memories of kalibari

The theme for NaBloPo this month is memories. I honestly want to try it. Not that I have ever been successful….. another attempt.

The other day when I was in home in Pune I went to the temple. You can find its exact location on the map here. Ma is part of the satsang and bhajan troupe and since I was chauffeuring her I spent two hours in the temple. The temple is so beautiful now specially with all the hustle and bustle of the Basanti Puja. You will find the temple site here.

While I was waiting, squatting on the cool marble and granite floor…… a strange thought caught me totally unawares………. of homecoming. The temple and me have grown up so much from our humble beginnings years earlier. It has been an integral part of my life. Every time I go home I make it a point to go to the temple at least once.

The temple was started in the late 70s by a group of people from the ammunition and ordnance factory which included my father. In the beginning it was a very simple brick and cement temple with a clay idol. It had a tin and asbestos roof. The idol was worshipped by the local women…… including my mother. In the 80’s we shifted to a quarter just opposite to the temple so Ma went to the temple everyday with the flowers grown in our garden to adorn the goddess. She went everyday in the evening to the temple and sang bhajans.

I was little then and had very few friends at the time. I used to tag along my older sisters who absolutely hated me as they had to take me everywhere they went. They were much older than me and had lots of friends. As for me, I found the adult discussions more interesting than the stuff that my friends of my age had to say, so I always cried and ranted and they were forced to take me with them. Usually they gave me a slip and went away. At such times I used to tag along with ma and go to the temple. There I was given the kartal to play while all the women sang songs to God. When anybody came to the temple it was my job to offer them prasad.

Soon I made lots of friends and every evening played with them but never stopped going to the temple with my Ma. The temple was getting bigger. It was having more and more followers. The temple had a surrounding angan (courtyard) made with Shahbad stones for people to sit. I made friends with the women who came to the temple…… most of whom were much older than my Ma. They talked of God and sometimes of their own lives and families. I found all this very interesting as all of them had a different story to tell. At that time I was too little but I found all these stories very fascinating.

We kids started playing around the temple on the shahbad stone angan. After play I used to sit with my Ma and her friends singing the Lord’s praises. The temple was made bigger in size. Every year there were new improvements. We grew older so did the temple and it grew more effluent. Money started to pour in. The temple committee soon decided to install a stone idol.

The stone idol was made to order from Rajasthan in black granite. It was a beautiful idol. The older idol was immersed in water and the new idol was installed amidst lot of fanfare. Priests were called from the Dakshineshwar temple in Kolkata and sadhus from Belur and Sarada math were invited. The celebrations lasted for days. Two full time priests were hired and they worshiped the goddess three times a day. Living quarters were made for them. There were a lot of new things being implemented at that time. The Bhajans stopped!!! More emphasis was now given on the Sandhya arati. We kids were also not allowed to play in the temple anymore.

The committee bought the land from the ministry of defence after a long legal battle and a lot of paperwork. The temple grew in leaps and bounds with first a shed being made then finally the marble and granite temple which currently houses the Goddess was made. Two additional temples one Shiva temple and another Ganesha temple was made thus completing the whole family of the goddess. Additional priests were hired. A basement with living quarters for the priests and office for the committee was made. The new temple was again inaugurated amidst a lot of festivities which lasted for days.

Satsang and Bhajans were started again. This year the temple was further increased to include a natya mandir and hall for the devotees to sit and meditate along with a basement. The temple today has attained magnanimous proportions from its humble origin years earlier. It is beautiful. The committee plans to make a school and a boarding for people coming for treatment of cancer etc. A lot of grants are also coming in.

I believe that those initial years of mine that I spent in close quarters with the temple has made me what I am. I cant ever be an atheist nor can i understand atheists. Religion is deep rooted in me!!! Though I am not a ritualistic or an extremist. The temple holds fond memories for me. I grew up there, played there and spent hours in there.

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