Friday, 17 February 2012

Kali-kata (Kolkata)

I've visited Kolkata several times, as (rather fittingly) it is the birthplace of my Mother. The city is believed to have gotten it's name from one of Bengal's most prevalent deities, it's modern version being thought to be derived from the ancient Bengali term 'kalikkhetro' meaning 'field of the goddess'. On my most recent visit to Kalcutta I honoured this history and my curiosity  and visited the Kalighat temple, the place believed to be the site where the Goddess' toe fell.

This temple was the busiest place i have EVER been.!We (me and a brave Uncle who'd allocated himself the duty of showing me the Kalighat in all it's glory) had to make our way through markets surrounding the temple, selling garlands, pigment, idols and offerings for the goddess- a trail of saffron red and incense smoke leading us to the Goddess. We left our shoes with a stall-holder and continued into the temple barefoot, petals and dust sticking to the soles. The temple was an outside enclosure full of people worshiping and queuing to view the idol of the Goddess. There were so many people, you would be lucky to glimpse the Goddess inside, draped in her garlands and cloths, but all you needed was to see her eyes to feel her presence. We battled the crowds and for once being a westerner seemed to have it's advantages, as the priests at entrance of the Goddess' chamber grabbed my hand and dragged me through so i could glimpse her. A seconds look and that was it, a glimpse of red eyes through the smoke and there she was. I was snatched away by my uncle to move up some stairs to catch a glimpse of the full figure of the Mother from further away. As some devotees shuffled out of the way I had another second with Kali before my forehead was smeared with sandal wood and we scurried to the exit, avoiding grabbing hands from beggars and the pools of blood left behind the mornings animal sacrifice.

And after all that, without being Hindu or indeed religious in any way, i admit to feeling Kali's presence. Whether it was the atmosphere of the hoards of devotees, clanging bells, chanting and grappling to look into her eyes, or the Mother herself with red eyes gleaming, there was something real...

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