Kalighat Temple is the most famous and ancient temple in Kolkata, situated on the bank of the Adi Ganga / Mayer Ghat, Ghat means riverbank in Bengali. River Hooghly was not on its present course throughout its history. The river used to flow brushing the site of present day Kalighat Temple in Kolkata city. Over the years, the river has changed due to the creation of canals in 17th century and other geological factors, and what remains is known as Adi Ganga (adi means ancient in Bengali). The temple site must have been a place of worship from time immemorial.
Puranas says that saint Chouranga Giri discovered an impression of Maa Kali’s face and built the original Kali temple in a small hut. Its probable first written reference is found in 15th century Mansar Bhasan. In around 1570 Padmabati Devi, the mother of Laksmikanta Roy Choudhury of Sabarna Roy Choudhury family, had a divine vision and discovered right toe of Sati in a lake called Kalikunda in Kalighat. This gave Kalighat the status of one of the 51 Shakti Peeths. During the rise of British in India, the area was part of the Dihi Panchannagram (group of 55 villages) the East India Company purchased from Mir Jafar in 1758, after defeating Siraj-ud-Daulah in Battle of Plassey. The villages then formed the suburbs of Calcutta, and were set amid forested land. Slowly the forests were cleared and the suburbs were absorbed into growing city. The present temple is only around 200 years old and was completed in 1809 under the patronage Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family. However, Halder family of Kolkata claims to be the owner of the temple property.
The Kali idol in Kalighat temple is unique, it has not been designed following the common pattern of other images of Maa Kali. The existing touchstone idol was created by two saints Atmaram Giri and Brahmananda Giri. The deity has three huge eyes, four golden hands and above all a long golden tongue. It is said to be based on the idol of Mata Bhuvaneshwari, the Kuladevi of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family. According to legends, the city of Calcutta was named after Kalighat.
Kalighat Kali Temple Timings:
Morning: 5:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Evening: 5:00 PM to 10:30 PM
Kalighat Kali Temple History:
There are several stories about the first discovery of the image of Kali which is now installed in the Kalighat temple.
Kalighat Kali Temple Story One:
Story One is that near the present temple of Kali, a Brahmin used to do his prayers in the midst of thick forest. One evening while reciting the mantras on the banks of Bhagirathi river, he found a ray of light coming from the bed of the river. In the morning light he und there was a piece of stone carved like a human toe under the clear water. The Brahmin picked it up and worshipped the piece of stone. That night the Brahmin had a dream that the piece of stone was nothing else than the toe of Sati which had been cut off by the Siidarsan Chakra of Vishnu. This refers to the story of the enraged Shiva going round the world with the dead body of his consort Sati, on his shoulders and lest the Tandav Nrilva of Lord Shiva destroys the world, Lord Vishnu started cutting off the limbs of Sati; wherever the limbs fell became a Pithasthan or a very great place of pilgrimage. A toe had fallen in the river of Bhagirathi by the side of Kalighat and so Kalighat is a Pithasthan. The Brahman searched and found a Swayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav image nearby. The Brahman took the toe and put it near the image of Nakuleshwar and started worshipping them. It is said the name of the Brahmin was Atma Ram.
Kalighat Kali Temple Story Two:
There is another story that Santosh Roy Choudhury of the Sabarna family was passing by the Bhagirathi river in a boat in the evening when he was attracted by the blowing of the conch shell inside the jungle. He got interested and stopped the boat. Following the direction of the sound of the conch shell, he came to a very thick part of the forest and found that a Brahmachari was doing Arti to the image of Kali. Santosh Roy Choudhury himself was a worshipper of Shakti and he worshipped Kali Devi. Since then he started worshipping Kali there regularly and ultimately built the temple for the installation of the image. The other story is that Keshav Roy Choudhury, another Sabarna zamindar and a confirmed Shakta had a dream and discovered the image. He brought out the image and consecrated the place where the temple was built. It is said that he first built a small temple and later Rajib Lochan Roy Choudhury took permission from the Collector, Mr. Elliard and constructed the present big temple. There is another story that some Kapalik Sanyasis were going to the confluence of the river Ganga and the sea (Sagar-dwip) and while passing through the jungle, they found a piece of stone and immediately discovered that it was the representation of Kali. They purposely fixed the image in the thick of the jungle because human sacrifice was necessary for the puja according to the Tanlrav. There is still another story that one Chowrangi Giri, a Saiva Sannyasi of Dasanami group discovered the image and had consecrated the image and since then the image is being worshipped there. It is interesting to mention that the area Chowranghee, the most famous and fashionable part of Calcutta City takes its name after this Chowrangi Giri Sannyasi.
Nakhuleshwar Mahadev Temple:
This Siva temple is dedicated to the consort of Maa Kali. It is situated in Haldar Para lane on the opposite side of the temple behind the police station. This temple is also very old and mentioned in the history. The four Shiva temples inside the temple were constructed by different shebait families who retain control over them.
A large rectangular covered platform called Natmondir has been erected adjacent to the main temple, from where the face of the image can be seen. This was originally built by Zamindar Kasinath Roy in 1835. It has been subsequently renovated.
The spacious varandah of the main temple Facing the image is known as Jor Bangla. Rituals occurring inside the sanctum sanctorum are visible from the Natmondir through the Jor-bangla.
This is a rectangular altar about three feet high bearing a small cactus plant. Beneath the tree, on an altar three stones are placed side by side – left to right representing the Goddesses “Sosthi”, “Sitola”, and “Mongol Chandi”. This sacred spot is known as Sosthi Tala or Monosha Tala. This altar was constructed by Gobinda Das Mondal in 1880. The place of the altar is the Samadhi of Brahmananda Giri. Here all the priests are female. No daily worship or offering of Bhog (food offering) is done here. The Goddesses here are considered as part of Maa Kali.
This is the spot adjacent to the Natmondir, southwards meant for Bhali (sacrifice). There are two Sacrificial altars for animal sacrifices side by side. These are known as Hari- Kath. The bigger one is for buffalo sacrifices and the smaller one for goats and sheep. The animals are sacrificed with a single stroke of the knife and there is very little cruelty to animals when compared to the professional abattoirs.
Radha Krishna Temple:
This temple is known as Shamo-ray temple and is situated inside the temple at the west side of the main temple. In 1723, a settlement officer of Mushirabad district first erected a separate temple for Radha-Krishna. In 1843 a Zamindar called Udoy Narayan Mondal erected the present temple in the same spot. The Dolmancho was founded in 1858 by Madan Koley of Saha Nagar. There is a separate kitchen for preparation of vegetarian Bhog (food offering) for Radha-Krishna.
This is the sacred tank situated in the south-east of the temple outside the boundary walls. Present area of the tank is approximately 10 cottahs. In the past it was bigger and called ‘Kaku-Kunda’. In sixteenth 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 with Adi Ganga.
How to Reach Kalighat Kali Temple:
By Metro: The Nearest Metro Stations are Jatin Das Park and Kalighat.
Buses of various routes to and from South Kolkata have their stops over the busy S.P Mukherjee Road at Kalighat Stop (500 m from Temple). Inquire before boarding whether it stops at Kalighat, Rashbehari More or Hajra More. The last two stops will require a 750-850 m walk to the Temple.
The famous Kolkata Tram has a terminus at Kalighat and is accessible from Ballygunge and Tollygunge rotes of the tramways (550 m from Temple).
Kalighat Kali Temple Address:
West Bengal – 700026.
Phone: 033 2243 6440