By Swami Harshananda
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Visiting a famous place of pilgrimage at least once in a life-time has been a great ambition cherished by all devout people. Many of these pilgrim centers have acquired their importance due to their intimate association with great saints and religious leaders and one such place, of a rather recent origin, is Daksiṇeśvara, which is now a part of the city of Kolkata. Due to its close connection with the life of Śri Rāmakrsṇa (A. D.1836-1886), it attracts thousands of votaries and visitors throughout the year. As one enters the temple complex from the riverside through the ghāṭ on the eastern bank of the Ganges river, one comes to the main portico called ‘Cāndni’. On either side of it are the Śiva temples, six to the north and six to the south which are all identical.
Holy Spots in the Temple of Daksiṇeśvara
The holy spots in the campus are:
Goddess Kālī Temple
Goddess Kālī temple was built by Rāṇi Rāsamaṇi (A. D. 1793- 1861), a rich landlady, in 1855 and is the center of attraction. The goddess is known as ‘Bhavatāriṇī’, ‘redeemer from the sufferings of the world’. The deity has been carved out of a single piece of basalt and faces South. The deity is standing on the chest of Śiva (her spouse), who lies prostrate on a thousand-petaled silver lotus. The height of the image is 85 cms. (33.5 inches) and the shrine-room is 4.5 meters (15 ft.) square excluding the raised plinth. The overall height is more than 33 meters (100 ft.). It is open on all sides. It faces the main shrine known as Nāṭmandir (literally, ‘dance- hall’).
One has to cross the open courtyard to reach the temple of Kālī, the main shrine.
Open on all sides and facing the main shrine is the Nāṭmandir (literally, ‘dance- hall’), measuring 22.5 meters (75 ft.) by 15 meters (50 ft.). It is meant for meditation and religio-cultural activities like devotional music, dramas and dances with religious themes.
Behind the temple of Kālī stands another temple dedicated to Kṛṣṇa in his Rādhākānta aspect. The images of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā are 55 cms. (21.5 inches) and 40 cms. (16 inches) respectively.
Śri Ramakṛṣṇa Room
Śri Ramakṛṣṇa spent nearly thirty years of his life in that room. The room is about 7 meters (24 ft.) square. The two wooden cots, one smaller than the other, which he was using have been preserved. The room opens to a semicircular verandah to the west which faces the Ganges river.
The Nahabat or music tower is to the North of Śri Rāmakṛṣṇa’s room. It has an octagonal room on the ground-floor measuring 2.3 meters (7.75 ft.) across. The entrance door is hardly 1.2 meters (4 ft.) in height. Śrī Sāradā Devī (better known as the Holy Mother) lived in this room. Candrādevī, mother of Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa, lived on the first floor.
The Bakultala-ghāṭ is the bathing ghāṭ close to the Nahabat of the Ganges river, which Śrī Sāradā Devī used to use.
The Pañcavaṭī Tree
The Pañcavaṭī is a grove of five sacred trees intended as a place for spiritual practices. It was renovated by Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa himself.
The Bel Tree
The Bel tree which is a little away from the Pañcavaṭī is the tree under which Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa practiced severe tāntric disciplines guided by Bhairavī Brāhmaṇī.
The Meditation Room
The small cottage is the meditation room where the great saint attained Advaitic samādhi under the guidance of the monk Totāpurī.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore