Kalighat Shakthi Peeth is one of the important Adi Shakthi Peethas. Goddess Kali is worshipped as a manifestation of Devi Sati. Devi Sati’s right toes fell in the Kalighat shrine. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva worshipped as Nakulesh in lingam form nearby. Kolkatta gets its name from Kalighat.
Kalighat temple is located to the South of Kalighat. The nearest metro stations are Jatin Das Park and Kalighat. Buses and trams are available from Kolkatta. Since Kalighat is a tram depot, trams start from here and end here. Thus the connectivity to the shrine is very good. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport is the nearest airport.
The temple was earlier located on the banks of the Adi (original) Ganga River. The river has moved away from the temple over a period of time. Thus the temple is now on the banks of a canal called as Adi Ganga connecting Hoogly.
Other places of tourist interest
a) Taramath temple located about 0. 6 kms
b) Rabindra Sarovar located about 0.6 kms
The original Kalighat temple was a small hut. Later, King Manasingh constructed a small temple in the 16th Century. The present day temple was built by Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Barisha in 1809. The Haldar family are the official Shebaits (priests who perform the rituals associated with Kalighat shrine). They also own the entire temple complex. A committee was formed in 1960 with representatives from the government and the Haldar family to manage the temple administration.
Kalighat shrine is an ancient temple. The temple has references in the Mahabharat indicating that the temple was built before 8th– 9th Century.
The temple is built in typical Bengali style architecture. Kalighat mandir is a four sided structure with a dome that is truncated. There is a similar projection which caps the domed structure. Inside the sanctum Sanctorum, the idol is installed. The sanctum has two large doors which open to jor bangla. Jor-bangla is an elevated veranda with opening on all the four sides. Devotees walking through the jor bangla get the darshan of Maa Kali housed in the sanctum. A large rectangular covered platform called Natmandir was erected adjacent to the main temple by Zamindar Kashinath Roy in 1835. Maa Kali is visible from Natmandir. Jor bangla is in between the sanctum sanctorum and natmandir. Jor -bangla leads to the natmandir (large pavilion) where devotees make offerings to the deity. Havans are also conducted in natmandir. Inside the sanctum is a path winding around the deity which is fenced using protective metal railing.
Kali is considered as the wife of Shiva in malevolent form. Her description is given in Pranatoshini treatise as follows,
कालसङ्कलनात् काली सर्वेषामादिरूपिणी ।
कालत्वादादिभूतत्वादाद्या कालीति गीयते ॥
Kalasankalanat kali sarveshamadirupini |
Kalatvadadibhutatvadadya kaliti giyate ||
O goddess Kali you decide the Kala, you are origin, you are the quality of Kala i.e. Kalatva, Kala originates from you; hence you are called as Adyakali.
In Tantraloka the description of Goddess Kali is given as,
काली नाम परा शक्तिः सैव देवस्य गीयते । तंत्रलोक ६.७
Kali nama para shaktih saiva devasya giyate |
Kali is the active power of Brahma which known as Parashakti.
There are many legends connected to the temple and its presiding deity.
Tulasi was the daughter of Dharmadvaja and Madhavi. After spending many years in penance she told Lord Brahma, “I was the Tulasi gopi in my previous birth. Overcome with jealousy, Radha cursed me to take birth as a human being ”. Lord Krishna assured her that he would be with her in her next birth also. Brahma blessed her, “You will be the wife of a man who is a part of Krishna.” Sudama, a friend of Krishna also got cursed by Radha as he showed intimacy towards Krishna’s mind. He was in the form of Shankhachuda and hence Tulsi was asked to marry him. Thus she became a devoted wife of Shankhachuda. After a time Shankhachunda became too mighty. Hence Shiva and Vishnu waged a war with him. Initially Bhadrakali came to fight with him on behalf of Shiva. But she became very disappointed because he was as mighty as before. Then a heavenly voice indicated that Shankhachuda was mighty because of the merits of Tulasi. Then Vishnu cheated her by taking the form of Shankhchuda and destroyed her purity. On the other side Shiva was fighting the war with Shakhachuda. Shankhachuda lost his strength and Shiva created goddess Kali to help him kill the enemy. Kali who was wild during the war started dancing due to the victory. She wore a garland of skulls of demons drinking their blood. Hence she is depicted in this form only.
As stated in Markandeya Purana, Goddess Kali was formed out of the raised eye brows of Jagadamba when she was waging a war with Chanda and Munda. According to Linga Purana, a demon namely Daruka had a boon that only a woman could destroy him. Hence Shiva created Goddess Kali from the poison in his throat. Kalika Purana says that she was born from the Kukshi of Mahamaya.
Another legend states that after getting defeated by demons, all the gods went to the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh for a remedy. They asked the gods to pray to Mahakali. As a result, Mahakali created twelve goddesses to help the gods in the war. Kali was the first among them hence she is known as Adyakali.
The legend of the temple states that a devotee discovered a bright ray of light coming from the Bhāgirathi river bed. After investigating its source a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe was found. He also found a Svayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby. So he started worshiping Kali in the midst of the thick jungle.
Other temples in the vicinity
Radha Krishna temple, also known as Shamo- ray temple built in 1843 is located to the west of the main temple. Radha Krishna temple has a separate kitchen for preparing vegetarian food (bhog) to Lord Radha Krishna.
Outside the main temple are two shrines having the images of Lord Shiva, Hanuman, Rama, Durga and an idol of Kalki, the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu.
At a short distance from the Kalighat temple is located Lord Bhairav temple, Nakuleshwar near Haldar Para Lane. Lord Nakuleshwar temple is an ancient temple, about 500 years old. The Lingam at the temple (svamyambu) is below the floor level, thus the devotees who want to touch the lingam have to lie flat on the floor and stretch their arms. The lingam is made out of polished black stone and has a brass cobra with its tail coiled around the lingam and its body extending upward, raises its hood to form a protective canopy above Lord Nakuleshwar. Flowers, bilva leaves and milk are offered to Lord Nakuleshwar.
Within the temple complex is a tree shrine called the Shoshti tola. Beneath the tree, on an altar are three stones representing goddess Sosthi, Sitola and Mongol Chandi placed side by side. Gobinda Das Mondal constructed this altar at the samadhi of Brahmananda Giri in 1880.This shrine has only women priests. The rituals at this shrine is unique, that is, neither the deities are worshipped daily nor is Anna Bogh offered to the deities daily. Worship at this shrine is only leaving few coins near the deities. The priests apply a tilak on the forehead to the devotees who visit the shrine.
Kalighat Temple Tank
The sacred tank of the temple is situated in the south-east of the temple outside the enclosure walls. In the past the tank was bigger and was called ‘Kaku – Kunda’. legend says that in the 16th century ‘Sati – Ango’ ( the right toe of Sati) was discovered from this tank. This tank is well known for its power to bestow the boon of a child. The water from this tank is regarded as sacred as that of the Ganges. Efforts at draining the water from the tank for cleaning has failed in the past showing the possibility of a subterranean link with Adi Ganga.
देव्या ध्यानं प्रवक्ष्यामि सर्वदेवोपसेविताम् ।
अञ्जनाद्रिनिभां देवीं करालवदनां शिवाम् ॥
मुण्डमालावकीर्णां सा मुक्तकेशी स्मिताननाम् ।
महाकालहृदम्भोजे स्थितां पीनपयोधराम् ॥
Devya dhyanam pravakshyami sarvadevopasevitam |
Anjanadrinibham devim karalavadanam shivam |
Mundamalavakirnam sa muktakeshi smitananam |
Mahakalahrudambhoje sthitam pinapayodharam |
Sadyashchhinnashirah khadgavarabhitikarambujam |
I will now describe the form of Goddess Kali who is served by all Gods. Her body is like the mountain of collirium and face like Karala. She is with Mundamala on her neck, open hair at the back, gentle smile, standing on Shiva’s chest with bulging breasts. She is holding a bloodied human face in one hand and sword in another hand. Other two hands are in Abhaya and Varada mudra.
Other iconographic features of Kali goddess are Krishnavarna, Chaturbhuja, Raktanetra, with long tongue.
Two saints Brahmananda Giri and Atmaram Giri created the present day touchstone idol of goddess Kali. Padmavati Devi, mother of Lakshmikanth Roy Choudhury* discovered the fossils of Sati’s toes in Kalikunda, a lake. Goddess Kali image is sculpted out of polished black stone. The image of Maa Kali has three large eyes which is highlighted with a sindoor paste, a long tongue (made of gold) clenched by the upper teeth and four hands made of silver. Goddess Kali has a sword in one hand and a severed head in another hand. The other two hands are in mudra and abhaya position. Maa Kali is adorned with a silver kirit, clothed in a sari and garlanded with red hibiscus flowers. Kalika also wears a chain beaded with the cast metal heads of human males. The face of the deity was made first. Later the hands, the tongue and Lord Shiva Statue were added over the years. The statue is installed on a rectangular pedestal, the front of which is adorned with the statue of Lord Shiva (made of silver) in a supine position. Maa Kalika in the form of right toes of Devi Sati is in the rectangular pedestal on which Maa Kalika stands. The svayambu Devi below the pedestal is so powerful, that it is never displayed to the public, not even the priests. Lord Shiva in a supine position is the decorative face of the lockbox. Kalighat is an important place of worship for tantric practitioners.
*Lakshmikanth Gangopadhyay was the son of family founder Jia Gangopadhyay, later came to be known as Saint Kamadeva Brahmachari. He was given the title “Ray” and “Choudhury” by Raja Mann Singh in 1608, which later became the family surname.
Goddess Kali is considered as a living goddess. The priests follow the rituals with utmost veneration. The goddess is woken up gently at 4.00 am, after which the idol is given a bath. Maa Kali is then decorated with garlands of red hibiscus flowers, after which the temple doors are open for public. Morning aarti is at 6.00 am and then the temple is open up to 2.00 pm. From 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm, priests offer food to the deity, during which the doors are closed. From 4.00 pm onwards, the temple is open up to 11.00 pm for public. Aarti is performed in the evening between 6.30 pm to 7.00 pm and then Maa Kali is dressed and prepared for the bed.
The svayambu (the right toes of Devi) is taken out of the pedestal on the full moon day of Jeshta Poornima masa (May- June) for the annual ceremonial bath known as Snan Yatra. The entire ritual of removing the right toes is done very secretively behind closed doors. Members from the Haldar family preside over the ritual. Even the priests who actually give bath bind their eyes with clothes. The toes are carefully taken out of the lock box; previous year clothing removed and bathed in a mixture of water from the holy Ganga River and, scented oils. This is followed by clothing the toes freshly and keeping it back beneath the pedestal. Devotees throng the temple on this day; to get a piece of old clothes wrapped around the toes or get the tirtha of the holy snan.
Tuesdays and Saturdays are auspicious for Devi worship. Ashtami is also considered auspicious for worship of Devi. Devotees who circumambulate Maa Kalika pray by bending and touching her feet.
Harikhat –tola (sacrificial post area) is adjacent to the natmandir. There are two sacrificial altars for animal sacrifices side by side. The bigger altar is for sacrificing buffaloes, while the smaller altar is for small animals like sheep and goats. The animals are sacrificed with one stroke of the sword. The meat is then distributed as Prasad. One goat per day is sacrificed as offering to Maa Kalika’s afternoon meal. More goats are sacrificed on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Offering animals to goddess Kali is unique in the worship. It is said that the goddess fulfils the wishes of devotees who offers six types of offerings, especially six animals which are male cat, camel, man, male buffalo, male goat and mendha. The same is said in following verse.
मम कण्ठे स्थितं बीजं पञ्चाशद्वर्णमद्भुतम् ।
सलोमास्थि स्वैरं पललमपि मार्जारमसिते ।
परं चोष्ट्रं मेषं नरमहिषयोश्छागमपि वा ।
बलिं ते पूजायामपि विरलवक्त्रे वितरताम् ।
सतां सिद्धिः सर्वा प्रतिपदमपूर्वा प्रभवति ॥
Mama kanthe sthitam bijam panchashadwarnamadbhutam |
Salomasthi swairam palalamapi marjaramasite |
Param choshtram mesham naramahishayoshchhagamapi va |
Balim te pujayamapi viralavaktre vitaratam |
Satam siddhih sarva pratipadamapurva prabhavati ||
The philosophical symbolism of the six animals is these represent the evil qualities of Lobha, Matsarya, Moha, Mada, Krodha and Kama. One has to sacrifice all these six bad qualities in the name of animals.
Festivals and Fairs
Navaratri is celebrated with great fervour. Large numbers of devotees gather during Kali Puja, durga Puja, Bengali New year and Sankranti. Kali Puja is celebrated in a grand way.
KALIGHAT TEMPLE MAA KALI
Mahadeva Shastri Joshi. 1964. Bharatiya Sanskruti Kosha, Vol. II. Pune. Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal.
Prabhudesai P. K. 1968. Devikosha, Vol. II. Pune Tilaka Maharashtra Vidyapitha.