On Curious Claims Of There Not Being “Anything Like Kali” In The Vedas – A Brief Illumination To Some Of Her Correlates Within The Vedic Texts

Yesterday evening we encountered this most curious claim:

He might want to check Sankhayana Grihya Sutra II 14 14 – wherein we do, quite literally, find a ‘Bhadrakali’ directly attested.

This guy has been doing a thing for awhile of claiming he’s “reviving” the ‘real’ religion of Vedas. I presume this is why he has sought to take aim at Kali via piggybacking upon Peterson.

Rather than, say, going and checking what’s actually in the Vedas in the first instance …

Now, leaving aside the SankhGr. occurrence above (which, yeah, is – contrary to his opinion, very much a Vedic text) – there are actually a number of occurrences for “anything like Kali” to be found therein.

Here’s a few off the top of my head.

In Shatapatha Brahmana III 5 2 8, we encounter Vak, in the Direction of Death [that is – the South, where the Jaws of the Underworld await], having taken on the wrathful form of a Lioness, being called upon to smite the sacrificer’s foe, sending him screaming into the next world.

In Taittiriya Samhita VI 2 8, She does this for the Gods – and c.f., in this regard, SBr III 5 1 33-36 [in verse 25 of that Brahmana, She destroys the man who breaches a particular religious propriety in this form, as well].

I would also take the ‘Brahmana[‘s] Cow’ of Hymn XII 5 of the AtharvaVeda’s Shaunakiya recension to similarly be referring to Vak – for reasons that ought be obvious (c.f. RV X 114 8, inter alia); that fearsome and terrific Vaisvadevi being therein urged to become Scathing, Destroying, Death (Herself), and cruelly obliterate the transgressor against our religion .

One of those ‘Destroying’ words encountered therein, as a point of interest, is ‘Ksa’ ( क्षा ) – ‘Scorch’, as Whitney translates it … which I mention because in later texts, we meet क्ष being used to describe the Destruction of the World.

Gosh … how “coincidental”.

One might also consider Nirrti – VS XII 62-65 / TS IV 2 5 G-L [that’s equivalent verses from the major recensions of the Shukla & Krishna Yajurvedas, respectively] – wherein the Earth is known as Her [and also described as ‘Ghora’ [‘Terrifying’], indeed, per VS XII 64; ‘Krura’ [‘Cruel’, ‘Harsh’], per TS IV 2 5 i] and enjoined to hunt down the wrongdoer .. with pointed attention paid to Her (devouring) Mouth.

I mention Nirrti ,of course, because the situation encountered in AV-S V 7 9-10 wherein the usually Black (veiled) Goddess is propitiated and therefore becomes bright, golden – resembles the transition from Kali => Gauri of later texts [e.g. Shiva Purana VII 1 24 & 25].

And, speaking of elements that should seem to underpin later Puranic attestations – Taittiriya Brahmana I 6 10 4 declares Ambika [that being the female counterpart to Rudra] to be the Autumn [Sharad], and Killing in such a context (c.f. Mahidhara’s VS [III 57] commentary also) unless propitiated, in a way concordant with what we find in Devi Bhagavata Purana III 26 3-8.

What’s in that Puranic text at that place? The description for the propitiation of Chandika [another of these Wrathful Warrior/Destroyer Goddess Forms, not unrelated to Kali] … that is perhaps better-known as our modern Hindu observance of Navratri.

Now, these are only a few of the exemplars which we might seek to draw from as applies attesting that there are, indeed, very much “anything like Kali” figures to be found within the Vedas : “dreadful-looking”, Wrathful Goddess-forms (as in, a visage and role taken on by a Goddess more usually known in another way, for instance), of complexion the colours of darkened night and oblivion, with terrific mouth(s), and so on and so forth.

Yet I’m choosing to exercise some uncharacteristic restraint here … so just this once, we won’t.

Our point is quite a simple one.

It isn’t even really that this guy is … rather incorrect in what he’s claiming (a phenomenon that is regrettably almost unavoidable as soon as anybody start jumping up and down about how they’re going to “revive” the “real” “religion of the Vedas” – which appears to near-invariably prove simply to be code for “I am going to radically re-imagine our religion in line with my own personal preferences, and claim it’s all archaic so you can’t argue with it”, whether they’re conscious that’s what they’re doing or otherwise … and c.f. Arya Samaj for a much more prominent version of this kind of shenaniganry writ large).

That would be quite a negative thing to end with. And I feel like being ‘positive’ here for a bit of a change.

So here’s the ‘Take Hom(a)’ message for today:

Nobody disputes that there are some differences of ‘labelling’ or ‘stylistic expression’ between different ‘eras’ of Hindu faith – particularly as applies the more ‘popular perception / engagement’ dimensions to things.

It’s almost four thousand years from now back to the rough time at which the more archaic layers of the RigVeda were being codified.
It would be almost unbelievable if there weren’t regional developments, the legacies of individual great poets and playwrights, sculptors and other master craftsmen, and saints and kings to all be taken into account when it comes to how we talk about or envision the Gods.

Yet those are ‘surface manifestations’ – for the most part; and it has frequently been my experience that once one looks at what’s actually going on underneath the ‘exterior expressions’, there’s a far greater phenomenon at play : namely, the resolute and emphatic continuation of essence instead. That which empowers and gives things life. Indeed, is what we’re actually talking about (or, at least, are supposed to be) when we speak about Gods or otherwise delve into these areas.

Clearly, this isn’t just a Kali point – it’s also in quite prominent manifestation as applies Rudra (these days known more popularly as Shiva – a term also used in relation to the more ‘approachable’, ‘auspicious’ facing of Rudra in the Vedas … and the dominant theonymic for Him these days, because .. well .. for most people, seeking to engage with the positive, calm, and not-so-terrifying facing to the God is quite a logical thing to do, right?), to cite but one additional exemplar of the thing.

(The “Thing” in question, in case you were wondering, being people – whether in academia or on the internet – looking to proclaim that a deific expression prominently integral in our modern era of Hindu religion is somehow “non-Vedic”, a ‘subversion’, or this that or the other thing. Despite all available evidence to the contrary on just about all significant fronts)

Personally, I think it’s really great how we can trace direct trajectories of heritage and continuation right the way back to the earliest phases of our faith – and yet see at the same time how particular ways of expressing, engaging with, or otherwise understanding pertinent concepts or figures have continued to ‘dance’ with us over that same, sharing, superlative and star-lit span of time.

But of course that’s just me.

And Her.

Jai Mata Di.

One thought on “On Curious Claims Of There Not Being “Anything Like Kali” In The Vedas – A Brief Illumination To Some Of Her Correlates Within The Vedic Texts

  1. I have come across the view that our ancestral deities did not exist among our more remote ancestors a number of times now. This opinion seems very common amongst those who don’t bother to examine the available evidence deeply or thoroughly, or think that because those divinities current names were not in use or as prevalent as they are now they could not have had an earlier aspect, or don’t subscribe to the comparative method whereby very similar gods to the ones they discount can also be found amongst peoples who share a related ancestry to the worshippers of these current gods. Anyone who puts more time into understanding the history of our shared cultures will see how adopting such a view would be erroneous and self-destructive.

    Liked by 2 people

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