There is nothing different about the Kali idol. But one look at the bhog — noodles, chop suey, rice-and-vegetables dishes — and you realize this isn’t just any Kali temple.
In the heart of Kolkata’s Tangra area — India’s own Chinatown — stands this unique symbol of unity. The ‘Chinese Kali Temple’ (so the marble plaque says) is not only a bridge between Chinese and Indian cultures, but also strengthens bonds in the Chinese community itself.
For the rest of the year, even neighbours hardly get to see each other. But on Kali puja, most Chinese residents of Tangra take the day off and get together in front of the Kali temple. If you stand at the gate on any weekday, you would see Chinese men and women pause here, take off their shoes, and fold their hands and bow.
“Kali puja is special for us. Our activities start early in the morning. Most of us have been given our responsibilities for the day. Some get the flowers, some fruits and sweets for the prasad and a few oversee the preparations. The panditji (a Bengali Brahmin) comes here every day for the morning and evening aarti,” says an enthusiastic Ison Chen. The 55-year-old has been selected by the community to be in charge of the temple.
But how did the temple start off? The site is about 60 years old, says Chen. In those days, it was a couple of sindoor-smeared black stones under an old tree. Local people used to worship these stones. Seeing them, even the Chinese got attracted. “The story goes that a 10-year-old boy of the Chinese community was once very ill. Even doctors could not cure him. His parents had lost hope and lay him down near the tree and prayed for several nights at a stretch. A miracle happened. The boy got well, and the site became special for all of us. Most of us are Buddhists and some are Christians, but we are great fans of the Kali temple also. We consider it an integral part of the community,” says Chen.
by Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, courtesy: TOI