From being one of the prominent centres of the First War of Indian Independence dating back to 1857 to the strategic venue of Lucknow Pact in 1916, the 1920's Khilafat Movement and eventually the power centre of India's most populous state, Lucknow has evolved as an important destination on the nation's political landscape. While some of the monuments still exist to narrate their tales of glory, others have faded into oblivion.
One of these historical places, which has grown with the city since the First War of Indian Independence and has been witness to each and every development that the city underwent in its odyssey, is the Kali Bari. A temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, which is barely six years younger to the famous revolt, which shook the foundation of the British Empire. Located in the by-lanes of Ghasiyari Mandi, this temple not only commands the devotion and faith of thousands of devotees, who flock here frequently to seek solace to their woes, but has also played a major role in improving the social and educational atmosphere and infrastructure of the city.
And as the nation today stands on the threshold of attaining 65 years of freedom, this temple enters into its 150th year of existence. Tuesday would indeed be a proud moment for the temple management as well as the devotees, as the 149th Praan Pratishthaa Diwas would be celebrated with full religious fervour. Special worship of Shri Shri Shavshiva Mata has been planned for this occasion. On Monday, the temple formally kicked off the 150th year celebrations with a programme of devotional songs, dedicated to the goddess.
Former deputy director of Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, PK Maithy, who is now the secretary, board of trustees, Kali Bari Temple Trust, says, "In the past, Kali Bari not only remained a centre of religious functions, but also was the epicentre of various ideations, which had a major impact on the educational and social set-up of the City of Nawabs. The Canning Collegiate Primary School was started here in the memory of Lord Canning, which in due course of time evolved into well known Canning College, the main constituent college of Lucknow University. The Hindu Girls' School initiated at Kali Bari temple is now known as Mahila Mahavidyalaya. Another educational institution, which owes its genesis to the temple, is the Mahakali Paathshala, which subsequently bifurcated into Boys' Anglo Bengali Inter College and Harimati Girls' School. AP Sen Memorial Post Graduate College is the current incarnation of the Harimati Girls' School. The foundation of Friends' Gaiety - the precursor to Bengali Club and Young Men's Association also took place here."
The temple land of KBTT was obtained from the then military municipal committee, Lucknow. At that time, the small Bengali community of Lucknow had acquired the land under KC Chatterjee working in military accounts commissariat.
"On August 18, 1864, the military municipal committee passed a resolution (number 104) and granted plot number 312, Ghasiyari Mandi to the Bengali community for the installation of a temple of goddess Kali and to carry out religious and other charitable activities. In the beginning, the idol of goddess Kali was installed in a small room with thatched roof. This idol was in the traditional standing posture," said the secretary, board of trustees, KBTT.
When asked to elaborate on the current idol of the goddess is sitting posture, Maithy said, "The idea of the present idol was conceived by Madhusudan Mukherji, who was employed as the first priest of the temple. It is said that Madhusudan drew this inspiration from a divine dream. The present configuration of the celestial idol has Lord Shiva in nishkriya (inactive) manifestation supporting Mahakal over whom the eternal mother is seated. The entire set-up rests on a 'Panch-Munda Asan' made up of five human skulls. The present temple structure was built in 1904-05 by donation from the maharani of Darbhanga. The construction of the temple was completed by Shaligram, a local contractor."