Monday, March 10, 2008
the first fourteen years of my life were spent in kolkata.i used to visit the kalighat temple every friday alongwith my mother.kalimaa's figure is so strongly etched in my mind that i can always recall it instantly. after we left kolkata and came over to mumbai, my visits to kolkata were few and far between for many years. however, whenever i got an opportunity i would visit the kali temple and pay my obesiance to goddess kali. recently, during my visit to kolkata i had some free time and decided to go to the kali temple.
mahadevi(great goddess) is the most complex and powerful of all goddesses. she occupies a high pedestal as the consort of shiva. she is his 'shakthi' or female energy. this is mirrored in the variety of roles she adopts. she has a different name for each of these roles. sati,parvati,durga,kali.some of these characters are mild and some fierce. both a bringer of fertility and exacter of living sacrifice. sati is a mild form of devi. she was the daughter of sage daksha and was married to shiva at her own insistence against her father's wishes. later in order to defend her husband's honour, she threw herself on her father's sacrificial fire. shiva was not invited by daksha for the fire-sacrifice and thus he insulted shiva. shiva appeared on the scene and in a fit of fury chopped off daksha's head. griefstricken at sati's death and locking her body in a tight embrace he performed the taandava dance.howling in agony, he made earth a miserable place,full of suffering. alarmed at this development and fearing for the well-being of the cosmos, lord vishnu cut off sati's body from his arms. each of the places where the fiftyone pieces of her body fell became sacred.a shakthi peetha. this is the origin of the worship of yoni,the female sexual organ by tantriks. sati is considered to be the ideal hindu wife. the practice of self-immolation called 'suttee' was started by her. later,shiva regained his senses and restored the life of his father-in-law daksha by transplanting a goat's head on the severed body. daksha continued his sacrifice and the wheel of time moved on.
kali is even more terrifying than durga; another form of shakthi. she is the black earth-mother.her rites involve sacrificial killings-humans too at one time. she is associated with devil-worship.she has black skin and a hideous tusked facce,smeared with blood,the brow bearing a third eye.she has four arms.kali developed her thirst for blood after killing the demon rakthavira.she is portrayed with her tongue hanging out and her mouth dripping blood.this signifies the motive force that gives monmentum to all activity.she is supposed to have subdued her own husband by trampling him underfoot in her dance of victory.kali means conqueror of time.as the inexorable destroyer she is equated with time.
the kali temple was built almost 200 years ago on the banks of the river adiganga at kalighat by raja ram mohun roy.the present structure was built by shibdev roy chaudhuri,a zamindar.it has a bangaldar-style arched roof.over the years the lovely temple has fallen into neglect.kolkata is supposed to have derived its name from goddess kali.the river has now shifted and there is a small canal instead.this renowned shrine is one of the 51 shakthi peethas in india.the small right toe of sati is believed to have fallen on this spot. kali is one of the main deities of bengal.she is the destroyer or liberator depicted in a fearful form.she delivers happiness to her devotees.the image at kalighat is that of a goddess wearing a necklace of skulls,holding a bloody sword and standing over shiva.kali is a dark goddess.she is carved out of black stone.she stands undera silver parasol with her body glittering in gold and silver.
the temple is generally very crowded and particularly so on saturdays.the temple and its precicncts remain today almost the same as it was fifity years ago. as soon as you set your foot,you are hit by the sight of pandas,beggars, flower-sellers and sweetmeat shops.if one is not streetsmart,the pandas could take the unsuspecting piligrim for a ride.
tantrik practises are prevalent in this temple.even to this day goat sacrifices are made in the temple.it is an enchanting temple where the golden-tongued kali,the spouse of the three-eyed one, bestows everlasting happiness on her worshippers.
incidentally,a well-known bengali scientist and rationalist has confessed to having experienced a miracle when his wife and first child were saved when doctors had given up all hopes."surely,there is some supreme power somewhere to do and undo anything in this mortal world.we are to get in touch with that power through the blessings of the almighty.for me the 'nirmalya' from kalighat did that miracle.something above all sciences a human can think of".