No visit to Calcutta is complete without a day-trip to two of its most important Hindu temples and pilgrimage sites, and without a stroll along the city’s waterfront from Prinsep Ghat to Babughat – perhaps the most Romantic spot in the city to be in.
The Kalighat Temple sits in the suburbs of Calcutta, what is today’s South Kolkata. A metro ride will take you to within ten minutes walk of the temple. There has been a temple here dedicated to Kali since the 15th century, even though the present temple itself dates from the early 1800s.
The word “ghat” means a jetty or landing stage, and Kalighat is essentially a jetty on the banks of the Hooghly River dedicated to the worship of Kali. The worship of Kali is all-important in Calcutta, with some arguing that the name “Calcutta” itself probably derived from Kali.
For hundreds of years, pilgrims have been coming here to Kalighat to worship at the Kalighat Temple Complex and to bathe at the Hooghly River, on the steps of the ghat. The Kalighat also gives its name to a genre of hybrid-style figural painting known as Kalighat painting, which developed in the 1800s in the vicinity of the temple, and was known for its depiction of Hindu gods, goddesses and demons.
Near the Kalighat temple sits another extremely important landmark in Calcutta – the Nirmal Hriday, better known as Mother Theresa’s Home For the Sick and Dying Destitutes. Saint Mother Theresa opened this hospice in 1952 and remained in Calcutta till her death in 1997.
Further out from the city sits another important Kali Temple and site of pilgrimage. This is the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, rising like a surreal vision from its own ghat on the Hooghly River, in the suburbs of Dakshineshwar. The temple was built in 1855 and has nine spires in its main building – apparently a traditional Bengali style of architecture.
To get there, a short journey by car is needed. The journey will take you past the majestic Howrah Bridge and Howrah Railway station.
Prinsep Ghat to Babughat
Finish the day with a late afternoon stroll along the Hooghly waterfront, from stately Prinsep Ghat to Babughat. A delightful, and well-maintained esplanade, or boardwalk has been built here, allowing for a rather pleasant and quiet stroll. Many of the city’s denizens certainly agree, with families and dating couples appearing en masse to sit on the esplanade’s many benches and watch the sun setting on the horizon.
Near the end of the walk at Babughat, one comes across one of the few ghats still used for cremations in Calcutta. The sight of a body burning can be disturbing for some, but be respectful and avert your eyes if you do not wish to see it. Please also do not take photographs.