The love between the Divine Mother and her human children is a unique relationship that manifests in various ways. Mahakali, the apparently fierce looking Mother is one such deity with whom devotees have a very loving and intimate bond, in spite of her fearful appearance. In this relationship, the worshiper becomes a child and Mahakali assumes the form of the evercaring mother. When most of the people see the Goddess with leaking tongue and garland of skulls dancing on Lord shiva, they consider her form quite gruesome and frightening. Yet that was the image that inspired Ramakrishna Paramhansa to enter into ecstasy.
One can better understand the symbolism of Mahakali when one gains insight into its meaning. Lord Shiva is the Absolute and the Divine Mother is the power of Lord Shiva, Prakriti or Nature. The entire universe, manifestation, or world-process is a form of a dance sustained by the power of the Absolute, who really is its silent and invisible support. Each skull worn by the Goddess is a cosmos, a cosmos reduced to its skeleton because that which comes into existence must come to its end. And so the Goddess wearing the skulls carries the message that ‘The world you are after is ever changing and transient’. To the Goddess, the garland is a series of universes that have vanished.
The great tongue of the Goddess is ‘Brahmakara-vritti’, the mind flowing towards Brahman, eating up the demons of duality and multiplicity, and digesting the entire world into one experience, the experience of the Self.
Hence appearance of Mahakali is terrifying only to those who have not known Her in meaning. She is relentless in pursuit of defeat of ignorance and darker forces. Her might and power are sure and final in the victory over ego, ignorance, anger, jealousy, selfishness, narrowness, greed, vanity and are eager to overcome those.
Now who - which mighty power, can provide a support for such mighty actions of Mahakali?
Only Shiva! He provides a platform for Her to carry out Her play. He is the one who, by His infinite Tapas, Vairagya, Wisdom, and eternal Calm have consented. Symbolically He is shown below on the ground and Mahakali (Prakriti of three gunas) dancing on Him.
Cremation ground is the place to witness the final dissolution of bodies. It provides a real and intense experience, not just an intellectual appreciation, of what the body’s destination is. This is a very powerful experience for all who want to get in touch with their real selves, by reflecting on the transient nature of the body.
Her dark complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature. Just as all colors disappear in black, so all that have manifested ultimately disappear in her.