A poster of Kali now above my carving table

A Kali Festival: Feb. 18th
Sunday! Glorious Sunday! The first day I’ve had off in 3 weeks.
Sue and I started off the morning with a walk. Summer and it’s attendant heat are coming to Bangalore. Consequently the city rises early and does its playing in the morning. I wanted to find a lumberyard that I had been to with the carpenter, which had a magnificent Burmese teak log about 8" x 10" x 4’ long for a mere 2800 rupees ($75). The lumberyard was closed, so we went across the street to the cemetery — I’ve seen this while driving by, and now wanted to visit for real.
Sunday, it turns out, is when the cemetery comes alive. Families come out, children play, and on the ancestor’s gravesite it’s all picnics and pujas. The gravestones are written in Kannada, and the graves themselves are freshly decorated with garlands, coconuts, and rangoli, spirograph-like ornamental and devotional drawings. As we walked through the graveyard, we started to hear what I could only describe as high-speed Indian rap.
Attracted to the music (like the pied piper) we passed by a bunch of Shiva tridents, made of rebar, and painted bright yellow. Shiva is the god of creation and destruction. We should have expected the next temple, Kali, but we were surprised when we saw it. Yesterday was Shivarathri, a day of fasting and ceremony dedicated to Shiva. Our Shaivaite friends spent from 5 o’clock onwards worshiping, and gambling, and waiting till the morning to sleep. Then Kali is worshipped. We were now in front of Kali’s temple, and sure enough worship was in full swing. This Kali temple had a huge horizontal 25-foot bas-relief of Kali. Looking like a hippie rose-bowl float, almost every inch was garlanded.The priests had fenced off the statue to allow supplicants to watch without intruding.
Kali is the Indian goddess of death, destruction, and sacrifice. She is the first cosmic wife of Shiva. Her image is that of a multi-armed blue goddess, her pink tongue hanging from her mouth, her neck surrounded by a garland made of human skulls. Tantric images represent her in the act of intercourse, squatting upon Shiva’s prostrate body, and are symbolic of the male and female principles of godhead. Both Shiva and Kali live in cremation grounds (or cemeteries). While her image is the most terrifying of all Hindu deities, she is adored as much as feared by her devotees.
The rap music was drowning out the sound of a black and white rooster, whose feet had been tied with rope. I never have heard roosters cry like this one. He smelt blood, and he knew his time had come. We wouldn’t have guessed that a sacrifice was to occur, until the rooster screamed its fear. Then we saw the black knife. The priest captured the rooster from its desperate escape and stretched its neck over Kali’s mouth. Then the other priest expertly severed the head from the body. When the neck stopped ejaculating its blood into Kali’s mouth, the priest flung the body of the rooster outside the fence and into the dirt. The body jumped around for a while trying to right itself. Eventually it fell down, kicked for a while, and then came to a silent rest...