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Kaalee Devee

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Kaalee Devee
By  Sat Sai Baba

Mother Kaalee, or Mahaa Kaalee, or Kaalikaa.
Who can comprehend the Divine paradox of Mother Kaalee? Fierce looking, black in complexion, large shimmering eyes, destructive, triumphantly smiling amidst the slaughter of billions of demons, wearing a necklace of skulls and a skirt of severed arms, glowing effulgently like the Full Moon in the night sky, holding the head of a demon, a Trident that flashes like lightning and a knife etched with sacred Mantra and infused with Divine Shakti, Kaalee stands peaceful and content, suffused with the fragrances of jasmine, rose and sandalwood.

Kaalee is the Guardian, the Protector, the Mother. Kaalee is Dharm and Eternal Time. Kaalee shines with the brilliance of a Million Black Fires of Dissolution and her body is bathed in Vibooti (sacred ash). Shiv is under her feet and the Great Devotee, Ramprasad, envisioned Kaalee as stepping upon a demon that was transformed, by Kaalee's touch, into Lord Shiv himself.

Just as the night sky appears black due to it's fathomless depth and as the ocean appears deep blue due to it's fathomless depth, so too Kaalee appears dark due to her infinite depth. Kaalee assumes the form that reflects the attitude and Bhaav (emotion) of the person who approaches her. If Kaalee is approached with the Bhaav of motherly love, she assumes the form of Lakshmee. If Kaalee is approached as the Guru, embodying wisdom, art and education, she assumes the form of Saraswatee. The demons approached Kalika with the Bhaav of destruction and evil. Consequently, the Divine Mother assumed the form of their destruction by reflecting, in form, their own evil. In truth, Kaalee is all of these forms and beyond them.

Scriptural References to Kaalee
Kaalee is thought to have originated as a tribal goddess indigenous to one of India's inaccessible mountainous regions. The Matsya Purasn gives her place of origin as Mount Kalanjar in North Central India, east of the Indus Valley floodplain. But owing to the late date of the Puraan's composition, this evidence regarding Kaalee's place of origin cannot be taken as particularly reliable.

At least thousand years before the Matsya Puraan, the name of Kaalee first appears in Sanskrit literature between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. The reference, in Mundak Upanishad 1.2.4, names Kaalee as one of the seven quivering tongues of the fire god Agni, whose flames devour sacrificial oblations and transmit them to the gods. The verse characterizes Agni's seven tongues as black, terrifying, swift as thought, intensely red, smoky colored, sparkling, and radiant. Significantly, the first two adjectives - Kaalee and Karaalee — "black" and "terrifying", recur in later texts to describe the horrific aspect of the goddess. Karaalee additionally means "having a gaping mouth and protruding teeth." This verse scarcely suffices to confirm that Kaalee was a personified goddess during the age of the Upanishads, but it is noteworthy that the adjective that became her name was used to characterize an aspect of the fire god's power.

Kaalee first appears unequivocally as a goddess in the Kathak Grihya Sootra, a ritualistic text that names her in a list of Vaidik deities to be invoked with offerings of perfume during the marriage ceremony. Unfortunately, the text reveals nothing more about her.

During the epic period, some time after the 5th century BC, Kaalee emerges better defined in an episode of the Mahaabhaarat. When the camp of the heroic Paandav brothers is attacked one night by the sword-wielding Ashwatthaamaa, his deadly assault is seen as the work of "Kaalee of bloody mouth and eyes, smeared with blood and adorned with garlands, her garment reddened, — holding noose in hand — binding men and horses and elephants with her terrible snares of death" (Mahaabhaarat 10.8.64-65). Although the passage goes on to describe the slaughter as an act of human warfare, it makes clear that the fierce goddess is ultimately the agent of death who carries off those who are slain.

Kaalee next appears in the sacred literature during the Pauraanik age, when new theistic devotional sects displaced the older Braahmanical form of Hinduism. In the 4th and 5th centuries CE the Puraan were written to glorify the great deities Vishnu, Shiv and the Devee - the Goddess - as well as lesser gods. One such Puraan, the Maarkandeya Puraan, contains within it the foundational text of all subsequent Hindu Goddesses. This book is known as the Devee Mahaatmya, the Shree Durgaa Sapt Shatee, or the Chandee Mahaatmya.

The Devee Mahaatmya's 7th chapter describes Kaalee springing forth from the furrowed brow of the goddess Durgaa in order to slay the demons Chand and Mund. Here, Kaalee's horrific form has black, loosely hanging, emaciated flesh that barely conceals her angular bones. Gleaming white fangs protrude from her gaping, blood-stained mouth, framing her lolling red tongue. Sunken, reddened eyes peer out from her black face. She is clad in a tiger's skin and carries a Khatwaang, a skull. The Khatwaang is a clear reminder of Kaalee's origin among fierce, aboriginal peoples. In the ensuing battle, much attention is placed on her gaping mouth and gnashing teeth, which devour the demon hordes. At one point Mund hurls thousands of discusses at her, but all enter her mouth "as so many solar orbs vanishing into the denseness of a cloud" (Devee Mahaatmya 7.18). With its cosmic allusion, this passage reveals Kaalee as the abstraction of primal energy and suggests the underlying connection between the black goddess and Kaal (Time), an epithet of Shiv. Kaalee is the inherent power of ever-turning time, the relentless devourer that brings all created things to an end. Even the gods are said to have their origin and dissolution in her.

The 8th chapter of the Devee Mahaatmya paints an even more gruesome portrait. Having slain Chand and Mund, Kaalee is now called Chaamundaa, and she faces an infinitely more powerful adversary in the demon named Raktbeej. Whenever a drop of his blood falls to earth, an identical demon springs up. When utter terror seizes the gods, Durgaa merely laughs and instructs Kaalee to drink in the drops of blood. While Durgaa assaults Raktbeej so that his blood runs copiously, Kaalee avidly laps it up. The demons who spring into being from the flow perish between her gnashing teeth until Raktbeej topples drained and lifeless to the ground.

According to Skand Puraan, p 13, one Kaalee was produced by Shiv Jee as a Krityaa, along with Veerbhadra, at the time when he heard about the immolation of his first wife Satee at her father Daksh's Yagya. Naarad Jee brought this news to him. Hearing this, Shhiv Jee plucked a few strands of his hair from his Jataa (matted locks) and threw them on the peak of mountain where he was sitting. Veerbhadra and Kaalee appeared from those hair and destroyed Daksh's Yagya.

Different Forms of Mother Kaalee
Kaalee is a powerful and complex goddess with multiple forms. In times of natural disaster she is invoked as the protective Rakshaa Kaalee. At the magnificent Dakshineshwar Temple in Calcutta, she is revered as the beautiful Bhavataarinee - Redeemer of the Universe. The Tantra mention over 30 forms of Kaalee. The Divine Mother is also known as Kaalee Maa, the Black Goddess, Bhadra Kaalee, Kaaleekamat, Mahaa Kaalee, Nitya Kaalee, Rakshaa Kaalee, Shamashaan Kaalee, Shyaamaa Kaalee, Bheem Chandee, Ugra Chandee, Siddheshwaree, Sheetalaa Maataa (the goddess of smallpox) and Kaal Raatri. are mentioned in the Tantra philosophy. When there were neither the creation, nor the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and the Earth, when the darkness was enveloped in darkness, then the Mother, the Formless One, Mahaa Kaalee, the Great Power, was one with the Mahaa Kaal, the Absolute.

Shyaamaa Kaalee has a somewhat tender aspect and is worshipped in Hindu households. She is the dispenser of boons and the dispeller of fear. People worship Rakshaa Kaalee, the Protector, in times of epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought, and flood. Shamashaan Kaalee (Shamashaan Kaalee) is the embodiment of the power of destruction. From her mouth flows a stream of blood, from her neck hangs a garland of human heads, and around her waist is a girdle made of arms. She haunts the cremation grounds in the company of howling jackals and terrifying female spirits. Taantrik worship Siddha Kaalee to attain perfection. Phal Haarinee Kaalee is to destroy the results of their actions; Nitya Kaalee, the eternal Kaalee, to take away their disease, grief, and suffering and to give them perfection and illumination. She is also known as Kaalee Kaamat (black earth-mother) and Kaal Raatri (black night). Kaalee is worshipped particularly in Bangaal. Her best known temples are in Dakshineshwar and Kaalee Ghaat in Calcutta and Kaamaakhyaa in Aassam.

Some early Buddhists identified Kalikaa with their Pragyaa Parimit, the "Perfection of Wisdom", conceived of as a multi-armed goddess/female wisdom energy. Buddhist Taantrik viewed Pragyaa Parimit as the original Buddha-consort, and over time, developed this vision further. They viewed her as the savior Taaraa, "the Compassionate One", "She who helps the devotee overcome suffering". As the dark four-armed Ugra Taaraa, with the dark blue Dhyaani-Buddha Akshobhya on her crown, she became "the Wrathful Savior", externally fierce to ward-off enemies and unbelievers, but internally compassionate, the "Embodiment of Compassion". Buddhists also knew the Dark Goddess as Shyaam (the Dark One) and Kaalee.

As Mahaa Kaalee (with form) the Great Goddess is most commonly visualized as 20-armed, 10-faced, with three eyes on each face, her complexion dark and shining. In this form she destroys the egoistic demons Madhu and Kaitabh. This is a form which emanated out of the dark goddess Durgaa. As Kaal Raatri, tawny-eyed, cruel and fond of war, wearing tiger and elephant skins, holding axe, noose, other weapons and a skull-bowl from which she drinks blood, Kaalee is the "Night of Destruction" at the termination of this world, the Female Spiritual Power always ready to defeat the last demons, so none can pollute the next world. Forms of Bhadra Kaalee has 16-arms, 18-arms or even 100-arms, all giving protection to her devotees. Bhadra Kaalee is always visualized as huge, wearing a 3-pointed crown ornamented with the crescent Moon, a snake about her neck, her body draped in red and her mood jolly. She pierces the body of a buffalo with her lance, one of her many weapons. Hindu Taantrik believe that in this form she pervades the whole universe.

Striking Similarities Between Kaalee and Goddesses of Other Parts of the World
Kaalee in Mexico - We find Kaalee in Mexico as an ancient Aztec Goddess of enormous stature. Her name is Coatlicue, and her resemblance to the Hindu Kaalee is striking. The colossal Aztec statue of Coatlicue fuses in one image the dual functions of the earth, which both creates and destroys. In different aspects she represents Coatlicue, "Lady Of the Skirt of Serpents" or Goddess of the Serpent Petticoat"; Cihuacoatl, "the Serpent Woman"; Tlazolteotl, "Goddess of Filth"; and Tonantzin, "Our Mother," who was later sanctified by the Catholic Church as the Virgin of Guadalupe, the dark-faced Madonna, La Virgen Morena, la Virgen Guadalupana, the patroness and protector of New Spain; and who is still the patroness of all Indian Mexico. In the statue, her head is severed from her body, and from the neck flow two streams of blood in the shape of two serpents. She wears a skirt of serpents girdled by another serpent as a belt. On her breast hangs a necklace of human hearts and hands bearing a human skull as a pendant. Her hands and feet are shaped like claws. From the bicephalous mass which takes the place of the head and which represents Omeyocan, the topmost heaven, to the world of the Dead extending below the feet, the statue embraces both life and death. Squat and massive, the monumental twelve-ton sculpture embodies pyramidal, cruciform, and human forms.

Kaalee in Crete - We find Kaalee in ancient Crete as Rhea, the Aegean Universal Mother or Great Goddess, who was worshipped in a vast area by many peoples. Rhea was not restricted to the Aegean area. Among ancient tribes of southern Russia she was Rha, the Red One, another version of Kaalee as Mother Time clothed in her garment of blood when she devoured all the gods, her offspring. The same Mother Time became the Celtic Goddess Rhiannon, who also devoured her own children one by one. This image of the cannibal mother was typical everywhere of the Goddess of Time, who consumes what she brings forth; or as Earth, who does the same. When Rhea was given a consort in Hellenic myth, he was called Kronus or Chronos, "Father Time," who also devoured his own children in imitation of Rhea's earlier activity. He also castrated and killed his own father, the Heaven-God Uranus; and he in turn was threatened by his own son, Zeus. These myths reflect the primitive succession of sacred kings castrated and killed by their supplanters. It was originally Rhea Kronia, Mother Time, who wielded the castrating moon-sickle or scythe, a Scythian weapon, the instrument with which the Heavenly Father was "reaped." Rhea herself was the Grim Reaper.

Kaalee in Europe - We find Kaalee in historic Europe too. In Ireland, Kaalee appeared as Caillech or Cailleach, an old Celtic name for the Great Goddess in her Destroyer aspect. Like Kaalee, the Caillech was a black Mother who founded many races of people and outlived many husbands. She was also a Creator. She made the world, building mountain ranges of stones that dropped from her apron.

Kaalee in Scotland - Scotland was once called Caledonia: the land given by Kaalee, or Cale, or the Cailleach. "Scotland" came from Scotia, the same goddess, known to Romans as a "dark Aphrodite"; to Celts as Scatha or Scyth; and to Scandinavians as Skadi. Like the Hindu destroying Kalikaa, the Caillech was known as a spirit of disease. One manifestation of her was a famous idol of carved and painted wood, kept by an old family in Country Cork, and described as the Goddess of Smallpox. As diseased persons in India sacrificed to the appropriate incarnation of the Kalikaa, so in Ireland those afflicted by smallpox sacrificed sheep to this image. It can hardly be doubted that Kalikaa and Caillech were the same word. According to various interpretations, "caillech" meant either an old woman, or a hag, or a nun, or a "veiled one." This last apparently referred to the Goddess's most mysterious manifestation as the future, Fate, and Death–ever veiled from the sight of men, since no man could know the manner of his own death. In medieval legend the Caillech became the Black Queen who ruled a western paradise in the Indies, where men were used in Amazonian fashion for breeding purposes only, then slain.

Kaalee in Spain - Spaniards called her Califia, whose territory was rich in gold, silver, and gems. Spanish explorers later gave her name to the newly discovered paradise on the Pacific shore of North America, which is how the state of California came to be named after Kaalee. In the present century, Irish and Scottish descendants of the Celtic "creator" still use the word "caillech" as a synonym for "old woman."

Kaalee in Finland - The Black Goddess was known in Finland as Kalmaa (Kaalee Ma), a haunter of tombs and an eater of the dead. The Black Goddess worshipped by the Gypsies was named Sara-Kaalee, "Queen Kaalee," and to this present day, Saraa is worshipped in the South of France at Ste-Marie-de- la-Mer during a yearly festival.

Kaalee in Gypsy - Some gypsies appeared in 10th-century Persia as tribes of itinerant dervishes calling themselves Kalenderees, "People of the Goddess Kaalee." A common gypsy clan name is still Kaldera or Calderash, descended from past Kaalee-worshippers, like the Kele-De of Ireland. European gypsies relocated their Goddess in the ancient "Druid Grotto" underneath Chartres Cathedral, once the interior of a sacred mount known as the Womb of Gaul, when the area was occupied by the Carnutes, "Children of the Goddess Car." Carnac, Kermario, Kerlescan, Kercado, Carmona in Spain, and Chartres itself were named after this Goddess, probably a Celtic version of Kore or Q're traceable through eastern nations to Kauri, another name for Kaalee. The Druid Grotto used to be occupied by the image of a black Goddess giving birth, similar to certain images of Kaalee. Christians adopted this ancient idol and called her Virgo Paritura, "Virgin Giving Birth." Gypsies called her Sara-Kaalee, "the mother, the woman, the sister, the queen, the Phuri Dai, the source of all Romany blood." They said the black Virgin wore the dress of a gypsy dancer, and every gypsy should make a pilgrimage to her grotto at least once in his life. The grotto was described as "your mother's womb." A gypsy pilgrim was told: "Shut your eyes in front of Sara the Kaalee, and you will know the source of the spring of life which flows over the gypsy race." We find variations of Kaalee's name throughout the ancient world.

Kaalee in Greece - The Greeks had a word Kalli, meaning "beautiful," but applied to things that were not particularly beautiful such as the demonic centaurs called "kallikantzari", relatives of Kaalee's Ashwins. Their city of Kallipolis, the modern Gallipoli, was left in Amazon country formerly ruled by Artemis Kalliste. The annual birth festival at Eleusis was Kalligeneia, translatable as "coming forth from the Beautiful One," or "coming forth from Kaalee."

Kaalee in Sinai - Lunar priests of Sinai, formerly priestesses of the Moon-Goddess, called themselves "Kaaloo." Similar priestesses of prehistoric Ireland were "kelles," origin of the name Kelly, which meant a hierophantic clan devoted to "the Goddess Kele." This was cognate with the Saxon Kale, or Cale, whose lunar calendar or kalends included the spring month of Sproutkale, when Mother Earth (Kale) put forth new shoots. In antiquity the Phoenicians referred to the strait of Gibraltar as Calpe, because it was considered the passage to the western paradise of the Mother.

Kaalee's Name
"Kaal" also translates as Time and "ee" means the Cause; Kaalee, the Cause of Time or She Who is Beyond Time, activates Consciousness to perception, allows Consciousness to perceive. The mystery of Kaalee's name, which begins with the first consonant of the Sanskrit alphabet, attached to the first vowel, is deep indeed. From Taantrik tradition we learn that the whole material universe is but an expression of certain primordial sounds or vibrations.

These are expressed by the consonants and vowels of the Sanskrit alphabet, combined together in different ways. "Seed-syllables" (Beej Mantra), short combinations and "Spells" (Dharanee), long combinations of differing measures, are the very "fabric" from which this universe is formed. From Taantrik tradition we also learn that the garland of heads about Kaalee's neck symbolize the letters or vibrations of the Sanskrit alphabet. We learn Kaalee's seed-syllables, names and potent Mantra, the tools by which we can transform ourselves and become one with Her.

Skand Puraan, p 13 says Kaalee, Kaatyaayinee, Eeshaanee, Chaamundaa, Mardinee, Bhadrakaalee, Bhadraa, Twaritaa, Vaishnavee - these are all Durgaa.

Origins of Kaalee
There are two stories on the origin Kaalee. Out of the two, one is from the Durgaa Sapt Shatee, a poem of 700 Shlok, in praise of Durgaa Maa, a part of the Maarkandeya Puraan, is more popular.

Long long ago there existed two powerful demons called Shumbh and Nishumbh. As they grew in strength, they usurped the vast empire of the King of the gods Indra and dispossessed all the gods like Soorya, Chandra, Yam, Varun, Pavan and Agni. Both of them also managed to throw the god-host away from Heaven. Sorely distressed, the gods went to the mortal realm (Earth) and began to brood on how to get rid of these demons permanently. The solution was to pray to Durgaa Maa in her form of Paarvatee, the wife of Shiv. They reached the Himaalaya and prayed to please the kind hearted Goddess Paarvatee. Agreeing to help, the body of Paarvatee emerged a bright light in the form of a divine woman called Ambikaa. Her exit from Paarvatee's body caused the latter to turn dark and black. She was then known as Kaushikee who began to dwell over the mountain ranges.

When the sycophants of the demons, Chand and Munda saw the dazzling light in the beautiful form of Ambikaa, they got enchanted by her superb beauty. They went to the demons Shumbh and Nishumbh and said - "Your Lordship, Today we saw a woman. This woman is the most beautiful female in the entire Universe." They described her beauty in such superlative terms that both Shumbh and Nishumbh could not resist sending their messenger Sugreev to bring her to them.

Sugreev reached Ambikaa and extolled the virtues of his masters Shumbh and Nishumbh to influence the Goddess. But she smiled indulgently and replied - "You may be right in the assessment of your masters but I cannot break my oath. I might have done it rather unconsciously but the fact is that now I stand committed to my oath, which is that whosoever can defeat me in battle and brow-beat me; whosoever can match my power, only he shall be my master. So go and tell your masters to show their strength and win me in the battle."

The messenger replied - "Listen, O Lady, You are very arrogant and adamant. Don't challenge my masters, against whose might the universe shudders in fright. They, who have browbeaten the gods and have thrown them out of Heaven, are very powerful. You are a mere woman, and you cannot match their might. Follow my advice and come with me to accept their proposal. Or else you shall be pulled by your hair and taken to their feet." The Goddess replied - "Whatever you say may be true. Maybe your Shumbh is so powerful and your Nishumbh is so virile but I am committed to my pledge. But go now and explain the whole situation to the Demon-lords. Let them come and defeat me."

Sugreev then went to his masters Shumbh and Nishumbh and explained the whole situation at length. Shumbh and Nishumbh became angry and they sent another demon Dhoomralochan to fetch her. But a mere loud cry and wrathful gaze of the Goddess was enough to incinerate the demon Dhoomralochan, and the lion of the Goddess slain the accompanying demons. Then the Demon kings sent Chanda and Munda with a large army to capture the Great Goddess. They encircled the Himaalaya to nab the Goddess. The Goddess then produced a black figure of frightening form, called Kaali Devee or Kaalikaa Devee. She destroyed the demons easily, hacked off the heads of Chanda and Munda and brought them to the Goddess Ambikaa. Since she had hacked off the heads of Chanda and Munda, she became famous as Chaamundaa Devee.

Hearing the death of Chanda and Munda, the Demon Kings sent another huge army headed by seven commanders. To match their combined strength the seven gods: Brahmaa, Vishnu, Shiv, Indra, Mahaa Varaah, Narasingh, Swaamee Kartikeya dispatched their forces. Seeing the temerity of the demons, another beam of power in the form of a woman emerged from the Goddess's body, who sent Lord Shiv as her messenger to Shumbhu and Nishambhu with the message: "If you want your welfare, return the realm of gods to gods along with their right to perform Yagya, and you must now go down to Paataal Lok (Nether world)". Shumbh and Nishumbh refused to accept the Goddess's advice and leading a huge army of terrible demons, reached the battlefield. Supported by the divine powers, the Goddess began to massacre the demons. At that time the demon forces were led by a demon, Raktbeej. He had the power to reproduce as many demons of his form and dimension as the drops of his blood which fell to the ground. After a fierce battle the Goddess ordered Chaamundaa (Kaalee) to spread her mouth far and wide and swallow Raktabeej along with his blood. Chaamundaa did exactly that and hacked off the head of the demon.

Kaalee Maa then devoured the slain bodies of the Asur and danced a fierce dance to celebrate the victory. Kaalee's this dance of destruction began and her attendants also joined her and it continued for long and none could stop her. To stop her, Shiv himself mingled among the Asur whom she was annihilating. Kaalee was unaware of the fact that even Shiv was among the Asur. She fell him too and started dancing on his body. To stop her dance Shiv allowed himself to be trampled upon by her in this dance of victory because this was the only remedy left to bring her to senses and to protect the world from total annihilation. Dancing on his body, suddenly she came to her senses and found that she was dancing over the body of her husband, she put her tongue out of her mouth in sorrow and surprise. She remained stunned in this posture and this is how Kaalee is shown in images with the red tongue protruding from her mouth, and she moved from his body.

Durgaa Maa then fought the demon Nishumbh who was slain in no time. Now Shumbh decided to take on Durgaa himself. Reaching the battlefield, he said to the Goddess - "You take pride on others' strength. Why don't you show your own power." Durgaa replied with a smile: "Fool, The whole world is just me. All Creation is my form in a variety of dimensions. I am the cause and effect of everything - all things emerge from me only and ultimately' enter me only. The whole world is in harmony with My Being." Then after the nine celestial powers (Kaalee Maa being one of them) which had emerged from the Goddess (Durga Maa) went back into her and she single handedly killed the demon Shumbh.

The Dash Mahaavidyaa, or Ten Great or Transcendent Wisdoms, is a circle of Ten Goddesses associated with Taantrik practice. There are several accounts on how this dynamic circle was formed. In one version, Shiv is living with the Goddess Kaalee in the Satya Yug. Eventually, Shiv grows restless and decides he is tired of living with Kaalee, so he gets up and when she asks him where he is going, he answers - "Wherever I wish." She does not reply and he begins to wander off. However, in no matter what direction Shiv goes, a form of Kaalee appears as one of the Mahaavidyaa - first Kaalee herself is constellated, then Taaraa, Tripur Sundaree, and Bhuvaneshwaree, then Chinnamastaa, Tripur Bhairavee, Dhoomaavatee, Bagalaamukhee, Maatangee, and finally Kamalaa. Experiencing the all-pervasive essence of Kaalee in these Goddesses one by one at every turn, Shiv sees through his yearning to leave Kaalee and wander about, having gained the wisdom (vidya) that She "fills the four quarters in the ten directions" so that wherever he goes, She is there in one of her energetic forms. Shiv, at last, comes home to the reality that she in all her prismatic forms and he, are One.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/03
Updated on 03/07/14