Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Dakshineswar temple is one of the most revered, sacred temples in Kolkata, dedicated to goddess Kali. Dakshineswar Temple is one of the largest temples near Kolkata and it is also an architectural treasure. The temple was built in conventional Nava-ratna style. It boasts a towering height of more than 100 feet. The 12-spired temple with its massive courtyard is flanked by 12 other small temples, devoted to Lord Shiva. It was founded by Rani Rashmoni on the 31st of May 1855. The holy tithi was of Jagannath Deva Snanyatra. This widely famed temple of Dakshineswar is famous among pilgrims all over the world. It was at this very place that the Rama Krishna Paramhamsa, the highly revered religious thinker attained his spiritual vision and advocated the unity of all religions.
Location of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, near Kolkata
Dakshineswar Temple is located at a distance of 20 km north from the central part of Kolkata. It is located alongside the Vivekananda Bridge. The temple admires the eastern bank of River Hooghly.
History of Dakshineswar Kali Temple
In the early phase of 1800s, Dakshineswar was a mere village, which nestled along the eastern bank of the Ganges River. Dense forest surrounded the area. It is said that Rani Rashmoni of Janbazar, while on her pilgrimage to Varanasi, had a dream, where she was instructed to built a Kali temple. Rani Rashmoni was quite a dynamic woman, who was highly respected and adorned by her people. She was intensely moved by the dream and to materialize it, she instructed her people to search for suitable plots to erect the Kali Temple. After a long hunt for land, eventually a 20-acre plot was selected in the village of Dakshineswar. A part of the land belonged to the European Christian, whereas the other part was a Muslim burial ground. In the year 1847AD, under the patronage of Rani Rashmoni, the construction of Dakshineswar Temple was initiated on this very site, signifying the unity of different faiths.
It was decided that the idols of the Gods and the Goddess would be installed on the auspicious day of the ‘snana-yatra’. The temple of Dakshineswar is dedicated to Sri Sri Jagadiswari Kalimata Thakurani. Rani Rashmoni was very benevolent and she wished that pilgrims of all religions and castes would be allowed to offer prayer at the temple. Rani survived only for five years and nine months after the temple was inaugurated. She fell seriously ill in 1861. Realizing that her days are numbered, she handed over a property that she bought at Dinajpur as a legacy for the maintenance of the temple to the temple trust. She passed on 18th February, 1861.
The construction of Dakshineswar temple was initiated in 1847 and it was completed in 1855. The estimated cost of the construction was Rs. 9 Lakhs, of which Rs. 2 Lakhs was spent on the very day of inauguration. The temple along with its abiding areas spans 25 acres of land, which makes Dakshineswar temple one of the biggest temples in Kolkata. The main temple premise is around 46 sq ft. Dakshineswar temple was built in the traditional ‘Nava-ratna’ or nine spires style of Bengal architecture. The roof of the temple spires have been grooved artistically with a striking resemblance with the Pirhas. The temple sports a colossal, elongated structure, resting on a high platform with a flight of stairs. It is a three-story, south-faced temple. The nine spires of the temple are distributed in upper two stories. A narrow covered verandah has been erected, which serves as an audience-chamber and it is attached to the sanctum, which houses the goddess Dakshina Kali. A huge spacious Natmandir (Dancing hall) has been erected in front of the temple.
The Garbha Griha houses the deity of goddess Kali, famously known as Bhavataraini. The idol stands on the chest of Lord Shiva, who rests in a lying posture. The two idols stand beautifully on a thousand-petal lotus, made of silver. This colossal temple of Kali is renowned as one of the rare temples of Indian origin.
This Kali Temple in Dakshineswar is very much associated with Sri Ramakrishna Pramhans, as he was one of the earliest priests of the temple. His room, which nestles at the temple premise, can be accessed by all devotees, who visit the temple.
Tuesdays and Saturdays are believed as auspicious day for Kali worship. On both these days, there is a huge congregation of devotees at the Dakshineswar temple. The Sandhya Aarti is the prime attraction of devotees, which is truly amazing.
Temples of Shiva – The premise of the Dakshineswar temple is admired with twelve identical temples of Shiva. The temples have been erected just opposite to the Kuthi Bari and they nestle close to the banks of River Ganges. The interiors of the Shiva temples are adorned with white and black stone. Each of the temple houses beautiful Shiva Lingas, done in black stone. All these Shiva temples are east facing and they have been erected following the typical ‘Aat Chala’ Bengal architecture. The series of the Shiva temples are divided by Chadni (River bank). Six temples rest at the right of the bank, whereas the other six to the right.
Vishnu Temple – At the north east side of the Dakshineswar temple complex, lies the Vishnu Temple or the Radha Kanta’s Temple. A flight of stairs will lead you inside the temple. The temple houses a 21 and half inches idol of Lord Krishna and 16 inches idol of Radha. It is said that Sri Ramkrishna himself used to perform puja at this temple.
The Panchavati garden, a congregation of five ancient trees, located in close proximity to the Dakshineswar Temple is nicely landscaped and is well maintained by the temple committee. It is said that Sri Ramakriahna used to meditate at this very site.
Dakshineswar temple becomes a center of attraction mainly during the Kali Puja. The temple is decorated wonderfully with flowers and amazing lighting arrangement. Devotees from early morning start making beeline to offer their prayer to the presiding deity of Dakshina Kali of the temple. The music of beautiful religious songs that play on the temple premise on the day of Kali puja, enhances the religious appeal of the place even more. Beside this, on every “amabashya”, the temple is also decked up beautifully and an elaborate evening arati is also performed.
Trivia of Dakshineswar Temple, near Kolkata
- Sri Ramkrishna Paramhans, one of the greatest religious reformers is closely associated with this Dakshineswar temple. He first came to the temple, accompanying his brother to assist him in the performance of the holy rituals. According to legends, this was the vary place, where Ramakrishna attained his divine enlightenment. Here he obtained a spiritual vision and witnessed a holy glance of Goddess Kali.
- The Dakshineswar temple was built under the benefaction of Rani Rashmoni of Janbazar, as she received a divine instruction.
- Major controversy arose centering the Dakshineswar temple, as Rani Rashmoni was of low birth, as she was not supposed to own the right of temple or to offer Bramhin foods. Eventually, it was suggested by the elder brother of Sri Ramakrishna, known as Sri Ramkumar Chattopadhyay to dedicate the temple to a Bramhin to overcome the problem. So, the temple was transferred in the name of Rani’s Guru. And on 31st may 1885 the deity of Kali was installed in the temple with much grandeur.
- Twelve identical shrines of Shiva adorn the premise of Dakshineswar Temple, each housing Shiv Lingas of black stone.
- The Panchavati garden, where congregation of five ancient trees is found is an ideal spot for meditation.
- Belur Math, another important tourist attraction of Kolkata is located at a distance of 3 km from Dakshineswar Temple and it is a ‘must visit’ place.