Dakat Kali Bari (Dacoits’ Kali Temple) of Purna Das Road, (earlier Manoharpukur Road) Kolkata had a very old history. The present temple that we see was formally built in 1891. But the deity of Goddess Kali made of kasti pathar (touch stone) was much older than the temple. It was said that this Kali was worshipped by Manohar Bagdi or as he was popularly known as Manohar Dakat (dacoit).
The present temple was built by Kamakha Charan Mukhopadhyay, a sadhu, in the last decade of the nineteenth century. According to Sri Kallol Bhattacharjee, the present sebait of the temple, Kamakha Charan had a dream in which Goddess Kali told him that she is not getting worship and, accordingly Kamakha Charan built the temple. There was a Shiva linga outside the temple.
The area where the temple stands today is a posh area of South Kolkata; but the picture was completely different during the days of Manohar Bagdi. It was the middle of the eighteenth century just after the battle of Plassey when one side there was lawlessness and fear of dacoits and on the other there was fear from the wild animals and snake. During that time this area was a dense forest and not only that there were swamps, narrow canals. This area was basically a forest of hogla trees. No one as such lived here. But there lived a dacoit named Manohar.
During those days people and pilgrims used to come to Kalighat to offer puja to Goddess Kali and mostly they prefer Adi Ganga, because the available routes were mostly through the forests and there may be chance they may fall prey to the dacoits.
Manohar used to live in a small mud hut with thatched roof along with his old aunty. He was unmarried. There was a very old Kali Temple close to his hut. Sacrifice was performed. According to Sri Bhattacharjee, Manohar was a follower of Goddess Kali and before undertaking a burglary plan Manohar along with his team worshipped the goddess; probably they had a notion that they would attain power after performing the worship. Human sacrifice was performed; though later there was animal sacrifice; but now it was completely stopped. There was a well, though now in a disused condition, was once used by the dacoits for bathing.
Previously there was a pond on the back of the temple from where Kamakha Charan discovered Goddess Kali. Worship is performed here on a daily basis but special puja was held every month on the day of Amavasya (new moon). After the death of Manohar, his adopted son Haradhan worshipped the goddess and later Kali was worshipped by Kamakha Charan Mukhopadhyay. I visited this temple on a number of occasions but much later I came to know that this Kali Bari was Dakat Kali Bari and the dakat is none other than Manohar.
Banglar Dakat – Jogendranath Gupta.
I am also indebted to Sri Kallol Bhattacharjee, Sebait of the Temple.
Date of posting: 7th September, 2018.