The Fifteen Powers of Kali

In a class on sacred geometry, I mentioned the ’15 powers of Kālī’ in reference to a specific yantra (ritual diagrams comprised of geometric forms), and one of my students wrote to me asking what they were.

This class was not specifically about yantras, or goddesses, but because it’s an introduction to sacred art in general, we touch on a lot of important topics, ideas, and cultural issues.

The subject of spiritual art in the Dharma traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jain, Sikh…) is so vast, it’s just crazy-making to contemplate. I can’t tell you how challenging it is to try and distill it all down to 10 ninety-minute classes. Really, it’s just a taste, an introduction to fundamental principles.

THEN, inevitably, great questions come up when you have a bunch of brilliant students who have been practicing yoga for decades. I knew a general answer but did a little digging to make sure my memory was true, and found some gems in the process. A link to one website I enjoy consulting is at the end of this post, below.

I enjoyed this question and thought it might be fun to share my reply. If you, Dear Reader, are interested in this course (called the “Shapes of Consciousness”) offered by Living Sanskrit, or other classes on Hindu sacred art and Sanatana Dharma, please visit:

— The meaning of each of the 15 points of the Kālī yantra are a bit beyond the scope of this class. As a general principle, Living Sanskrit focuses on benevolent deities in beginner’s classes.

— Briefly: Goddess Kālī has innumerable powers. There are many yantras used to invoke her. Each yantra is used to invoke a specific set of powers.

— There are five concentric triangles in her most commonly-known yantra. At the corner of each triangle a specific power is invoked. These are usually said to relate to the 15 Nitya shaktis of the waning moon (dark moon), or one half of a lunar cycle.

— Each day or phase of the waning moon is given a name and is associated with a specific power, which is depicted as a demi-goddess. Each demi-goddesses may be called a “Shakti”, a word which can mean both “power” and “goddess” and has several other uses as well, including “weapon”. They are also sometimes called “attendants”. These are understood to be emanations of the central power, the great goddess herself, Kālī Ma.

— More specifically, they relate to the three Gunas (dynamism/emanation, balance/continuation, and entropy/re-absorption) as manifested in each of the five elements. 3 x 5 = 15.

— So when I referred to the 15 powers of Kālī, I was referring to the set of Shaktis invoked with her best-known yantra, NOT defining her as being limited to only 15 powers.

More information on the Kālī Nityas:ālī3.htm