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Kālikā Purāṇa Liu, Liwen


The Kālikā Purāṇa (henceforth KP) is a upapurāṇa (minor purāṇa) composed around the 10th to 12th century in Kāmarūpa, an area that includes Assam and part of Bengal today. The title Kālikā refers to goddess Kālī—addressed also as Mahāmāyā, who is a great goddess in śakti tradition. Several Manuscripts of the KP are found in Bengal and Nepal, based on which a critical edition was published by B.N. Shastri in 1991. This text is an encyclopedic work on myths, ritual practices, and iconology, providing important information and instruction on goddess worship. The KP grounds its authority in divine revelation and transmission through a lineage of sages, claiming that the purāṇa was first spoken by Brahmā, and transmitted successively through the sages Nārada, Bālakhilya, Yavakrīta, and Asita. Finally, Asita taught this purāṇa to Mārkaṇḍeya, who narrated the KP to human sages (1.16-18). The KP, according to Kooij (2021), follows a fourfold narrative structure. The outmost shell contains maṅgala verses and closing verses spoken by Brahmins. In the second shell, the sage Mārkaṇḍeya narrates the purāṇa to a group of sages (ṛṣi), addressing the myth of Satī’s suicide and her reincarnation as Pārvatī. He also told a unique version of Durgā slaying the buffalo demon Mahiṣāsura, which serves as a mythological grounding of Durgā Pūjā festival. The third shell is the duties and good conduct of a king. This section is instructed by a muni named Aurva to king Sagara, demonstrating that the composition of the KP might be supported by royal patronage. The fourth shell, which is the innermost part, is Tantric teachings on general worship (sāmāya-pūjā), ritual practices during festivals including Durgā Pūjā, and pilgrimage. Detailed ritual procedures and mantras are instructed by Śiva—the narrator of this section—to his two sons. This section also includes the well-known “blood chapter” (rudhirādhyāya), which prescribes animal sacrifice and even human sacrifice. The blood chapter of the KP provides a scriptural basis for Hindu killing rituals, which are still performed even today in Bengal and Nepal. As a widely circulated scripture, the KP exerts a great influence on goddess worship in eastern India. It is considered a scriptural authority regarding rituals for worshipping Kālī and Durgā. Many ritual handbooks, such as Purohit Darpan, attribute their authority to the KP and draw ritual procedures from it. Moreover, the KP is also an important reference for later writers of dharmaśāstric nibandhas. For example, Raghnandana and Viśvanātha extensively quote the KP when discussing the issue of animal sacrifice and meat consumption.

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