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Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review


published on November 14, 2018

Wimal Hewamanage
DOI: 10.5840/asrr2018111353

The History of the Kāli Cult and its Implications in Modern Sri Lankan Buddhist Culture

Historically speaking, belief in gods and demons has been practiced all over the world, beginning even before organized religions came into being. Over the last few decades, the influence of the Kāli cult has spread rapidly in Sri Lankan Buddhist culture. This research paper reveals how and why the Kāli cult is popular today, with reference to its history. The investigation of its historical aspects is based on literature, while a discussion of the cult’s present practice is informed by examination of its methods of participation, as well as observations and open discussions. Data collection involved a literature review and qualitative interviews with the cult’s charmers and devotees. Some of the data indicates that the cult is based on an incarnation of Śiva’s wife named Kāli; other records suggest, however, that the cult originated in ancient India before the Aryan invasion. Recently, there has been some loss of spirituality among Buddhist adherents and it can be suggested, therefore, that the Kāli cult offers them direction in their worldly lives. Although the elements of cruelty present in the Kāli doctrine clash with Buddhist tradition, it seems that these adherents are willing to follow anything that enables self-benefit. To overcome this contradiction between Buddhism and the Kāli cult, the figure of Kāli has been transformed from a demoness into goddess.