Summer Vacation: A visit to Dakshineswar Kali Temple – Part – VIII

We had a wonderful time, exploring some of the beautiful places in Kolkata during our vacation. However, as all the good things in life come to an end at some point in life, our vacation was also about to get over in a few days’ time. We were enjoying our days with everyone at home, knowing that we had only few days in hand. Just before leaving, we decided to visit and take blessings of Goddess Kali.

Maa Kali symbolizes the darker side of life and epitomizes strength. Devotees believe that the Goddess Kali will protect them from the demons and their cruelty. We worship her in different forms, such as Shyama, Adya Maa, Tara Maa, Dakshina Kalika, Shasan Kali, Chamundi and Bhadrakali; she has four arms and holds a sword in her upper left hand and a demons head on the lower left hand. Her other two hands bless her devotees. Her eyes are red and her body is smeared with blood. Her three eyes represented three modes of time, the past, present and future. She was destined to destroy all evils and their cruelty. She was so much engrossed in the killing spree that she went on killing everything within her sight. To stop this, Lord Shiva, threw himself under her feet. She was so shocked with this act of Lord Shiva, that she stuck her tongue out. Hence we have the common image of Kali standing with her feet on Shiv’s chest and her tongue out.

In Bengal, Maa Kali is worshiped everywhere and you will find a Kali Temple almost in every neighbourhood, including in Delhi. If you are in Kolkata, don’t miss any chance to take blessings of Goddess Kali, who is the presiding deity of Kolkata. She is probably one of the world’s most powerful symbols of Shakti, a raw divine feminine energy. In Kolkata, there are numerous holy shrines of goddess Kali. Today, I will take you to one of the biggest and finest historical temple of goddess Kali, Dakshineswar Kali Temple.

Dakshineswar

Dakshineswar

The magnificent Dakshineswar Kali Temple, situated on the bank of the Hooghly river, was built around the middle of 19th Century by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali.

According to the legend attached to the temple, once Rani Rashmoni planned to go to Varanasi in order to offer her prayers to the mother goddess. Just the night before she planned to leave for her trip to Varanasi, she had a dream in which Goddess Kali appeared and told her that she didn’t need to go anywhere, instead build a temple near river Ganga and install a statue of her.

Rani immediately looked for and purchased a 20-acre plot from Mr. John Hastie. The large temple complex was built between 1847 and 1855. It took eight years with a cost of Rs. 9 Lacs to complete the construction, and finally the idol of Goddess Kali was installed on the Snana Yatra day on 31 May 1855, with Ramkumar Chhattopadhyay as the head priest.

Dakshineswar Temple

Dakshineswar Temple

The temple was built in the traditional ‘Nava-ratna’ or nine spires style of Bengal architecture. The three-storeyed south-facing temple has nine spires distributed in upper two storeys and stands on a high platform with a flight of stairs. The garbha griha houses an idol of goddess Kali, known as Bhavataraini, standing on the chest of a lying Shiva, and the two idols are placed on a thousand-petaled lotus made of silver.

Bhavatarini

Bhavatarini [Courtesy: Wikipedia]

The head priest, Ramkumar Chhattopadhyay died next year in 1856 and his yonger brother, Gadadhar (or Gadai) became the priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. Soon after, the urge of finding the truth of life made him take sannyas under the sage Totapuri who gave him the sobriquet, Paramhansa. The temple is now famous for its association with Shri Shri Thakur Ramakrishna Paramhansa. From then until his death 30 years later in 1886, Ramakrishna was responsible for bringing much in the way of both fame and pilgrims to the temple. This temple is very auspicious to Bengalees because Sri Sri Ramakrishna Parmahansa Deva and Ma Sarada Mani.

under the Banyan tree in the Panchavati where Sri Ramakrishna had received illumination

under the Banyan tree in the Panchavati where Sri Ramakrishna had received illumination

The absence of Pandas will surprise you here, which I like the most. There is a separate enclosure just before the main entrance to the temple where about 30-40 permanent shops sell all puja items like garlands and agarbattis etc. and you are free to choose your offerings.

You have to enter the temple premises without shoes. The temple complex is very clean, spacious, serene and quiet. The temple premises would be crowded with devotees on auspicious or special days, like famous Kalpataru Utsav, which celebrates on January 1 every year. Kalpataru Utsav commemorates the day on January 1, 1886 when his followers believe that Ramakrishna revealed himself to be an Avatar, or God incarnate on earth. Devotees from all over the country thronged the Temple at Dakshineshwar. But you will also be surprised to see that it has lot more discipline in comparison to many other temples. There will be a queue. However, you won’t get much time to see the deity and might be asked to move ahead very quickly.

Dakshineswar Temple Complex

Dakshineswar Temple Complex

I would recommend you to go the temple early morning, offer a puja, have breakfast in the nearby shops and then head straight to Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, with whom Ramkrishna developed a strange theological relation and moulded him in his own way. He taught Naren (Dak name of Swami Vivekananda) the truth of life by letting him see a glimpse of the holy spirit. It was Vivekananda in later days, who held high the teachings of Sri Ramakishna to the world by forming the Belur Math.

Swami Vivekanada

Swami Vivekanada

The temple compound, also contains a large courtyard surrounding the temple, with rooms along the boundary walls.The main temple’s vast courtyard is surrounded by 12 identical Shiva temples of ‘Atchala’ architecture. The respective twelve Sivalingas in the Dakshineswar temple are Yogeswar, Jatneswar, Jatileswar, Nakuleswar, Nakeswar, Nirjareswar, Nareswar, Nandiswar, Nageswar, Jagadiswar, Jaleswar and Yajneswar.

12 identical Shiva temples of ‘Atchala’ architecture

12 identical Shiva temples of ‘Atchala’ architecture

Apart from the above, there is a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. ‘Nahavat-Khana’, the chamber in the northwestern corner just beyond the last of the Shiva temples, is where Ramakrishna spent a considerable part of his life, still contains his cot, bed and other belongings. The room is open to the visitors and many devotees are seen meditating in the room.

Kuthibari

Kuthibari

Kuthibari - Where Ramakrishna resided for 16 years

Kuthibari – Where Ramakrishna resided for 16 years

This may turn out to be one the best place to go for a religious peaceful retreat with family during your trip to the city. Dakshineswar Kali Temple is one of the famous temples for the devotees. Apart from the temple, you can also enjoy the pleasant atmosphere from here be it in the morning, in the afternoon or even during evening when you can expand your time by sitting at the bank of the Hooghly river. Dakshineswar is very well connected with any other parts of the city and there are various options to reach there from the main city.

There is a railway station at Dakshineswar where local trains stop on Sealdah – Dankuni line. However, you can go by hired cab or the trademark yellow taxis’ of Kolkata. There is good arrangement for car parking in a separate area. Dakshineshwar is approx. an hour’s drive from Howrah Station & 30 to 40 minutes from Dumdum Air Port.

(…to be continued)

20 Comments

  • Avtar Singh says:

    Very nice post with beautiful pics. I have not got any opportunity to visit eastern part of our country but your post is definitely luring for it . Thanx.

    • Tx Avtar for appreciating the post and leaving your comment.
      I do wish you & others to go there, spend few days and explore.

      Many things kept me occupied these days like all of you, as well as my own post(s) and unable to read your 2nd / 3rd post…/many others…will need to take our some time to read them…

      Keep writing…

  • Naturebuff says:

    I have just read through this entire series and what a treasure Bengal is! Most of these places have not got their rightful place in the itinerary of tourists since one is worried about the more unsavoury news from the place. This unfair image has relegated this destination to a much lower priority for me earlier but now I hope to go there sooner than later. Thanks for these lovely posts on Calcutta especially since they have been narrated from the heart!

    • Thank you Kranti for taking out time to read them…
      True, I agree with you completely;
      However, all these places covered here are world famous…
      All you heard about Bengal from others may not be 100% true always…it is still a vibrant state despite many odds only for it’s people…
      and a sensible approach from politicians, irrespective of whosoever is in the Govt. or opposition, may bring back the past glory once again…however, the way things are going on at present, there is little hope…but, the city of hopes still like to sing

      “We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
      We shall overcome someday;
      Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
      We shall overcome someday.”

      Go there with an open mind – How good or bad the city is – do judge by yourself…what I can only assure you that you will fall in love with the place, it’s people, it’s food and will definitely want to go there once again.

  • SilentSoul says:

    Amitava.. it was a beautiful travelogue with very good fotos.

    If I ever plan to visit the City of Joy… the only reason would be Dakshineswhar Temple

    • Thank you SS, after a long time.
      It is a beautiful temple and you will definitely like the place whenever you will visit…do also visit the Belur Math, situated at the other side of the river.

  • Tarun Talwar says:

    Amitava,

    Dakshineswar is my favourite place in Calcutta. The drumbeats and the prayer at evening aarti transports you to a different world. Swamiji’s room has a strong spiritual current and a great place to meditate. Sitting besides the Ganga in temple, I have has many lengthy discussions on spirituality and religion with a dear friend. These sessions ended with piping hot kachories freom one of the famous stalls outside the temple.

    It has been 11 years since I visited the city. Thanks for bringing it alive for me through this series.

    • Thank you Tarun.

      Really the atmosphere inside the complex is completely different. We were there during evening this time and it’s wonderful experience for us. What shall I say about Thakur Ramakrishna…’am too small person…can only admire him and wish to know more about him…

      and yes, there are many restaurants selling ‘garam’ ‘garam’ (hot) hing-er Kachories…don’t miss them.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    We missed the temple out of ignorance. We are not keen visitors of temples because of rush, un-clean setup and all the chaos around. But we wanted to be here since it is one of those old places of worship having such a large following. We missed it because we didn’t know anything about it. After reading your log, at least now I am much better informed so hopefully on next visit and next visit should happen soon. May be as early as this year end. Lets see.

    Thank you Amitava for sharing these jewels form Bengal.

    • Thank you Nandan.
      We are regular visitor here. My in-laws’ house is in Uttarpara which is just opposite side of the Ganges…so, every year whenever we visit Uttarpara, we must pay a visit to the Temple.

      That’s great news. So, this time you will have your plate full :-)
      We will also be there during Winter for 7-10 days after Dec 25th – till 10th Jan…so let me know.
      Stay in touch.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Amitava,

    This turns out to be such a comprehensive series on Cal – ‘tell-you-all’ kind of great coverage.

    Absence of Pandas – yes, that is a good point to be highlighted. The place has a calming effect; with the mighty Ganges flowing past, adding to the experience. Background to creation of the temple is equally interesting.

    One may as well add that a person on any train going to Sealdah could keep a lookout for the temple while crossing the Ganges.

    In response to your response on previous post; it was a family trip during these summer vacations. Despite full intentions, have not yet been able to start on it. Your comments, and the article about Prague today, are inspiring and we promise ourselves to start soon on this.

    Thankful really,

    Auro.

    • Thank you Auro and for the promise too.
      Yeah, I missed it to mention…

      As I am almost but over, now I can look forward to enjoy some of the beautiful places in the world through your eyes…as well as other stories from our friends here…

      Thank you for continuous encouragement.
      It’s really nice feeling to know that, and I mean it. Stay in touch.

  • abheeruchi says:

    Hi,
    After reading ur post I am feeling proud of myself.Because once I used to be regular to this temple.I still remember I used to get Wednesday off and every Wednesday I used to get ready by 0730 and thengoes to Ulta danga for catching Dankuni train and Dakshineshwar was i think after 3-4 stations only.I used to like this temple so much that i had not missed many wednesday to go there.I still remember red flower mala I used to buy.wiw, it was such a nice time.I remember my colleagues used to tell me being in Kolkata u shud visit kalighat but i dnt know why may be it was easy to go and come here, that i preferred going here.Infact because of visiting by train i became so accoustomed with local that i used to take last station ticket.used to get down at in between station and just explored area outside station.i remember i had explored kalyani, mayapur.chakdah and few more.i forgot names.
    Thanks for such a nice post.all memories refreshed.

    • Thank you Abhee.

      ‘m delighted to know that you were also regular during your stay in Kolkata. There is only two station after Bidhannagar (Ulto Danga) i.e. Dumdum & Barahnagar Road (Dunlop) and then you get down at Dakshineshwar. From Sealdah station (Bidhannagar, Dumdum, Barahnagar Road (Dunlop) and Dakshineswar) it is approx. 12 km.

      The name of the flower is ‘Joba Phool’ (in Bengali) (Gudhal in Hindi or ‘Hibiscus’ in English) – the one & only flower offered to the Goddess Kali. Yes, actually good if you are traveling in a local train be it in Mumbai, Chennai & Kolkata, where EMU trains are lifeline of so many people.

      Did you visit Mayapur? Hope you have liked the place. It is the headquarters of ISKCON and is considered a holy place by a number of other traditions within Hinduism, but is of special significance to followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism as the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

      Hope to read your Canada stories soon. Thank you.

  • abheeruchi says:

    Thanks for flower name.
    Yes i had visited mayapur but that time i went in car with one of my friend and her family.i really liked the premisetl especially goshala and school inside Iskcon premise.Also i remember all ladies devotees from all over the world had come there and was staying in the premise.all these devotees used to ride cycle inside premise.they used to look so beautiful in nice simple cotton sarees.

    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      It is one of the place, where one can be surprised to see the simplicity of life.
      You will find people from all the countries, from the richest to the poorest in the world, left behind all the fortunes which they have had and staying there – just to live for ‘SOMETHING’…which we may not understand or realize. Amazing India.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Amitava,

    Another gem unearthed! I had no idea about this temple or the Paramhans’ connection to Kolkata.

    How come we have never seen the photos of the temple?

    Architecturally, the temple looks for lack of any word, very untemple like! The roof style is called Bangla Roof which we can see in Rajput palaces, Orchha and even on Diwan e Aam in Delhi’s Red Fort. I love it.

    Who was Rani Rashmoni?

    The temple complex does look very clean and organised. Like Nandan says, the reasons are same why I also dont like visiting temples. But this Daksineshwar is different.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Thank you Nirdesh.

      Dakshineswar is a world famous temple for more than a Century, for its association with Shri Shri Thakur Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda.

      Photography is no allowed inside the complex but I couldn’t resist myself from taking 2 -3 pictures from outside for our readers, with a hope that the authority won’t have any objection, as there are pictures available freely in the Web. My sincere apology to the Temple Trust.

      Most of the temples in Bengal are famous for its roofing style. You can relate these temples to the paddy roofed traditional building style of rural Bengal. The roof structure also has been the effect of the heavy rainfall that the Ganges river delta and the Terai experiences throughout the monsoon, it has been curved effectively in most cases to get rid of the huge amount of water as soon as possible and thereby increasing the lifetime of the structure.

      Rani Rashmoni was the wife of Babu Rajachandra Das of Janbazar, Kolkata, a member of a wealthy zamindar family. She took charge of the zamindari after her husband’s death. Her clashes with the British in India became household tales in her time. She forced British to abolish the tax imposed on fishing in the river, which threatened the livelihood of poor fishermen by blocking the shipping trade on a part of Ganges. Puja processions were also stopped by the British on the charge that they disturbed the peace and she defied the orders. The British had to withdraw the penalty imposed on her in the face of public opposition and rioting in her support. She had also built numerous ghats alongside the Ganges for bathing e.g. Babu Ghat, Ahirtola Ghat, Nimtola Ghat.

      Yes, if you have a chance to visit the place, you will definitely like this. We too are not religious person, (though you can’t call me atheist at the same time – religion is very personal to me) I do like to visit few temples of my choice again & again and Dakshineswar is one such place.

      Thank you once again for liking the post and continuous encouragement.

  • Where Jesus and Ramkrishna met together?

  • HolidayStory says:

    HI AMITAVA

    It was a wonderful blog .. Every picture you have posted in your blog that Tells a story.
    Looking forward to read your other wonderful travel experience. I just create an article about the same topic, Its for “Kolkata Dakshineswar Kali mandir and Belur math Adyapith with Skywalk”. Please check and share your views.

    Thanks

    Ruma

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