PILGRIMAGE TO SRI RAMAKRISHNA

 

 

[Last updated: 1st September 2014]

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I went to Kolkata for two weeks in January 2002 on a personal pilgrimage to see the Dakshineswar Kali Temple and other sites associated with the life of Sri Ramakrishna. The months from November to February are dry and pleasantly warm by European standards and definitely the best time to visit. While there, I took a variety of digital photographs which can be seen below (click on the thumbnails to view the enlarged image). Wherever photography was not ordinarily allowed, photographs were only taken with explicit permission of the head Swami - except at Belur Math where photography is not allowed at all. These photographs are offered freely and without copyright as a tribute to all devotees of Sri Ramakrishna to use as they please, and perhaps to inspire them to make the same pilgrimage. Any queries or comments may be sent to me, Alan Perry, at info@dhyanacentre.org


Map of Dakshineswar Kali Temple Gardens Riverside view of the temple gardens Main Ghat at Dakshineswar
A useful map of the Temple Garden, with grateful acknowledgement to the Vedanta Society of Southern California
Riverside view from Vivekananda Bridge. This calm water frontage is in stark contrast to the pandemonium on the road side of the Temple Garden
The best way to arrive - by boat. The busy main ghat is used only for bathing (boats land at the Bakultala ghat). The Chandni leading to the Temple courtyard can be seen at the top of the ghat steps
The main road entrance to the Temple Gardens Temple Courtyard in the early morning Kali Temple with Vishnu temple in foreground
The main entrance for arrivals by road (seen at an uncharacteristically quiet time)
The Temple courtyard in the early morning, looking north towards Ramakrishna's room. This is the best time to visit Dakshineswar
Early morning view south across the courtyard, with the Radhakanta Temple in the foreground
Shiva Temples on the Ganges side Kali Temple with queues developing Dakshineswar Kali, Bhavatarini
The twelve Shiva Temples on the west (Ganges) side of the courtyard, each with a large lingam and yoni installed. The continuous sounding of their bells is a magical feature of the overall ambience
The Kali Temple, with typical queues starting to build up as the morning progresses. The moorti itself faces south (i.e. right in this picture) but can also be approached from the west
Official photograph of Ma Kali, the moorti installed at the Dakshineswar Temple, technically known as Bhavatarini
The Nahabat where Sarada Devi lived Sarada Devi's small room in the Nahabat The Kuthi, mansion of the proprietors
The south side of the Nahabat, where Sarada Devi lived in a small room on the ground floor
Sarada Devi's tiny room on the ground floor of the Nahabat, now a shrine
The Kuthi, formerly the mansion of the proprietors where Ramakrishna lived for many years, now in a delapidated state and used mainly as a police post
Porch overlooking the Ganges South-East verandah leading to Ramakrishna's room North-east and north verandahs
The porch on the west side of Ramakrishna's room, overlooking the Ganges
The south-east verandah, facing the Temple courtyard, leading to Ramakrishna's room at the end
The north-east and north (smaller, right) verandahs outside Ramakrishna's room
Inside the north-east verandah Looking into Ramakrishna's room Magazine cover showing Ramakrishna's room
Inside the north-east verandah, looking towards Ramakrishna's room
Looking into Ramakrishna's room from the north-east verandah. Quiet meditation is sometimes possible here, especially early in the morning before the crowds arrive
The cover of this Temple guide book gives an accurate image of Ramakrishna's room in its current semi-museum state
Remains of the Panchavati Panchavati and the meditation hut Banyan tree where Ramakrishna performed austerities
What remains of the Panchavati, originally planted by Ramakrishna. This was once a thick jungle where he performed intense sadhana
The Panchavati and the brick meditation hut built to replace the mud hut where Ramakrishna performed his advaitic sadhana
Next to the Panchavati, the banyan tree underneath which Ramakrishna performed austerities; now a favoured picnic site
The pine grove The Goose Tank The Bel tree where Ramakrishna performed his tantric sadhana
The pine grove at the far north of the Garden, now with a modern structure added. This part of the property is carefully tended and the public are not allowed off the pathways
The Goose Tank with one of the many monkeys that reside in the Temple Garden. What were originally orchards are now car parks
In the most remote part of the Garden is the bel tree where Ramakrishna performed his tantric sadhana, now walled in as 'Pancha Mundi' shrine
From the bel tree looking back towards the Panchavati Jadu Mallick's garden house The Shyampukur house
From the bel tree looking back across the Garden and Goose Tank towards the Panchavati. The meditation hut can just be seen in the middle of the picture
Behind the Temple compound is the garden house formerly owned by Jadu Mallick, where Ramakrishna often went in his earlier years
The Shyampukur house in Calcutta where Ramakrishna lived for 70 days between leaving Dakshineswar and moving to Cossipore
Entrance to the Shyampukur house Cossipore Garden House, where Ramakrishna died Mango tree at Cossipore
The entrance to the Shyampukur house, now a Ramakrishna Math. Ramakrishna lived on the first floor, which has been turned into a shrine
The (rebuilt) Cossipore Garden House where Ramakrishna lived for eight months. He passed away in the first floor room, now a major shrine
The mango tree (a cutting from the original tree planted on the same spot) at Cossipore, beside which Ramakrishna gave a special blessing to his lay devotees on 1 January 1886 (Kalpataru Day). The scaffolding is left over from the annual celebrations
Balaram Bose's house Drawing room inside Balaram's house Inner verandah at Balaram's
Balaram Bose's house in north Calcutta, Ramakrishna's "chief vineyard" according to M., where the Master regularly met with his devotees (in the long drawing room, first floor with verandah)
The drawing room at Balaram's house. Ramakrishna often met his devotees here and he slept in the small room at the end
The inner verandah at Balaram's house. The original small Car pulled by Ramakrishna around this verandah during the Jagannath Festival can be seen in the corner
Kamarpukur, house of Ramakrishna Birthplace Temple at Kamarpukur Haldarpukur tank
The small house at Kamarpukur where Ramakrishna lived (centre). The family shrine is on the left, birthplace temple on the extreme right
The small temple that now stands on the spot where Ramakrishna was actually born
The Haldarpukur, the tank where Ramakrishna bathed and played as a child
Sarada Devi's house at Jayramabati Temple to Holy Mother at Jayrambati Approach to Belur Math by boat
Sarada Devi's house at Jayrambati (centre) where she lived for much of her life
The temple to Holy Mother Sarada Devi at Jayrambati
Approaching Belur Math by boat from Dakshineswar (about 2 miles). The three temples on the bank are those of (l to r) Swami Vivekananda, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Brahmananda. The Ramakrishna Temple can be seen behind
Morton Institution M.'s room at the Morton Institution Entrance to M.'s house, Kathamrita Bhavan
The Morton Institution, now a primary school, where M. was headmaster and used to meet his own devotees
M.'s private room on the top floor of the Morton Institution, now a shrine
The entrance to M.'s house, now called the Kathamrita Bhavan, where the 'Gospel' was written in a small study on the top floor

 

ADVICE TO WESTERN VISITORS

Up until 2009, there was no guide book for visitors to the Ramakrishna sites [although the book 'Sri Ramakrishna's Dakshineswar' by the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, Delhi, was extremely useful]. However, there is now an official guide entitled "Belur Math Pilgrimage", written by Swami Asutoshananda and published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. The PDF version of this book can be downloaded from the Belur Math website by clicking here.

All the sites photographed above (and various others, the above selection is not complete eg. Holy Mother's house etc.) can be found by perseverance and the assistance of local people both monastic and lay who always seem pleased to help Westerners who are interested in Sri Ramakrishna. Most of the sites are now run as Maths by the Ramakrishna Order and Belur Math is therefore an obvious central point for any pilgrimage. Westerners are fairly rare beings at Dakshineswar and therefore the object of some curiosity. Nor are there facilities of the type that Westerners tend to expect and it is important to be self-sufficient (although the cafes do sell acceptable tea and coffee). Dakshineswar itself can be extremely crowded, especially on weekends and holidays, and early morning visits are recommended if you wish to avoid this. Be careful if you decide to give money to beggars in the Temple grounds: news travels fast and you can end up being mobbed.

Trips out of the city eg. to Kamarpukur, are easily arranged and it is not expensive to hire a car and driver for the day. There is no hotel accommodation of Western standard in or near Dakshineswar (NB. this was true in 2002 but the situation may have improved since then...) and Westerners would be advised either to stay at the Belur Math hostel or in hotels in central Kolkata which are relatively cheap and plentiful, especially around Sudder Street. Travel to Dakshineswar is easy by taxi or by Metro to Dum Dum then cycle-rickshaw: neither avoids the noise and pollution but the latter does minimise it. By far the best way to travel to the Kali Temple is by boat on the Ganges to/from Belur ghat (click here to see an amateur video of this journey made by Atma Jyoti Ashram) but you still have to take a taxi to/from Belur which is on the opposite ie. Howrah side of the river.

 

OM namah sri bhagavate Ramakrishnaya namo namah!