Name Susan Barton Young
School Deering High School
Project Title Kali: Cross-Cultural (Mis)Understandings


In the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses, the “dark goddess” Kali stands out as both terrifying and yet immensely popular as a devotional focus.  In her most well-known forms, she is the goddess of blood-thirsty battle, who resides with jackals in the crematoria and graveyards on the outskirts of society.  In later devotional and tantric traditions, she paradoxically (by Western standards) becomes linked with the Mahadevi—the great mother-goddess who is at once Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress of the world and all in it. 

The West, however, tends to misappropriate Kali’s image.  Falling prey to the tendencies of “Orientalism” (as defined by the late Edward Said), the West makes of Kali “The Other”—either demonizing her as a purely bloodthirsty cult figure (as in many popular movies), or, paradoxically, latching onto her apparent subduing of her consort Shiva as a triumphant icon for the celebration of WomanPower in the feminist movement.

This web-page seeks to provide information and links to a cross-cultural examination of how Kali is presented and viewed by East vs. West. 


This site was created by (Susan Barton Young) at the NEH Summer Institute "Cultures and Religions of the Himalayan Region," held at the College of the Holy Cross, Summer 2006