Dakshineswar Temple - Kolkata
West Bengal Thrives on It
The divine seems to come alive when visiting the magnificent temples of West Bengal. They have stood witness to intense history of religion of people in the state. West Bengal is home to many important Hindu temples like Dakshineswar Temple and Kalighat Kali Temple that have made Bengal the a must visit for Hindu pilgrims. Not only are these temples visited by pilgrims; tourists too come here to experience the beauty of their architectural splendor. West Bengal is truly a secular state and tolerates many religion. You will find centuries old churches and mosques that have grown alongside the many Hindu Temples. Kolkata is the best example of unity in diversity as far as religion is concerned. The city is dotted with uncountable number of temples, big and small, famous and not so famous, all lending an air of divine and spirituality to the capital city. It is also the city where you get to see revered St. Paul's Cathedral and Armenian Church. West Bengal is probably the most important destination for all Lord Krishna devotees as this is the state where the world headquarters of ISCKON (International Society For Krishna Consciousness) is situated. It is in the famous town of Mayapur.
Dedicated to Goddess Bhavatarini, an aspect of Goddess Kali, Dakshineswar Temple is situated on the eastern side of River Hooghly in Dakshineswar locality of Kolkata. The construction of the temple was started in the year 1847 by Queen Rasmani and was completed in 1855. It was consecrated in the same year. Covering nearly 25 acres of land, Dakshineswar Temple is one of the largest temples in Kolkata. There are 9 spired main temples dedicated to Goddess Kali and 12 shrines along the boundary wall dedicated to Lord Shiva. Along the riverfront, there is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. According to the legend, Goddess Kali came in the dreams of Queen Rasmani prior to the day when she was to leave for a pilgrimage to Benaras. Goddess advised the queen not to go to Benaras and build a temple on the banks of River Ganges there itself. She would manifest the image and accept worships. It was then the land was bought and the temple was built. It is also said that it was here the great Saint Ramakrishna attained his spiritual vision.
Kalighat Kali Temple
Kalighat Kali Temple is one of the most important temples in India dedicated to Hindu Goddess Maa Kali. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas scattered in many parts of India and adjoining countries. Shakti Peethas are the spots where various parts of Goddess Sati's body fell on the earth. It is said that the right toe of Goddess Sati fell hear in Kalighat. The name of the city Calcutta is also said to have been coined after Kalighat. The reference of the temple have been found in 15th century composition Mansar Bhasan and 17th century composition Kavi Kankan Chandi. However, the present form of the temple is known to be only 200 years old. The earliest structure of the temple was a small hut built by King Manasingha and the present temple was built by Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family, completed in the year 1809. The image of Goddess Kali inside the main temple is unlike any other Goddess Kali image anywhere. There is another temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha and different spots like Natmondir, Jor-Bangla, Sosthi Tala and Harkath Tala. The temple sees huge crowd of pilgrims visit throughout the year.
Mayapur has always been an important pilgrim destination for followers of Vaishnavism; as this is the birth place of Chatanya Mahaprabhu who is considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Krishna and Radha. However, Mayapur came to be known on world stage when the world headquarters of ISCKON (International Society For Krishna Consciousness) was set up here in 1970. It is also home to Gaudiya Math which is another organization following Vaishnavism. Today, Mayapur receives more than a million pilgrims every year. Mayapur is situated on the banks of River Ganges, nearly 130 km north of Kolkata, There is regular bus service connecting Kolkata to Mayapur.
Situated nearly 80 Km from Kolkata, Tarakeshwar is a small village famous for its temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple, dating back to 18th century, was built by Raja Bharamalla. The legend has it that the temple is built on a spot where cows of the village used to empty their udders of milk. On probing into the mystery, a Shivalingam was discovered on the spot, believed to be manifestation of Tarakeshwar (Lord Shiva of Dreams). Although, pilgrims visit the temple throughout the year, the highest crowd is seen during the huge fair organized during the Hindu month of Shravana and during Shivratri. The fair during Shivratri lasts for five days and ends on the last day of Chaitra month.