Thanthania Kalibari is one of the oldest religious sites in Kolkata. The temple is dedicated to Mata Siddheshwari, a form of Goddess Kali. Uncountable devotees from West Bengal and other parts of the country come here every year to offer their prayer. Historically Eastern India especially West Bengal has a vast follower of Shaktism which is a branch of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). According to legends, half of the fifty-one Shakti Peeths are in Eastern India. Among them, 13 are in West Bengal. So, it is normal for Bengalis to be ardent followers of Goddess Kali from ancient time.
The historical Backdrop for establishing the temple on the exact recorded document is mostly contradictory. The plaque on the top of the temple indicates the year of setting up of the temple is 1703AD. On the contrary, as per HEA Cotton’s Calcutta (now Kolkata), Old and New the Siddheshwari Kali idol at Thanthania on Cornwallis Street (Presently known as Bidhan Sarani) was established by Udaynarayan, one Brahmachari. After his death, a Haldar Brahmin took over the responsibilities of the worshiper. It was during the lifetime of Babu Shankar Chandra Ghosh of Thanthania erected the present temple in 1803AD. The above history of installation of the Kali idol among a dense forest and later the establishment of the temple by Ghosh family has been affirmed in books published by Ramakrishna Mission.
According to the rumours, once upon a time, this area was covered in dense forest and rambled by dacoits. To warn the nearby inhabitants, a bell was installed, and it was rung when dacoits attacked. The ‘than, than’ sound of the bell replicated. Hence, the name of the temple, ‘Thanthania’ has been nomenclature. Whatever may be the history behind its origin, it can be easily assumed that the site was a shrine of Mata Shiddheshwari, long before the present temple was erected. It is noteworthy to mention that Shree Shree Ramakrishna Paramhansa came here frequently when he was close by at Jhamapukur Lane, at Shri Ramprasad Mitra’s house in 1853AD.
The temple itself is an adequate structure over the main road, across the pavement. Very recent, the outside walls of the total construction have been encircled in tiles and the name of the temple has been embossed in metal in the year 2018. Inside the total construction, there are two temples—— one of the ruling deity Shiddheshwari Kali and the other is of Lord Shiva. Two marble tablets are there on the wall of the main temple——- one shows the name of the temple, Shree Shree Shiddheshwari Kali Mata(mother’s temple) and another one is “Kali resides in the heart of Shankar”(here, Shankar may refer to Lord Shiva or devotee of Kali and founder of the temple.)
There are three entrances to the main ‘Garbha Griha'(sanctum sanctorum) of the temple where the ruling deity, Goddess Kali is standing over Lord Shiva. There is also a small Shivlinga beside the idol and a statue of Shree Shree Ramkrishna Paramhansa inside the sanctum sanctorum. The sanctum sanctorum is easy to get entry through three gates and a flight of stairs. The construction of the temple bears the witness to the traditional old Bengali architecture, that is with the roof supported by wooden beams and four pillars. The Shiva temple is on the left of the main temple and it was constructed in the year 1706 AD.
A courtyard is there in front of the idol, and on the courtyard, there is a harikath(the sacrificial altar). The sacrificial altar is considered a very holy place. The three gates leading to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple have been decorated with solid silver plates embossed with images of Gods and Goddesses. The idol of this temple is made of clay and it is not remade every year. So, it is cleaned, repaired, touched with clay and painted every alternative period if required. The ornaments are of real gold and are adorned again on the re-touched idol. As a whole, the temple is well maintained and cleaned. The presiding deity is believed to meet all wishes of the devotees.
Worship Procedure of the temple
The Thanthania Kali Temple opens for seven days in a week. Daily it opens its door at 6:00 a.m. and remains open till 11:00 a.m. It reopens its door for the devotees at 3:00 p.m. and closes for the day at 8:00 p.m. Since the temple is a Tantrik temple, animal sacrifice is still continued on all no moon nights and during Kali Puja. Entry fees of this temple are absolutely free.
The Aarti is done here both in the morning and in the evening. After the hour-long evening, Aarati, ‘Bhog’ or ‘Prasad’ is available for which you have to buy token beforehand or on the spot. The ‘Prasad’ here is very delicious and loved by the devotees.
How to reach there
Postal Address: Bidhan Sarani, College Street Market Area, Machua Bazar, Kolkata- 700007, West Bengal.
The temple is on Bidhan Sarani, a major bus route, at some distance from the College Street- M.G.Road Crossing. Nearest Bus Stop is Thanthania Kalibari itself. The buses run to the temple, via Bidhan Sarani and M.G. Road are 47, S3A, S3B, 21, 28 and 44 and take from 33 minutes to 46 minutes from Sealdah. Fare is more or less Rs. 10. There is a huge auto service to the temple from Sealdah. Auto fare is almost the same as the fare of buses. ‘Cab’ service is also available from any part of Kolkata. The temple can be reached by Heritage Kolkata Tram from Esplanade Terminus running to Shyambazar Depot. Nearest Tram Stop is Thanthania Kalibari.
Kolkata Metro can reach you so easily and comfortably, but there is not any direct Metro station. The nearest Metro station is M.G. Road. Then follow Muktaram Baby Street till Bidhan Sarani(750mtrs.) and turn right, or riding the famous hand-pulled rickshaw of Kolkata.
Though this temple does not owe any mythological backdrop, it obviously carries a historical background yet. Since, the tenure of the establishment of this temple is contradictory, because of that it is not sure that whether this temple was during the British reign or not. Not only that, this temple started its journey along with an utmost significance of the world, especially of the Bengalis due to the mystic typification, Shree Shree Ramkrishna Paramhansa. At last, it will not be an exaggeration that this temple wields the thinking, feeling and emotion of the Bengalis.
Image courtesy: Biswarup Ganguly