Ramna Kali Mandir
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The Ramna Kali Mandir (Bengali: রমনা কালী মন্দির), also known as the Ramna Kalibari (house of the Hindu Goddess Kali), was one of the most famous Hindu temples of the Indian subcontinent. It was believed to be over a thousand years old and was situated in Dhaka (the capital of present-day Bangladesh) on the outskirts of the Ramna Park (now renamed as Suhrawardy Udyan).
Common lore holds it that the temple was established by a Nepalese devotee of the Goddess Kali who had come to Bengal from the Himalayas. The major development of the temple occurred under the patronage of Rani Bilashmoni Debi of Bhawal estate.
The temple was one of Dhaka city's most prominent landmarks, its tower visible for miles around at a time when Dhaka had yet to embrace the highrise culture. In front of the temple was a large dighi (pond) which was a popular place for both worshippers and visitors to the park to take a dip and cool down. The architecture of the temple reflected the different styles the many centuries over which it was built.The tower was usually called "shikhara" which should not be confused with minerate of mosque.
Next to the temple was Ma Anandamoyee Ashram (Bengali: মা আনন্দময়ী আশ্রম), another place of worship with a residential complex and sanitation facility. The entire temple complex spanned almost 2.25 acres (9,100 m2) and was situated on the south side of Ramna Park, opposite the Bangla Academy.
The Ramna Kali Mandir is clearly seen in the pictures of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's famous address of 7 March 1971, probably the last time it was photographed by mass media.
Demolition and genocide by the Pakistan Army
On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army was unleashed on the civilian population and commenced a genocide that would last nine months until liberation in December that year. It has been widely documented that one of the primary targets of the Pakistan Army and government in its military action was the Hindu population. As such, prominent Hindu targets such as Jagannath Hall (a hostel for Hindu students on the Dhaka University campus and Ramna Kali Mandir were singled out right at the onset of the Pakistani campaign.
On March 27, 1971, the Pakistan Army entered the Ramna Kali Temple complex and within the space of an hour, murdered over 100 people, almost all Hindus. Several Muslims had also sought refuge in the temple complex as the Pakistan army started going on rampage in the neighbouring areas of Dhaka University, and they were among the casualties.
Until 2000, accounts of the demolition of the temple relied largely on oral testimony by survivors and witnesses of the Pakistani Army action. However, a Public Commission was instituted by the Awami League government of Bangladesh in 2000 on the anniversary of the massacre, with the goal of documenting the events. The chairman was Justice K M Sobhan, who presented a preliminary report on September 27, 2000.
Only around 50 names of victims of the massacre have been identified; relatives of the other victims are either deceased or have left Bangladesh. An appeal has been made for any surviving relatives of victims of the Ramna Kali Mandir massacre around the world to contribute names of their kin so as to contribute to a list of martyrs on a future memorial.
Confiscation by Bangladesh Government
A symbolic casualty of the brutal Bangladesh Liberation War, it was widely expected that the Ramna Kali Mandir would either be rebuilt completely, or left in its state of ruins as a monument to the devastation and genocide. However, the new government of Bangladesh led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, though espousing secularism and equal rights for all citizens irrespective of religion, confiscated the land of the temple from the Hindu board that had the legal ownership, and handed it over to the Department of Public Works. The government then bulldozed the last traces of the temple in 1972 and handed the land over to the Dhaka Club, an elite entertainment and social venue. The move was immediately protested in the courts by the Ramna Kali Mandir Board, which still legally owned the premises, but the case was dismissed on the grounds that since the temple no longer existed, ownership was now disputed (see DAINIK BANGLA, 27 December 1972). And thus an epic and ancient Hindu landmark was lost.
Movement to rebuild and reclaim
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Since the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, the Hindu community has waged a continual battle to reclaim the land of the temple, worship, and rebuild. Between 1972 and 2000, Hindus were only permitted to worship once on the site, on the occasion of Kali Puja in 1982.
On the occasion of Durga Puja 2000, the Awami League government of Sheikh Hasina finally conceded the demand of Bangladeshi Hindus that had been made perennially, to allow worship again on the site of the original temple. Since then, every year, a delegation of Bangladeshi Hindus has had to formally request permission from the government, and if this is granted, a temporary pandal (stage) is constructed at the site of the original temple, enabling Hindus to worship, and this structure is called "Ramna Kalibari". However, as soon as the festival ends, the pandal has to be dismantled as per the regulations of the city authorities.
In 2004, a semi-permanent makeshift place of worship was built, and an image of the Goddess Kali was installed. It has been repeatedly alleged that visitors to the reinstated image of the Goddess Kali at the site of the original temple are harassed by the police. It is alleged that this is done with the full knowledge of local authorities to prevent the site becoming seen as a formal place of worship. Up until this point, there was nothing on the site to indicate either the history of the temple or recognition of the massacre that had taken place there in 1971.
In June 2006, the BNP government of Khaleda Zia finally announced that it would grant permission to rebuild the Ramna Kali Temple, 35 years after it was demolished, and 34 years after its remains were cleared and replaced with grass. However, the news was not universally welcomed by Bangladeshi Hindus; the Government is insisting on a relocation away from the original site on a less prominent site within the Suhrwardy Udyan; the proposed structure will also be considerably more modest than the original grand building that was truly an icon of the city. With the advent of elections and political uncertainty, it remains to be seen how the long cherished dream to rebuild the Ramna Kali Temple evolves.
Present condition in 2010
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There are now several temples in the boundary of Ramna Kali Mandir and Ma Anandamoyi Asram- Ramna Kali Mandir, Ma Durga Mandir, Radha Krisna Mandir are in almost full shape. There are some other ongoing Temples to be built e.g. Baba Loknath Temple, Ma Anandamoyi Temple, Shiva Temple, Temple of Sri Harichad Thakur etc.
- Thakur, Rajen (21 September 2009). "Bangladesh: The Demolition Of Ramana Kali Temple In March 1971". Asian Tribune. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- News item on protests regarding attempt to shift temple location
- News item on rebuilding of temple
- Article on history and Commission report including details of the massacre and temple destruction on 27 March 1971