Train Trip to Dakshineswar Kali Temple near Kolkata

We set out on the journey from Varanasi to Dakshineswar Kali temple in the vicinity of Kolkata. It was about 700 km. The first thing. It's not so easy to get a train ticket. You have to print the available schedules. You have to go to a special office. You have to ask for confirmation. You have to go back to the office where the ticket was taken to get the confirmation.

Wow. This is already tiring. But we follow the plan. Already in Varanasi (and hours away), the hotel boy tells us that the train does not leave where we thought it would go. That is, there are several railway lines, therefore, there are different train stations in each city. So we leave for Kashi.

And we also discovered that although we thought we were going to Dakshineswar, we were actually going to another station! Luckily not very distant, but all these things are unveiled on the fly. It made the trip an adrenaline pumping one. Ok, we go to the station in a Tuc Tuc. We arrive at the station at 3:00 p.m.

When we show the tickets to the stationmaster he tells us that the tickets are not confirmed! On our request, he again checks on the Internet and finally tells us that the tickets are confirmed. Ok, great. Only the train has a delay of one hour.

Ready, to wait. The man tells us to wait in the first class waiting room. It has a bathroom. It is not what one imagines in another place of the world. We must remember that we are in India.

Ok, all right. It is getting dark and the mosquitoes multiply in the waiting room! At 7:00 PM I go out to ask the man to tell us if our train is coming and he tells us there is another hour of delay! Luckily a nice gentleman enters, who asks us to look at his things while going to the bathroom. We thought he was a first-class passenger too.

He asked us what we did in India and we talked about Yoga and the ancient teachings of Indian culture. When he said goodbye to us, the station officer came in and a tremendous discussion ensued that attracted the crowd on the platform. There came a policeman and other people, and there was a moment of tension. It seems that this gentleman, although looked very distinguished, could not be in that first class waiting room.

Finally, they finished with laughter and hugs. The gentleman told us that he was proud of people like that station officer who was really taking care of us. Just the gentleman told us that it is a tradition in India to treat the guest as God, taking care of him and with respect. And this is true as we were able to experience it at each stage of the trip. While that thing is burdensome at any time of the trip we feel threatened by nothing, not even at night in the darkest places.

All this happened and We had not climbed the train yet! Finally at 20:15 after more than 5 hours of waiting the train arrived. Already on the train, the trip was transformed. It is a cabin for four people. They give sheets, pillow, blanket, and the bathrooms are fine. They bring Indian style, red hot but very rich dinner.

Lying horizontally is priceless, and rocking on the train even if it's not a perfect sleep is great. So, this trip that supposedly would take us to Dakshineswar at 7:20 in the morning, would take us to Kolkata at 12:00 noon. It is not so serious. Only 5 hours of waiting and 5 hours of delay. India is India.

On the outskirts of Calcutta is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. To get there I took a suburban train to Belur and traveled for more than an hour. This crossing helped me to see the less touristy side of Calcutta. In fact, I was not sure of the distance of the journey and I was surprised at how far I ended. From Belur station, I walk to the Belur Math and then climb on a boat across the Hooghly river to Dakshineswar.

More than one reason led me to visit this famous temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. On the one hand, it was the abode of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, whom I had listened to a lot, especially in my house. Sri Ramakrishna was a priest who lived in the nineteenth century and spent most of his life in charge of the Dakshineswar temple. He was an enlightened soul who generated a great spiritual movement in West Bengal and, eventually, in India. In addition, his philosophy is disseminated in various parts of the world.

The incredible and holy life of this man is portrayed in many books. During the life of Sri Ramakrishna, a Mission was not officially formed and his teachings were limited to those who could come into direct contact with the saint. It was only after his death in 1886 that his main disciples considered the creation of a formal organization.

Anyway, there was a stronger reason that led me to visit the temple. Swami Vivekananda is the name of the one who is considered the main disciple of Ramakrishna. He was also the promoter of the monastic group and the spokesman of his teachings, especially in the West.

Swami Vivekananda was also a Bengali and was the one who represented Hinduism in the first Parliament of the World's Religions, held in Chicago in 1893. Because his speeches were very successful, he was invited to give lectures throughout North America and also in Europe. In this way, he contributed to the spread of the spiritual philosophy of India in the West. After that first visit to the West, Swami Vivekananda returned to India, where he founded the Ramakrishna Mission in 1898 in Belur Math nearby.

There was still one more reason that had led me to visit this temple. It was the goddess Kali, also known as Mother Goddess. There are two basic ways to explain who is Kali. One way is used by Steven Spielberg in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It portrays Kali as a goddess of death and dark idol of a sect of religious fanatics with a lugubrious voice. This is beyond the Hollywood fantasy. In fact "Help" by The Beatles also refers to a goddess very similar to Kali), to the fierce aspect of the goddess.

Therefore, the visit to the temple of Dakshineswar was something inescapable that was very connected with various parts of my upbringing. Religion is one of the main motors for the inhabitants of India who base their day to day life and in many cases the whole life in the faith.

The impressive temple of Dakshineswar is one of the wonders that Kolkata offers us, showing us first-hand the importance of religion for the locals. Built in 1847 and dedicated to Kali, the beauty of this temple exceeds expectations, both for its color and its location on the banks of the Hooghly River.

It is said that Ramakrishna began his spiritual adventures in this temple. Currently, it is possible to visit the room where this "mystic priest " in a more than reduced space made his prayers and meditations. The congregation of people is spectacular especially on weekends when whole families come to make their donations and prayers.

The union of the temple with the river is important, so much so that many of the faithful take the opportunity to take a bath in the "ghat" that gives access to the Hooghly to be purified as if it were the Ganges river.

The Dakshineswar opens its doors from 6.30 am to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 20.30. The admission is free. But I was not the only one who had a special interest in this place. Thousands of pilgrims arrive each day to, after making a long line and hold some pushes, bring their offering to the statue of the goddess Kali.

On the day of my visit, it was drizzling. The site is next to the Hugli River, an arm that derives from the Ganges River. The temple dedicated to Mother Kali is not so big. There are small temples for other deities and many green areas.

Later I took the opportunity to enjoy the Rasmalai as a dessert. I walk to the Temple of Belur Math and then return from Belur by bus to Esplanade.
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