Goddess Kali is the most misunderstood God in Hindu mythology. In western world, Kali was considered to be the mysterious Goddess of death and destruction. In earlier times even many Hindu devotees were scared of the wrath of Kali. Kali was first widely introduced by Ramkrishna Paramahansa as the Goddess of supreme consciousness. The fierce look of Kali may be fearful and misunderstood by many but Kali is liberation from the cycle of life and death. Kali is the one who can take away death and bring immortality. Kali is the eternal darkness away from the daily activities of life. Still now in may parts of India and world, sacrifice of animals is considered to be the prime ritual for worship of Kali but there were many mythologies and stories where Kali herself stopped the sacrifice. A mythology states that Kali was summoned by a group of criminals who decided to sacrifice a monk to gain her blessings but Kali manifested her during the sacrifice and proceed to kill her worshiper by decapitating them and drinking their blood. Here Kali denied to be understood by those who thinks they understand her and her triumph over good and evil. Kali may look fierce outside but inside the veil, she is the mother of nature and entire universe. She is the mother of benevolence, kindness, compassion. So she is referred as Kali Ma or mother kali or divine Mother.
There are four yugas, satyayug where morality stood in four legs, tretayug where morality stood in three legs, dwapar yug where morality stood in two legs, kaliyug where morality stand in one leg, Kali is the Goddess of the Kaliyug.
Kali also has a deep connection with tantra. Tantra are collection of magical powers that holds the significance of wild form of Kali. Kali also means the force of time , it means Kali will always exist irrespective of space and time, she existed before the world existed and will exist after the world ends. Color, light, good, bad are the limitation of physical world, it never exists for Kali.
Due to her dreaded nature and habit of acting unpredictably at least to those who thought that they understood Kali, Kali was feared by many Hindu devotees. But in 17th century, the fierce nature of Kali was transformed into a more calmer one by Bengali poets in northeast India. She was no longer considered as a terrified Goddess but Goddess with motherly nature, Kali is considered to be the young, beautiful, attractive Goddess with gentle smile , blue complexion and attractive jewellery. While she still holds weaponry and severed head in left hand , her right hands now shows the benevolent gestures of blessings , fearlessness, fulfillment of wishes and charity.
Today the image of Kali represents her duality. Her red protruding tongue represents thirst for blood. Her messy hair represents the metaphysical mystery of death and life, her three eyes represents omniscience, her voluptuous breast indicates nurturing and sexual lust, her nakedness represents carnality and purity. Her garland of severed head and girdle of severed arms represents her killing power but are widely used in tantra for magical creative powers and liberation from the bonds of karmas and accumulated deeds. The posture of divine Kali also represents duality while her forwarded right foot shows the respectable right handed path of Tantra (Dakshinmarg) that represents spirituality and moksha, the infamous left handed path (vamamarga) that represents pancha tattva mainly wine, meat, fish, cereals, sexual intercourse. Her right hands are generally associated with divine gestures while her left hands are associated with weapons like trident, severed head and skull cup . Those are also the symbols of greater purpose, the trident/sword symbolizes higher knowledge and the severed head symbolizes human ego that must be given away to liberate one from the cycle of birth and death.