There was an asura who wanted to become immortal, so he prayed and meditated for many, many years. Finally Brahma appeared before him to grant him a boon, and the asura asked for the boon of Immortality.
Brahma said, “I cannot grant you that boon, but at least this much I can do for you: you will not be able to be killed by any male.”
The asura was very happy because he would now become the strongest and most powerful of all the great fighters. He immediately invaded Heaven and threw Indra out. Then he began destroying Heaven and expelling all the cosmic gods one by one.
The cosmic gods hurried to Brahma and pleaded, “What have you done, what have you done, my Lord? Now you have to save us!”
Brahma said, “I am the culprit. I granted the boon, but now I do not have the power to protect you. I have to go to Shiva. Only he can save you from this predicament. Let me go and ask Shiva what can be done.”
So Brahma went to Shiva and explained the whole situation to him. He said, “I gave this asura the boon of becoming invincible. Now he has thrown Indra and all the other cosmic gods out of Heaven. There is only one way he can be defeated, and that is by a female. Can you not provide a very powerful female to kill this asura?”
Shiva thought for a few moments. “It is a very difficult task,” he said at last, “but I will try my best. I will see what I can do for you.”
While Shiva was wondering how to solve this problem, Parvati happened to walk by. Now, Parvati was extremely beautiful and her complexion was very fair. All of a sudden, for some unknown reason, Shiva addressed her as Kali. As soon as Parvati heard her husband calling her Kali, she got furious.
“Why are you calling me by that name?” she screamed. “You married me because I was so beautiful. Now why are you casting a slur on me? Have I become dark? Am I no longer beautiful? I am so disgusted with you! Who asked you to marry me? I am not going to stay with you. If you think that I am dark-skinned, I will leave this instant!”
Shiva made no attempt to retract his words, and so Parvati left him and entered into the forest. She began praying and meditating and practising very strict spiritual austerities. One day a tiger came near her as she sat meditating. It wanted to kill and devour her. Upon seeing the tiger, Parvati thought, “How kind this tiger is! I am meditating here all alone and it has come to protect me.” She entered into the soul of the tiger and, out of sheer gratitude and love, removed all the tiger’s ferocious qualities. The tiger remained by her side and became her most favourite devotee.
Parvati continued meditating on Brahma. At long last he came to see her. He said, “I am so pleased with you. Now what can I do for you?”
“I wish to have a better complexion,” said Parvati. “Shiva has called me Kali. What an insult! That means my skin is no longer beautiful. I cannot bear to be called dark. I want to be more beautiful.”
“All right,” said Brahma, “I will grant you this boon. From the cells of your body a dark being will come out. It will be quite black. When your body is rid of this being, you will become beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful. From now on you will be known as Gauri, she who has the most beautiful complexion.”
Immediately, a very dark and very powerful being came out of the cells of Parvati’s body. It took the form of a female and Brahma endowed it with all kinds of spiritual and occult powers. This being fought against the asura and defeated it. Then Indra and all the other cosmic gods went back to Heaven and lived again in perfect joy. Meanwhile, Parvati returned to Shiva and they were very happy together once again.