Temple of Kaali the Destroyer, Calcutta

History Facts

Where: Kalighat, Calcutta, Bengal, East India
When: 1809
History: dedicated to the Goddess Kaali the destroyer, on the site where a ligament of Lord Shiva’s wife fell
Remember to bring: a goat for the daily morning sacrifice

Where it’s At

For anybody who visits India, Calcutta is a must; the city combines a spectacular mixture of old and new. Calcutta is actually not an ancient city, it was a small town that grew into the showpiece capital for the British Raja in the 19th century and soon became know as the greatest colonial city of the orient. Kalighat, one of the most visited sites in Calcutta, is located on the banks of the River Hooghly. They say that the name Calcutta was derived from the word Kalighat.

History of the Kaali Temple

Kaali is regarded as one of the principal deities in Bengal and, although there are other temples dedicated to Kaali, the one at Kalighat is supposed to be the most popular. Kaali is regarded as the destroyer or liberator and she is usually depicted in a fearful form. Despite this, she is considered to deliver bliss to worshippers, thus her temple attracts numerous devotees throughout the year.

The temple was built in 1809 on the site of a former ancient temple. The legend says that a finger of the Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva, fell here. A devotee discovered a luminescent ray of light coming from the Bhagirathi river bed, and upon investigating its source came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe. He also found a Syayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby, and started worshipping Kaali in the midst of a thick jungle.

Visiting the Temple

This shrine grew to its present form over a period of time. Since then it has been an important pilgrimage site. But the temple is dedicated to the destructive side of Shiva, which takes the form of Kali. She requires sacrifice daily to satisfy her blood lust so every morning goats are sacrificed on the alter of the temple. The temple is busy through out the year and is surrounded by poor who come to have free meal, which is taken out of temple donations and funds.

Although the temple has no opening time or entry fee, like any other Hindu temple, there are some rules with the rituals: Shoes need to be removed before you enter the temple complex, and the right hand is used for eating, the left is used for more menial but essential tasks.

The climax to any visit to a Hindu temple is to enter the inner sanctum and join the struggle to catch the nearest glimpse of the temple icon.

main image: View of Kalighat Kali temple by Sankarrukku

By Nitasha Kulashreshtha