Kalighat Temple

Kalighat Temple

The Kalighat Temple on the banks of the Hooghly river (Bhagirathi) had been in existence for centuries but in its current form was built around 1809 A.D. In due course of time the river changed its course and the temple is now on the banks of a small canal called “Adi Ganga”. (The word Adi means “original”).

The image of Kali in this temple is unique. Three huge eyes, a long protruding tongue made of gold and four hands, which are all made of gold too. Two of these hands holding a scimitar and a severed head of “asura” king ‘Shumbha’.

The scimitar signifies Divine Knowledge and the ‘asura’ head signifies human Ego which must be slain by Divine Knowledge in order to attain Moksha. The other two hands are in ‘abhaya or varad mudra’ or blessings ,which means her initiated  devotees  (or any one worshipping her with a  true  heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and hereafter.

The main areas of Kalighat Temple

  • Sosthi Tala: This is a rectangular altar about three feet high bearing a small cactus plant beneath which, on an altar, are three stones. The stones represent the Godesses Sosthi, Sitola and Mongal Chandi.
  • Natmondir: This is adjacent to the main temple from where the face of the image can be seen. It was built by Zamindar Kasinath Roy in 1835.
  • Jor-bangla: This is the spacious verandah of the main temple.
  • Harkath Tala: This is the spot adjacent to Natmondir and is meant for animal sacrifice.
  • Radha-Krishna Temple: This temple is situated at the west side of the main temple.
  • Kundupukur: This is the sacred tank situated in the south-east of the temple outside the boundary walls. It is said that the right toe of Sati was discovered here.

Kalighat Temple History

Job Charnock is believed to be the founder of Calcutta when his ship anchored at “Sutanati”, one of the four villages that combined to form Calcutta.He may have founded the English part of Calcutta but long before his ship anchored at Sutanati there flourished a market town as old as Varanasi, around the temple of Kali.

Pilgrims came from distant part of the countryto pay their respects. This town was known as Kalighat. Kalighat’s earliest history can be gauged from the coins originating from Gupta period{4th to 5th AD} that were discovered here. Kalighat was earlier known as Kali-Kshetra.

Kalighat is regarded as one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India. As the legend goes, Sati, wife of Lord Shiva was insulted by her father Daksha who had not invited Shiva at a Yagya ceremony. Sati flung into the fire and immolated herself. Grieved and hysterical Shiva journeyed around the cosmos with Sati on his shoulders.

To relieve Shiva of his agony Lord Vishnu wielding his Sudarshan chakra cut the body into pieces .Splintered limbs scattered over the country.Places where the body parts fell are revered by the believers as Shakti Peeth. A toe of Devi’s right foot is believed to have fallen at Kalighat.

Legend has it that a devotee discovered a luminant ray of light coming from the bed of Bhagirathi river, and upon investigating its source came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe. He also found a Svayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby and started worshipping Kali in the midst of a thick jungle.

It is believed that the temple was initially built by Raja Mansingh I of Amber (AD 1594 – 1606)  when he was sent as a Governor of Bengal by Mughal Emperor Akbar. In 1809 this temple was modified  and reconstructed by an affluent Zamidar named Santosh Roy Chaudhary of Sabarna Roy Caudhary family under the patronage of Kaliprasad Dutta.

The “Mahanta” system, where the chief priest chooses one of his disciples as the next chief, is still followed in the temple. Bhubhaneshwar Giri, one of the chief priests, married a woman known as Yogmaya and together the two had a daughter whom they named Uma.

When Uma reached a marriageable age, the Goddess appeared in Bhubhaneshwar Giri’s dreams and asserted that she no longer wished to be worshiped by ascetic priests and urged him to marry off Uma and declare her husband as the next Mahanta – Uma was thus married to Bhabanidas Chakraborty who assumed the position of Mahanta after his father-in-law handed him the entire Kalighat complex as dowry and since then all the “Sebayats” (Goddess’ priests) have continued to be married householders.

Significance of Kalighat Temple

Goddess Kali stands for enlightenment or liberation. She is considered a compassionate deity who provides moksha or liberation to her children. Temple may be centuries old, its profound spiritual meaning lives onto the present day through the belief and daily rituals of millions of Indians. It is believed that the temple vibrates with spiritual energy that absolves the previous sins of the pious. It gaurantees relief from bad karma.

Kalighat temple was built on desolate strip of wasteland near Ganga. With the fame of temple settlement grew up in the neighbourhood. Booths sprang up to cater to the various needs of the pilgrims. Wooden dolls and Terracota  figurines appeared early in the brisk trade in souvenirs for the pilgrims.

Around 1830 the style of Kalighat Painting became popular. Early paintings focussed om mythological themes and depicted episodes from Ramayan and Mahabharat. At the turn of 20th century painting started depicting rapidly changing urban society and the nouveau rich Bengali in satirical caricature.

Paintings attracted attention of foreign tourists who took these paintings as the example of exotic andoriental souvenirs. Many of these works ended up in the Museums and private collections in Western Europe.

Kalighat Temple Timings

Kalighat Temple is open from 5 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 10:30 pm.

Tuesdays and Saturdays are special days for worship. Ashtami days are also special. The temple is very crowded on these days and if  you want to avoid the crowds then it is better  to visit is Wednesday or Thursday.

There are separate queues for normal visitors and  Sevaits/V.I.P/Staff.

There are two queues, one for going to the Garbha Graha (Nijo -Mandir) and another for having Dharshan from the Varandah (Jor- bangla). The queue going to the Garbha Graha (Nijo -Mandir) is more orderly, and is controlled by security guards and police men (at least on Tuesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and festival days). The queue for the Varandah (Jor- bangla) is not well controlled.

Pooja and Rituals at Kalighat Temple

At the Kalighat Kali Mandir we find a mixture of diverse religious expressions––ranging from the “orthodox” rites of Brahminical Hinduism to spiritual practices aligned with the folk Shakta tradition of the villages. Animal sacrifice is a regular affair and the occasional Tantrik can be spotted wandering around the Kali Mandir, carrying a human skull and offering his magical services for a price.

How to reach Kalighat Temple

  • Kalighat is located in south Calcutta. Buses are available from all parts of Calcutta. All buses going to south Calcutta have to pass through Shyam Prasad Mukherjee road. The temple is off this road. You get down in Kalighat (Kalighat Tram Depot) bus stop and walk down the Kali Temple road to the temple. Kalighat is connected by Metro railway.
  • The nearest metro stations are Jatin Das Park and Kalighat. Please take the Northern exit in Jatin Das Park and the Southern exit in Kalighat.
  • The steps in Jatin Das Park station are many and steep. There is an escalator part of the way in Kalighat station. It is advisable for elderly people to alight at the Kalighat station.

Kalighat Temple Accommodation

Staying in Kolkata is not very difficult as wide range of hotels are available. With flexible price.  

Where To Eat

Good  restaurant catering to all kinds of taste and pocket can be enjoyed in Kolkata.

Nearby Temples

Dakshineswar Temple: This temple is situated on the eastern bank of River Hoogly in Kolkota. ‘ Bhavtarni ‘ an aspect of Kali is the presiding diety. Bhavtarni  means  a diety who liberates her devotees from the endless cycles of birth and death or ‘Samsara. This temple was built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist.  Swami Ramkrishna, the famous  mystic of the 19th Century was its head priest for some time.

Belur Math: Swami Vivekanand who was the follower of Swami Ramkrishna Paramhansa founded Belur Math. It is the headquaters of Ramkrishna Mission. Swami Vijayanand who was the younger brother of Swami Vivekanand designed this temple  and based on the ideas of Vivekanand got the foundation laid on 16th May 1935. This temple is called as “Symphony in Architecture” because different architectural elements  are beautifully combined into it.

Pareshnath Jain Temple: This temple,  devoted to 23rd Tirthankar Pareshnath,  is the most revered Jain shrine in Kolkata. It was built in 1867 by Ray Badridas Bahadur. It is beautifully decorated with mirrors glasses and chandeliers called ‘Jhar Bhattis’.

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