Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Day 2 Kolkata

Today Anique and I hired a car through the hotel to take us to some of the sights we are interested in, the driver did not speak English so it was difficult to change from the instructions that the hotel gave.

We visited a Jain Temple not the one I was hoping to see with the beautiful gardens but I did see this style of temple which was very interesting.

As we drove through the streets it was very interesting to see how many small shines to Kali can be found like this one I captured through the window

We then went to see the Dakshineswar Kali Temple
a Hindu temple located on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, the presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, 'She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence i.e. Saṃsāra'. The temple was built by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali in 1855. The temple is famous for where Ramakrishna started his remarkable spiritual journey, a mystic of 19th Century Bengal.

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 identical shrines dedicated to Shiva, done in white and black stone and each of the temples houses Shiva lingas done in black stone. Along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. 

To the north east of the Temple Complex is the Vishnu Temple or the Radha Kanta’s Temple. A flight of steps lead to the columned verandah and into the temple where a silver throne rests with a 21 and half inches idol of Lord Krishna and 16 inches idol of Radha. 

There is no photography allowed in the temple, this image from the internet shows the statue of Kali in the main temple, called the idol of sri sri Jagadiswari Kalimata Thakurani.

According to myth Adyashakti is the primordial energy-consciousness-bliss, she is the Mahamaya who creates the universe and liberates the jiva from the clutches of Maya. The sky is Her clothes. Her eyes have the spread from ear to ear. The Gods were defeated in the war against Shumbha and Nishumbha, the two Asura brothers. They were driven out of the heaven. They then composed a hymm to the Devi and prayed to Her. At this, a Devi came out of the body of the Adyashakti. She was named Kousiki. As a result, the color of Adyashakti turned into black. So she became known as Kali or Kalika (the dark).Though in course of time, she got black as her original color. In another version, during Ambika’s (the mother) war against Shumbha and Nishumbha, at the moment of killing Chandasur Kali sprang forth from the forehead of Ambika. During the war between the gods and the asuras Kali spread out Her tongue and drank all the blood of Raktabij. That is why Her tongue is out. Kali is the first Vidya of ten Mahavidyas. She wears tigerskin. She plays with mahakal and so she is Mahakali or Kali. Kali has so many forms. She is terrible and at the same time calm and benefactress of the world.

The famous Dakshineswar temple which houses the Goddess Kali was founded by Rani Rashmoni following a dream she saw when she was about to start on her pilgrimage to Benaras. A long term plan of the Rani materialized which she had longed to perform when her husband died with unfulfilled wish of constructing a Kali temple.

A dynamic woman, Rani Rashmoni took over the administration of the enormous estate her husband left her. The benevolent administrator, Rani Rashmoni was always in conflict with the stringent British laws and policies. People honored her and loved her for her daring and benevolent spirit. Dakshineswar temple, bathing ghats, a way from Subarnarekha River to Puri, Imperial Library (present National Library) and Hindu College (present Presidency College) are the testimonials to her benevolent nature.

The dream had moved the Rani intensely and she instructed her trusted people specially her youngest son-in law to look for plots to construct the Kali Temple. After a massive hunt for suitable plots, a 20-acred plot in the village of Dakshineswar was selected. The land resembled a hump of a tortoise. One part of this land belonged to a European Christian while the other part was a Muslim burial ground. The Rani began to construct this Hindu temple in 1847 on this very ground thus integrating different faiths. The Deed of endowment states “In order to fulfill his wish, on 6th September 1847 I purchased 54.4 bighas of land at the cost of Rs. 42 thousand and 500 from James Hasty. I made to build a puca Navaratna temple, twelve Shiva temples (twelve jyotirlingam), a Vishnu temple and a Natmandir on the land. On 31st May 1855 I placed luxminarayan Shila in the Navaratna temple as per the wish of my late husband and also for the welfare of his soul.” The deed was executed on 31st May 1855.

The exceptionally open-minded Rani wished that pilgrims of all casts and religions could offer prayers at the temple. Her dreams were fulfilled since irrespective of religion and castes Dakshineswar is thronged by millions of devotees and admired for its peaceful ambiance.
The Rani lived only for five years and nine months after the inauguration of the temple. She seriously fell ill in 1861. Realizing that death was approaching she decided to handover the property she purchased in Dinajput (now in Bangladesh) as a legacy for the maintenance of the temple to the temple trust. She accomplished her task on 18th February, 1861 and passed away on the subsequent day.

We then went to visit the Sri Sarada Math however unfortunately it was closed when we arrived and would not be opening for 4 hours so we made our way back to the city, and again go to New Market for shopping, and went back to our room and had a couple of drinks together before retiring for the night.

The New Market marked by a distinctive red-brick clock tower , this enormous warren of a place was originally opened in 1874. Despite the appearance of new air-conditioned, American-style, shopping malls all over Kolkata, New Market, which has survived two devastating fires and regular flooding, remains at the core of the shopping experience in the city. Over 2000 stalls under its roof sell everything from clothing to wheeled luggage to electronics to a special cheese found nowhere else. Under its apparent chaos lie extraordinary finds as well as remarkable bargains. It was substantially rebuilt after the 1980s fire.  Technically, it referred to an enclosed market but today in local parlance the entire Lindsay Street shopping area is often known as New Market.

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