Kalighat Kali Temple

Kali Temple at Kalighta, Kolkata. Courtesy: Wikipedia

Kali Temple at Kalighat, Kolkata. Courtesy: Wikipedia

Kolkata, the home of festivals and celebrations is also the land of profound devotion. Goddess Kali is worshiped as the Mother Goddess in the city. A number of temples are found in Kolkata, devoted to Goddess Kali, the most prominent and popular being the Kalighat Temple. It is said that the city of Kolkata has derived its name from this temple, which was anglicized later as Calcutta. Kalighat is one of the 52 Shaktipeeths of the Hindus, highly revered and most sacred religious site across Kolkata. The present structure of the Kalighat Temple was built under the benefaction of the famous family of Sabarna Roy Choudhury of Barisha. The deity of the Goddess Kali housed inside the temple is built of black stone. The idol is admired with exquisite gold ornaments. The most notable part of the deity is the gold tongue that protrudes out. In the Bengali months of Bhadra, Paush and Chaitra, the temple gets inundated with devotees.

Location of Kalighat Kali Temple, Kolkata

The Kalighat temple nestles on the banks of the Adi Ganga River in the southern part of the city of Kolkata. It is located in the place called Kalighat in Kolkata, near Bhowanipur.

History of Kalighat Kali Temple, Kolkata

Kalighat is highly revered as one of the 52 Shaktipeeths, a highly sacred religious place in Kolkata. There exists a big believe behind the formation of Shaktipeeths. Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajaapati, a descendant of Bhrama, married Shiva. However, his father was not very pleased with this very act. With the sole intention of insulting Shiva, Daksha arranged a great yagna, where all gods and goddesses were invited. But his own son in law, Shiva was discarded. Sati, who attended this yagna was very much insulted by her father. She failed to bear the insult of her husband and immolate herself on the Homa. Shiva furious with this insult and loss of Sati, destroyed the yagna of Daksha, cut of his head and replaced it with that of a goat. Shiva was so very grief stricken that he started dancing with the body of sati frantically, and performed the dance of destruction across the universe. During the course of his dancing, other gods tried to dissuade Shiva and Vishnu with his disk cut through Sati’s corpse. Hence, different parts of Sati’s body fell at various spots across the Indian subcontinent and thus the religious sites, which were famously called Shakti Peethas came into existence. Kalighat, the 52 Shakti Peetha of India represents the place, where according to the legends the toes of the right foot of Sati fell.

The present structure of Kalighat temple was erected only about 200 years ago, although its reference has been found in Mansar Bhasan, written in the 15th century and also in Kavi Kankan Chandi of the 17th century. The Archer type coins, introduced by Chandragupta II, which were very famous during the Gupta rule, were also found at Kalighat, which prove the antiquity of the site. Originally, the temple was a small hut. King Manasingha built a small temple in the early Sixteenth century. The present structure of the temple was built under the benefaction of the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Barisha. The construction of the temple was accomplished in 1809. However, according to the Halder family, they were the original owner of the temple property. The temple has a complex organization, which involves Phaledars, Sevaiyats, Mishras and Sathi Brahmins.

Kalighat Temple is indeed a major tourist attraction of Kolkata. Two queues are formed in the temple – one led the devotees to the Garbha Graha, the interior of the temple, where Goddess kali has been installed. Devotees in the other queue can only make dharshana of the idol from the Verandah (Jor-bangla). The queue leading to the Garbha Graha, also called Nijo-Mandir is well maintained by cops and security guards. The queue formed in the Verandah is controlled by the Pandas and the Dalals and they allow people to enter from different points. Goddess Kali can be viewed better in the Garbha Graha.

The deity of Goddess Kali in the Kalighat temple is unique. It has not been designed following the same pattern of other Kali images in Bengal. The existing idol of touchstone was crafted by two saints – Atmaram Giri and Brahmananda Giri. The deity features three huge eyes, four gold hands and most importantly a long gold tongue.

The premise of the Kalighat temple also houses some other small temples, Sosthi Tala being quite prominent among them. It is a rectangular-shaped altar with a height of around three feet, bearing a small cactus plant. Below the tree, three stones are placed, symbolizing Goddesses “Sosthi”, “Sitola” and “Mongol Chandi”. This holy spot is famously called Soshthi Tala or Monosha Tala. It was built by Gobinda Das Mondal in the year 1880. The site of the altar is the Samadhi of Brahmananda Giri. Surprisingly, all priests here are female.

The Hari-Kath tala is also very important and is highly revered. This site is close to the Natmondir. There are two Bhali Peet were animals are sacrificed. These are called Hari-Kath. Big animals like buffalos are sacrificed on the bigger one, whereas the smaller hari-kath is meant for sheep and goats.

The Radha-Krishna temple, also called the Shamo-ray temple is located at the western side of the main temple. It was built in the year 1843 by a zamindar called Udoy Narayan Mondal. Madan Koley of Saha Nagar established the Dol mancha in 1858. The four temples of Shiva inside the temple were built by different Sevait families.

Kundupukur is the holy tank, which nestles in the southeastern side of the temple, outside the boundary walls. Presently, the area of the tank is around 10 cottahs. Beforehand, it was called ‘kaku-Kunda’. During the sixteenth century ‘Sati-Ango’ was found in this tank.


Trivia of Kalighat Kali Temple, Kolkata

  • Kalighat is acknowledged as one of the 52th Shakti Peetha across India, where the toes of the right foot of Sati fell during the Rudra Tandava of Lord Shiva.
  • Kalighat Temple was built by the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Barisha, about 200 years ago.
  • A defining feature of the Goddess Kali of Kalighat temple is the long protruding tongue, made of pure gold.
  • Hari-kath tala is an important place of the Kalighat temple. It is the very place, where animals are sacrificed and it is of immense religious importance.
  • The Nakuleswar Mahadeva temple, which is located in close proximity to the Kalighat temple is also quite old and worth a visit.
  • According to legends, the city of Calcutta was named after Kalighat.