For every inhabitant of Calcutta, the temple of Kali is the main shrine because it is dedicated to the Goddess revered here, after whom the city was named. And among true Hindus, it is known that the Indian Guru and preacher Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa lived here for several years.
The monastery delights tourists with its original architectural style and picturesque location on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River. The temple built in the 19th century lies on the northern outskirts of Kolkata, in the Dakshineswar district.
History of Dakshineswar Kali Temple
The temple complex was founded by a wealthy widow named Rani Rashmoni in 1855. She came from a caste of Mahishya, stood out for her courage, intelligence, and business qualities, and was engaged in charitable activities.
The decision to build the temple of Kali in Dakshineswari was made after the Divine Mother the form of Kali came to her in a dream. The widow was about to go on a pilgrimage, but she had this unusual dream last night.
In the morning, Rani Rashmoni developed a flurry of activities, the result of which was the purchase of a site in Dakshineswar from the Englishman Jake Hastie. The place was popular as Saheban Bagicha before that.
A territory area of 81 sq. km was once the Muslim Burial Ground. In its shape, the site resembled a turtle, a symbol of Shakti worship in the Tantric tradition. The construction of the temple took 8 years.
Soon the founder became seriously ill, and on February 18, 1861, she sold all her property and transferred money for the maintenance of the temple. Rani Rashmoni passed away the next day.
Features of Dakshineswar Kali Temple
The building is a vivid example of typical Bengali architecture (nine spires style), and its style is in many ways reminiscent of Orthodox churches. Visually, the temple compound is divided into three levels. Arched openings settled along the entire perimeter of the lower part of the structure. In the center of the building, there is a gilded dome on a high drum, and 4 smaller hemispherical coatings surround it. A little lower, too, there are 4 similar designs.
A long monumental staircase leads to the entrance to the temple. In the very center of the inner part of the structure is the figure of Maa Kali. In India, she is known as the “black earth mother” and “black night,” so the sculpture of the deity is made in the appropriate color. Kali is depicted with an elongated bright red tongue and an elegant headdress. It is richly adorned with gold jewelry and brightly colored details.
There is evidence that once, the temple parishioners practiced sacrifice, and some even engaged in murders and robberies to gain the trust of the Goddess Kali. Today, followers of her teachings prefer more peaceful forms of worship.
From Contempt Temple to the Most Religious and Sacred Shrine
Rani Rashmoni was not a Brahmin by blood, so purebred Brahmins did not want to go to serve in a place with such a history. Only Sri Ramakrishna thought about God and serving her and not about his reputation, so he agreed to become a Brahmin in the temple of the Goddess Kali. Very soon, Dakshineswar became his home, where he could achieve the favor of Kali: he began to see and hear her.
Thanks to his outstanding spiritual merits, crowds of pilgrims began to flock to Dakshineswar. And to this day, this place radiates holiness and peace and gives a chance to gain enlightenment to everyone who is ready to know the truth. Almost all places in Dakshineswar are somehow connected with Ramakrishna because he spent almost all his life in this place.
Various Attractions of Temple
Apart from the main Kali temple, there are other temples dedicated to other deities in the temple premise, such as:
1. Nat Temple
As the name indicates, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, whose idol is installed above the 16-pillared structure. This section is used for religious discourses and teachings of devotees.
2. Gaji Tal
Located to the northeast of the temple, it is where Ramakrishna discovered Islam. Rani Rasmoni signified this section as the sacred place for both Hindus and Muslims to offer their prayers.
3. Kuthi Bari
Kuthi Bari was originally built by Lord Hastings and became the major attraction of the temple complex. It is installed to the north of the Ganges. Kuthi Bari turned into a second home for Rani Rasmoni, where she aboded with her daughter and son-in-law. Today, this section has been turned into a police camp that looks after worshipers’ security.
4. Vishnu Temple
Located in the northeast of the temple complex, it has an idol of Radha Krishna depicted sitting on a silver throne.
5. Shiva Temple
Where there is Kali, there will be Lord Shiva. There is 12 similar Shiva temple in this complex divided by a river bank. Six of them are on the left side of the river and six are on the right. It is said that Sri Ramakrishna meditated here to reach enlightenment.
6. Bakul Tal Ghat
Bakul Tal Ghat is famous as the bathing ghat of Shri Sharada Maa. Legend has it that Bhairavi Brahmani Yogeshwari Devi, the Guru of Ramakrishna, made him a disciple of ‘Tantra Sadhana’ in this very place.
7. Panchavati Park
Panchavati Park, which at the time of Ramakrishna looked more like an uncomfortable forest, became Guruji’s haven for many years. The northern, wooded part of the temple garden abounded in ravines, tree roots, and thickets; it was unattractive to people and gave the yogi maximum solitude.
If Guru did not pray in the temples of Dakshineswar, he was in meditation under the trees in Panchavati. This place became his personal place of power, a platform for spiritual practices.
Facts about Dakshineswar Kali Temple
- The temple contains 12 black stone shiv lingams: Nirajeshwar, Nageshwar, Nakuleshwar, Jatileshwar, Ratneshwar, Jogeshwar, Nareshwar, Nandishwar, Naadeshwar, Jagadeshwar, Jaleshwar, Yajneswar.
- Kali is represented in the form of Goddess Bhabatrini, who is also often referred to as Adishakti Kaliki or Parashakti Adya Kali. She is the sovereign and protector of the entire universe. It is customary to present garlands (mala) with hibiscus flowers to the Goddess.
- Ramakrishna’s hands are known to have planted several sacred trees in Panchavati, including the banyan tree and the neem tree. Some of these trees have survived to this day.
- Ramakrishna brought to Panchavati a handful of earth from his pilgrimage to Vrindavan. He distributed it throughout the park and placed part of it in his meditation hut, noting that this gesture sanctified Panchavati, making it no less significant than Vrindavan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How to get to Dakshineswar Kali Temple?
Dakshineswar Kali Temple in the suburb of Kolkata can be reached by:
Train: The nearest railway station to the temple is the Dakshineswar railway station, which is located adjacent to the temple complex. It is well connected to other parts of Kolkata and the rest of India. You can take a local train from Sealdah Station in Kolkata to reach Dakshineswar railway station.
Metro: You can also take the Kolkata Metro to reach Dakshineswar. Take the metro to the Noapara station, which is on the north end of the metro line, and then take a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach the temple.
Bus: There are several buses that run from different parts of Kolkata to Dakshineswar. You can take a bus from Esplanade or Howrah bus stand in Kolkata to reach the temple.
Taxi or Auto-rickshaw: If you landed at Kolkata Airport (closest airport, 40 min drive), you can always hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach the temple. They are readily available throughout Kolkata.
Once you reach the temple complex, you can enter the temple after taking off your shoes and covering your head. Please note that the temple can be crowded, especially during festivals, so it is advisable to visit early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds.
What are Timings to visit the temple?
If you are planning to visit Dakshineswar Kali Temple with your family or friends, you should keep in mind that the opening time of the temple is from 6 am to 12:30 pm in the morning and from 3 pm to 8:30 pm in the evening.
What are other attractions in Kolkatta?
Near Dakshineswar temple, you can visit Belur Math, Bally Bridge, Kalighat Kali Temple, Ratan Babu Ghat, Annapurna temple, Sudder street, and many other famous temples and even ancient time hotels and museums. Kolkatta has great potential for tourism in 2023 and in the coming years.