Kali Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Kali Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

A fearsome figure, the Indian goddess Kali has been making an appearance in skin art for quite some time. The mysteries behind this goddess, however, go well beyond the initial shock and first impression that one gets from her image. For those of you who are curious, we’re going to use today’s article to explore the myth in detail.

There is quite a lot of symbolism and meanings behind Kali and some of the associations might well surprise you – read on and you can see for yourself!


What is the History of Kali Tattoos?

Kali is first mentioned in the Artharva Veda, a text which we date to have been written between 1200 and 1000 B.C. There are references, however, that say that she rules over a world age of wars and sin, which began on February 17th or 18th of 3102 B.C. and is said to extend for 1200 ‘divine years’.

Divine years, by the way, are different from ours, and by current calculations as of the year 2022, she still has 426,877 years left to rule her cycle of this world! So, what does she represent? Well, this gets tricky.

You can probably tell by her frightening image that Kali is a goddess of destruction and death, but she is also tied with eroticism, and even considered a symbol for motherhood. She is said to have 10 forms, so sometimes you might see her with 4 arms or as many as 10, but all of these are still correct.

She is often depicted with a sword in hand and sometimes a gruesome, severed head of a demon whom she has slain and it’s not uncommon to see her with completely black skin, as black absorbs all colors making Kali ‘nigurna’, the Sanskrit word for ‘transcendent/beyond all form’.

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What Do Kali Tattoos Symbolize?

Some choose Kali tattoos for the simple shock value, but there’s quite a lot of lore and symbolism behind her image that can be incorporated into skin art. For instance, some view this powerful and terrifying goddess as the ultimate symbol of feminism – as this goddess is not to be trifled with.

Kali can also represent the end of days and destruction, but she can also be a symbol of sensuality and an even more interesting interpretation is that her fierceness is the embodiment of a mother’s love for their children.

If you’ve ever seen a panicked mother do something amazing to save her kids, then it’s easy to see that Kali is a fitting depiction – beautiful, violent, and unstoppable – indeed, she is probably the most direct symbol of a mother’s love and power in this regard.

This uncontrolled fury embodied in a woman definitely makes a powerful statement, no matter what aspect of her you choose to depict, but it’s not a choice for the faint of heart. Some symbols make you think, but Kali evokes a primal emotional response like a slap in the face!


What Do Kali Tattoos Mean?

Many people view Kali as the ultimate symbol of feminism. She is many things – mother, temptress, and destroyer just to name a few – and most importantly, she is not apologetic about it.

When you see this goddess, she is always shown reveling in destruction, often sticking her tongue out and seeming to dance lustfully, as if daring you to challenge who she unashamedly is.

Some will wear her, however, to represent destruction or simple power – it’s not a symbol strictly meant for women, as Kali had followers named Thuggees and many of them were men. In the 1830s, they were said to number around 30,000 and murdered more people than any other organized cult.

There’s no requirement for Kali to have any meaning at all, as her image is so fierce that many Kali tattoos were chosen simply for being an ancient and powerful symbol that has lost nothing of its shock value over millenniums.

Your Kali tattoo’s meaning, though, is something that YOU will have to decide.


Where Do Kali Tattoos Usually Go?

Kali tattoos, like the goddess herself, are often quite visible and ‘in your face’. The outer arm is a popular choice, and some don’t even depict her entire body, but rather will tattoo a drawing of her distinctive face – tongue out and lusting to kill!

The hip is another choice, with Kali’s ties to eroticism and motherhood, with this intimate placement providing a warning for those who see it that the tattoo’s owner is seductive, but fierce, and has many personality layers that you’d better get used to, because they are not ashamed in the slightest.

As a backpiece, with color incorporated, you can produce a truly eye-popping rendition of this mighty goddess and some people have chosen to do so. It all depend on how much the image calls to you and how much time you are willing to invest in achieving perfection!


Characteristics and Styles of Kali Tattoos

Kali in black and white is just as powerful as a color rendition, which is a relative rarity with tattoo images. As the inky black of her skin is said to represent her transcendence of form and color, then depicting her in a stark black and white is arguably an accurate portrayal.

That said, she looks even more amazing in skin art when her skin is a stark ebon, but things she is holding, such as weapons and severed heads are shown in shockingly full color.

Remember, these depictions of Kali have been shocking people for thousands of years, so you have a chance to go with a photorealistic style and wild colors, such as with Watercolor style, to make a tattoo that no one can pull their gaze away from. With Kali, you should go bold and you’ll be happy that you did.


Some closing comments on Kali Tattoos

Mother, destroyer, killer, and seductress— Kali is all of these things and MORE and Kali tattoos might well be the most striking artistic choice that you can make. It’s impossible to look at this beautiful whirlwind of destruction without it having an impact that you can actually feel on a subconscious level.

We’ve said it before – this is not a choice for the faint of heart – and we really mean it. If you are looking for a truly striking image, with history and millenniums worth of lore behind it, or simply want a tattoo that inspires complicated emotions in whoever see it, then Kali tattoos might be a perfect fit for you

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