The notion of a goddess being used to inspire young men to throw bombs may at first seem far-fetched. But what if that goddess is Kalī? Fierce Kalī—who stalks proudly through the Bengali imagination, dripping blood, scantily clad in tiger-skin and severed human body parts, slaying and devouring countless demons? Early in the twentieth century, Bengali philosopher and activist Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950), a key figure in the development of Indian nationalism, glimpsed the potential of Kalī-worship as a potential tool of political mobilisation to promote revolutionary terrorism, and forged a movement around the fearsome Tantric goddess that culminated in a rash of revolutionary terrorist acts against the ruling British colonial regime.
* This essay is a modified version of a paper submitted to the 15th NZASIA International Conference, Auckland University, November 2003: 'Asia: Images, Ideas, Identities'. It is drawn from my unpublished Master's Thesis entitled 'The Political Goddess: Aurobindo and the Use of Religious Symbols in the Indian Freedom Movement'. Please see this thesis for further evidence from Aurobindo's writings and development of the argument I present in this essay.