The heart of this vibrant riverside complex is the cream-and-red, multi-turreted 1847 Kali Temple shaped like the Sacré-Coeur. The site is where the Bengali mystic Ramakrishna started his remarkable spiritual journey, and his small room in the outer northwest corner of the temple precinct is now a place of special meditative reverence. No photos, and you'll have to deposit your shoes outside the complex. The periphery of the temple courtyard has a string of sanctums consecrated to Hindu god Shiva.

Several daily suburban trains from Sealdah run to Dakshineswar train station (₹10, 30 minutes), 400m south of the temple. A metro extension is due to reach the same point by 2017, but for now you can take the painfully slow DN9/1 from Dum Dum metro. Hourly ferries from a pier almost under the old Dakshineswar Bridge run to Belur Math (₹10). From around 200m further north, uncovered small boats do the same route much more frequently, but you'll have to sit in the sun (or rain), squashed with two dozen commuters for nearly half an hour. Bring a hat or an umbrella.