Kalighat Temple

sights / Religious

Kalighat Temple information

Opening hours
5am-10pm, central shrine closed 2-4pm
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This ancient Kali temple is Kolkata’s holiest spot for Hindus and possibly the source of the city’s name. Today’s version, a 1809 rebuild, has floral- and peacock-motif tiles that look more Victorian than Indian. More interesting than the architecture are the jostling pilgrim queues that snake into the main hall to fling hibiscus flowers at a crowned, three-eyed Kali image. There’s no need to join them to feel the atmosphere. Behind the bell pavilion but still within the mandir complex, goats are ritually beheaded (generally mornings) to honour the ever-demanding goddess, or, as a local guide described it, to buy ‘God power’. To the direct east is a pea-green ‘holy pond’ and just by the north perimeter a ‘tree of fertility’.

Unless using their services to queue-jump into the central shrine hall, there’s no need to make more than a token donation to the impromptu temple guides: ₹10 or ₹20 should be fine while ₹11 or ₹21 is even better – giving a sum ending in one is considered lucky and implies that you are familiar with local customs. It also prevents unscrupulous scribes adding extra zeros into the donation book after you have left exaggerating your gift to naive future visitors.

The temple is hidden in a maze of alleys jammed with market stalls selling votive flowers, brassware, religious artefacts and pictures of Kali. From Kalighat metro station (with its four-storey Mother Teresa mosaic) walk towards the putrid Tolisnala Stream where Shanagar Burning Ghat hosts an impressive gaggle of monuments celebrating those cremated here. Turn north up Tollygunge Rd, which becomes Kalighat Rd after one block. The temple is to the right down the footpath beside Nirmal Hriday . That’s Mother Teresa’s world famous, if surprisingly small, home for the dying, its roof corners pimpled with neo-Mughal mini-domes.

Further north up lively Kalighat Rd, after it curves across Hazra Rd, you’ll find numerous image makers; less famous but almost as intriguing as those in Kumartuli.