Kalighat Temple © Alice Popkorn
This 350-year-old temple dedicated to Kali is Kolkata's holiest site, attracting a throng of excited pilgrims every day. Visitors need to tip one of the priests in order to get inside through the mêlée of devotees. Inside the temple there are several shrines: a Krishna shrine where goats and buffalo are sacrificed to the goddess (the meat is distributed to the poor); a shrine to the goddess Manasa which consists of a tree, to which devotees (typically women) tie rocks with red thread in order to receive blessings, usually regarding fertility; a Shiva shrine with a Vedic fire pit in which a fire ceremony is performed daily; and, of course, a shrine to Kali which is a statue of the god with a three-eyed black skull and a long, golden tongue. Stalls selling votive items and various artefacts surround the temple. To avoid the worst crowds, the best days to visit Kalighat Temple are Wednesdays and Thursdays. Visitors are advised to take ample change (in Rs 10 denominations) to tip the various priests and ushers. Visiting the Kalighat Temple can be quite overwhelming as it is a chaotic place but it is a fascinating experience and a good way to be immersed in the local religion and culture.
Address: Just off Ashutosh Mukherjee Rd, South Kolkata