India is known around the world for its religions, mysticism and culture, in addition to Bollywood, delicious foods and pressing poverty. Religion takes up much of the everyday affairs of the Indian people, and religious centers are regarded as very important structures. One of the oldest major cities in the country is Kolkata (or Calcutta, its old name) and here you can find the famous Dakshineswar Temple or Dakshineswar Kali Temple.
This popular place of worship and prayer is located in Dakshineswar, just off of Kolkata on the eastern side of the Hooghly River. Dakshineswar is a small town, which is why this important temple stands prominently over all other structures here. The major deity venerated in the temple is Bhavatarini. It was constructed in 1855 by Ranu Rashmoni, a philanthropist and well-known follower of Kali. Dakshineswar Kali Temple is closely associated with the 19th-century mystic, Ramakrishna.
Other than a place of worship, the temple is a leading tourist attraction in the state of West Bengal. The temple has nine awe-inspiring spires and contains a spacious courtyard that surrounds the temple. The temple complex also houses a temple dedicated to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat, shrine dedicate to Rani Rashmoni (the founder), a special chamber where Ramakrishna stayed, and twelve shrines along the riverfront dedicated to Shiva.
When in Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal, visiting Dakshineswar is definitely a must. Below are tips on how to get there.
Local trains from the railway station in Sealdah at the heart of Kolkata go all the way to Dakshineswar. Another option is the Dankuni station in the Howrah-Bardhaman sector. Sealdah is 14 km away while Dankuni is 10 km away. There are also a few long-distance trains that pass and stop at Dakshineswar.
When driving to the temple, take the Barrackpore Trunk Road from Kolkata to the north and simply take a left turn to Dakshineswar just after Baranagore. There are also several buses that make this route if you wish to relax and let the professionals do the driving.
As you arrive at either the train or bus station, you can just walk to the temple if you wish. It is not far away. In fact, the town of Dakshineswar is so small you can walk to any tourist attraction in the area. If, on the other hand, you wish to reach the temple more leisurely and more culturally exciting, you can take either a cycle rickshaw or auto rickshaw.
Meanwhile, as a side tour or after you have visited the famous temple, you can go to other interesting landmarks and do other exciting activities. Boating in the Hooghly River is a popular activity here. From the temple ghat, you can take a scenic 20-30 minutes jetty ride from Dakshineswar to Belur Math, another important temple and tourist attraction to check out when in Kolkata. The best time to enjoy this ride is just before the sun sinks in the horizon. Enjoy a spectacular sight as the sun sets on the Hooghly River behind Vivekananda Bridge. This place is also best visited in winter.
To make the most of your visit, try some local delicacies from the many small restaurants and eateries around Dakshineswar Temple. There are also modern, inexpensive and comfortable lodge areas if you wish to spend a night or two.