As the popular coinage goes – “Jai Kali Kalkatta Wali” – Kali and Kolkata are synonymous for most. The legend of Kali occupies a good part of Bengal’s cultural existence. For some, she is a fierce Goddess, the slayer of demons, and for some, she is a mother, just another member of one’s own family.
There are hundreds of Kali temples across Bengal and innumerable legends associated with each one of them. But there are some consistent rituals that form the core of Kali worship in the eastern state.
Such common practices bind the most revered Kali temples in the state – like Kalighat, Tarapith or Dakshineswar.
Kalighat, Kolkata: At the 200-year-old temple, considered to be one of the 51 Shaktipeeth’s in the country, animal sacrifice takes place every day, say priests of the temple. The same is generally brought by devotees who pledge it to the Goddess. Later, the meat is cooked and offered to devotees as prasad. However, the Devi here is offered a vegetarian spread while her accomplices – Dakini and Yogini – are given the non-veg procured from the sacrifice.
Tarapith, Birbhum: Another Shaktipith in Bengal, at Tarapith, priests say that, as per Tantra, both fish and meat sacrifices are offered to the Goddess as bhog. In fact, “Karan Sudha”, or alcohol, is necessary. But apart from this, there is also a separate vegetarian and fruit spread.
Dakshineswar, Kolkata: At Sri Ramakrishna’s Dakshineswar temple, the Goddess is offered fish every day in the form of bhog. However, no animals are sacrificed here.
Thanthania Kalibari, Kolkata: At the 300-year-old Thanthania Kali temple in north Kolkata, no bhog of the Goddess is complete without fish. On every full moon, animals are sacrificed and offered to the Goddess by the temple or whenever a devotee pledges one here. However, the sacrificial meat isn’t cooked here at this temple but given away to the devotee who pledges it.
“At Tarapith, while on the one hand, vegetarian food is offered to the Goddess, fish and alcohol are also needed as per Tantra. The animal sacrificed by devotees after their wishes are fulfilled is offered to the Goddess. The Goddess has been worshipped with these from ancient times. Whatever devotees offer the Goddess with devotion is served as bhog,” Taramoy Mukhopadhyay, a sevayat of Tarapith told India Today TV.
“In tantra sadhana, there is a practice of giving alcohol and meat. Only the ones who indulge in such practices of tantrik philosophy can answer why such practices happen,” scholar Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri told India Today TV.
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