Starting from today Ashwija Shuddha Pratipada to Ashwija Shuddha Dashami is Navaratri (Nine Nights). These nine nights have ten days in them. In those ten days Shakti, the Supreme Goddess is worshipped and adored in the ten different wisdom forms called Dasha Maha Vidya. They are the ten malignant and benignant aspects of Sati and Parvathi respectively. Each of them represent a distinct aspect intended to guide the seeker towards liberation. To those who are ritualistic these forms can be approached in a spirit of reverence, affection, and increased closeness to Her. To those who are spiritually inclined, these same forms can represent various states of inner awakening. Puranas and Tantra Sahitya says a lot about these forms which aid Devi Durga in the fight against the evil, the elaboration though can be seen in Devi Mahatmya.
Kali is the first among the ten wisdom aspects of the Divine Mother; She represents the Power of Chaitanya (Consciousness) in its highest form thus accentuating the fundamental Tantravada (Theory of Tantra) that the Power of Chaitanya and Chaitanya is one and the same.It is stated in Devi Mahatmya that She emerged out of the wrath of Durga to associate herself in the battle against the Evil Demon duo, Chanda and Munda.
She appears withered with sunken eyes glowing red in their sockets. She wraps Herself with a tiger skin and wears a garland of skulls. Her gaping mouth shows her to be a fearsome, blood-thirsty deity. She has her tongue protruding out of her mouth. After slaying Chanda and Munda she gets the name Chamundi.
As Chamundi she takes on Demon Rakthabija (he whose blood is seed). Interestingly he had a boon which let a drop of his blood to clone another demon of equal size and strength. In the battle, he sheds blood profusely and there was an army of Rakthabijas. It was then Chamundi grew big enough to make him stand on her protruded tongue and slayed him there drinking all the oozing blood.
When I and my sister were in school we had holidays for Navratri after the mid-term examinations. It was a tradition to install a Kalasha and invoke Durga Devi in it. The Kalasha would be decked with different flowers for the entire ten days. Also every day different sweet were prepared for Prasada (Oblation) and different fruits were offered. Along with the offerings my mother would read Devi Mahatmya which is a part of Markandeya Purana. This section of the Purana describes the battle between Durga Devi and many Asuras (Demons). This is how I came to know about Kali and Chamundi.
To many this tale may be a ghastly, but if we go beyond the symbolic story we can find a profound insight. The ability to clone many similar to him as Rakthabija did is a metaphor to our mind which produce thought which begets another in an endless succession. Thus making the mind restless.
Chamundi is the faculty to restrain the mind from running helter- skelter. Mind resting in its own infinite peace and bliss is absorbed into itself is represented by Chamundi slurping off every drop of blood. Thus the Mind and Intellect index regains knowledge of its own original Divinity.
Just as Shiva volunteered to bring Kali out of trance, the preceptor in our life too will check our advancement towards adyatma to bring us to vyavaharikha every now and then