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Kalighat Temple Liu, Liwen


Kalighat Temple is a Hindu temple situated in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The temple name is a Bengali compound made of Kālī—the name of a Hindu goddess—and ghāṭ—the landing stage of a river. Kalighat temple, conforming to the name “the landing stage of Kālī”, is situated beside the Adi Ganga River, the old course of Hooghly river, which is an eastern distributary of the sacred Ganges. The Kalighat Temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kālī, a powerful goddess associated with time, death, and destruction in Śakti tradition. Kālī is also considered an incarnation of goddess Satī, whose myth gives sanctity to the Kalighat Temple. It’s widely believed that the right toes of Satī fell in the position of Kalighat, and the relics of Satī’s body are alleged to be found in the Kundupukur tank of the Kalighat Temple. Due to this connection with the myth, Kalighat is listed among the fifty-one śaktipīthas (seats of goddesses), which are pilgrimage sites for goddess worship. Built in the 19th century, Kalighat Temple is a temple complex that hosts not only Kālī, but also Śiva, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, and other local goddesses of Bengal. Nowadays, thousands of devotees visit the Kalighat Temple daily to worship and receive the grace of goddess Kālī. As one of the religious centers of Kolkata, Kalighat attracts pilgrims from all over West Bengal and India. In addition to its religious importance, Kalighat Temple is also a thriving economic body, depending on which thousands of sevāyets (temple proprietors), pāṇḍās (priests), shop owners, hawkers, and beggars earn a living. Kalighat Temple is well-known for its animal sacrifice. Goat sacrifice, namely pāthābali in Bengali, is performed daily in the temple. One goat is sacrificed every day at noon as the midday meal for goddess Kāli, who is pleased by offerings of blood and flesh. In addition to this regular daily sacrifice, more goats are immolated if devotees come to make goat offerings. Buffalos are also sacrificed during the Durga Puja. The sacrificial violence strongly contradicts the non-violence upheld in mainstream Hinduism, attracting wide criticism from orthodox Hindus, vegetarians, animal lovers, and modernizers. Despite controversies incurred within the Hindu tradition and in the public sphere, animal sacrificial is still performed today as a living tradition in Kalighat Temple, providing an example of how the sacrificial killing prescribed in the medieval scripture Kālikā Purāṇa is performed in contemporary practices.

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