Dakshineswar temple is a holy place not only for people from West Bengal but from around the country. Built in 1855 by the reformist Bengali luminary, Rani Rashmoni, this place sees the fervent activity of devotees around the year.
Rani Rashmoni was deeply devoted to public service of the masses, and was responsible for a considerable number of philanthropic activities in Bengal, including the setting up of institutions such as the Imperial Library (present National Library) and Hindu College (present Presidency College) and public conveniences such as Babughat, Nimtola Ghat and Ahiritola Ghat. Dakshineswar temple was built in the memory of her husband, who passed away with the unfulfilled wish of building a Kali temple.
Dakshineswar was blessed with the presence of the famed Saint Paramahamsa Ramakrishna, who was at the helm of the temple as its chief priest. Famous as an ardent devotee of Mata Kali, and one of the foremost religious luminaries of the country, Ramakrishna was the epitome of devotion and faith, and was responsible for the growth of the name and fame of the temple. Ramakrishna took over the reins of the temple from his older brother Ramkumar after the latter’s death in 1856, and steered it for a long duration of 30 years.
The Dakshineswar temple complex contains the following temples:
Kali temple ( Bhavataraini)
12 Shiva temples
Temple of Lord Krishna and Radha
Besides these, the other components are:
Nahavat khana, where Ramakrishna spent a considerable part of his life
Memorial dedicated to Rani Rashmoni
The total area of the temple complex is 58 acres.
The temple was built on the premises which housed a Muslim burial ground and land belonging to an European Christian. The temple is open to people of various religions, as per the wish of Rani Rashmoni, who believed in the equality of all religions, and wished for the same to be implemented at the temple built by her, as a truly egalitarian concept.
The Kali ( Bhavataraini) idol at the temple was installed on 1st May,1855, and this was a grand moment not only for Bengal but for the entire country,in which more than 1 lakh Brahmins were invited from different parts of the country.
We reached there on a early winter morning. The Pandas were there at the entrance, bidding for the chance to take us , and thus earn some royalty. We decided to employ the services of one, having taken the thali for the Puja from one of the shops near the entrance.
The temples are built in uniform yellow and red colour terracotta style, and are spread out across the entire complex. Long rows of devotees thronged the temple complex (it being the rule that one has to reach early in order to have a darshan in time).
Seeing the main deity is a momentary process, and one can see the deity for a brief glimpse, from afar, before one has to move on in the queue. Having completed the darshan, we moved onto the Shiva temples and other notable parts of the temple complex.
The temple courtyard is filled with pigeons, and one can enjoy feeding them. They flutter in droves, adding a colourful spectacle to the temple complex.
One can see the Bally bridge (the precursor of Howrah bridge) across the river, and the view is quite spectacular.
People throng this place from across India. Indeed, the temple overflows in faith and historical value, and is one of the must-sees during a visit to Kolkata.
Here’s more about Dakshineswar temple: