Kalighat Kaali BariThis is a featured page

Kalighat Kaali Bari(Badi)
Kalighat Kaali Bari - Saranathan
South Calcutta, Kalighat Street, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Calcutta - the "Cultural Capital of India" is the home of the world famous Kalighat Kaali Temple known locally as the Kaali Bari. The city of Calcutta occupies a unique position in the history of India, as the first capital of the British Indian Empire. In 1858 by a Royal Decree, promulgated by Queen Victoria the powers of the East India Company were taken away from them and simultaneously Calcutta replaced Delhi as the Capital of India.
Calcutta was founded on August 24, 1690, by Job Charnock the Honourable Company's Senior Agent in Bengal. By a quirk of fate this Shakthi Peedam is not geographically connected to the rest of India and is separated from the mainland by the River Hooghly, but connected to the mainland through the ingenuity of Man in the form of a Bridge : The Howrah Bridge - one of the finest cantilever bridges in the world - left to India by the British Engineers who used 23,500 tons of steel to erect it. Not that this was the first bridge that connected the twin cities of Howrah and Calcutta. A floating Pontoon Bridge was built in 1874 using timber on pontoon. This Floating Pontoon Bridge which was originally commissioned to serve for 25 years, was de-commissioned on February 1943 after a long service of 69 years. Today we have one more bridge crossing the river Hooghly locally known as the New Howrah Bridge.
This Kalighat Kaali Bari is situated on the banks of river Bhagirathi, a very beautiful name for the prosaic river Hooghly. The river over a period of time has shifted its course from the temple. The temple is now on the banks of a small canal called Adi Ganga which connects to the river Hooghly. Today this stinking mass of floating garbage and city's debris is known as Tolly's Nullah not unlike the Coovum of Chennai.
Who is this Kaali? A naked black female, with four arms, three red eyes, and a pointed scarlet tongue, the tip of which reaches to her waist. Round her neck, is a garland of blood dripping fifty -one human heads, and other garlands of heavily perfumed flowers. In the Markandeya Purana, one gets a vivid description of the exploits of Sakthi, Durga or Mahishasuramardhini, a manifestation of Adi Parasakthi.
In the words of an unknown poet, Kaali is described as follows:
"I am the passionate and seductive lover who inspires the poet to dream.
I am the One who calls to you at the end of your journey. After the day is done, My children find their blessed rest in my embrace.
I am the womb from which all things are born.
I am the shadowy, still tomb; all things must come to Me and bare their breasts to die and be reborn to the Whole.
I am the Sorceress that will not be ruled, the Weaver of Time, the Teacher of Mysteries. I snip the threads that bring my children home to me. I slit the throats of the cruel and drink the blood of the heartless".
Powerful imagery. But who is SHE?
According to legend, Sati feeling humiliated at the disrespectful treatment meted out to her and to her consort Lord Siva by her father Daksha Prajapathi during one of his yagnas, immolated herself in the sacrificial fire. This infuriated Lord Siva and he carried the lifeless body of Sati on his shoulders and started dancing in a fit of tremendous rage -his Rudra Thandava. To pacify the raging consort and to calm HimLord Vishnu cut the body of Sati into pieces with his revolving disc. The places where one such piece fell soon grew into a centre of pilgrimage of Goddess Sati (or Parvati). One such blessed place is Kalighat, where the four toes of the right leg of Sati fell. Because of this legend the Kalighat Kaali Temple is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Peedams of India.
kalghat temple
Being in the heart of the city of Kolkata Kaali Bari can be reached by Indians from all over India, as this premier city is well connected with the other state capitals and premier towns by road, rail and air.
No visit to Kolkata is complete without offering prayers at the Kaali Mandir. This temple in its present form is only about 200 years old. The original temple was a small hut. In the early sixteenth century a small temple was erected by the King Manasingha and the present monolith by Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family from Barisha and was completed in 1809.
As a temple the structure is nothing much to write about. It resembles the houses of Bengal Aristocracy of the 17th and 18th centuries but the space it occupies is breath taking. 180 Acres or 595 Bighas of prime land. This temple, as alreadyindicated is dedicated to Kaali who is believed to be a destroyer and a liberator as well. She is a fierce Goddess and one of the principal deities peculiar to Bengal and she depicts Shakthi. She is worshipped by hordes of devotees including this writer. But despite her fearfulness and her terrifying form she delivers bliss to one and all who surrender to her abjectly.
She is blood thirsty. The deity in this temple represents the destructive side of Shiva. She requires sacrifice daily to satisfy her blood lust - so every morning goats are sacrificed on the alter of the temple to satisfy the goddess's blood thirst. Once upon a time, during the 19th century human sacrifice were common. But now only goats are offered to her and their blood mixed with Ganga Jal and Bhang (Indian Hemp) is the neivedhyam. As is the norm with all other temples in India, only those who profess faith in Hinduism are allowed into the Inner Sanctum Sanctorum.
The inner Sanctum Sanctorum is situated in a small room and unlike the temples in South India the circumambulation is anti-clockwise and in the restricted place it is very difficult. The temple is busy through out the year. People are subjected to allurements, bliss and moksha, by the priests and many unwary devotees are taken for a royal ride.
Kalighat Kaali Bari - Saranathan
The image of the deity is made of black stone and is incomplete. Only the face of the deity was made first. The hands made of gold and silver, the tongue, the Shiva statue and all the jewellery were added over the years. The speciality of this Kaali is her long protruding tongue made of gold. A very distinct feature when compared to other Kaali idols.
Among the plethora of rituals, two ceremonies stand out. In the month of Aashad (June-July) thin red threads are sanctified and tied to the wrists of people to remove obstacles, hindrance to domestic peace and prosperity and for the welfare of the husbands, children and the elders in the family. This is known as the ritual of Vipad Harini. (pronounced Vipod Horini)
The other ritual is the Snan Yatra. Observed in the same month of Aashad the Goddess is offered a ceremonial bath once in a year. The stone toes of Kaali is kept under lock and key, under the main image of the deity. On the appointed day the chief Purohit blindfolded opens the box and washes the holy toes thoroughly using plenty of scented water. The main idol of Kaali is never given any abhishek. The saree offerings of devotees in the previous year are removed and new garments put on. The preferred colours are red, blue and black. This is known as Mar Pid Vastra and small pieces of these discarded garments are offered to the devotees which is supposed to be beneficial and bring prosperity.
Kalighat turns into a confluence of devout Bengali and non-Bengali pilgrims during the Bengali months of Bhadra, Paush and Chaitra.
In the words of scientist Dr. A. Sarkar of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA:

"The divine power of the presiding deity, the temple has long been famous for. I never believed in myths and had never any trust in Gods and Goddess tillmy wife miraculously got back her life after her first child birth and both (mother & child)survived beyond the doctor's imagination from the claws of death. Surely there is some power Supreme, somewhere to do and undo anything in this mortal world. We have to get the touch of that power through the blessings of Almighty. For me the Nirmalya from Kalighat did that marvel, a miracle above all science any human mind can think ever".
I can not conclude this writing, without quoting Ramprasad Sen whose eulogy of Ma Kaali is so vivid that it brings tears to one's eyes.
Why is Mother Kaali so radiantly black?
Because she is so powerful,
that even mentioning her name destroys delusion.
Because she is so beautiful,
Lord Shiva, Conquerer of death,
lies blissfully vanquished,
beneath the red soled feet.
There are subtle hues of blackness,
But her bright complexion
is the mystery that is utterly black,
overwhelmingly black, wonderfully black.
When she awakens in the lotus shrine
within the heart's secret cave,
her blackness becomes the mystic illumination
that causes the twelve petal blossom there
to glow more intensely than golden embers.
Her lovely form is the incomparable
Kaali- black blacker than the King of Death.
Whoever gazes upon this radiant blackness falls eternally in love
and feels no attraction to any other,
discovering every where only her.
This poet sighs deeply,
"Where is this brilliant lady, this black light beyond luminosity?
Though I have never seen her, simply hearing her name,
the mind becomes absorbed completely in her astonishing reality.
Om Kaali ! Om Kaali !! Om Kaali !!!
It is said "Je Kane Bangali, Se Kane Kaali Bari".
Arthath, a Bengali is not far away from his Maa Kaali and her abode.

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