A Grade-I heritage under Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the Kali Temple of Bamondas Mookerjee of 85, Cossipore Road, Kolkata – 700002 houses the idol of Kripamoyee Kali and Shiva lingas of Durgeswar and Kshetreswar – all made of kasthi pathar (touchstone).
Bamondas Mukherjee (1845-1921) lost his father at the age of seven. Though after his father’s death, Bamondas along with his mother sought the refuge of his uncle; but ultimately they began to live with the Daw family of Jorasanko. There he was adopted by a widowed daughter of the family. Mookerjee was inclined to opt for business. His luck favoured and he purchased three cottahs of land at Baranasi Ghosh Street and built up his own house. Later he was granted a piece of colliery land at Sitarampur by Maharani Swarnamoyee of Cossimbazar. This land did magic for him as it yielded superior quality of coal, thereby enabling him to amass a huge fortune, so much so that he was known as ‘King of Black Diamond’. But once reaching the pinnacle of success, Bamondas was quite disinclined to make more fortune and instead took the task of renovation of natmandir at the Kali Temple of Kalighat.
In 1894, he purchased 35 bighas of land from a British attorney named John Hurt where he built a thakurbari, Kali mandir and garden. In 1904 Bamondas Mookerjee built a nabaratna (nine pinnacled) temple and installed the deities of Kali and Shiva. The Shiva lingas are named after his parents. To the left of Goddess Kali and by the side of the road is the Siva linga of Durgeswar and on the right is the Siva linga of Kshetreswar. All the three deities are made from a single touchstone. He had a dream from where he came to know that a huge chunk of touchstone was lying at the garden of the Daw family (south of Belur Math) by the side of the Ganges at Belur in Howrah.
The temple had a central courtyard. The cast iron columns and steel joists were procured from Birmingham in England and the marbles from Italy. The temple is well maintained. The temple is currently looked after by a trust set up by Bamondas himself in 1909. Daily worship is performed here and the main festival is Kali Puja. Bali or sacrifice is not practiced here. Bamondas gifted several of his properties in Calcutta and also zamindari rights of Howrah, Hooghly and Barddhaman to the trust for upkeep and daily worship of the deities.
I visited this Kali bari quite often and, on one occasion, I was told by Shri Ashim Kumar Mukherjee, great grandson of Bamondas Mookerjee and current Managing Trustee of the temple that the detities (Kali and Shiva lingams) have PAN Card and regular filing of Income Tax is being done for more than seventy years.
Apart from puja, yatra, cultural functions and tubri competitions were organised here till a few decades back. The temple also houses a nahabatkhana where nahabat was played. But the practice was stopped for more than a century.
The temple also witnessed a grand reception of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose by locals on being elected President of Indian National Congress in 1939 and there is a plaque outside the temple mentioning the incident.
1. Bangsha Parichay (Volume: 5, 1333 Bangabda (1926)) by Jnanendra Nath Kumar.
2. Anchalik Ithihaas Baranagar (Volume: 10, 1415 Bangabda (2008)) by Ajit Sen.
Date of posting: 31st October, 2018.