In the Tantric pantheon, Kali is mentioned as the first of the ten Great Cosmic Wisdoms (Mahavidyas); it does not imply any hierarchy, but rather the idea of order in the cosmic evolution. At the end of the manifested world, time (in Sanskrit- kaal) devoured all the universes of the three plans of the creation: the physical, the astral and the causal universes .Therefore the Great Cosmic Wisdom Kaali finally devours the time ( kaal ) itself, and this is the very reason for which Kaali is viewed as the primordial cause of the creation preservation and destruction of the universe. The simultaneous existence of these three processes within the creation clearly expresses the statements included in all Tantric writings, that the creation of the universe did not occur once, in the past, nor will the universe be destroyed once in the future, and that rather in every instant these aspects manifest as flashings creating the illusion of continuity and reality.
Although the human body and mind are permanently assailed by innumerable sensorial perceptions, the state of divine ecstasy (Samadhi) implies the disappearance of all mental functions and of the physical awareness into the supreme consciousness of shiva, the one that is beyond all duality.
According to the Tantric tradition, the whole manifested world springs from the Infinite Consciousness of the beatific union between Shiva and Shakti .The description of the Great Cosmic Wisdom Kali describes her as being dark as the night, dancing over Shiva’s inert, white body. This representation reveals the significance of the two fundamental aspects of Reality: on one hand there is the dynamic, immanent aspect of cosmic energy (Kaali’s dance) and on the other the static, transcendent aspect of consciousness (identified with Shiva).
Shiva is white because he signifies the infinite divine light (prakasha), inert because the absence of movement and action reveals the consciousness pure, homogeneous and compact .on the other hand, kaali’s dance signifies the dynamic, active aspect of the divine, and the dark color of her skin indicates that the processes of the creation are dissolved in kaali.
NAME: Kali is so called because She devours Kaala (time) and then resumes her own dark formlessness. She is the embodiment of three gunas (qualities of nature): She creates with her sattva guna (quality of goodness and purity), preserves with rajas (passion and activity), and destroys with tamas (ignorance and inertia).
COMPLEXION: the dark color of her skin indicates that the processes of the creation are dissolved in kaali.
TONGUE: Kaali’s white teeth symbolize sattva or serenity; her red tongue, rajas, or activity; and Her drunkenness: tamas or inertia. The meaning: tamas can be conquered by rajas and rajas by sattva. Elongated tongue also symbolizes balance (khechari mudra).
FULL BREAST: She is the nourisher of all beings.
NECKLACE: It consists of fifty skulls that represent the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, the origin of sound. She is Shabda Brahman (Sound-Brahman), or Logos-the source of creation. Every skull is of different color symbolizes different frequencies of primordial sound
TWO RIGHT ARMS: The upper right arm grants fearlessness and the lower right arm offers boons. She protects /preserves, and she is the giver
TWO LEFT ARMS: She holds a sword with the upper left arm and a severed head with the lower. She can cut human bondage with the sword of knowledge, and she imparts wisdom to the head, the receptacle of supreme wisdom.
NAKED FORM: She is also known as digambari, “clad in space.” She is infinite, so no finite dress can cover her.
WAIST: Kaali’s waist is encircled with a girdle of severed human arms, covering her genital area (yoni). Yoni represents source of creation, arms represent karma. She is creating us to perform karma in the plane of action.
SHIVA IS UNDER HER FEET: Shiva and Shakti are always together. He is the changeless aspect of the Supreme, and She the apparently changing aspect of the same. Shiva is pure cosmic consciousness, and Kaali is dynamic aspect cosmic energy. No creation is possible without their union. Siva cannot manifest without the power of Shakti, and Shakti cannot function without the consciousness of Shiva. Standing on the chest implies the dynamic aspect of creation has come out of the potential aspect of the cosmic energy both are actually one.
DAKSHINA KALI AND VAMA KALI: If her right foot is forward, She is Dakshina Kali (benign form); and if her left foot is forward, Vama Kali (terrible form).
This is a small effort to decode the tantric symbolism however the mysterious influence of Kali is so complex and hidden that only few pure souls may see through the real significance and complete meaning at higher level of consciousness. It is impossible to explain the complete symbolism through words only it is completely a matter of experience and realization..
References: 1) Revealed mysteries of the world divine – Niguranada (late yogi prof S sarkar)
2) Chawdhri, L.R. (1992). Secrets of Yantra, Mantra and Tantra. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd