Mandals’ “Raas Mandir” temple built in 1847, which inspired Rani Rashmoni to built the famous Dakshineswar Kali Temple, later in 1855.
Nearly 170-year-old temple which was constructed by Mondal family on the southern part of Kolkata (Tollygunge) was the inspiration behind the famous Dakshineswar Kali Temple built by Rani Rashmoni. Temple built in the nine spires style of architecture (the Naba Ratna chura style) built by Mondal family, will immediately remind you of another temple – its globally famous cousin, the Dakshineswar Kali temple.
Dakshineswar Temple built by Rani Rashmoni in the year 1855 (Mobile photo)
The Mondal family of Bawali, near Budge Budge, owned nearly 250 villages all over South 24-Parganas and was known to be one of the most influential zamindars from the Mughal times through the British period. They started off as revenue collectors for the Mughals. A branch of that family moved out of Bawali and settled near Tollygunge to look after the estates of the family there. Some of the better known scions of the branch of the family that settled in Tollygunge are Chandrakanta, Pyarelal and Ramlal. They were held in great esteem by the British.
The temple, which is eight years older than the Dakshineswar temple, was built in 1847 by Pyarelal Mondal. Legend has it that one day, while Pyarelal went to bathe in the Adi Ganga (which was clean at that time), he found two Radha-Krishna idols in the water. These he brought back and decided to build a temple around them. A 10-bigha plot of the estates was immediately set aside and the temple, with nine Shiva temples and a sanctum sanctorum for Radha-Krishna in the centre, was built. A Radha Madhab Jiu trust was formed as the guardian of the temple and the deed gave clear instructions that the prajas (subjects), most of whom were potters who had settled there from Benaras (Varanasi) should be involved in the day-to-day festivities around the temple.
Around this time, Rani Rashmoni was one of the most powerful zamindars of Kolkata and other zamindars vied with each other to form marriage alliances with her family. Rashmoni chose to have her great granddaughter, Nagendrabala Dasi, married off into the Mondal family of Tollygunge. She would naturally frequent the Mondals’ Tollygunge residence and was quite fascinated with the temple. She would take a boat ride on the Adi Ganga, disembark at the Ras Mandir ghat, pay respect to the deities and then go to visit her great granddaughter. She is said to have been so fascinated with the nine spire ( ‘Nava-ratna’) style of the temple that she decided to buy 60 bighas of land near Dakshineshwar and set up a Kali temple there. What she thought, she did. In the year 1855 the Dakshineswar temple was built by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali. the presiding deity of the temple is Bhabatarini, an aspect of Kali. The temple is famous for its association with Ramakrishna, a mystic of 19th Century Bengal. That is different story.
“We have all grown up listening to this story .Unfortunately, ours is almost forgotten today .We are in dire need of help to bring the temple back to glory ,“ rues Sandip Mondal, a member of the Mondal family. Despite this, be it Janmashtami, Raasotsav or Rathayatra, the entire community of potters settled around the temple is involved in the preparations, just as the Mondal family is. In fact, today, by the family’s own admission, the trust is no longer financially able to support the day-to-day expenditure that goes into the elaborate puja paraphernalia. “The four-time aarti and prasad was always a massive affair and we used to feed hundreds of people here. Today that is no longer possible. On top of that, the temple is in a pitiable state. Chunks are falling off every day and a massive restoration is required,“ points out Shashanka Chakraborty , the temple priest. The damage is more than evident in the once-opulent structure that is crying out for repair. (source : toi)