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Best Religious Sites in Kolkata

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Belur Math is an architectural beauty situated on the western banks of the Hooghly River. Marked by several domes placed in aesthetic harmony, Belur Math is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. The two institutions are dedicated to 'Vedanta', a Hindu philosophical sect, and strongly promote harmony across religions and boundaries. Ramakrishna Math, a monastic organization and Ramakrishna Mission, a society dedicated to philanthropic activities, together have 171 branches spread across India and other parts of the world. Inside Belur Math, temples honouring Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda can be found, all melodiously reflecting different architectural styles and religious details. Swami Vivekananda, who oversaw the construction of the temple complex, used symbols from Christianity, Islam as well as Hinduism as reminders of Ramakrishna’s message. The 40-acre complex also houses the Ramakrishna Museum and a book store. Built-in 1938, Belur Math is the most important pilgrimage destinations in Kolkata and is usually visited along with Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, Path Bari and Kancher Mandir. You can visit all of these by using the Jetty service available outside Belur Math.

One of the biggest mosques in India, the Nakhoda Masjid, originally a lot smaller, is exemplary of the beautiful Indo-Saracenic school of architecture. The majestic red sandstone structure was constructed on the lines of Akbar's tomb in Agra, while its gateway is a replica of the famous Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri. The mosque holds weekly prayers in its spacious hall, welcoming a large numbers of devotees. During festivals, the mosque wonderfully dons neon lights and flowers and the whole area seems to take life. Governed by a board of trustees, the Nakhoda Masjid is a major tourist attractions in the city.

The Indian goddess Kali is a quintessential part of Kolkata and its people. One of the most religious sites in West Bengal, the Dakshineswar temple complex is marked by a traditional Bengali Navaratna, or a nine-spire style devoted to Kali and her many manifestations, specifically Bhavatarini. Skirting the resplendent shrine is a troupe of several other, smaller temples, including the nine Shiva Temples and the Radha Krishna Temple. Shades of red and yellow define the Dakshineswar Kali Temple and the colorfully-clad pilgrims make it quite an intense and interesting palette. Also known to have been a spiritual leader and mystic Rama Krishna Paramahansa's abode for a certain period of time, the temple also shelters a white shrine, comprising the statue of Rani Rashmonin Devi (who was responsible for building the temple), in its courtyard. The temple, at once, strikes as an elegant, palatial structure, and is home to a large parking lot that accommodates the regular flow of devotees. The waters of the Hooghly River and the Vivekananda Setu form the backdrop of the temple which is well-renowned for its deeply-entrenched fondness for the revered yogi and mystic Ramakrishna. Standing proudly on a pedestal which is led by a flight of stairs, the temple is visited by a number of pilgrims everyday and remains crowded most of the time.

While in Kolkata, do not miss out on the beautiful and splendid Calcutta Jain Temple, also famous as Parasnath Temple. One of the most important landmarks of the city, it was built in 1867 by Seth Ray Badridas Bahadur who was also responsible for the design and concept of the holy establishment. Well-maintained gardens, Belgian glass, the throne of the Diety Shree Sheetalnath (the tenth Tirthankara) embedded with precious stones and pure silver speaks volumes about the founder's penchant for exclusivity. There are four different temples in this religious complex and the intricate structure will surely leave you in awe!

Built between 1884 and 1887, St. John's Church was designed by Lieutenant James Agg and was intended to be a replica of the St.Martin-in-the-Fields in London. Although the exteriors fail to match the original's grandeur, the interiors bear a closer resemblance. Various portraits and particularly, Zoffani's Last Supper add more to the sense of peace that you feel as soon as you enter this church. Located close to Writers' Building and Kolkata GPO in BBD Bagh, the church complex holds Job Charnock's Tomb (Job Charnok is popularly regarded as the founder of Kolkata), and also the graves of those killed in the 'Black Hole of Calcutta'. One of the earliest constructions of the East India Company, this Anglican church is a peaceful oasis in the heart of this busy city.

St.Paul's Cathedral is one of the 'first Episcopal Church of the Orient' in Kolkata. Bishop Daniel Wilson initiated the construction of the cathedral in 1839 and it was completed in 1847. Designed by Major William Nairn Forbes, it is similar to the Bell Harry Tower in Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. The pristine white walls, the stained glass windows, carved wooden pieces and frescoes remind you of the Renaissance period. Though the church was completely destroyed twice, it was eventually restored and regained it's original grandeur. While you are visiting St.Paul's Cathedral, you can also check-out the nearby attractions like Victoria Memorial, Nandan, Mahanagar Peace Park and the Birla Planetarium.

St Andrew's Church is a renowned landmark, and one of the oldest churches in the city. Noted for its tall spire and Greek columns, this vintage structure stands out amonsgt the more modern buildings of the city. Originally a Church of Scotland, it follows the Presbyterian form of worship and is is the custodian of the Scottish Cemetery. This beautiful church has been listed as a Grade I Heritage Building by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

Kalighat Kali Temple's legend is rooted in Indian mythology; it is said to be the site where Sati or Shakti's toes fell during Shiva's Rudra Tandava (an allegorical depiction of violent nature). The temple you see standing today at the end of Kalighat is about 200 years old, built with the help of the Sabarna Roy Chowdhary family. The historical temple stays crowded throughout the week, especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays; a tour of this temple is always hectic, but Wednesdays and Thursdays are probably the best days to visit if you want a somewhat peaceful experience. There is a large corridor filled with Puja shops outside the temple. Around the temple are also other spots like Sosthi Tala, Harkath Tala (a site used for holy animal sacrifice), Radha-Krishna Temple and Kundurpukur (a large sacred tank situated behind the main Kali Temple). Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple. Touts standing outside may not be affiliated with the temple, but manage to ensure a quick darshan (viewing) of Goddess Kali and the other sites around it.

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