Religious Places of Kolkata

Kali Temple

Kolkata also carries within its folds, all the richness of traditions and religious customs. Although modernity eccentric, people of Kolkata have, by no means, loosened their hold on their religious sentiments or the traditional rites and rituals. Its lineaments embody many important temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras.

Nabdip, 116 kms from Kolkata, is the birthplace of Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and is the scene of many colourful festivals.

Dakshineswara Temple: The famous temple of Dakshineswara is associated with one of India's greatest religious philosophers- Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. The beautiful Place of Belur Math on the banks of the River Hoogly is head-quarter of Ramakrishna Mission. The beautiful settings are in stark contrast with the industrial surroundings of Belur.

If you cross the Hoogly river to the north of Belur Math, you will find this Kali Temple, known as Dakshineswara. This is the temple where Ramakrishna, a priest, reached his spiritual vision of the unity of all religions. The temple was built in 1847 AD and is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Kalighat Temple: Kalighat Temple is one of the 'pithastahams' of India. Rebuilt in 1809 on the site of a much older temple, Kalighat is believed to be the actual temple from which Kalikata (anglicized to Calcatta) took its name. According to a legend, when one of Goddess Kali's fingers fell here, since then it has been an important pilgrimage site and is always extremely busy. Kali represents the destructive side of Shiva's consort and demands daily sacrifices. In the morning, goats are slaughtered to satisfy the bloodlust of the goddess.

One will be probably latched on by temple priests who will offer to whisk one around- for a donation of upto INR 1000 (although some demand much more); don't be bullied. It's possible to view the temple's deity of Kali from around 6 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm daily. Mother Teressa's Hospital for the Dying Destitute is next to the temple.

St. Paul's Cathedral: The St. Paul's Cathedral was built in 1847 AD. It is one of the most impressive religious landmarks in the city. The foundation for St. Paul's Cathedral was laid in 1839, largely due to the efforts of Bishop Wilson. In 1847, it was consecrated as the first Episcopal Church of the Orient. Its Indo-Gothic architecture is credited to Major W.N. Forbes. An earthquake destroyed the original 61 meter high tower in 1897. After restoration, it was again destroyed by another earthquake. Finally it was rebuilt as a replica of the Bell Harry Tower of Canterbury Cathedral.

The main cathedral hall is large, with beautifully carved wooden pews and chairs along with stained glass window to the west, intricate coloured artwork covering the eastern walls and two marvelous Florentine frescoes. The church is 247 feet long, 81 feet wide and 201 feet high. The Cathedral is set within huge grounds with several ancient trees. There is a small meditation spot on the grounds, set up recently in collaboration with distinguished citizens of Tagore's Shanti Niketan. The interior of the St. Paul's Cathedral beautifully decorated with floral designs on the walls. Naturally, the exquisite decoration serves as a feast for the eyes. Beautiful architecture and exquisite mural painting captivates the beholder. The life and work of St. Paul is vividly described in pictures. Bishop Wilson lies in his eternal slumber in a coffin inside an underground chamber. The commission plate conferred on him by Queen Victoria is still exhibited here. The ambience of the church is very soothing and tranquil.

Nakhoda Masjid: Based on the design of Akbar's tomb at Sikandara, the Nakhoda Masjid (mosque) is the largest mosque of Kolkata. Built in 1926, it is surmounted by a dome and faced with red sandstone, with minarets that rise to a height of 46 meter. It can accommodate over ten thousand people for 'namaz', but on major religious occasions, people spill out on the streets. Nearby is the Hotel Royal, famous for its rich 'biryani' and 'naan'.

St. John Church: On the south of BBD Bag is crumbling St. John Church, which dates back to 1787 AD. The overgrown, tranquil graveyard here has a number of intersecting monuments, including the octagonal mausoleum of Job Charnock, founder of Kolkata, who died in the early 1690s. Admiral Watson, who supported Clive in retaking Kolkata from Siraj-ud-daula, is also buried here. The obelisk commemorating the black hole was moved to a corner of this graveyard.

Mangal Madhav is probably the tallest statue in Kolkata. The Birla Temple is a beautiful temple in Ballygunge. It has been built in Orissa style of Indian temple architecture. The Parasnath Jain Temple is an oasis of beauty in congested North Kolkata. It is dedicated to Sital Nath, the 10th of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras.

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