Religious Experiences at the Dakshineswar Temple

Posted in India | December 20, 2012

Dakshineshwar temple or Dakshineswar temple is a temple situated in the state of West Bengal near the city of Kolkata. It is located in a place called Dakshineshwar and is on the banks of the River Hooghly on the eastern side. The Goddess Kali is the presiding deity in the temple and the goddess here is called the Bhavatarini or the one liberates her devotees from the ocean of living. It was a philanthropist who got this temple constructed. This philanthropist Rani Rashmoni was a great devotee of Goddess kali and she got this temple constructed in the year 1855. The temple is popular for being connected to the great philosopher Ramakrishna who was a great mystic here in this part of the world in West Bengal sometime in the 19th century.

The temple has a compound that consists of a huge courtyard which surrounds the entire temple. There are rooms along the wall which encircles the temple. Dakshineshwar has 12 temples all dedicated to Lord Shiva who is considered to be goddess Kali’s companion. There is a bathing Ghat on the river and also a temple which is mainly for Rani Rashmoni. There is a room in the northwestern part which lies just ahead of the temple of Lord Shiva. This is where it is believed that Ramakrishna lived a major part of his life. This room is called the Nahavat khana.

The name of goddess Kali is Bhavatarini and there is also a picture of this goddess wearing a lot of jewellery and other heavy accessories. It is said that Ramakrishna visited this temple in the year 1855 to assist Ram Kumar who was his elder brother. Ramakrishna was the head priest and he took over this job after Ram Kumar died.

Founded sometime in the middle of the 19th century Rani Rashmoni came from the Kaivarta caste and was very popular for her social activities. Sometime in the year 1847 Rashmoni decided to go on a religious journey to the city of Kashi in India . She wanted to offer her prayers to the Divine Mother. It is said that Rani was to come in twenty four boats each of it carrying servants, relatives and supplies. The story goes that before the pilgrimage started Rashmoni had a dream of this Divine Mother taking the form of a Goddess.

Apparently the queen got a dream where the Goddess told her to go to Benares and install the statue in a magnificent temple on the banks of the River Ganges. The goddess also asked to arrange for her to be worshipped there and that she would manifest herself in the image and accept her devotees’ worship.

Rani then searched for a plot of 20 acres in the Dakshineshwar village. The huge temple complex was constructed between 1847 and 1855. This huge plot was purchased from John Hastie who was an Englishman. This was then called as the Saheban Bagicha. It was also partially a burial ground for Muslims.

The ground was in the shape of tortoise and it was selected for the worship of Goddess Shakti as per traditions of tantra. The whole temple took around eight years to get completed. The cost of temple is around nine hundred rupees and finally the idol of Goddess kali was kept in the year 1855. The day was the Snana Yatra Day and it was the thirty first day of the month of may. There were lot of celebrations in the temple and it was earlier called the Sri Sri Jagadiswari Mahakali . this is when Ramkumar Chattopadhyay was the head priest. Then his brother Gadadhar or Gadai became the priest. This Gadai later on came to be known as Ramakrishna.

On this day of installation many Brahmins were invited from various parts of the county to attend the occasion and there was lot of controversy over the temple. It was said that the Rani was in no position to own the temple and she had no power to feed the Brahmins as she belonged to the low Shudra caste. After Ramkumar died, Ramakrishna took over the position along with Sarada Devi his wife. She lived in the southern side near the Nahabat or the music room.

The Dakshineshwar temple has been built in a traditional style and as nine spires constructed with an architectural design of Bengal. The temple has three storeys and it is built over a platform. There is a flight of stairs measuring 46 feet and is around 100 feet high.

The main sanctum sanctorum has the Goddess Kali inside and it is seen standing on the chest of Lord Shiva who is in a reclined position. There are two idols here which are placed on a lotus with thousand petals carved out of silver. There are twelve temples of similar pattern which are near the main temple and they face the eastern direction. The architecture of the temple is the “Aat Chala” architecture and they are constructed on either banks of the River Hooghly. The Vishnu Temple is to the northeastern direction of the temple.

The Dakshineshwar temple is thus a temple with the best kinds of constructional design and religious connotations.

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