Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Sacred in its holiness, the Dakshineswar Kali Temple is of high importance to the Calcuttans. It gives the huge mass of pilgrims who visit every year peace for the inner mind. Situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, here we worship the Goddess Ma Kali (Mother Kali). The presiding deity is primarily known as Bhavatarini. Its beauty and spirit of holiness attracts pilgrims from all over India. Devotees from Western countries also come here to pay respect to the Holy mother Kali and also to Sri Ramkrishna Parhamhansa a mystic from 19th century and his wife Sarada Devi. They all reside at the Temple’s very heart. The Devi Bhavatarini is the one who “frees all who come from the ocean of existence that is Samsara”. The Holy River Ganga flows by the side of the temple where the devotees take bath on auspicious days.
Built during the 19th century (1847-1855) by the reformist Rani Rashmoni it shows clear signs of the then Bengal architecture. The style of Nava-Ratna (Nine Spires) has been implemented in this three storeyed south facing temple which stands on a high platform with a flight of stairs. The ‘garbha griha’ in Bengali stands for “sanctum sanctorum” where the Devi Bhavatarini stands on the chest of Lord Shiva. Both the idols are placed on a thousand-petaled lotus made of silver. Lying close to the main temple is a series of twelve Shiva temples identical in their stature built in the traditional “aath-chala” Bengal style. This vast temple complex provides the pilgrims a sense of awe that has a kind of spirituality in the atmosphere.
History and Legend of Dakshineswar Kali Temple
The ancient legend of the Mother Goddess has been passed down by generations of Hindus from the books of Shakta Tantras that speaks of the Devi Chandi. Hindus especially in Bengal worship the Devi Ma (Holy Mother) with great devotion. One such sacred place is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple where devotees go every year to see the Divine Mother Kali.
In the year 1847, the widow, Rani Rashmoni set out to express her love for the Divine Mother with a convoy of twenty four boats carrying relatives, servants and labourers to the city of Banaras. Legend says that just before the night of the pilgrimage the Divine Mother Kali appeared in her dream asking her to build a shrine for her on the “ banks of the river Ganga and there she would accept worship from her devotees”. So she set out to build this vast temple complex consisting temples of Goddess Kali, Lord Shiva and a temple of Radha Krishna. It took eight years to build the entire structure. The temple head priest was a scholarly elder sage named Ramkumar. But within a year of its foundation he died and then the responsibilities were passed to his brother Ramkrishna who attained “moksha” through his love for the Divine Mother and brought great fame to the Dakshineswar temple.
Significance of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple
When we visit a holy place we take a guide, but when you are on a pilgrimage you should follow the path of a holy person. The pilgrim is on a journey where he has both internal emotions and external impressions. And thus Sri Ramkrishna is prominent for the pilgrims in their journey to Dakshineswar.
The temple’s atmosphere is indifferent to praise or criticism, here the lowly and highly does not have any difference. Here all live with an unusual harmony. Time- is mystery in the place. It seems as if time has stopped here. The streets outside the temple increase the anticipation of the devotees for Ma Kali who would soon shower her love and calm your mind. The Divine Mother is decorated with ornaments like anklets, necklaces made of gold and pearls, a garland of human heads made out of gold and a golden nose ring with a pearl-drop.
The planning of the temple is such that it offers space for rooms of staffs and guests of the temple. There is also an orchard to the north where there is the ‘Panchavati’ with the banyan tree and the Bel tree. Here Sri Ramkrishna sat for hours in meditation. In recent times this area has been redesigned in an ethnic manner. The main temple has a magnificent “Natmandir”, or music hall. To the northwest and southwest parts of the temple premises there are two “Nahabhats” or music towers.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple Timings
- The temple opens at 7:00 am and closes at 12 pm in the afternoon.
- Then again it opens at 3:30 pm and closes for the day at 9 pm.
- It is wise for visitors to visit during the early morning hours from 7:00 am to 8:00 am since the place remains a bit empty at that time.
- The Mangal arati begins before sunrise, 4:00 am during the summer months and at 5:00 am during winter.
- The Bhog arati is done during the afternoon around 12:00 pm.
- The Sandhya arati begins at 6:30 p.m. during winter and at 7:00 p.m. during the summer.
Festivals Celebrated at Dakshineswar Kali Temple
- Kalpataru one of the holiest of festivals for the Bengalees is celebrated at the Dakshineswar temple. Followers of Sri Ramkrishna attend this festival with much enthusiasm. It is celebrated on the first day of the English calendar i.e. 1rst January.
- The Navaratri is celebrated here with grandeur for nine days and nine nights. The ‘kumari’ kanyas or girls who yet to attain puberty are worshiped in front of the Divine Mother who are taken to be embodiments of Ma Durga. On the ninth day comes the Ayudhya puja where devotees place their tools for livelihood hoping for success and happiness. The Dusshera sees the celebration of Goddess Saraswati who showers knowledge and wisdom to her worshipers.
- Diwali here is celebrated through Kali puja where the deity Bhavatarini is worshipped and prayed by thousands of pilgrims. The entire temple complex is adorned with diyas and strings of lights decorated at every corner. Nowadays sky lights are also lit within the temple premises making the whole place glow with bright lights.
Poojas and Rituals at Dakshineswar Kali Temple
- Once a month takes place the Amavasya (darkest night) ritual where devotees offer their prayers after a daylong of fasting and breaks it after the priest has performed the Homa
- The second month of the Bengal year Jaistha which is the summer season beckons the Phalaharini Kali puja on a new moon night.
- The Durga puja is the most grand of all festivals for Bengal. And here at Dakhshineswar the Durga puja is celebrated with grand events. Priests recite from holy Sanskrit texts for five days telling about the victory of Ma Durga over the Ashura or demon. Here the priests perform the puja in front of the Kali image.
- One of the most important ritual or puja taking place is Kali puja. It takes place during Diwali and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and devotees walk into the temple complex to offer prayers and gifts to Goddess Kali. Both Tantric and Brahmanical rituals are performed to Ma Kali and thousands of visitors get to see the entire ritual.
- The temple committee also prepares the bhog /prasad made especially for puja and rituals. It is distributed to a long line of devotees visiting the temple and desiring Maayer Prasad (offerings from the Divine Mother).
How to reach Dakshineswar Kali Temple
- The temple is situated to the left of Dunlop junction. The P.W.D road which is ahead takes to Dakshineswar railway station. By taking a left turn after crossing the railway station one can reach the temple.
- Recently a new flyover has been built that connect the temple area with the main city of Kolkata. Taxis are easily available from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Airport, Howrah and Sealdah railway station (if one comes by train). If one travels by metro then there is Dum Dum metro station nearby.
- The Barrackpore Trunk Road can be sought from Shyambazar’s five-point crossing, in north Kolkata. This is another route to travel by road. And turning left one can reach Dakshineswar.
- Across the Hooghly River one can find the Vivekananda Bridge at Dakhshineswar. It connects it to, major areas like Bally, Uttarpara and Dankuni. And also to Grand Trunk Road, Delhi- Bombay Road along with Durgapur Expressway.
- A new bridge named ‘Nivedita Setu’ has been built so that traffic is not affected much. There are many buses from Kolkata, as well from places across the river. Also a serene boat ride across the river Ganga can make the journey more wonderful.
Where to eat and famous foods
- The lanes outside the temple is famous for its street food especially kachodi and cholar dal that visitors crave upon. The most famous is the Dakhshineswar peda a kind of sweet that from young to old is a delight for the tongue.
- The Bharadwaj lodge and restaurant is a known place there. People often stop by it since it is not far from the temple.
- Visitors who are non-vegetarian can stop by the famous Gol Bari restaurant about 6.2 km from Dakshineswar which is famous for its’ kosha mangsho (chicken recipe).
- Several new places for food have opened like “Bangaliyaana”, “Dunlop Hotel and Restaurant” etc.
Where to Stay
- The Debalay Guest House at T.N.Mukherjee road is comfortable and convenient for travellers.it is reviewed to be reasonable and well-suited for visitors.
- The Holy Nest Guest house is another place where accommodations can be arranged for travellers. It is also not far from the temple area and is known to be having a pleasant atmosphere with nice suitable rooms and good food.
- The Adyapeath temple is a very renowned place for pilgrims. It is located near the Dakhshineswar temple and is dedicated to Goddess Kali. It is a beautiful place where devotees visit every year for peace and tranquillity.
- The Belur Moth was built by Swami Vivekananda, disciple of Sri Ramkrishna. It is a very worthy place to visit in the early mornings where the calm and quietness of the place takes one into a state of pure peace. The place is notable for its fusion of Hindu, Islam and Christian symbols that shows that oneness of all religions.
- The Shobhabajar Rajbari is a famous tourist spot. It has historical importance that attracts visitors.
- Another place where devotees visit is the Hanseswari Temple. It is located at Bashberia town,in the Hooghly district. Here people can see Goddess Hanseswari who is another avatar of Goddess Kali. It is very unique in its structure that has a six storey shrine which has the form of a human body.