Belur Math. Temple in Kolkata, India

Belur Math

Temple in Kolkata, India

Belur Math Photo © Sumit Kumar

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Belur Math

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Situated on the western banks of the Hooghly River, the Belur Math is an attractive Hindu temple which is noted for its eclectic architectural style. Founded in 1935 by Swami Vivekananda, this temple is the present headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission (Wikipedia Article).
A principal seat of the Hindu revivalist movement of Calcutta, the Belur Math is famous for its style of architecture which is a fusion of Indo-Islamic architecture with Christian motifs that symbolizes religious harmony.

 - Belur Math
Belur Math. . Photo by Ramnath Bhat

History

Conceived by Swami Vivekananda, this temple was set up with the mission to train the young Hindu men who would grow up to become monks, imbibed in the order of the Ramakrishna Mission and for charitable activities. Swami Vivekananda spent a few years wandering through remote parts of India where he came across a number of historical monuments like the Fatehpur Sikri, the Taj Mahal, forts and palaces of Rajasthan, the timeless temples of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The Parliament of Religions where Swami Vivekananda presented the Hindu philosophy in front of the world took him to the United States and consequent visits to Europe exposed him also to the Renaissance, Gothic and modern European architectural styles. It is assumed that Vivekananda incorporated these styles in the architecture of Belur Math which accounts for its eclectic nature. Designed by Swami Vijnanananda, a fellow monk of Swami Vivekananda, the foundation of the stone building was laid on 16th May 1935 while Martin Burn and Co. took care of the construction of this sacred edifice.

What to Expect

Stretching over an expanse of 40 acres of land, the temple compound overlooks the Hooghly River and has separate temples dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, Sharada Devi (wife of Shri Ramakrishna) and Swami Vivekananda. There is also a museum inside the campus which contains artifacts connected to the evolution of the Ramakrishna Mission. A number of educational institutions which function under the Ramakrishna Missions are also scattered within the vast campus of this temple compound.
The temple for Sri Ramakrishna was consecrated in January 1930 and resembles the architecture of a mosque, a temple and a church when viewed from different angles which celebrates the sense of unity amidst religious diversity in India. Since the Ramakrishna Mission preaches universal faith on the Supreme Being, the architectural design of the temple incorporates elements from all faiths including Hindu, Muslim and Christians.
The entrance to the temple consists of a façade which is influenced by the architectural designs of the Buddhist monasteries of the ancient times. This temple, which is made of sandstone, has Rajput and Islamic styled windows and balconies and its gigantic dome in the center of the building is influenced by Renaissance architecture.
The entrance of this building resembles the towers of South Indian temples while the pillars are modeled more on a Buddhist style.
The entrance gateway of Belur Math consists of an open circular space which is reminiscent of the Ajanta style of architecture where the emblem of the 'Ramakrishna Mission Order’ is carved on stone.
The spacious hall known as ‘Natamandira’ is attached to the inner sanctum of this building which resembles a Christian church. The pillars lining the sanctum are a fusion of Doric style of architecture and the design is drawn on the decorations of Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai.
The old shrine on the north-eastern side of the Ramakrishna Temple, erstwhile, used to be the original shrine, where the daily prayer was conducted prior to the consecration of the new temple. The old shrine was consecrated in 1898 where the urn containing the bodily remains of Ramakrishna was brought and worshiped by Vivekananda.
On the day of consecration, Vivekananda is said to have made the following incantation- ‘The blazing light of universal harmony that will emanate from here will flood the whole world’.
One can also get to see the room where Vivekananda used to live, which contains several articles used by him during his lifetime.
Free from the rigors of organized Hindu religion, the Belur Math exudes a sense of peace and serenity which is sure to charm the visitor. Another special tourist attraction of this Math is the Durga Puja (Wikipedia Article) festival when thousands of visitors from all over Bengal flock here to watch the performance of the sacred rituals which is held during the month of October each year.

Yet another nice and tranquil spot in Belur Math to sit and spend time is the flight of stairs leading to the banks of the Hooghly river, where the disciples of Ramakrishna were cremated, that lies close to this holy and auspicious building.

How to Get There

Located in the Howrah district, the Belur Math is just an hour’s drive from Kolkata. There are also a number of city buses that runs from Esplanade in Kolkata to Howrah.

Similar Places

One might be interested in visiting the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, located on the eastern bank of the Ganges, which can be reached by a pleasant boat ride from Belur Math.
Travelers in Kolkata must visit the Kalighat Kali Temple, located in Kalighat region of South Kolkata, which is also one of the oldest temples in this city.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Aug 07, 2014

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