Dakshineswar is a locality in the North suburban region of Kolkata, under the jurisdiction of Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority. This place is historically famous for the great temple of Goddess Kali, locally known as ‘Maa Bhabatarini Mandir’. Dakshineswar is located at 22.6554310 deegre North, 88.3578620 deegre East – surrounded by Alambazar, Baranagar (separated by Belgharia Expressway) in South, Ariadaha in North, Dunlop in East and Ganges river (locally called Hooghly river) in West. Hooghly river is considered sacred to the Hindus and its water is considered to be ‘holy’. Dakshineswar is one of the most important pilgrimage centre.
Dakshineswar temple is a Hindu Navaratna temple located at Dakshineswar, situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly river, the presiding deity of the temple is Bhabatarini, a form of Goddess Kali, otherwise known as ‘Adishakti Kalika’. Dakshineswar Kali temple was built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and devotee of Goddess Kali. The temple is famous for its association with Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva and Maa Sarada, mystics of 19th century in Bengal. Large number of people gather together at Dakshineswar throughout the year, especially on the day of Shyama puja, Shiva Chaturdashi, Bengali New Years day (naba-barsha), Akshaya Tritiya and on 1st January every year on the occasion of Kalpataru Utsav (the day Ramakrishnadeva attained ‘siddhi’).
Dakshineswar Kali temple is not just like any other temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali. The reference is not just to the fact that it is one of the holiest and one of the most revered temples in the city as well as among the Bengali population. The term ‘eshwara’ is used in the context of Shiva temples in India. Dakshineswar temple houses the Bhabatarini form of Goddess Kali, not the Dakshina Kali. With the spiritual history of this temple having a mystic sage and reformer Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa and his wife Sarada devi attatched to it - it is also the socio-political history, which is also associated to this temple. Founded by Rani Rashmoni of Bengal in 1855, the Dakshineswar temple came into being just two years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The pillars of Bengali Spiritual Movement was laid down at the moment, Rani Rashmoni completed the world famous Dakshineswar temple. It was this temple where Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa spread his divinity to the world, met and moulded the young Swami Vivekananda, who thereon carried the message of peace, transformation and brotherhood to the world.
As per the District Statistical Handbook, ‘Panchabati Ban’ is the place where Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva planted five (pancha) trees i.e. Asvattha, Bata, Bel, Ashok and Amlaki; under which he used to meditate. The Panchamundi Asan is called so because there are five human skulls buried underneath and Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva used to sit and meditate on the asan (seat) and attained ‘siddhi’ (enlightenment/attainment) with the holy spirit i.e. the God; in his case Goddess Kali. The temple compound apart from the nine-spired main temple, contains a large courtyard surrounding the temple with rooms along the boundary walls. There are twelve shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva (Maa Kali’s husband) – along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. ‘Nahabat’, the chamber in the north-western corner just beyond the last of the Shiva temples, is where Ramakrishna and Maa Sarada spent a considerable part of their lives.
ARCHITECTURE : Built in the ‘navaratna’ or nine spires style of Bengali architecture, the three-storied south-facing temple has nine spires distributed in upper two storeys and stands on a high platform with a flight of stairs, overall it measures 46 feet (14 metre) square and rises over 100 feet (30 metre) high. The ‘garbagriha’ (sanctum sanctorum) houses an idol of Goddess Kali, known as ‘Bhabatarini’ standing on the chest of a supine Shiva and the two idols are placed on a thousand-petaled lotus throne made of silver. Close to the main temple are the row of twelve identical Shiva temples, built facing to the east in the typical ‘aat-chala’ Bengal architechture, they are built on either side of the ghat on the Hooghly river. To the North-east of the temple complex is the Vishnu temple or the RadhaKanta temple. A flight of steps, lead to the coloumn verandah and into the temple where a silver-throne rests with a 21 and half inch (550 mm) idol of Lord Krishna and a 16-inch (410 mm) idol of Radha.
The architechture of Dakshineswar temple has a historical touch to the first war of Independence. The temple has been built in the most traditional form of architecture, that most ancient Bengali temples are known to have. The beauty and charm of Dakshineswar Kali temple is known to be such that a trip to Kolkata is often said to be incomplete without a visit to this temple.
On 17th march 2015, Honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee laid a foundation stone of a 400 metre long, 10.5 metre wide elevated walkway over the congested road. The road below is widened and used only by the vehicles. The skywalk have 12 escalators, 4 elevators and 8 staircases. The skywalk is named as Dakshineswar Rani Rashmoni Skywalk, inaugurated on 5th November 2018.
HISTORY : The Dakshineswar Kali temple was founded around the middle of the 19th century by Rani Rashmoni. Rani Rashmoni was a Mahishya by caste and was well-known in society for her philanthropic activities. In the year 1847, Rashmoni prepared to go upon along pilgrimage to the sacred Hindu city of Kashi, to express her devotions to the Divine Mother. Rani was to travel in 24 boats; carrying relatives, servants and supplies. According to traditional accounts, the night before the pilgrimage began, Rashmoni had a vision of the Divine Mother Goddess Kali in a dream. Divine mother spoke to Rani Rashmoni in her dream and said, “There is no need to go to Benaras. Install my statue in a beautiful temple on the bank of river Ganges and arrange for my worship there. Then I shall manifest myself in the image and accept worship at that place.” Profoundly affected by the dream, Rani Rashmoni immediately looked for and purchased a 30,000 acre plot in the village Dakshineswar. The large temple complex was built between 1847 and 1855. The 20-acre plot was bought from an Englishman, Jake Hastie and was then popularly known as ‘Saheban Bagicha’. Partly old Muslim burial ground shaped like a tortoise, considered befitting for the worship of Shakti, according to Tantra traditions. It took eight years and 900000 rupees to complete the construction. The idol of Goddess Kali was installed on the Snan Yatra day on 31st May 1855 amid festivities at the temple, formally known as Sree Sree Jagadishwari Mahakali, with Ramkumar Chattopadhyay as the head priest. Soon his younger brother Gadai or Gadadhar Chattopadhyay (later known as Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva) moved in and so did his nephew Hriday to assist him.
On 31st May 1855, more than 1 lakh Brahmins were invited from different parts of the country to grace the auspicious occasion, amidst the controversy of Rani Rashmoni being in no position to own a temple and to offer Brahmins to feed, since she belonged to a low caste (Shudra). The next year Ramkumar Chattopadhyay died and the position was given to Ramkrishna Paramhansa along with his wife Sarada Devi, who stayed in the south side of the Nahabat (music room), in a small room on the ground floor which is now a shrine dedicated to her. Ramakrishna Paramhansa was responsible for bringing much in the way of both fame and pilgrims to the temple. Rani Rashmoni lived for only five years and nine months after the inauguration of the temple. She fell seriously ill in 1861. Realizing that her death was near, she decided to handover the property, that she has purchased from Dinajpur (now in Bangladesh) as a legacy for the maintainence of the temple to the temple trust. Rani Rashmoni accomplished her task on 18th February 1861 and died on the next day.
Being a Bengali, we all have heard about the legend Baan Raja. Although his reign was clouded, and no exact date could be specified - Dakshineswar temple is believed to have been built during his reign. Excavations by the British in 1930s revealed this obscured gem from history, denoting the existence of the real Dakshineswar Shiva temple. The temple existed in ruins of Baan Raja’s Baganbari and in 1706, was completed into a cement gypsum structure by Zamindar Dewan Haranath Ghosh. The lingam is referred to as Dakshineswar or the Lord of the South. It was believed that one of the queens of Baan Raja from Karnataka worshipped the phallus and therefore, the name was derived. Another legend says that before Hinduism came to Bengal, the temple Shiva was known as ‘Baba Thakur’ by the local folks who had their own religion. The lingam projects about of the ground out of the divine ‘yoni’ surrounded by Nandi bulls. The shape is highly unusual and the room is beautifully decorated with flowers and the door facing the Ganga is kept open. This temple inspired the famous Kali temple at Laguna beach, constructed by an American Pat Petit Clerc. Nowadays the temple is clearly in neglect. The only care is done to the interior where the lingam stands.
Undoubtedly, Dakshineswar represents the whirlpool of devotion, fidelity and realization of God. Hoewever, the Dakshineswar Buro Shib Mandir, which stands as the opulence of past and ignorance of presents, awaits the offering to the old Shiva shrine. Perhaps, the mystery of the name behind Dakshineswar is finally resolved.
Creation of Maa Bhabatarini’s image by Nabin Bhaskar : The one whom Thakur Sree Ramakrishna called ‘Maa’, the one for whom without giving water, he would not take anything in his mouth – that same image of Maa Bhavatarini was made by sculptor Nabin Bhaskar of Katwa. At the wish of Rani Rashmoni in 1855, he made the image of Bhavatarini Kali. For the time of a month, he went to Kolkata, the image, primarily made by Nabin Bhaskar was not proportionate to the ‘garbagriha’. Rani Rashmoni then ordered Nabin Bhaskar to make another image of Maa Bhabatarini again and told him to make that image larger than the previous one. Nabin Bhaskar made two images of Bhabatarini Kali – one is at Dakshineswar and another at Gora- bagan of Kolkata. It is known that Rani Rashmoni donated an image to someone he knew.
Nabin Bhaskar’s fame was such that the Rajas in Bengal Presidency came to Katwa for ordering the images of their palace. Nabin Bhaskar got his raw materials from Bihar. For procuring ‘kosthi pathar’ (black stone) he purchased a hill in Jamalpur. At Nabin’s good fame, apart from Burdwan Royal family, he was also commissioned by the royal families of Cossimbazar, Natore, Puntia, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Jemo, Muktagacha, Mymensingh, Manipur, Lalgarh to sculpt their grihadevatas. It is said that Maharani of Dinajpur was so spellbound at Nabin Bhaskar’s skill that she gifted him a golden chisel.
Nabin Bhaskar took his craft to new heights on his sculpting the image of Dakshineswar. His best creation is the creation of the murti of Yogadaya at Khirgram. Even today in his house, broken images can be found that are in a state of neglect. Still, a very beautiful 10 inch idol of Kali has been closely kept to his successor Nimai Bhaskar’s possession. Along with this Kali murti, he keeps a dazzling statue of ‘shwet pathor’ – this was Nabin’s last creation.
TOURISM : Dakshineswar is one of the most important religious shrine for the Hindus and the people from all over the world visit Dakshineswar Kali temple everyday in numbers Alongwith the Kali temple, there are other important Hindu temples like Adyapeeth temple, Ramakrishna Sarada Math and many others. Because of a large number of temples in the town and the Ganges river flowing by, it is also regarded as a ‘twin town’ of Varanasi by the locals.