Destination: Dakshineshwar Temple, Calcutta
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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