Journal of Indian Philosophy 49 (5):725-757 (2021)

The doctrine of the twelve Kālīs is one of the earliest developments of the Śākta tradition of the Kālīkula/Kālīkrama/Mahānaya and it is well known in the later exegetical works of Abhinavagupta, Kṣemarāja, and Maheśvarānanda. Although the twelve Kālīs have been treated to some extent in secondary literature, a systematic study of the development and reception of this doctrine has not been undertaken yet. This is mainly due to the fact that most of the Kālīkula scriptures are available in manuscript form, and methodical analysis of their contents remains a desideratum. In this article, I intend to examine selected tantric scriptures teaching the doctrine of the twelve Kālīs, focusing on the development of the constituent elements of this doctrine, as they appear in different tantric sources. This article traces the origins of the twelve Kālīs to the esoteric teaching of the Sun-Goddess, linked to the tradition of the Skeleton of Kālī. It will argue that in the subsequent phase of the doctrine’s development the solar context gradually diminished and an emphasis on the twelve goddesses’ function as the destroyers of time became more and more pronounced. This tendency, in turn, influenced the codification of the twelve Kālīs as the fully-fledged doctrine of time-consumption, popular in the Trika and the Trika-inspired Krama sources.
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DOI 10.1007/s10781-021-09488-9
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