa flowers (hibiscus) as her ear ornaments, long bloody lips, wearing the metal anklets with spikes, inhaling and exhaling breath of fire, oiled body, naked and seated on a donkey, which acts as her Vahana.
Also, adding to her fierce form, maa Kalaratri is described wearing a garland of skulls, red hands due to the blood of the wicked.
Worshipping Devi Kalarathri
Phrases related to the worship of the Navadurgas devi’s in connection with Navaratris can be linked to the Devi charithra, Navadurgapuja rahasya, which further attributes to rudrayamala.
Worshipping Goddess Kalarathri is believed to bring success and wisdom in the activities started by her devotees. Also, the Devi is well known for her protecting nature and even for bestowing nature to her devotees.
Worship of Kalaratri Devi is much confined nowadays as a vidya which is practiced by a sadhaka doing Kalaratri sadhana. However, the worship of goddess Kalarathri by the normal people is much confined to special festivals like Dussehra or Navaratri, or on any auspicious days of Devi.
However, one worship goddess Kalaratri on any day.
It is also the same with the temples of Kalarathri, only are very few temples are present especially dedicated to Goddess Kalarathri
Most of the times, one can find the idols or statues of Kalarathri in large Devi temples.
Some of the temples that are dedicated to maa Kalarathri are
- Kalarathri temple, Varanasi
- Kalarathri temple, Nayagaon
- Devi Kalaratri Temple, Mirzapur
Mantra and Hymn for Goddess Kalaratri
Om Devi Kalaratryai Namaha
Ekaveni japa karna-puraa nagna kharaasthitha
Lambhosti karni-kakarni taila(a)bhyaktha shareerini
Vamapadollasalloha latakantaka bushana
Vardhana murdhvaja krushna Kalarathrir bhayamkari
O Goddess with a single brait of hair (Ekaveni), wearing the Japa flowers – Hibiscus around her ears as ornaments, who is naked and seated on a donkey.
Whose lips are long and big, wearing earrings on her ears and whose body is smeared with the oil
The one whose left leg is adorned with thorny coils of metal like a creeper as an ornament
The one who increases the prosperity, O the one in dark blue colour, Goddess Kalarathri, the terrible one to the wicked (I bow to you)
Story of Devi Kalaratri
As discussed earlier, Goddess Kalaratri is described as goddess Kali in several Hindu scriptures, just like Maa Katyayani as Mahishasura Mardini.
That is the reason why the goddess Kalaratri story is linked with the story of Kali in the slaying of demons Sumbha, Nisumbha, and others.
Origin of Devi
Once upon a time, there lived demons named Sumbha and Nisumbha, who are brothers by birth.
They had done a great penance on God Brahma and got several boons like the boon of invincibility on all the creatures. However, they didn’t include the woman or ladies in their list while asking the boon underestimating the power of a woman.
Upon attaining powers from Brahma, he took the role of head of the Asura clan. The forces of demons Rakthabija, Dumralochana had joined their hands with Sumbha strengthening his leadership.
With his own mighty strength and strong forces of allies, the Asura clan became much more powerful in a way that was never seen before.
Later, Sumbha and Nisumbha raised a war against Devaloka and defeated Indra.
Also, they disturbed the balance of Dharma and caused several troubles for Devas.
Unable to control the Sumbha and Nisumbha, all the gods went to the Himalayas and prayed for the Parasakthi.
The goddesses appeared before them and asked for their wish. Devas explained the situation to the goddesses and asked for her protection in order to restore the balance in the universe.
Goddess Ambika agreed and created several other forms of Shakthi namely the Kaushiki, Kalarathri, or Kali, and others to fight against the forces of Asuras.
Battle with Demons Sumbha and Nisumbha
One of the ministers in the court of Sumbha, saw the Ambika who he thought that no one in the world’s can be with such a beauty.
He went and informed his leaders about that lady and her beauty and said that one of you can marry that girl and she is a great match for anyone of you.
As Sumbha and Nisumbha were brothers, the younger brother Nisumbha said to Sumbha to marry her as he was elder to him.
Sumbha too agreed and ordered his ministers to send a messenger to the Ambika Devi.
The messenger came to Devi and said O lady, you are a person with enchanting beauty. I came from the court of Sumbha and Nisumbha, the leaders of the Deva, Pathala, and Bhu Lokas. My King Sumbha wishes to marry you; joining his side will be a great match for you.
If you marry him, you will be the queen of all these Lokas and whatever you wish will be in front of you.
Don’t leave this opportunity.
Listening to the words, Devi just looked at the messenger and said, I had made a pledge that I will only marry the one whoever defeats me in war. So, go and say to your King to come for war and defeat me.
Listening that the messenger thought to convince the Devi, but no use
Later, the messenger went back to his King and said her reply.
But Sumbha and Nisumbha thought being the head of Lokas, fighting a lady in a war directly will be down to their status and position.
During that time, demon Dhumralochana, said I will go and defeat that lady and bring her as the gift.
The Asura King agreed and Dhumralochana went to the war, where his army was severely destroyed by Kalaratri and Kaushiki.
Seeing this other asura troops too joined the battle, Devi just turned all of them into ashes just by making the sound Hum.
After the defeat, one after other, several Asura warriors and leaders were killed by the Devi.
Later, demons Rakthabeeja, Sumbha, and Nisumbha were also killed by the Devi Ambika.
During this time, Goddess Kalaratri played a key role in the war crushing the armies of the Auras.