Those who live/lived in Kolkata and are devotees of the Goddess Kali might have visited many of the famous Kali temples in the city- most notably, Dakhineshwar, Kalighat, Thanthania Kalibari, Firingee Kalibari, Lake Kalibari among others. There is another, equally famous, but a bit little lesser known Kalibari near Kumartoli- the Siddheshwari Kalibari or Siddheshwari Kali Temple. How did this temple come into being? Read on…
A Kali worshipper, living in the Himalayas, had a dream in which the goddess instructed him to find a Shakti Peeth south of where he lived. He, thus, came looking for the Peeth in Bengal. Originally, the river Adiganga (the old course of Ganges) flowed through the (now) Kumartoli area. Dense jungles greeted the river on its banks. These areas were filled with dacoits. While traveling through this area, the devotee came across a place where there were many bones. Upon closer inspection, he found that it was a place where ‘bali’ (sacrifice) was done by the dacoits of the area who worshipped their deity, goddess Kali. Thinking this to be the Shakti Peeth that he had been told of, he worshipped there day and night.
After many nights of worship, goddess Kali appeared in front of him and told him that this was not the Shakti Peeth and it was to be found further south. But since he had found the goddess there, he was instructed to build her statue there itself. This he did- with twigs, branches and the soil obtained from the banks of the river- creating a replica of the goddess as seen by him. The statue still stands in this temple; so does the place where ‘bali’ was offered by the dacoits. This is the Siddheshwari Kalibari.
In the meantime, he had found two children- a brother and a sister- washed onto the shore from the river. He took them in and cared for both of them. As they grew older he entrusted the regular pujas to the boy. The girl, meanwhile, helped her brother by collecting flowers and doing other chores. Their father left the place in search of the Shakti Peeth yet unfounded to him. This Peeth, which he subsequently found, is none other than the famous Kalighat. Since he had already made the goddess’ statue at Siddheshwari Kalibari, Kalighat did not have any statue of the goddess until Brahmananda Giri and Atmaram Giri created the modern day statue made of touchstone.
The Chakraborty brother-sister duo stayed on at the Siddheshwari Kali Temple. The brother had taken sanyaas. His sister married a zamindar, a Mukherjee, who had spotted her on the banks of the river while he was travelling along it. This marriage was opposed by his family (since the wife’s maiden surname was Chakraborty) and he returned to the Siddheshwari Kali Temple with his wife and took to worshipping the deity there. The descendants of the Mukherjee family still reside nearby. They are priests in this Kali Temple and have been looking after it for over 10 generations.
This Kali temple also has a place in the life of Ramkrishna Paramhansa. It is said that, everyday, Ramakrishna used to walk by this temple on his way to the Ghat and here he offered puja with green coconut (daab) and sugar. His friend, Girish Chandra Ghosh, used to take blessings from the goddess before making his scripts public. He used to refer to the goddess as Kolkata’s ‘Ginni’. When he contradicted cancer, Ramkrishna is said to have made a ‘manat’ (a vow made to a deity in return for fulfilling a wish) to the goddess Kali there to cure his friend of cancer. Many of us know that subsequently, Girish Ghosh was cured but he, himself, died of cancer- the cancer was transferred to him instead!
For any of you planning to visit this Kalibari, I can give you some directions. From the Shyambazar 5-point crossing, take Bhupendra Bose Avenue and go straight and then turn left towards Sovabazar Metro Station (on your right will be the road to Bagbazar). Take the first right turn. This is Madan Mohan Talla Street. The end of the street merges with Rabindra Sarani. Take right and you will immediately find the Kalibari on your right. A specialty of this Kalibari is that the place for ‘bali’ is on the footpath and not inside the temple premises.
PS1- All those who want to make a ‘manat’ there can offer the goddess ‘daab’ and sugar.
PS2- I am not publicizing the place. I visit it often, find solace there and believe that the goddess is very much ‘alive’. This place is marked in Google Maps as ‘Siddheshwari Matar Mandir’ but not much can be found about this place on the net. Hence I thought of sharing this with all.
PS3- The source for this article is one of the priests at the temple who himself is a descendant of the Mukherjee family.