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Kaleshwar - the tallest Siva temple of West Bengal, India

Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.

Kaleshwar - the tallest Shiva temple of West Bengal

Kaleshwar temple

Kaleshwar temple

Key words (vernacular words in italics)

Shiva, Shivalingam, Swayambhu, Gauripatta, Vishnu, Bhairab, Parvati, tallest, temple, Pancharatna, Rekh deul, Charchala, Ashtadhatu, Chaturdashi.


Introduction

There are temples, and there are tall temples. But whenever one talks about the "Tallest" temple, a lot of probable controversies come into play. The first of these is (the temple is) dedicated to which god/goddess? The next inevitable question is (the temple is) of which place or region - a town? A district? A province/ A country? Or the world?

And the final question is what is the reference?

So, when I talked about the tallest Shiva temple of West Bengal, two of these questions are automatically answered. And for the reference, now-a-days it is the internet.

After this short introduction, I'll say that the tallest Shiva temple of West Bengal is Kaleshwar Shiva temple in the village of the same name in the district of Birbhum, West Bengal, the main tower of which is about 109 feet tall.

Some of the tall Shiva temples of West Bengal

These are :

1. Kaleshwar - District Bitrbhum - 109-110 feet
2. Jotar Deul - South 24-Parganas - 30 metres (98 feet).
3. Dabukeswar - district Birbhum - 80 feet.
4. Siddheswar temple of Bahulara, district Bankura - 19.2 metres (63 feet)
5. Ichhai Ghosh's Deul - district West Bardhaman - 18 metres (about 60 feet).

Incidentally, the 160 feet tall Birla temple of Kolkata is basically a temple dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana, though it has a Shivalingam as an additional deity.

Photos of some tall Shiva temples of West Bengal

Ichhai Ghosh's Deul; West Bardhaman district

Ichhai Ghosh's Deul; West Bardhaman district

Siddheswar temple, Bahulara; Bankura district

Siddheswar temple, Bahulara; Bankura district

Kaleshwar temple; Birbhum

Kaleshwar temple; Birbhum

The tallest temple of India

The tallest Shiva temple of India

The New Vishwanath temple or Birla temple inside the premises of Baranasi Hindu University (BHU) is currently the tallest Shiva temple of India with a height of about 250 feet.

Vrihadeeshwarar temple of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu , with a 208 feet tall Vimana (the tower over the sanctum) was previously the tallest Shiva temple in India.

Currently the tallest temple of West Bengal as well as of India is the Temple of Vedic Planetarium of Mayapur, District Nadia, West Bengal which has a height of 113 meters (367.25 feet).

Vrihadeeshwarar temple

Vrihadeeshwarar temple; Thanjabhur, Tamil Nadu

Vrihadeeshwarar temple; Thanjabhur, Tamil Nadu

Where is Kaleshwar?

Kaleshwar is a village in Mayureswar II tehsil (Block) in Birbhum district of the state of West Bengal. The village code of Kaleshwar is 316712. It is situated about 38 km from district headquarters Suri and 16 km from sub-district headquarters Kotasur. Sainthia is the nearest town situated 11 km from Kaleshwar.

The Kaleshwar Shiva temple is situated about 1.5 km from the Sainthia - Baharampur main road.

Kaleshwar temple : mythology

It is said that the temple is about 500 years old. As per the local mythology, a sage named Parvat Rishi lived here. He was an ardent follower of Goddess Parvati (Durga). At that time the village was called Parvatipur. It was a densely forested area. Goddess Parvati with her divine consort Lord Shiva came to reside in this area as per the request of Parvat Rishi.

According to another story, a pious Shiva-devotee named Kalesh Ghosh of the nearby Dhamgara village was able to please Lord Shiva who agreed to come and stay in this place. As Shiva appeared here at the ardent request of Kalesh Ghosh in the form of a self-manifest (Swayambhu) Shiva Lingam, He came to be known as KALESHWAR or KALESHNATH, meaning the Lord of Kalesh, the devotee.
Later, a temple was constructed over the Shivalingam and the temple was also called Kaleshwar/ Kaleshnath temple, and the village Kaleshwar.

Kaleshwar temple : history

No doubt there was an old temple here, which was in a dilapidated state. In the 17th century CE, Ramjivan Ray, the king of nearby Dheka, renovated the old temple. In addition, he constructed a number of smaller temples around the main one. These were dedicated to Bhairab, Basudeva, Chandrachuda Shiva, Annapurna etc.

After the demise of Ramjivan Ray, the temples were left unattended for a long time. Gradually, they became dialpidated and were abandoned. In 1332 Bangabda (1926 AD), a sage named Dwarikanath Devatapaswi from nearby Dakshinkhanda village came to stay in this place. He established his hut (Ashrama) in the North-East corner of the temple premises and founded a committee under the leadership of Nabin Chandra Dubey of nearby Bhagabatipur village to look after the temples. The committee appointed Akinchandra Das, an inhabitant of a nearby village Kashipur, to reconstruct the main Kaleshwar temple. The job was completed after 15 years in 1941 AD. The fund of about 1 lakh rupees needed was mainly donated by Maharaj Dhirendranath Ray of Murshidabad. He also donated the metallic (alloy of 8 metals or Ashtadhatu) statue of Goddess Parvati.

Kaleshwar temple : Architecture

The present temple of Lord Kaleshwar is brick-built and is a Pancharatna type of temple with flat roof (Pancharatna means temple with 5 towers). Here, the 5 towers (Ratna-s) are arranged in 4+1 pattern (4 smaller towers at the four corners of the roof, and the main tower placed centrally. The main tower is 109-110 feet tall, thus making it the tallest Shiva temple in the state of West Bengal. All 5 towers are Rekh deul (ridged turret) type.

There is a flat roofed rectangular Mandapa in front of the temple.
The entrance to the temple is through a 5-arched doorway guarded by two tall columns which look like Corinthian columns.
Inside, there is a small veranda. Then there is the single entry-door to the sanctum guarded on either side by murals of Bhringi and Nandi, the two companions of Lord Shiva. On the top of the entrance, there is a small idol of Lord Ganesha.

The sanctum is large, with the Shiva Lingam at the centre inside a depressed area. On the wall just opposite to the entrance, there is an idol of Lord Hanuman.

The walls of the sanctum are decorated with colourful murals of gods, goddesses and stories from Hindu mythology.

Kaleshwar temple : architecture

Kaleshwar temple with 5 towers (Ratna-s) and the Mandapa in front

Kaleshwar temple with 5 towers (Ratna-s) and the Mandapa in front

Kaleshwar temple : 5-arched entrance with two Corinthian type columns

Kaleshwar temple : 5-arched entrance with two Corinthian type columns

The entrance to the sanctum with murals of Bhringi and Nandi on either side

The entrance to the sanctum with murals of Bhringi and Nandi on either side

Idol of Lord Hanuman inside the sanctum

Idol of Lord Hanuman inside the sanctum

Murals on inner wall of the sanctum

Murals on inner wall of the sanctum

More murals on inner wall of the sanctum

More murals on inner wall of the sanctum

Kaleshwar temple : The Shiva Lingam


The Kaleshwar Shivalingam is said to be self-manifest (Swayambhu). The shape of this Shivalingam is not like the standard phallic type. On the other hand, it looks like a massive incisor tooth made of brownish stone placed on a large circular black stone which is said to be the Gauripatta. It is not clear whether this peculiar shape of the Shivalingam was from the start, or the original Shivalingam was partly destroyed (the adjacent Vishnu temple houses a stone Vishnu idol whose hands were broken, presumably by Kalapahar, the infamous Muslim general who destroyed a large number of Hindu temples and idols).

Kaleshswar Shiva Lingam

Kaleshswar Shiva Lingam (marked by arrow)

Kaleshswar Shiva Lingam (marked by arrow)

Other temples in the complex

There are some more smaller temples in the premises of Kaleshwar temple.

These are :
1. Bhairab temple : Directly in front of the main temple there is an old Pancharatna type of temple housing a standard Shivalingam. The Shiva here is Bhairab Shiva. It is said that this temple was built by king Ramjivan Ray in 17th century.
2. Chandrachuda temple No.1 : This Charchala (4-roofed) type of temple, situated on the North-west corner of the area houses another Shivalingam called Chandrachuda Shiva.
3. Chandrachuda temple No. 2 : This is a small charchala (4-roofed) temple on the eastern side housing a small Shivalingam.
4. Vishnu temple : adjacent to the temple number 3, there is a small Dalan type (flat roofed buliding) temple. This temple, though small in size and looks unimpressive from outside, houses a beautiful stone-made Vishnu idol in standing posture, accompanied by two female idols, both in standing posture, on either side, and a composite figure of a man riding a lion over an elephant in sitting position, again with a human figure on it's back, on the right side of the Visnhu idol.
Sadly, the hands of the main idol of Vishnu as well as the backdrop structure are broken.
There are also a number of broken idols inside the temple, dumped to one side of the floor.
5. Annapurna (Parvati) temple : Adjacent to the Vishnu temple, there is another Charchala (4-roofed) temple which houses an idol of Goddess Annapurna.
6. The Samadhi temple (mausoleum) of the sage Dwarikanath Devatapaswi who was the main force behind the reconstruction of the temple of Kaleshwar in recent times is at the North-East corner of the complex. This is again a Pancharatna type of temple. Inside the sanctum, there is the statue of the sage in the sitting posture.
7. There is another very small temple near the huge pond which lies on the east to the temple complex. It is also called a Bhairab temple, housing a small Shivalingam.

Satellite temples at Kaleshwar

Bhairab temple

Bhairab temple

Chandrachuda temple No.1

Chandrachuda temple No.1

Chandrachuda temple No. 2

Chandrachuda temple No. 2

Annapurna (Parvati) temple

Annapurna (Parvati) temple

Basudeva (Vishnu) temple (on left)

Basudeva (Vishnu) temple (on left)

Damaged Vishnu idol, Kaleshwar

Damaged Vishnu idol, Kaleshwar

Broken sculptures kept inside the Vishnu temple, Kaleshwar

Broken sculptures kept inside the Vishnu temple, Kaleshwar

The Samadhi temple (mausoleum) of the sage Dwarikanath Devatapaswi

The Samadhi temple (mausoleum) of the sage Dwarikanath Devatapaswi

The statue of the sage Dwarikanath Devatapaswi

The statue of the sage Dwarikanath Devatapaswi

The big pond on the north-eastern side of the temple complex

The big pond on the north-eastern side of the temple complex

Kaleshwar temple : main festival

Shiva Chaturdashi in the month of March-April is the main festival here, when a week-long fair is organized. Thousands of devotees from far and near attend this festival and the fair.

Conclusion

Kaleshwar temple is an important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, besides being the tallest Shiva temple of West Bengal. However, it is not very well known among the general public. It definitely deserves more attention by the devotees and the tourists in general.

Reference :

1. Personal visit and views of local priests.
2. Different internet sites.

Photos : Author

© 2021 Dr A K Chatterjee

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