Kali, the foremost of the ten incarnations of the Goddess Durga, is regarded as her aggressive form. It's the ancient texts of Devi Mahatmya composed in the 5th and 6th century that made her popular. In these texts, she is described to have been born out of Durga's brow or forehead during one of her battles with the demons. The legend has it that in the ancient times, demons had disturbed the peace of Gods, so much so that the latter had to hide in the Himalayas for survival. As such, they turned to Goddess Durga for help and Kali was born. Along with two of her escorts, Dakini and Jagini, Kali set out to kill demons, to restore peace on Earth and in Heavens. But she got so immersed in slaughtering the demons that anyone who came in her path was also destroyed. And to stop her, Lord Shiva blended with the demons and threw himself in her path.
Performing the dance of victory, she destroyed everyone and everything in sight. She, then, accidently stepped on Lord Shiva. Shocked at the sight of Lord Shiva lying under her foot, her tongue out, and with repentance, Kali came to her senses. It's this image, which has been made famous through years of depiction in paintings and idols that is worshipped by the devotees on the night of Kali Puja and otherwise. Millions of people, particularly in West Bengal, Orissa, and Assam, celebrate this festival with much fervor and spirit. Apart from homes, thousands of pandals (open pavilions) are set up across these states. Devotees visit these pandals throughout the night. Offerings of red hibiscus flowers, sweets, sweetmeat, and rice and lentils are made to the Goddess. Some homes also practice the tradition of ritual dressing of Goddess Kali in her form of Adi Shakti.
It's on the new moon day of the Hindu month of Ashwin in Bengal, on the night of Kartik Amavasya in October or November, a few days after Durga Puja that the ritual of Kali Puja is performed by the worshippers. It is believed that worshipping her helps one maintain sanity in the inner world, as much as it helps in elimination of evil from the outer world and bringing peace. Along with the idols of Goddess Kali, in many pandals and homes, the devotees also house images and idols of Lord Shiva, her consort. Before the puja begins, people also partake as performers and audience in magic shows and theatres. Fireworks run through the night! The puja commences at midnight and carries on till dawn. It's prescribed that the worshipper should carry on through the night, reciting mantra and performing rituals.
Kali Puja in 2017: Thursday Oct 19