Although I have been living in Kolkata for all my life, there are very few places that I have actually been to in Kolkata. One may say that a feeling of complacency sets in of the kind “Oh! They are just so near, I can visit any day” and ultimately they still somehow remain unvisited. Our new car provided the freedom to roam around the city freely without any anxiety of transportation. It also presented Ma the opportunity to go places, which she seldom can out of her normal routine of work and home. So we decided to make our first outing on Gandhi Jayanti, which was a holiday for both of us.
The next thing to do was to select a place. After much deliberation we zeroed in on the Pareshnath Jain Temple. I went through some websites to get a list of places to see in Kolkata and this was a consistent one in most of those websites. The pictures looked promising as well. But the problem was to locate the temple. And here was the confusion. In some website, I read that it is in Belgachhia but the Google maps showed it on Badri Das Temple Street which is very near to where my aunt lives. Since I have no confidence on the road map or the whereabouts of north Kolkata, we relied on my aunt and to our comfort she said that she knows both the places. So we first picked her up from her home and went on to visit the temple in Belgachhia. My other aunt also accompanied us.
Just after the R.G. Kar Hospital and near the Belgachhia metro station, a large temple complex stood (beside a flyover – we actually had to go down the flyover and take a u-turn). This is indeed called the Pareshnath Temple. There is a corporation signboard indicating the same. There is a red temple with a reservoir in front and a tower like structure on one side that hosts statuettes of different Jain Tirthankaras.
There is a statue of Pareshnath inside made of white marble with some other small figurines at its foot.
There were some pictures from Jain stories on the walls of the main hall of the temple and some glasswork on the ceiling.
The place was quite well maintained but due to the scorching heat we could not walk around for long bare footed on the heated up marble floors.
We came back to my aunt’s place and after a delicious lunch, we set out for Badri Das Temple Street. This is near Hatibagan and just off Raja Dinendra Street. There are four Jain temples in close proximity, which matched the description on the Internet.
The most popular amongst them is the Shitalnathji Temple, which was built in 1867. It is a grand complex. The place is extremely neat and clean for a temple with marble statues and glass works aplenty in the garden. There is also a reservoir at one side and a statue of the founder of the temple, Rai Budree Das Bahadoor Mookim just in front of the temple.
The temple structure has exquisite glasswork throughout the body and the ceiling and even the railings and the pillars.
The inside is more extravagant with a huge chandelier in the centre and some delicate chandeliers made out of coloured glass around it. The work on the inner ceiling of the central dome is grand but somewhat worn out. The forehead of the deity of Shitalnathji is studded with diamonds. The most tragic part is that photography is not allowed inside the temple building. However, one may take pictures from within the outer complex.
Just beside the Shitalnathji Temple stands another temple dedicated to Lord Chandra Prabhujidev. This has a simpler structure but is also more than a hundred years old.
A flight of steps ascends to the temple with two lion statues guarding at either side.
Opposite to the Shitalnathji Temple, exists the Dadaji Temple. Not sure to whom this temple is dedicated to. Did not see any statue for worshipping in the Taj Mahal like temple structure. Some religious songs were being played out in the temple and there was a sizable gathering of devotees. This temple also has a reservoir at the rear and some ducks were swimming around.
The last of the four temples is the Mahavira temple. This one is quite new with no fancy craftwork and dedicated to Lord Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankaras.
Still wondering why Google shows results describing this place on Badri Das Temple Street while searching for “Pareshnath Jain Temple”. So, is the main temple dedicated to Lord Shitalnath who I think was the tenth Tirthankar or Lord Pareshnath who was the 23rd Tirthankar? Signing off with the confusion still looming large in my head, whether this one also is known as the Pareshnath Jain Temple.