Kali Ghat, Kolkata - part 2

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Kali Ghat in Kolkata with its many temples will remain for me a dense conglomeration of scared spaces. An intertwining, overlapping mesh of invisible fields of energy dense with centuries of folklore of legendary ascetics, their gods and their devotion. And you as a lay person you will not see any of that. What you will see is tiny streets crammed with shops selling everything from flowers to idols to jewellery and temple and pooja (prayer) accessories cheek by jowl with homes and mini temples. Temples filled with many idols of hindu golds of various sizes and histories. You will see idols on the river banks, below trees and all have their share of worshippers. And if you even have an eye if not the knowledge of the stories that make this place, you will see interestingness. You will see people alive with a gentleness and a sense of humour and a genuine warmth. This might entirely have everything to do with your genial host who is a regular on those streets. But you will never know. 
Dithi Mukherjee. I will be forever indebted to this artist who showed me Kali Ghat through her souls eye. We didn't speak much about Kalighat before or after we went there, but I know this place informs, nurtures and nourishes the space from which she creates.
This post is in a way many stories, but each of it is a facet of Kalighat - some fascinating, some funny, some profound, but all of it enriching and visually stunning.
This is what drew me to the place - the walls that are alive with the folklore of the Goddesses. Kolkata is a land of artists and devotees and while the rest of India in waking up newly to street art, this place has owned this genre of work in its own way a long time back.
 Bamakhepa and his beloved Goddess Tara Ma.

At Mayerghat, I noticed four murtis depicting the mythological couple, Savitri and Satyavan. These idols receive offerings of bright red kumkum (pigment powder) and prayers from married women seeking the longevity and well-being of their husbands. " You can read more about Kalighat and the Satyavan Savitri story here.

 Talking of what awaits you round a street corner, we were met with this sudden commotion and we stopped to see this little lad, wearing a hibiscus garland and sitting in the lotus position, on seeing us and other bystanders, an entire basket of hibiscus and incense appeared.
 And someone started chanting a Kali prayer. Where upon the boy seemingly went into a deep prayer mode.
We were cracking up and Dithi quickly got into the act and bent to take the little saint's blessings

From there we passed through the bazaar which sells all kinds of brass lamps, plates, from little brass thrones to kumkum, anything at all to do with Hindu prayer rituals, you name it they had it.

At the home of the oldest priest in Kalighat
We were about to enter the home of the oldest priest in Kalighat. It was quiet and they were many kittens around. That is the moment when I discovered the hopeless animal lover in Diganta Gogoy,  who couldn't be tempted to come in, so transfixed was his camera on them. Leaned againt the compound wall were these statues of untold age.

We walked into an open home - this could be a temple, infact it was a temple, just that people lived in this temple. Each of them old. We walked into see that in front of a large idol of Durga, the old old priest was in conversation with a couple and the lady was in the middle of a meltdown, we could not hear what was happening and it seemed impolite to look, so we focussed on the outer area where on the left was a cluster of idols of Puri Jagannatha and many other idols. There was a profusion of hibiscus or lal joba, which is a chosen flower of worship in Kolkata.
The lime green walls were decorated with paintings of Ganesh, Kali and Krishna

Another unlit room housed this altar in the far corner. God knows how old these idols were, and worshipped by how many generations of priests.
The hibiscus waiting in piles to earn their place at the feet of their chosen God. And by this time my time to meet the priest had come. He was small, frail and stooped. So standing  tall and meeting him seemed inappropriate. I kneeled. I wanted to see his face better.
His eyes were deep set and hidden in the shadows of deep sockets and age. And yet the gentleness and love was unmistakable. He placed his hand on my head. 

It is difficult to put in words what one sees or feels when confronted with a person who
has prayed all their life. It is not everyday that one comes up close to so much compassion and love.
This is really the heart of Kalighat. 

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