You might say what’s special about this Kali temple. But it isn’t just another Kali idol in India. Standing beyond the barriers of cultural disputes and riots happening in and around the nation, this temple is one among the “Unity in Diversity” examples. Beyond all negative happening in the world, there is always some ray of goodness, probably a hope that mankind still exists in the world.
A close glance might not get you to notice it, but one look at the bhog (Prasad) being offered at the foot of “Ma Kali” in this Kali temple will get you thinking. Noodles, chop suey, rice and vegetable dishes are served at the feet of the goddess as bhog.
Located in the heart of Kolkata’s Tangra area-India’s own Chinatown stands this unique symbol of cross-cultural assimilation, called the “Chinese Kali Temple.” It not only bridges the divide between Chinese and Indian cultures, but also strengthens bonds within the Chinese community.
A 55-year old man shares his experience…
“Kali Puja is special for us. Our activities start early in the morning. Most of us have been given our responsibilities for the day. Some get the flowers, some fruits and sweets for the Prasad and a few oversee the preparations. The Pandit (a Bengali Brahmin) comes here every day for the morning and evening aarti,” says an enthusiastic Ison Chen.
On Kali Puja, most of the ethnic Chinese residents of Tangra take the day off and get together in front of the temple. Local Chinese residents usually pause, take off their shoes, and pray for a moment in front of the idol. In the beginning, it was just a couple of Sindoor-smeared black stones under an old tree. Local people worshipped these stones and Chinese followed the suit. Most of the Chinese here are Buddhists or Christians, but are great fans of the Kali temple.
The temple site is around 60-years-old and used to be a couple of Sindoor smeared black stones under a tree. People living there used to worship the stones. After a while, the Chinese followed suit. What made them do so?
The story goes that “a 10-year-old boy of the Chinese community was once very ill. Even doctors could not cure him. His parents had lost hope and lay him down near the tree and prayed for several nights at a stretch. A miracle happened. The boy got well, and the site became special for all of us. Most of us are Buddhists and some are Christians, but we are great fans of the Kali temple. We consider it an integral part of the community.”
Another quaint tradition is that of burning handmade paper to ward off evil spirits. Even the way in which the “pranaam” is done before the goddess is typically Chinese.
Women of the community are especially attached to the temple. “I had prayed to Goddess Kali for a son. On Diwali night, 10 years ago, I prayed for a bonny boy and the next day, Mark was born. So, this idol and the temple is of great importance to my family,” says Michelle Wong, who also has an eight-year-old daughter. Both mother-daughter visit the temple every evening for prayers despite the fact that they belong to the Roman Catholic faith.