I have always heard of the Chhoto Ras Bari temple but never visited it earlier. I knew it is somewhere very close to our house but was not sure of the exact location. I was thinking of visiting the place for some time but was not able to plan. Then the opportunity came suddenly. I was about to go somewhere else in the morning for my video blog but suddenly it started raining. All others in the family were still sleeping and I had booked a cab already. I was dilly-dallying whether or not to go and then the rain stopped suddenly but the weather was still overcast. I thought why not visit this temple instead and if it starts raining again I can return home quickly. And so I changed the destination. The travel time was only a few minutes and I could have actually walked to the place.
Once upon a time this place was an important pilgrim route to Kalighat and is dotted with many beautiful historical temples along the banks of Adi Ganga. But now just as the Adi Ganga, or the Tolly's Nullah as the creek is known as today, is deeply silted and polluted and lost it's significance, the temples also stand in ruins.
The Chetla Chhoto Ras Bari temple complex, located on 93 Tollygunge Road is one such temple. It is associated with the once affluent Zamindar family of Bengal, the Mondols of Bawali (near Budge Budge), but in today's time is in dilapidated state.
The path leading to the temple from Tollygunge Road was past an open field where local children were playing football and just outside the main gate clothes were left to dry on the ground.
The entrance to the walled temple complex has a pediment on four Doric columns and exhibits European influence.
Beyond the entrance there is a huge courtyard paved with black and white marbles in checkered pattern and on the northern side is the principal temple structure built in traditional Nava-ratna (nine pinnacle) and Pancha-ratna (five pinnacle) style of architecture which is unique in Bengal.
The temple is dedicated to Shree Gopalji which is a manifestation of Lord Krishna. A priest was performing rituals and he told me that daily worship takes place even today, twice a day. One may visit the temple during 8-10 AM in the morning. Aarti happens in the evening. Ras-mela or fair used to take place earlier but has stopped for many years. The priest's name is Shetal Chakraborty and he shared his phone number with me and advised to make a prior call if anyone wants to pay offerings. Then he would keep the temple open till 11 AM. He mentioned that he shares the responsibility of priesthood with his cousins but he can be found on most of the days as the others are elderly and sick. According to him the longstanding dispute among the stakeholders of the temple is about to end and the temple can be renovated shortly after many many years.
On either side of the central structure are six temples each dedicated to Lord Shiva but their condition seemed even more pathetic. These temples are build in Aat-chala style which is again a traditional style of architecture in Bengal.
There were three plaques available to be seen but they are mostly illegible or written in archaic Bengali which I could not decipher. But according to a reference book I came across, the temple was constructed by Peary Das Mondol in 1847.
The ghat beside the temple is still present but is dysfunctional and the Adi Ganga is flowing as a pitch black narrow creek with stagnant water and stinking smell.
I sincerely hope that these hidden gems of Kolkata are restored properly and the history of the city is preserved.