These watercolours were produced in the area surrounding the Kalighat temple in Kolkata (Calcutta). Dedicated to the goddess Kali, the temple was established in 1809. From around 1830, thousands of distinctive paintings, most often illustrating deities, were produced as mementos for pilgrims. The quickly painted souvenirs were later replaced by mass-produced prints.
The Hindu goddess of time and change, Kali gives and destroys life, and may be revered as a violent supernatural being or a benevolent mother goddess. With protruding tongue and a severed human head in one of her four arms, this vibrant image conveys Kali’s ferocious aspect. Her characteristic garland of skulls is suggested by the semicircles around her neck and her girdle of human arms has been simplified to appear as a striped skirt.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label