Major Temples of West Bengal

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Temples of West Bengal - Dakshineswar Temple

The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is located alongside the Vivekananda Bridge north of Calcutta. It is believed that Saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa achieved spiritual vision in this place. This temple is dedicated to goddess Kali.

Rani Rasmani is a philanthropist and a religious activist who was born in a humble peasant family, but was married to a wealthy Rajchandra Marh. When she was widowed, she used the family wealth for social works and charity. Her title Rani was not derived from her rank or property, it was the name used by her mother fondly in her childhood. The construction work of the temple was started in 1847 and completed in 1855.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was the temple's head priest. He had a rare form of love towards the goddess known in Hinduism as Maha-bhava. He was so deeply involved in the ecstatic love for the deity that he would fall in the ground completely immersed in spiritual trance without the conscious of the external world.

The temple is in conventional nava-ratna style. There is a large enormous courtyard surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is a three storey structured building with nine spires distributed in upper two storeys. The roof of the spires is ridged like Pirhas. There is a narrow covered verandah which serves the purpose of an audience-chamber attached to the sanctum where the goddess Dakshina Kali stands on the breast of Shiva. The front of the temple has a long spacious Natyamandir or dancing hall. It is also one of the largest temples of Kolkata. The beautiful Hoogly River flows beside this temple. North part of the temple has a Dalan of Radha-Krishna. There are 12 shiva temples of Bengali Atchala style in rows on the banks of Hoogly River apart from Chandni bathing ghat.

Temples of West Bengal - Kalighat Temple

The Kalighat temple is located in the city of Calcutta or Kolkata on the banks of the river Hooghly or Bhagirathi. Even the name of the city of Calcutta or Kolkata is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. Kali is one of the most principal deities of Bengal. She is the destroyer or the liberator who is depicted in a fearful form. There are many temples devoted to Kali in Kolkata. The Kalighat temple is regarded as one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India, where the various parts of Sati's body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva's Rudra Tandava. Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Shakti or Sati fell.

As per the legend, a devotee discovered a luminous ray of light coming from the Bhagirathi river bed. After finding out the source, he discovers a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe. There was also a Svayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby. The devotee started worshipping Kaali in the midst of a thick jungle. The place of Kalighat is also associated with the worship offered to Kaali by a Dasanami Monk by name Chowranga Giri. For the same reason, the Chowringee area of Calcutta is said to have been named after him.

Originally the temple was just a small hut. Later, King Manasingha constructed a small temple in the early 16th century. Under the patronage of the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury of Banisha, the present temple was constructed in 1809. There are claims by the Haldar family to be the original owners of the temple property. But it was disputed by the Chowdhurys of Banisha. A committee was formed for the administration of the temple with representations from the Government and the Haldar family in 19th century.

 

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