A Wonderful Trip Through the Beautiful Temples of Kolkata

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India’s second largest city is a daily festival of human presence, simultaneously squalid and noble, desperate and cultured. By its old name, Calcutta, one can recall images of human suffering to most Westerners. But locally, Kolkata is considered as India’s intellectual and cultural region. While poverty is certainly in your face, the well groomed “Bengali bhadralok” continue to frequent grand old gentlemen’s clubs, tee off at some of India’s finest golf courses and back horses at the Calcutta Racetrack.

As the old capital of British India, Kolkata maintained the feast of colonial-era architecture, contrasting totally with urban slums and energetic new-town suburbs with their improvised shopping malls. Kolkata is the perfect place to experience the gentle, fruity tang of authentic Bengali cuisine. It is friendlier than India’s any other metropolitan city, makes you feel comfortable and arouses a feeling of visiting the city again every time. Walk through the chaotic backstreets, ride the Hooghly ferries and, if you’ve got more time, plan a getaway to the Sundarbans. Many trains, departing from Delhi or Amritsar can take you to the beautiful city of Kolkata. You can also check the 15910 or 13008 running status online on various websites, which makes your travel a lot more easier.

Belur Math

Set very captivatingly among the manicured lawns and palms, this huge religious spot is the main centre of the Ramakrishna Mission, encouraged by 19th-century Indian guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who sermonized the unity of all religions. The heart of this place is where the Ramakrishna Mandir is situated, which almost looks like a cathedral, Istanbul’s Aya Sofya and an Indian palace, all at the same time. Several smaller altar near the Hooghly riverbank incorporating the Sri Sarada Devi Temple, where the guru’s wife was buried.

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From the main road outside, six daily commuter trains run from Belur Math to Howrah which takes almost 25 minutes to reach this shrine. Picking up next door to Belur Math train station, buses are also available from Esplanade to Howrah in depressing stop-start traffic. Southbound, they pass almost beside Bandhaghat from where you might choose to take the three hour ferry across to Ahiritola, then shift to the Bagbazar boat for Kumartuli. From Belur Jetty, ferries and open boats run to Dakshineswar.

Kalighat Temple

This immemorial Kali temple is one of Kolkata’s most divine spots for Hindus and possibly is the inspiration for  the city’s name. Today’s design is a 1809, reconstructed with floral and peacock pattern tiles that look more like Victorian than Indian. More fascinating than the architecture are the squeezing pilgrim queues that crawl into the main hall to hurl hibiscus flowers at an enthroned, three-eyed Kali picture.

Behind the bell area but still within the mandir complex, goats are ritually decapitated to honour the ever-demanding goddess Kali. Towards the east, is a greenish holy pond and by the sanctuary’s northern part, a  ‘tree of fertility’.

Unless using their services to jump the queue into the central sanctum hall, a token donation of ₹20 is good enough for any impromptu temple tour. Donating ₹21 is even better, as giving a sum ending in one is believed to be lucky and shows that you are familiar with local customs.

These two shrines are the most beautiful and enchanting temples of Kolkata.  You can also get information about many other temples located in Kolkata in various apps and websites, which will also help you stay updated about the 13008 running status of the train to plan your trip in advance.

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