Famous Temples and Spiritual Places in West Bengal

Kalighat Kali Temple, Kalighat
Deity: Devi Kali

Kalighat Kali Temple is located in Kalighat, and dedicated to the Goddess Kali. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Kalighat was a Ghat (stage leading to the banks of river) sacred to Kali on the old course (Adi Ganga) of the Hooghly river (Bhāgirathi) in the city of Kolkata. The name Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. The river over a period of time has moved away from the temple. The temple is now on the banks of a small canal called Adi Ganga which connects to the Hooghly. The Adi Ganga was the original course of the river Hooghly. Hence the name Adi (original) Ganga.

According to ancient stories, Prajapati Daksha (father of Goddess Sati) once insulted Lord Shiva. Unable to accept this insult of her husband, Sati killed herself. When Lord Shiva heard of his wife’s (Sati’s) death, he picked her body on his shoulder and started Rudra Tandava (divine dance for destruction). In order to stop him from destroying the world, Lord Vishnu divided the corpse of Sati into 51 parts with his Chakra. Kalighat Temple is the place where toes of the right foot of Dakshayani or Sati fell, making the place a Shakti Peetha. Kalighat is also associated with the worship offered to Kali by a Dasanami Monk by name Chowranga Giri, and the Chowringee area of Calcutta is said to have been named after him.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Dakshineswar
Deity: Devi Kali

Dakshineswar Kali Temple is a Hindu navaratna temple located at Dakshineswar. Situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, the presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, ‘she who liberates her devotees from the ocean of existence i.e. Saṃsāra’. The temple was built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni, a a devotee of Devi Kali. The temple is famous for its association with Ramakrishna, a mystic of 19th Century Bengal.

Accoring to legends, in the year 1847, Rani Rashmoni prepared to go upon a long pilgrimage to the sacred Hindu city of Kashi to express her devotions to the Divine Mother. The night before the pilgrimage began, Rashmoni had a vision of the Divine Mother in the form of the Kali, Goddess said – There is no need to go to Banaras. Install my statue in a beautiful temple on the banks of the Ganges river and arrange for my worship there. Then I shall manifest myself in the image and accept worship at that place. The large temple complex was built between 1847 and 1855 CE.

Belur Math Ashram
Saint: Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda

Beluṛ Maṭh is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. It is located on the west bank of Hooghly River and is one of the significant institutions in Kolkata.

This temple is the heart of the Ramakrishna Movement. The temple is notable for its architecture that fuses Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist art motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions. The 40-acre campus of the Belur Math on the banks of the Hooghly includes temples dedicated to Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.

Lakshmi Narayan Temple (Birla Mandir)
Deity: Devi Laxmi and Lord Narayan (Vishnu)

The Laxmi-Narayan Temple, also known as the Birla Mandir is temple up to large extent dedicated to Lord Vishnu with Goddess Lakshmi. Laxmi-Narayan usually refers to Vishnu, Preserver in the Trimurti, also known as Narayan, when he is with his consort Lakshmi. The main temple houses statues of deities Krishna and Radha. The left side temple shikhar (dome) houses goddess Durga, the Hindu goddess of Shakti, the power while the right side dome of the temple houses Shiva in meditation mode.

The temple is built by the industrialist Birla family. The construction of the temple began in 1970 and it took 26 years to complete the entire structure. On 21st of February, 1996, the Pran Prathistha was done by Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. Spread on 44 kathas of land, this temple built of white marble bears resemblance to the renowned Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar. The temple is one of the major attractions of Kolkata and attracts thousands of devotees.

Hanseshwari Temple
Deity: Devi Hanseswari

Hanseswari Temple is dedicated goddess Hangseswari (the goddess who came in a dream of Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy Mahasay) in the town of Bansberia at Hooghly District. Rani Hanseswari was the mother of Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy, hence the deity is worshipped as Maa Hanseswari. The deity is worshipped as a form of Maa Kali in Hindu mythology. The temple complex has another temple besides the main temple, named as Ananta Basudeba temple.

The Hanseswari temple has a distinctive architecture different from the usual pattern present in this area, consisting 13 minars or Ratnas, each built as a blooming lotus bud. The inner structure of the building resembles human anatomy. It was started by Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy Mahasay and later completed by his widow wife Rani Sankari in the year 1814 CE.

Kapil Muni Temple, Gangasagar
Deity: Kapil Muni

Gangasagar or Sagardwip, is a place of Hindu pilgrimage. Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti (14 January), hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal and offer prayers (puja) in the Kapil Muni Temple.

According to ancient stories, a holy man named Kardam Muni made a pact with Lord Vishnu that he would undergo the rigours of marital life, on the condition that Vishnu would incarnate as his son. In due time Kapil Muni was born as an incarnation of Vishnu and became a great saint. Kapil Muni’s ashram was located on the island. One day King Sagar’s sacrificial horse was stolen by Lord Indra. The king sent his 60,000 sons to find the horse, and they found it next to Kapil Muni’s ashram, where Indra had hidden it. Mistaking Kapil Muni for the thief, the sons accused Kapil Muni, who in his wrath at the false accusation burned the sons to ash and sent their souls to Hell. Later having compassion for the King Sagar’s sons, Kapil Muni acceded to the prayers of King Sagar’s descendants, agreeing to the restoration of the sons, if Parvati in the form of the river goddess Ganga would descend to Earth to perform the Last Ritual of mixing the ashes with holy water (niravapanjali). Through deep meditation, King Bhagiratha induced Shiva to order Ganga down from heaven and the 60,000 sons were freed (moksha) and ascended to Heaven, but the river Ganges stayed on the Earth. The date of the descent of Ganga was the date, as is at present the 15th Day of January of the Gregorian Calendar which coincides with that of Makar Sankranti (when Surya enters Makar Constellation, i.e. “Uttarayan” of Hindu Panchangam).

ISKCON Temple, Mayapur
Deity: Lord Krishna and Devi Radha

The ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Temple of Mayapur is situated the middle of the rivers Hoogly and Jalangi and is one of the main of the nine islands of Nabadwip (meaning nine islands). The headquarter of ISKCON is at Mayapur Nabadwip, Nadia District. The headquarters of ISKCON is situated in Mayapur and the place is believed to be the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

ISKCON was founded in 1966 in New York City by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Its core beliefs are based on the Hindu scriptures, particularly the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata Purana, and the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which has had adherents in India since the late 15th century and American and European devotees since the early 1900s. The organization was formed to spread the practice of Bhakti yoga, the practice of love of God in which those involved (bhaktas) dedicate their thoughts and actions towards pleasing Krishna, the Supreme Lord.

Annapurna Temple, Barrackpore
Deity: Devi Annapurna and Lord Shiva

The Annapurna Temple situated near Rani Rashmoni Ghat (a river bank), Barrackpore is dedicated to Goddess Annapurna (goddess of food and nourishment). The idol of Annapurna temple is made of asta dhatu and the temple is a lookalike of the famous Dakshineswar temple.

The Temple was built by Jagadamba Devi, youngest daughter of Rani Rashmoni. The Temple compund has six Shiva Temples along with the Annapurna temple. The Temple was opened to devotees on the 12th of April, 1875 by Sri Sri Ramkrishna Paramahansa.