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Politicians, industrialists, commoners throng Kalighat as financial hardships, electoral battles intensify | India News


KOLKATA: It is almost noon, the time when the four huge gates of the famous Kalika temple in Kalighat, one of the 51 ‘peethas’ (holy places) of the Shakta School of Hinduism, are closed to lay devotees.
The latest infatuation of worshipers, few of whom care about social distancing norms encoded in large print on an exterior board, are eager for a glimpse of the reigning deity of Calcutta. The ‘pandas’ (religious guides) rush into the villagers and inhabitants of Bengal, North Bihar and East Uttar Pradesh, each carrying flowers, garlands, candy boxes and banknotes as offerings, as policemen close the huge gates with much fanfare.
It is believed in folklore that the Mother Goddess is the dispenser of good fortune. From the Governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar, to the Chief Minister of the State, Mamata Banerjee, who lives a stone’s throw from the temple complex, to her electoral rival in the upcoming Bhabanipore by-elections, Priyanka Tibrewal, everyone comes here one day or another.
“Everybody comes here. Ministers, industrialists, police commissioners, scientists, farmers, saints, sinners. Some hire priests, some say their prayers in silence…. Personally I believe that Mother listens to everyone, you don’t need mantra or tantra (prayers in Sanskrit) to talk to her, ”said Deepankar Chatterjee, 58, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the ‘Sebayit’ Council (hereditary servants).
“Elections are very busy times, leaders and their assistants are regular visitors in the run-up to the vote,” he said.
The Communists were among the few Bengali politicians who chose to stay away from the attractions of the temple to demonstrate their atheistic credentials.
“Then-Prime Minister Jyoti Basu never visited Kalighat, but his wife did,” said Rajat Roy, a political analyst and member of the think tank Calcutta Research Group.
However, there are unconfirmed rumors of communist leaders who made visits at midnight away from the prying eyes of journalists.
Over time, Chatterjee said, “Instead of the devotee queues shrinking over the years, we find them increasing. The new generation of technology, with its entire base of scientific knowledge, has enthusiastically dedicated itself to worshiping the Mother. ”
The religious outpouring towards Kali, who according to historians was a local tribal deity co-opted in the Hindu pantheon, linked to Durga and made one of the presiding deities of the Shakta school, may, of course, have to do with a general increase in religiosity since the 1990s when the Indian economy started to grow.
However, Chatterjee claims that the financial difficulties and depressed economy that the country has been experiencing in recent years have also generated new devotees, whom even the pandemic has not been able to keep at home. “Those with problems come here in large numbers and it seems that the problems have increased,” he said.
Besides the commoners, the rich and famous of Calcutta and India have never hidden their pity for the Goddess. A slab in one of the smaller temples in the complex says that two brothers from the city Ruia The business family helped restore the ‘Manasa’ (snake goddess) temple.
Sebayits, who did not want to be named, said he understood that a Mumbai-based industry group wants to help renovate the sanctum sanctorum at enormous cost.
The original temple built on the banks of the Ganges has been rebuilt many times, the last possibly 200 years ago, while the river has moved east to merge with the Hooghly, leaving behind a slim and muddy stream, called ‘Adi Ganga’ (Original Ganges) flowing through it.
The goddess herself, called ‘Dakshina Kali’ (the dark one from the south) is made of touchstone with three eyes, a huge golden tongue and four golden hands. In one hand he holds a scimitar which means knowledge and in the other a head of ‘Asura’ (Demon) which means ego, which must be killed. Two other hands are in the mudras (gestures) ‘Abhaya’ (dispeller of fear) and ‘Varada’ (compassion).
The image of Kali in Kalighat, first mentioned in a 15th century literary and religious work ‘Mansar Bhasan’ and later in ‘Chandi Mangal’ written by the poet Mukunda Das, is believed to have received the final form of two monks : Atmaram Brahmachari and Brahmananda Giri.
Kali, the tribal deity, however, “makes its first major appearance in Sanskrit culture in the ‘Devi Mahatmya’ (Glorification of the Goddesses) section of the ‘Puranas’ around the 6th century,” said Professor Suchandra Ghosh, a former from the University of Calcutta and now with the History department of the University of Hyderabad.
The final whistle sounds, signaling to the devotees that it is time for Mother to have lunch and leave for the day.
The last remaining gang of devotees to tour the complex are chased away by temple administrators, past disinfection tunnels that lie broken, into a crowded, sunlit alley selling trinkets and trinkets. Memories including tiny miniature four-handed Kali, pausing in mid-step with her tongue hanging out, ashamed according to legend of having stepped on the body of Lord Shiva, in some ways similar to the way life has stopped for the pandemic that still endangers both atheists and devotees.

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