This is a blog to draw attention to sad state of affair, in one of the holiest temple of Kolkata. Hopefully, people and media wake up and rise to the occasion to save the temple from vulturous “pandas”.
As a tourist to Kolkata, I went to Kalighat, to get blessings of Mata. The temple as we all know, is one of the most sacred and oldest temple of Kolkata. Thousand throng the temple every hour to seek blessings of Devi. Saturday being an auspicious day in temple, I chose that day to visit it and was there by 10:30AM.
I reached there by Metro and the moment I exited from Kalighat Metro station, pandas were there to greet me (that’s actually, a mere good show prior to the torture they do to worshippers). I was told about pandas behaviour, so was naturally cautious. As I walked 0.5-1 KM distance from Kalighat Metro to temple, I was constantly approached by panda. Some promised nice darshan in 50Rs, some Rs 100 and some 200. The varying prices, proved things are fishy here. So I went alone and decided to ignore them and get the darshan myself, the way I do in other “panda” haunted places like puri, Lingaraj in my home state.
So I was expecting something like of “General Darshan Line”, “Paid darshan line” in the temple, as all temples now-a-days usally have. But was shocked to see nothing of that sort in the temple. First I saw a general darshan line and it was about a KM long. So then enquired about “Paid darshan line” and was shocked to listen, that concept doesn’t exist here. Rather, paid darshan line here means, you pay to Panda and they will force you in a line, that can be easily called “Panda devotee line”.
What is irony here is that there is no management. Its all in hands of pandas. You pay them, they force in a “Panda devotee line” and strangely from general darshan line, I observed only that the other line was moving. Pandas were not allowing “General darshan” people to get inside temple. Since everything were in there hands, they just allowed “panda devotee line” to move, because these people had payed them. And people in “general darshan line” were not moving even inches. I was shocked that even after staying in line for 2 hours, I had hardly moved 30 mtrs in a 500 mtrs long line. I had thought even if we move in snails pace steadily, I will able to get inside temple in couple of hours. But here ground reality is completely different. You pay pandas or just get rotting for hours in unpaid line. It was really a very sorry affair in one of most sacred and visited temple, in second largest city in India (which was once second largest city in world).
Add to that, I was observing the rude behaviour of pandas to devotees, even who paid. If you pay less, you will be left unattended after some time and if you pay more, you can break the rules of line. They would take paying devotees, in in middle of line and just push them in. So here it all translates into “money is time”. The more you pay to panda, the quicker darshan you get, even if meant “Hook n crook” to fellow devottees.
I gave up after 2 hrs of stand still and asked for pardon to goddess for my lack of patience. But I think it was not lack of patience, because I have stayed in line for 4-5 hrs before, only reason being that I knew line is moving. But here I was not sure, whether I will get the darshan same day or not, unless I pay Pandas. The line was virtually static, even after I moved out.I preferred to not have darshan, than to pay ransom to pandas. I begged goddess and said in heart, I will come back some day else.And then I was gone.
This was not expected by me. I have seen far more crowded temples than this. But there always management reigns over the pandas. But here, there’s a completely different affair. I doubt, if at all the temple had a management. When temple authority could have made a legal fortune from paying devotees, it was loosing all this money to “well deep” pockets of pandas. This lack of management is clearly reflected in dilapidated state of temple and on faces of harrased devotees.
If at all you hit this article and are another such victim of pandas, do write and share your experience. May be some day, someone in Kolkata sees it and do something about it.
I propose following immediate actions for temple:
1) A management independent of pandas influence be formed.
2) The management should tour crowded temples of South India like Tirupati, Rameshwaram etc to learn how things are managed.They can leverage best practices from this temple
3) Immediately, a “Paid Line” or so called “VIP darshan line” should be formed, so that money of paying, goes to responsible hands and this fund can be used for improvement of temple.
4) Number of pandas should be limited.
5) A proper guide map should be there from Metro, near by bus station to temple.
If you have any other suggestion for improvement, please share here.
May goddess bless us all.