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Dakshineshwar Temple
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Dakshineshwar Temple

Destination: Dakshineshwar Temple, Calcutta

INTRODUCTION

Dakshineshwar Temple has an aura about itself. The aura pertains to its association with the greatest saint of Bengal—Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, this temple is situated to the north of Calcutta, a place where the god man lived for most part of his life. It is here that the great master, as Swami Vivekananda called him, had had the pious darshan of the Divine Mother and developed an unprecedented relationship with her. The temple became famous because the Mother really appeared from the idol and gave her choicest devotee the sublime darshan. The enigmatic temple was built by Rani Rashmoni in 1847. The temple comprises of three parts. Of these, the smallest of all chambers is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The more beautiful shrine adjacent to it houses the renowned idol of the Goddess Kali. Structurally, the temple is set on a platform in a vast courtyard, which is encircled by a band of blood-red paint.

The whitewashed main Kali temple is the ornamental variation of the typical Bengali hut design. The roof is curved and the second story is capped by nine chhatris, each with a beehive cupola, in the navaratan ("nine-jeweled") style. Ramakrishna's former room serves as a reminiscence of his life and philosophy. Opposite to this building, along the riverbanks, are situated five identical temples.
Ramakrishna died in 1886 at the age of fifty. The temple of Kali, where many of his ecstatic trances occurred, continues to attract pilgrims from all over India and the world. He was a messenger of the Ultimate Divinity for the mankind and his experience with the divinity can be still realized in the Kali temple of Dakshineshwar.

LEGEND

The unfathomable mystery of the Dakshineshwar temple idol can be unfolded with the story of the wealthy devout widow, Rani Rashmoni. In 1847, she was preparing to go for a pilgrimage to Benaras (present-day Varanasi) to offer her prayers to Goddess Kali. Rani Rashmoni had made all the arrangements of the pilgrimage. Her convoy consisted of an entire range of twenty-four boats used for carrying the relatives, helpers and goods.

The night before her departure, Rani Rashmoni had an intriguing dream, wherein the Divine Mother appeared and commanded that the devout lady need not go to Benaras. Instead, she should build a temple for the Mother at the banks of the Ganges and install a statue therein.

The Rani, gratified because of the divine darshan, promptly began constructing the temple in 1847. The temple complex, which was ready by 1855, had Goddess Kali as the main deity. There were also the temples of Shiva and Radha-Krishna. The patroness engaged an elderly scholar as the head priest of the temple. However, as fate would have it, the aged priest died within a year of taking the responsibility and his younger brother, Ramakrishna moved in. Thus, the great seer stepped into the Kali temple and brought along the fame that continues even today.

The temple echoes with the experiences of Ramakrishna. The revered sage worshipped the deity of Kali so devotedly that the Divine Goddess appeared before him in physical form. Not once, but the Goddess continued to appear before her ardent devotee for years. From the beginning of his priesthood, while worshipping before the statue of Kali, Ramakrishna experienced an intense form of love, known as the Maha-bhava in Hinduism. He lost all consciousness of the external world and went into a spiritual trance. Consequently, he was soon relieved from the priest's responsibility but allowed to continue living within the temple compound. Much of Ramakrishna's philosophy is associated with his experiences at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple.

WHEN TO VISIT

Normal: Throughout the Year

Special Event: Kali Puja in October/November

THE PILGRIMAGE

The Journey

After getting down at the Dumdum Airport, one can hire a taxi from the prepaid taxi stand in the domestic terminal. The Dakshineshwar Temple is situated at the northwest of the Dumdum Airport and the journey would take about half an hour.

However, if one prefers to go by train, one can take a prepaid taxi from the Howrah station. It would take about 40 minutes to go to the Dakshineshwar Temple by taxi. The temple is located at the northwest of the station across the Hooghly River. One would have to cross the Howrah Bridge to reach the other side, from where the temple is almost north.

Another way to reach the temple is by taking the Grand Trunk Road by going northwest from the station. The Grand Trunk Road reaches one straight north to the Vivekananda Bridge, crossing which the Dakshineshwar Temple is quite close by.

Taxis can also be hired from the Sealdah Station. Dakshineshwar Temple is just 10 km from the city center of Calcutta. Those desirous of reaching the temple by bus can board buses plying on route 32 to reach the temple. But perhaps the most convenient and cost-effective way of reaching the temple is to board the local trains that run between Sealdah and Dakshineshwar.

Rituals

The darshan and puja timings are from 6.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. There are a number of shops around the temples that sell prasad for offering to the deity. After buying the prasad, one has to go to the sanctum sanctorum and hand over the puja offerings to the priest in charge. The priest performs the puja (worship) for the pilgrims and gives the blessed prasad of the deity to the devotees.

DON'T MISS


Belur Math


The Belur Math is situated across the Vivekananda Bridge from Dakshineshwar. The world-famous temple was built by Shri Ramakrishna's beloved disciple Swami Vivekananda in 1938. The great mansion lies 3 km south along the west bank of the river Hooghly. It is a universal place of pilgrimage, visited by people belonging to diverse castes and creeds. The math is committed to social service, religious harmony, spiritual attainment and renunciation.

Yogoday Satsanga Math

Located at Dakshineshwar, a little distance away from the main temple, is the Yogoday Satsanga Math. It is the headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship, an organization that was founded by Paramhansa Yogananda in California in 1925.

LODGING

The suburb of Dakshineshwar is hardly an hour's drive from Calcutta. All types of lodging options, ranging from budget to high, are available in Calcutta. The luxurious hotels are Oberoi Grand, New Kenilworth, Park Hotel, Taj Bengal Hotel and the Oberoi Grand Downtown. The budget accommodations are to be found around the central Sudder Street area.

FESTIVAL

Kali Puja is celebrated on the darkest night (Amavasya) of the month of Kartik. Kali symbolizes strength. The resplendent shrine of Kali in the Dakshineshwar Temple is grandly decorated on this day. The puja starts at around 10.30 p.m. and with the accompanying rituals continue till 1.30 a.m. Animal sacrifice is an integral part of the rituals.

On this auspicious day, devotees usually fast throughout the day and break their fast after doing the Pushpanjali (offering of flowers with the accompaniment of mantra). Then, they take the prasad and the bhog (meal).

HOW TO REACH

By Air

The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport at Dum Dum is Calcutta's domestic as well as international airport. Calcutta is connected to various destinations in Europe, America, South and West Asia. The neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal are linked to Calcutta by air.For domestic travellers, Calcutta is connected by Indian Airlines to Delhi, Madras, Port Blair, Nagpur, Mumbai, Ranchi, Patna, Lucknow, Guwahati, Jorhat, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.

By Rail

The Eastern and South Eastern Railway connect Calcutta to all the important places in India. Howrah and Sealdah are the two major railway stations in the city.

By Road

The Grand Trunk Road (National Highway No. 2) connects Calcutta to North India. Some important cities that are linked to Calcutta are Bhubaneshwar (441 km), Siliguri (606 km), Patna (556 km), Ranchi (409 km), Allahabad (805 km), Kanpur (1,000 km), Lucknow (980 km), Varanasi (680 km), Bombay (1,987 km), Delhi (1,461 km), Chennai (1,676 km).



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