These old photos of the Dakshineswar Kali temple under construction arrived via e-mail one morning. We took it as Sri Ramakrishna’s special grace. The courtyard has not been tiled yet, and construction workers still have their wooden tents in front of the temple.
It’s exciting to look at these photos and turn back time. The workers in the picture don’t yet know the impact the temple they are building will have on the world, but we know. Ma Bhavatarini Kali, the Great Goddess of the Universe, is about to awaken. Sri Ramakrishna, the modern avatar of unknowable depth, is about to arrive and demonstrate how to love God.
The photo showing the temple in its unfinished state, helps us better understand the difficulties involved with building such a large, beautiful compound. By Ma’s grace, the impossible is possible. Perhaps some day Kali Mandir will also be successful in building a large, beautiful temple for Sri Ma Dakshineswari Kali, hopefully at the location of Anneliese’s School where we hold our annual Kali Puja festivals.
Dakshineswar is a holy place where God likes Her temples to be built. This village sprung up around a Shiva temple built by the legendary King Banraja (king of the forest) who lived about a thousand years ago. Prompted in a dream, the king miraculously found a Shiva lingam which he then had installed by the name of “Dakshineswar.” To this day, Baba Dakshineswar is worshipped in a small temple on the banks of the Ganga north of the Kali temple. Sri Ramakrishna visited this temple during his stay in Dakshineswar.
King Banraja was not the only one who got prompted by God to build a temple in Dakshineswar. Rani Rasmani, a wealthy lady who lived at the Janbazar palace in Kolkata, also had a dream just as she was about to go on a pilgrimage to Benares. Ma Kali appeared in her dream and asked her to build a temple for Her.
After a long search, she bought a 20-acre plot of land along the Ganges in the village of Dakshineswar. The Rani hired the contractor Mackintosh & Co, and temple construction began in 1847. It took eight years at great expense to complete. Rani Rasmani spent 50,000 rupees for land, 160,000 rupees for building an embankment along the river, 900,000 rupees for the Kali temple complex and 226,000 rupees for property used as an endowment for the maintenance of the temple.
As the temple construction progressed, the Rani contracted a sculptor to make the Kali image. The image was finished but the Rani was still dealing with construction and not ready for the installation. One night, she had a dream. Ma Kali appeared and said, “How long will you keep me confined in a box? I feel suffocated. Install me as soon as possible.” When the crate which stored the image was opened, workers found the statue of Kali moist with perspiration. Ma Bhavatarini Kali was quickly installed with great pomp on Snan Yatra, May 31, 1855. Sri Ramakrishna’s elder brother Ramkumar officiated as the priest.
In the early 1900s, Ma appeared in a dream to Annada Thakur, an Ayurvedic doctor, saying, “I am Adyashakti and want to be worshipped as Adya Ma.” In another dream, Sri Ramakrishna told him to build a temple to Ma. Annada Thakur bought a plot of land in Dakshineswar and began construction of the Adyapith temple in 1928.
Dakshineswar today draws millions of pilgrims from all over the world who come to see Ma and get Her blessings.