Monday 28 January 2013

Noodles at Kali Temple

Kali temples are synonymous with Kolkata and temples dedicated to this Goddess are there in almost all localities in the City of Joy. Some of the best known Kali temples are located right in Kolkata such as in Kalighat, Dakshineshwar, Thanthania and Swayambhava near Bansberia localities.
However, there is one temple of Kali which is perhaps different from the rest. No, there is nothing unique about its architecture or its deity.  Nor can it be counted as among the biggest temples.
However, this temple has made a name for itself for its uniqueness. It is located at Tangra in Chinatown, situated 5km from the city centre of Kolkata.
By the way, the Chinatown in Kolkata is perhaps the only such Chinese settlement in India. You won’t find such a settlement elsewhere. The temple here dedicated to Kali too is unique.
Tangra is home not only to the largest concentration of Chinese in India but also to a large number of south Asians. It has a thriving leather business.
One of the most unique sights of China Town is the small temple of Kali. It is situated in the heart of Tangra. There is nothing distinct about the temple from the outside. But once you enter the premises, you immediately notice the difference.
The prasad or bhog at the temple is Chinese-noodles, chopsuey, rice-and vegetables dishes. None of these dishes are offered at any other Kali temple in Kolkata.
The Chinese Kali Temple, as the marble plaque so says, has also brought the Chinese community closed to its local neighbours. The Chinese too respect the Kali temple. When they walk past the temple, they remove their shoes and pray with their hands folded to Kali
The bond between the Chinese and Bengalis reaches a peak during Kali Puja. The Chinese join hands with the locals in celebrating the festival. They also gather to decorate the pandal, offer flowers to the deity and actively participate in other rites and rituals.
The temple is believed to be 63 years old. What began as two small idols beneath a peepal tree son transformed into a closed structure. A Chinese boy was rid of his illness after he and his parents prayed at the deity. This set off the legend of the Kali temple of Chinatown.
The idols are still there. Every Chinese family in Tangra is believed to have donated money to build the temple.
Deepavali is another day of celebration  for the Chinese and the Indians. In all, 2,000 members of both the communities gather here for the puja participate in pushpanjali and partake the prasad. By the way, the mantras and the manner in which the Kali puja is performed is completely Hindu. However, some Chinese customes too have become common.
The Chinese light  tall candles during Kali puja.  Besides, special Chinese incense sticks are prepared and lit. Handmade paper is burnt to ward off evil spirits.
The Chinese women seem to have taken more to Kali than their menfolk.
If you happen to visit Kolkata, take time off to stroll through Chinatown. It is reputed to serve authentic and tasty Chinese dishes. Check out some Buddhist temples too.

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