Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Nov 18, 2010

WANDRLUST: Dakshineshwar - In the laps of Kali Ma

On the day of Durga Puja, I will take you on a walk with me to the holy place of Goddess Durga / Kali Ma – Dakshineshwar Temple in Kolkata. One the most powerful temples, I have been too. This is also the place of Sh. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who was the guru of Sh. Paramahamsa Yogananda (who wrote the book “Autobiography Of Yogi” that brought Indian spirituality to the west) as well as of Vivekananda.

What is Durga Puja?
Durga Sculpture @ Chennai 
Durga Puja is about the worship of Goddess Durga, who is takes her fierce form to kill the demons. Durga Puja is widely celebrated in the India. Not only is it the biggest Hindu festival celebrated throughout the State of West Bengal, but it is also the most significant socio-cultural event in Bengali society. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival in Nepal and in Bangladesh. Nowadays, many diasporas Bengali cultural organizations arrange for Durgotsab in countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait, among others. In 2006, a grand Durga Puja ceremony was held in the Great Court of the British Museum.

To read more about Durga Puja check this article at Wikipedia...
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So here is my journey... Hope you enjoy it.


The Dakshineshwar Temple
On my way back from a project of Apollo Hospitals - Bhubaneshwar, I had an over night stop over at Kolkata due to non availability of direct flight to Chennai. So the best thing to do was to use this opportunity to visit Dakshineshwar Temple, which I relate to in a powerful way. The first time, I visited this temple, I had realised the energy this temple radiates and every time I looked for an opportunity to relive those moments of spiritual bliss and peace.

As my flight landed early evening, I had to rush to hotel and freshen up so that I can catch the evening aarti (A ritual where the Goddess, is worshipped with lamps, camphor and incense along with prayers invoking her blessings). By the time I reached the temple, a few KMs from the hotel I was staying, it was already dark and as this was around the time of New Year, had attracted large crowd. After the Aarti, I went to the hall that is directly in front of the Goddess and planned to sit there for some time meditating and mantra chanting.

Devotees gathering to sing songs for Kali Ma
The night was falling and devotees were slowly moving away for dinner and to be with the family and loved ones. As the temple emptied of the crowd, slowly the flow of the Holy River Ganges started reaching me, in its soft and soothing sounds. I started feeling the calm that spreads slowly within the heart. After a little while, I realised that there was some activity happening around me.  I opened my eyes to see soft smiles of some devotees, who were gathering near me. They were silently setting up some musical instruments like dhol (percussion drums), cymbals, flute, and as they got ready, few more joined them. Later on, I realised that they work in the offices nearby, and every festival season come over with their group to sing and dance in front of Goddess Kali. I was thrilled and waited patiently for them to start their Kirtan (Devotional songs and chanting). After a little while, softly they started singing, and beat by beat, it gathered momentum of devotion, minute by minute the frenzy of trance took over the group. I was lost in those beats too… 



Kali Ma

Here is one verse written that day in 2005 of the Magical Dance

Magic of Dance
_________
Sound of silence
Sound of conch
The sounds of drum beat
And reverberations of Om
Dances in circle, with group of devotees
A flaming fire, scent of incense,
Rhythms of heart beat – in depths of Trance
The chants kept melting in me
Till there was no ‘me’

I swirled with my hand outstretched
Round and round
Like the old mystic's; Sufi's
Floated within the group
Went high and higher in blissful dance
And slowly merged
In the consciousness
Of you and of me
In the Universe
Small enough to be with in me
In a little circle of dance

She took me in her arms
And went away to the stars
A long silver thread – umbilical chord
From her, bound me in the frenzy of dance
Some one still swirling within the circle, below
Singers still singing your song

Next day,
I woke up in the dew
That was hanging with the grass blade
Till sunrise touched
With morning rays
Awake within your love
I am lying still among the chants
__________________________
Shashi @ 2005

But before I get more into my journey let me give you the Temple’s historic significance and the great role it has played in Hindu Religious philosophy, through the power of Kali, the temple Priest Sh. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, his Guru’s and his disciples like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda etc.

Temple Dakshineshwar
The Temple:
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is a Hindu temple located in Dakshineswar near Kolkata. Situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, the presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, literally meaning, 'She who takes Her devotees across the ocean of existence. The temple was built by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali in 1855. The temple is famous for its association with Ramakrishna a mystic of 19th Century Bengal.

The temple compound, apart from the nine-spired main temple, contains a large courtyard surrounding the temple, with rooms along the boundary walls. There are twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva—Kali's companion—along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing Ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. The chamber in the northwestern corner just beyond the last of the Shiva temples, is where Ramakrishna spent a considerable part of his life.
Large gathering of crowds at Dakshineshwar temple
is common

Close to the main temple is the row of twelve identical Shiva temples built facing the east in the typical ‘Aat Chala’ Bengal architecture, they are built on either side of the Ghat on the Hooghly River.



Here let me give experience of Paramhamsa Yogananda at this particular spot in the temple from his great book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ (one of the major influences on the western worlds on Hinduism and India’s religious philosophy)



Paramhamsa Yogananda’s experience in meditation hall
From the book curtsey "crystalclarity publishers"

I proceeded alone to the colonnaded hall which fronts the large temple of Kali, or Mother Nature. Selecting a shady spot near one of the pillars, I arranged my body in the lotus posture. Although it was only about seven o'clock, the morning sun would soon be oppressive.
The world receded as I became devotionally entranced. My mind was concentrated on Goddess Kali, whose image at Dakshineswar had been the special object of adoration by the great master, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. In answer to his anguished demands, the stone image of this very temple had often taken a living form and conversed with him.
"Silent Mother with stony heart," I prayed, "Thou becamest filled with life at the request of Thy beloved devotee Ramakrishna; why dost Thou not also heed the wails of this yearning son of Thine?"
My aspiring zeal increased boundlessly, accompanied by a divine peace. Yet, when five hours had passed, and the Goddess whom I was inwardly visualizing had made no response, I felt slightly disheartened. Sometimes it is a test by God to delay the fulfillment of prayers. But He eventually appears to the persistent devotee in whatever form he holds dear. A devout Christian sees Jesus; a Hindu beholds Krishna, or the Goddess Kali, or an expanding Light if his worship takes an impersonal turn.
Old Image of  Temple
Reluctantly I opened my eyes, and saw that the temple doors were being locked by a priest, in conformance with a noon-hour custom. I rose from my secluded seat under the open, roofed hall, and stepped into the courtyard. Its stone floor was scorching under the midday sun; my bare feet were painfully burned.
"Divine Mother," I silently remonstrated, "Thou didst not come to me in vision, and now Thou art hidden in the temple behind closed doors. I wanted to offer a special prayer to Thee today on behalf of my brother-in-law."
My inward petition was instantly acknowledged. First, a delightful cold wave descended over my back and under my feet, banishing all discomfort. Then, to my amazement, the temple became greatly magnified. Its large door slowly opened, revealing the stone figure of Goddess Kali. Gradually it changed into a living form, smilingly nodding in greeting, thrilling me with joy indescribable. As if by a mystic syringe, the breath was withdrawn from my lungs; my body became very still, though not inert.
An ecstatic enlargement of consciousness followed. I could see clearly for several miles over the Ganges River to my left, and beyond the temple into the entire Dakshineswar precincts. The walls of all buildings glimmered transparently; through them I observed people walking to and fro over distant acres.
Though I was breathless and my body in a strangely quiet state, yet I was able to move my hands and feet freely. For several minutes I experimented in closing and opening my eyes; in either state I saw distinctly the whole Dakshineswar panorama.
___

The next day, as I started from my hotel for the morning Aarti, the light was just breaking over the eastern sky, ever crowded roads of Kolkata, were free and the cool air from Hooghly river was freshening. As I turned from the road to the bylanes of the temple, I had a perfect view of small shops full of flowers, specially the hibiscus flower that is the favorite of kali Ma. There was a large que of devotees and slowly as the line inched towards the temple, the sun rose up to great the river, the temple and the devotees…

The place where Ramakrishna Paramahamsa lived
The Darshan was the perfect and I still had the reverbarations from the experiences of yesterday night so, I enjoyed the feeling of closeness to Kali ma. After I have had the offering of the temple I went around the hall, the bathing Ghat and finally went to sit for some time in the place where Great Ramakrishna Paramhamsa used to stay. This room still contains the bed, where he used to sleep, the books and his wooden foot wear. Kept in the same condition since he left and many of the devotees come here to sit and be with his energy that is still present in the room. When I readhed there, there were already many devotees in meditation there and I cornered one space there and went into my own thoughts and meditation. In this room, the focus and peace comes very easy. Like Paramahamsa is guiding you…

A brief note on Sh. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
Excerpts and Images from Wikipdia – Click here to read full article

Sh. Ramakrisna Paramhamsa
Ramakrishna (February 18, 1836 - August 16, 1886) was a famous mystic of 19th-century India. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda[4][5][6][7] - both were influential figures in the Bengali Renaissance as well as the Hindu renaissance during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of his disciples and devotees believe he was an avatar or incarnation of God. He is also referred as "Paramahamsa" by his devotees, meaning "Great Swan".
Ramakrishna was born in a poor Brahmin Vaishnava family in rural Bengal. He became a priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali, which had the influence of the main strands of Bengali bhakti tradition. His first spiritual teacher was an ascetic woman skilled in Tantra and Vaishnava bhakti. Later an Advaita Vedantin ascetic taught him non-dual meditation, and according to Ramakrishna, he experienced nirvikalpa samadhi under his guidance. Ramakrishna also experimented with other religions, notably Islam and Christianity, and said that they all lead to the same God. Though conventionally uneducated, he attracted the attention of the middle class and numerous Bengali intellectuals.

Religious practices and teachers
Many of his religious views were based on traditional Hindu thought and practice. Ramakrishna’s personal and religious views focused on living a traditional life, with Hindu gods at the center. It was very much a philosophy of godly worship and dependence. He believed that everything in life–caste, wealth, family, and personal achievement–was already determined by the gods. Though in regards to other religions, Ramakrishna did not hold traditional biased views. He believed that every religion was welcome, and that worshiping a god in any way was better than not worshiping one at all. He became very known for his views on religious tolerance and was seen as a saintly figure to many because of them. His views of tolerance were also passed on through the Ramakrishna Mission and his followers.
Some Monastic Disciples (L to R):
Trigunatitananda, Shivananda, Vivekananda,
Turiyananda, Brahmananda.
Below Saradananda.

Bhairavi Brahmani and Tantra
In 1861, Bhairavi Brahmani, an orange-robed, middle-aged female ascetic, appeared at Dakshineshwar. She carried with her the Raghuvir Shila, a stone icon representing Ram and all Vaishnava deities. She was thoroughly conversant with the texts of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and practiced Tantra. According to the Bhairavi, Ramakrishna was experiencing phenomena that accompany mahabhava—the supreme attitude of loving devotion towards the divine and quoting from the bhakti shastras, she said that other religious figures like Radha and Chaitanya had similar experiences.
The Bhairavi initiated Ramakrishna into Tantra. Tantrism focuses on the worship of shakti and the object of Tantric training is to transcend the barriers between the holy and unholy as a means of achieving liberation and to see all aspects of the natural world as manifestations of the divine Shakti. Under her guidance, he went through a full course of sixty four major tantric sadhanas which were completed in 1863.

He also got initiated in other religious philosophy of India as well as Christianity and Islam through various Guru’s of his time.
____

After a while, I was out on the river bank doing my ritual of having a hot cuppa while wathing the people around … so here I leave you with those images from the place and hope that these and other images on the post inspire you to have a visit to the temple. And if you do plan to visit, please connect with me, I might come with you too… 


The bathing Ghat

Waiting in the Que

Ok! The Que


Many in their own world

The Kali Ma at Dakshineshwar Temple

On the banks of Holy River Ganges at Dakshineshwar Temple @ 2005

__________________
जय काली माँ
Jai Kali Ma
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