Kalighat Kali Temple
|Kalighat Kali Temple|
Image of Goddess Kali at Kalighat
|Proper name:||Kalighat Kali Temple|
|Devanagari:||कालीघाट काली मंदिर|
|Sanskrit transliteration:||कालीघाट शक्तिपीठम|
|Tamil:||காளிகாட் காளி கோவில்|
|Bengali:||কালীঘাট কালী মন্দির|
|Location:||On the bank of Adi Ganga river, Calcutta|
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Typical Medieval Bengal architecture|
Kalighat was a Ghat (landing stage) sacred to Kali on the old course of the Hooghly river (Bhāgirathi) in the city of Calcutta. The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. The river over a period of time has moved away from the temple. The temple is now on the banks of a small canal called Adi Ganga which connects to the Hoogly. The Adi Ganga was the original course of the river Hoogly (the Ganges). Hence the name Adi (original) Ganges.
The temple is visited by pilgrims from all over India irrespective of sectarian differences. The thousands of pilgrims who flock daily to the Kalighat temple treat Kali very much like a human mother, bringing her their domestic problems and prayers for prosperity, and returning when their prayers are fulfilled to express their gratitude. Their attitude towards the Goddess is guided by their religious traditions and training, their spiritual and intellectual capacities, and the guidance of their temple priests.
Kalighat (Kali Kolkate Wali Mandir) is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Peethas 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 Dakshayani or Sati fell. Legend has it that a devotee discovered a luminant ray of light coming from the Bhāgirathi river bed, and upon investigating its source came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe. He also found a Svayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby, and started worshiping Kaali in the midst of a thick jungle.
Kalighat is also associated with the worship offered to Kali by a Dasanami Monk by name Chowranga Giri, and the Chowringee area of Calcutta is said to have been named after him.
The Kalighat temple in its present form is only about 200 years old, although it has been referred to in Mansar Bhasan composed in the 15th century, and in Kavi Kankan Chandi of the 17th century. Only two types of coins of Chandragupta II, who incorporated Vanga in the Gupta Empire, are known from Bengal. His Archer type coins, which became the most popular type of coinage with the Gupta rulers after Kumaragupta I, have been found in Kalighat. This is evidence of the antiquity of the place.
The original temple was a small hut. A small temple was constructed by King Manasingha in the early 16th century. The present temple was erected under the patronage of the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Barisha. It was completed in 1809. The Haldar family claims to be the original owners of the temple property. But this was disputed by the Chowdhrys of Barisha. In the 1960s a committee was formed for the administrative management of the temple with representation from the Government and the Haldar family. The responsibility of conducting the worship rests with the Haldars and their heirs, generally known as shebaits.
The image of Kali
The image of Kali in this temple is unique. It does not follow the pattern of other Kali images in Bengal. The present idol of touchstone was created by two saints - Brahmananda Giri and Atmaram Giri. Three huge eyes, long protruding tongue made of gold and four hands, which all are made of gold too. Two of these hands holding a scimitar and a severed head of the asura king 'Shumbha'. The scimitar signifies Divine Knowledge and the asura (or, human) head signifies human Ego which must be slain by Divine Knowledge in order to attain Moksha. The other two hands are in the abhaya and varada mudras or blessings, which means her initiated devotees (or anyone worshiping her with a true heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and hereafter.
This is a rectangular altar about three feet high bearing a small cactus plant. Beneath the tree, on an altar three stones are placed side by side - left to right representing the Goddesses "Sosthi", "Sitola", and "Mongol Chandi". This sacred spot is known as Sosthi Tala or Monosha Tala. This altar was constructed by Gobinda Das Mondal in 1880. The place of the altar is the Samadhi of Brahmananda Giri. Here all the priests are female. No daily worship or offering of Bhog (food offering) is done here. The Goddesses here are considered as part of Maa Kali.
A large rectangular covered platform called Natmondir has been erected adjacent to the main temple, from where the face of the image can be seen. This was originally built by Zamindar Kasinath Roy in 1835. It has been subsequently renovated often.
The spacious varandah of the main temple Facing the image is known as Jor Bangla. Rituals occurring inside the sanctum sanctorum are visible from the Natmondir through the Jor-bangla.
This is the spot adjacent to the Natmondir, southwards meant for Bali (sacrifice). There are two Sacrificial altars for animal sacrifices side by side. These are known as Hari- Kath.
The bigger one is for buffalo sacrifices and the smaller one for goats and sheep. The animals are sacrificed with a single stroke of the scimitar and there is very little cruelty to animals when compared to the professional abattoirs.
This temple is known as Shamo-ray temple and is situated inside the temple at the west side of the main temple. In 1723, a settlement officer of Mushirabad district first erected a separate temple for Radha-Krishna. In 1843 a Zamindar called Udoy Narayan Mondal erected the present temple in the same spot. The Dolmancho was founded in 1858 by Madan Koley of Saha Nagar. There is a separate kitchen for preparation of vegetarian Bhog (food offering) for Radha-Krishna.
This is the sacred tank situated in the south-east of the temple outside the boundary walls. Present area of the tank is approximately 10 cottahs. In the past it was bigger and called 'Kaku-Kunda'. In 16th century 'Sati-Ango' ( the right toe of Sati) was discovered from this tank. This tank is well known for its power to bestow the boon of a child. The water from this tank is regarded as sacred as that of the Ganges. Efforts at draining the water from the tank for cleaning has failed in the past showing the possibility of a subterranean with Adi Ganga.
Nakhuleshwar Mahadev Temple
This Siva temple is dedicated to the consort of Maa Kali. It is situated in Haldar Para lane on the opposite side of the temple behind the police station. This temple is also very old and mentioned in the history.
The four Shiva temples inside the temple were constructed by different shebait families who retain control over them.
- McDermott, Rachel Fell and Kripal, Jeffrey. J (Editors), Encountering Kali, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd, Delhi, India, 2005. (ISBN 81-208-2041-X)
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