Kalighat Temple

Hindu Temple in Kolkata (Calcutta)
Image by Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images
Image by Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images

This ancient Kali temple is Kolkata’s holiest spot for Hindus, and possibly the source of the city’s name. Today’s version is the 1809 rebuild, with 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 with a gold-plated tongue. Behind the bell pavilion, goats are ritually beheaded on auspicious days to honour the goddess.

East of the temple is a pea-green ‘holy pond’, and by the sanctuary's north perimeter, a ‘tree of fertility’. Unless you're using their services to queue-jump into the central shrine hall, a donation of ₹50 is sufficient for any impromptu temple guide. Donating ₹51 is even better – giving a sum ending in one is considered lucky and implies that you are familiar with local customs.