(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh and Mr. R. Vohra)
Coincidences sometimes shape the way things eventually turn out. I had not planned a post on Koochbehar Kali Badi, a coincidence made it happen. My Kasiphile friends Atma and Rishi sent me a photo I had not exactly asked for, and it all began.
This snap was taken from the road that joins Sonarpura and Pandey Haweli. One reaches this spot as one walks around three minutes from Sonarpura towards Bengali Tola Inter College, i.e. three hundred metres from Sonarpura Crossing. I used to pass by this exact gate shown in the image at least once daily for at least five consecutive years, as I used to study in the college mentioned above.
The compound of Kali Bari stretches from Sonarpura to Pandey Haweli locality at its front. The main (red) gate is often closed. One has to enter through a smaller gate that’s on the other side of the front face of the compound. There’s an entrance (for us, there used to be two) on the side opposite to the side with the gate on the road. This back gate opens onto a gali, right in front of a house owned by the same estate: the house that I had been visiting for over two decades now, as my friend Arnab’s place.
So, the yellow building seen in the first image above behind the red gate can now be seen more clearly. Rose bushes can be seen in the foreground. Although it’s difficult to recognize them, as they have no flowers on them. The building has some unmistakably Bengali touches: the arch and the columns of the verandah, the wooden frame set on the upper part of the verandah, the shape and design of the boundary wall of the roof. There’s a tree to the left side of the image. The tree is hiding the gap between our building to the right and the one to the left. The other building is the main building of the temple.
The image above is of the same compound and the same direction, only it shows the side of the main building of the Kali Badi that literally means the abode of the Goddess Kali in Bangla. One entering through any of the doors, one reaches a covered verandah that opens into the temple courtyard right in front of the garbh grih. There’s a small wooden door on the side opposite to that shown in the image above that opens into the gali that begins at Baba Farid Mosque on Sonarpura side and then gets bifurcating to the right until it opens up on to the main road to the left passing Pen Co.
The image above is from the garden of the compound. I used to carry the humus rich soil from here to fill pots at our home garden. It was at this place that I had first seen the big (at that time, huge) earthworms, of a distinctly different type than the one I had generally seen at home. I used to think then that they were actually the same variety, only grown huge because of excellent nutrition and age!
The construction of the whole compound is crumbling. The gardens are not properly cared for. Something is happening. The place that I used to visit nearly every day, the place that was solidly the same every day for so many days, is not the same any more. It needs money to be restored to its previous beauty.
Where does the money come from? How can it be restored?
We need to make a personal plan for Kali Badi and such other places that make Varanasi what it is. By saving those places, we save our city; we save ourselves, in a way.