Kalighat Kali Temple, Shaktipeeth, Kolkata
November 22, 2009
Among the 52 Shaktipeeth where Goddess Sati’s body parts had fallen, Kolkata’s Kalighat holds the toe of her right foot. To understand the meaning and significance of Shaktipeeth, let us go back to our Puranas (centuries old Hindu scriptures).
Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva was known as Sati in her previous birth. Her marriage to Lord Shiva was looked down upon by her father King Daksha. The king had organized a Yagna (a spiritual gathering where offerings are made to Agni Dev or the God of Fire) and purposely avoided inviting his daughter and her husband.
It didn’t take Sati long to find out about this magnanimous event where all the gods and celestial beings were invited. Hurt and angered by her father’s behavior, she decided to go uninvited. Lord Shiva tried to persuade her not to go but she was relentless. According to Sati, a daughter didn’t need a formal invitation to visit her own father’s house.
King Daksha explained why he had not invited his son-in-law which was nothing but public humiliation of her husband. Sati couldn’t take his degradation anymore and jumped into the sacrificial fire and ended her life. When Lord Shiva heard of this, he was torn apart. He destroyed and created havoc at the Yagna. He then carried Sati’s remains on his shoulder and danced the dance of destruction-Tandav which would eventually destroy the Universe. While other versions state that in grief, the Lord carried her body on his shoulders and walked aimlessly in grief. He refused to complete the final rites.
Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe felt that if Sati’s body did not receive proper cremation according to the Hindu Shastra’s then she could not take rebirth. As the creator of mankind, Lord Brahma knew that Sati would be born again as Goddess Parvati. Lord Vishnu was concerned about Lord Shiva’s grief.
The power of his grief would slowly cause the destruction of the Universe. They both couldn’t control or face Lord Shiva’s anger so Lord Vishnu took his Sudarshan Chakra (Disc) and cut her body into pieces. As Lord Shiva traveled her body part fell and last rites were done by the gods. The places where divine Mother’s body parts fell is known as Shaktipeeth. The other two Shaktipeeth’s that we have been fortunate to visit are Naina Devi, Bilaspur and Kunjapuri Devi, Rishikesh.
Every Shaktipeeth has a corresponding consort in the manifestation of Lord Shiva and here he is known as Baba Nakuleshwar or Nakuleshwar Bhairav. First, he is worshipped and then we should proceed to the divine Mother. This temple is few lanes behind Kalighat. In the picture, you can see that the temple is really large and you cannot miss it. The locals are very helpful and they do guide you to the exact location. Lord Nakuleshwar is deeply embedded into the ground and one has to kneel down, bend forward towards the Shivling or Lingam to offer Gangajal. The priests there, have all the necessary items for performing puja- Gangajal in small earthern container, sandalwood paste (white chandan paste) bel leaves, akunda flower garland (akund is the Bengali word to describe purplish white small flowers, I haven’t been able to locate its English botanical name yet). They perform the ceremonies and at the end of it, any amount of dakshina is acceptable.
The entrance to Kalighat was admist lanes and bi-lanes of shops selling hibiscus flower garlands and sweets. Hibiscus flower is the divine mother’s favorite flower. There were “Paandas”, colloquially known as agents who offer their assistance to get a closer darshan of the deity, otherwise waiting in long queues for hours is fairly common.
The most crowded days of the week are Tuesdays and Saturdays. Luckily, I went on a Thursday. But still it was decided to get an agent. He swiftly maneuvered us within the crowd. Soon he disappeared and all I could see was his extended hand. I grabbed it, squeezed in between people and stepped up and in front of me was Goddess Kali. Her form was gigantic. We were at an elevated height, so we could see her face to face. The idol could be more that 7 feet, I don’t know because I was just in awe. My offerings were handed to the head priest below and I was still thinking- “Wow, this is it. I can’t believe I am here.”
Within the temple premises, there is a Radha Gobindo temple. This is the jugal form (dual) of Lord Krishna with Radha Rani and Bal Gopal or Lalaan. The priest allowed us to touch our forehead at the lotus feet of the Lord and gave us Tulsi/Tulasi leaf (Basil) as Prasad. Adjoining this temple was Sitala Mata temple where too we offered our prayers.
The temple is surrounded on all sides by various lanes where shops sold photographs, idols, shringar (decorative items to dress up the Lord). Anything and everything that is needed to complete our devotional service to our Lord. The temple was under very tight security and photography was prohibited. This photograph was taken from the road parallel to the temple and I took it after seeking permission from an Inpector.
Shaktipeeths are sources of power from the divine mother. It radiates an invisible energy which only the soul understands and transmits the feeling to the human brain. This feeling and the understanding of this divine power can be understood depending on the spiritual progress of an individual.
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