I have titled this post Kolkata Kali to pay tribute to the city that has done so much to promulgate the worship of the Goddess Kali. My father a devout worshipper of the Goddess often tells me, “to truly acquiring her blessings one has to visit Kolkata and once there one has to set foot on the sacred grounds of the Kali Temple in Dakshineswar”. It is something that I look forward to doing fairly soon. Much of what I have learnt of the Goddess Kali is from him and I hope to pass the knowledge on to my daughter.
It is only fitting that we start with the Kali Temple in Dakshineswar where the worship of the Goddess Kali is centered. It is located in the state of West Bengal where many of the saints and sages who have attained the highest form of realization by worshipping the Goddess Kali once lived.
The Dakshineswar Temple was built by Rani Rasmani (1793 – 1861) a lady of substance, who according to most sources was born in a lower caste family of little means. It is fair to say that her early life wasn’t at all easy. Despite her humble beginnings she was very beautiful and in time she married a wealthy man.
Rani was a devout worshipper of the Goddess Kali and upon her husband’s death, she took on the duties of managing his estates and in so doing built the Dakshineswar Temple that stands tall to this very day. Its grounds have been graced by the presence of the most learned authorities in the field including Swami Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda.
Rani Rasmani was a woman of some fortitude. Bearing in mind that she lived at a time when education was not made available to women, especially women of lower castes, and the common perception was that the place of a woman was beside her husband, she managed to create something that has become known in the farthest corners of the world and is valued for both its extrinsic and intrinsic contributions.
Within the compounds of the Temple there is a main temple and twelve Shiva Temples and it is symbolic of the relationship between Shiva and Shakhi. The former is represented by the linga and the latter is represented by the yoni and this nexus is the centerpiece of all Hindu religious rites and rituals that originate from the Indus Valley Civilization or the Mohenjo – Daro and Harappa civilizations.
From all accounts Dakshineswar generates or reverberates with harmonious vibes that echo throughout the grounds and the distinction between the Shiva Sects and Vaishnava Sects that pervade many other places of religious worship appear to vanish as soon as one steps into this holiest of places.
I have in the past had the opportunity to liaise with traders in Bengal and others who have been on a pilgrimage to Dakshineswar and all of them have told me similar stories. Some of them have even told me stories of an enchantingly pretty lady clad in a white saree adorned with exquisite jewelry that they’d met during prayers in Dakshineswar and one or two of them have actually said that during prayers, when they have worshipped the Goddess with a heavy heart, laden with troubles, the lady in the white saree had appeared to deliver them from their troubles. These of course were men who worshipped the Goddess with a great deal of sincerity.
Persons of all religions are welcome to visit the sacred grounds of Dakshineswar and there is a great harmony that prevails. There are no signs or traces of religious discord or intolerance.
North of the Kali Temple there is a temple dedicated to the worship of Krishna and Radha and it is not uncommon to find devotees boisterously chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Hare Rama Hare Rama”. Like the Kali Temple, the Vishnu Temple (Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu) is built on an elevated platform.
There is an interesting story about the statue of Krishna that is worshiped in the temple. While the priest of the temple was carrying the statue, three months after the temple was built, he slipped and fell and in the process dropped the statue. The statue fell to the ground and one of its legs was broken.
Rani Rasmani when she heard of the mishap was extremely disappointed because it is considered an ill omen to worship a broken statue and the priests suggested that they immerse the statue in the waters of the Holy River Ganges.
A distraught Rani was about to agree when Swami Ramakrishna himself intervened. He said “what do you do when a person breaks his leg?” …. “you send him to the doctor”. Therefore there was no need to immerse the statue in the waters of the Ganges and instead he told the priests to have the leg fixed and return the statue to its original place. The priests did just that.
Copyright © 2017 by Dyarne Ward