City of Joy – P Seeks Divinity

You’ve read about my Day Three in Kolkata; now read a detailed account of my 4th & last day.

The Goddesses & Swamis wanted me to visit their abodes. The rain took a break & I made a voyage to the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir, a Hindu navratna temple.

From there, Alam bhai drove me to the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission. After the hustle bustle of Dakshineswar Mandir, the Math was an oasis of calm!

As soon as I stepped out of Belur & sat in the cab, it began to rain again! I’d planned to visit the Eco Park but had to drop that. Instead, I headed back to the hotel, packed, partook of the lunch buffet & checked out.

On the way to the airport, I stopped at Mishti Hub (read review here). Lounging at the Vistara lounge & then being pampered in the business class brought to an end a fabulous trip!

Dakshineswar Kali Mandir

Dakshineswar Kali Mandir has a spiritual & a socio-political history. In the early 1800s, Dakshineswar was a small village before Rani Rashmoni, a devout believer of Goddess Kali, built the Mandir here.

The night before Rani Rashmoni was to leave for Varanasi to worship Goddess Kali, she had a dream. In her dream, the Mother Goddess asked her to build a temple near the river Ganges rather than going all the way to Varanasi.

And so, the Dakshineswar Mandir came into existence. The mystic sage and reformer Ramakrishna Paramahansa and his wife Sarada Devi are also associated with it.

Sri Ramakrishna’s elder brother, Ramkumar Chattopadhayay, was appointed the head priest. Sarada Devi stayed south of the music room, which is now a shrine dedicated to her.

Rani Rashmoni wanted the Kali Mandir to be open to people from all sects of the society, something that holds till date.

To enter the main Dakshineswar complex, I needed to deposit my cell phone & shoes. A nominal fee was charged for the same. I then got confused regarding the mask mandate because everyone I saw in the security line was wearing a mask.

I contemplated taking back my shoes & returning to the cab to get my mask. While I was wandering around in the larger complex thinking my course of action, I realised that I was mistaken – there was no mask mandate!

Thus, after a security check, I entered the Mandir complex & immediately gasped at the spectacle in front of me. The main temple is glorious! I took my time walking around & admiring the brill architecture.

I queued up to enter the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir & after a bit of pushing & shoving Indian style, I was in front of the idols of Goddess Kali & Lord Shiva. They are standing on a lotus made out of silver.

Having bowed my head, I exited towards the 12 small Shiva temples facing the Dakshineswar Mandir. These are constructed in the typical Bengal architecture style. A Radha Krishna temple is also located here.

In spite of the chaos that usually surrounds Hindu temples, I manage to find my sense of calm in them. I roamed around the Kali Mandir premises & even in the middle of the hustle bustle, I felt alone. Alone, not lonely!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Belur Math

There’s a convenient boat ride from Dakshineswar Kali Mandir to Belur Math. Boats ferry frequently & for a reasonable fee. But as I’d a dedicated cab, I went to Belur by that.

The Math is the core of the Ramakrishna movement & was an oasis of calm. Alam Bhai dropped me at the gate from where it was a nice, serene walk with different Math buildings on both the sides of the walkway.

Unfortunately, the Ramakrishna Museum was closed due to it being a Sunday.

Sri Ramakrishna Mandir

So, I proceeded to the Sri Ramakrishna Mandir which resembles a temple, a mosque, & a church, if seen from different angles. Its facade has Buddhist influences. The central dome has Renaissance architecture influence.

The Mandir is built of chunar stone. Inside, pillars in a line on both sides are in the Greek style. The hanging balconies are in the Mughal style. On top of the Temple is a golden kalash with a lotus below.

I sat inside & meditated for some time. Thoughts of my mausa (uncle) kept popping in my head. He used to be a follower of the Ramakrishna Mission; we lost him in 2021. He’s in the forever philosophical grounds; discussing ideologies with Sri Ramakrishna & Swami Vivekananda!

Sri Ramakrishna Temple, as seen from the souvenir shop

Swami Vivekananda Mandir

Going ahead, I came to the Swami Vivekananda Mandir which was undergoing a renovation. It stands on the spot where Swamiji’s mortal remains were cremated.

Swami Vivekananda died at the age of 39. Interestingly, he’d prophesized that he’ll not live to be forty-years old!

Holy Mother’s Mandir

The Mandir is over the area where Sarada Devi’s mortal remains were cremated.

Swami Brahmananda Mandir

The Mandir was built on the place where Swami Brahmananda (a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna) was cremated.

Belur Math conducts relief work, rural uplift work, spiritual & cultural activities, and more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Sri Ramakrishna Mandir, as seen from the Swami Vivekananda Mandir side

Kava

Kava is the all-day diner at Fairfield by Marriott. I demolished three breakfasts, one lunch & one dinner here! It’s an elaborate vegetarian & nonvegetarian buffet spread.

You can easily find international selections, street food, Italian, Indian & Asian fares here. At every meal, I was totally spoilt for choice. For me, one of the highlights was always the live counter. I specially loved it when they put together chaat for dinner & prepared Wai Wai for breakfast.

The other highlight, & this goes without saying, was the range of confectioneries & desserts. The lunch buffet I’d on my final day, I found Brownie & Poha Kheer to be so tempting! (In the same meal, the Fish Begum Bahaar was finger-licking.)

The atmosphere is appealing. The staff is resourceful. Sunipa, one of the staff members, seeing that I was dining alone, made me feel comfortable. For all my three breakfasts, she specially made Cold Coffee for me. On coming to know that I was in Kolkata for sightseeing, she arranged a special Bengali dinner for me. This included delights such as Begun Bhaja, Jhuri Aloo Bhaja & Kosha Mangsho.

I recommend Kava; it’s certainly an ultimate culinary getaway!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Vistara Lounge/ The Irish House

I’d a business class ticket which meant that the formalities at the airport took barely a few minutes. I made my way to the Vistara Lounge which is located within The Irish House.

I grabbed a corner table & read a book. The décor is a typical The Irish House one. Everything, apart from alcoholic beverages, are complimentary. I packed away some Chiri Bhaja & Dry Jhaal Moori, more out of boredom than hunger.

The Irish House doesn’t have an ensuite toilet. You’ve to step out & walk along the corridor to get to the common facility.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Vistara Business Class

As of today, Vistara is the best airlines in India. Its economy class itself is first-rate. Hence, I knew I was in for a bosting time in the business class. I got priority handling for my luggage.

My seat was a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. The Italian leather seat was very comfortable, with generous leg room. I crammed down a gourmet vegan meal.

The hospitality was outstanding. I hope I get to take more business class flights in the future!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thoroughly restful – that was my last day in Kolkata. Back with an itinerary soon!

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