Ambika Kalna or simply Kalna is the headquarter of Kalna Subdivision of Bardhaman district, in West Bengal, India. Situated on the western bank of Bhagirathi, it is also called the Temple City for the number of old temples found here. The town got its name from the deity Ma Ambika (incarnation of Goddess Kali) of Siddheswari Temple.
Ambika Kalna is a town located on the west bank of River Bhagirati. It reached its pinnacle of glory during the late 18th century under the patronage of the Maharajas of Bardhaman, who built several magnificent temples with intricate terracotta ornamentation. The maritime trade has long stopped and Kalna has lost the status of a flourishing port city, but many of the temples have survived the test of time and stands to this day. Most of this temples have intricate terracotta ornamentation along with detailed stucco work. The temples still reminds one of Kalna’s glorious past. Kalna houses three out of the five 25 pinnacled temples of West Bengal. Apart from the temples Kalna has several religious structures dedicated to Sree Chaitanya one of the greatest social reformers of Bengal.In spite of housing some of the finest temples of West Bengal, Ambika Kalna lacks basic tourist infrastructure. There are no guides to tell you about the history of the temple. There are only a few basic eateries and a hand full of hotels. The town lacks adequate toilet felicities.
- 1 Kalna bus stand. By road, Kalna can be accessed from Krishnanagar, Katwa, Bandel, Pandua, Bainchi, Memari and Bardhaman. Public buses are available in this route.
- 2 Ambika Kalna Railway Station. The railway station is Ambika Kalna and it is connected to the loop line route from Howrah to Katwa. 81 km from Howrah, it can be reached by several local as well as express trains which travel in that route. Direct trains to Ambika Klana are also available from Sealdah Station, Kolkata.
Toto (battery operated three wheeler) and auto rickshaws (disel operated three wheeler) are the only mode of transport within the town. Toto and Auto can be booked for the entire trip. For people who are interested in details in the temple can break up the journey by booking auto and toto for shorter trips. In both cases there is no fixed fare, so bargaining is absolutely essential.
The city is known for the various old temples with terracotta works. The temples are active temples and open early morning and are open till noon. They are closed from noon to 4 pm and again open at about 4 pm. They remain open till 7 pm.
- 1 (108 Shiva temples). The temple complex of Nava Kailash consists of 108 Shiva Temples built in aat - chala style. The temple are arranged in two concentric circles. The outer circles consists of 74 temples while the inner circle consists of 34 temples. The outer temples have alternate black and white shiva lingas while the all the inner temples have white shiva linga. At the very centre of the complex is a large well and the space between the circles is laid out with manicured lawns complete with flower beds and other trees. The complex was built in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja Tej Chandra Bahadur
- 2 Rajbari temple complex. The Rajgari temple complex consists of several temples and other religious structures built over a period of more than a hundred years. It lies bang opposite Nava Kailash (108 Shiva Temple) Complex. The complex houses two of the three 25 pinnacled temples of Kalna (incidentally there are a total of five 25 pinnacled temples in West Bengal) The complex is laid out with well manicured lawns crisscrossed with walkways. The lawns are laid out with flower beds and trimmed hedges.
- 3 Pratapeswar Temple. Kalna is known for its terracotta temples and the Pratapeswar Temple definitely stands out among the numerous temples of Kalna. Located at the left of the entrance of the Rajbari Complex this small deul styled temple, whose outer walls are covered with intricate terracotta works. The 1849 built temple stands on a high podium. The Pratapeswar Temple is built in rekh deul style, with curvelinear sikhara and single arched entrance. All the four sides of the temple has rich terracotta ornamentation depicting images of gods and goddesses to scenes from the great epics. It also contains panels depicting war scenes and also scenes from day to day life. On the left of the Pratapeswar stands a small cannon and on the right is a Ras Mancha.
- 4 Ras Mancha. Just north of the Pratapeswar Temple is the Ras Mancha. The hexagonal structure has triple arched entrance on all three side and at the centre is a hexagonal pavilion crowned with a dome.
- 5 Lalji Mandir. The 1739 built Lalji Temple is the oldest temple in the Rajbari Complex. It was built by Braja Kishori Devi, the wife of Maharaja Jagat Ram. It houses the idol of Radha – Krishna. Lalji Mandir is a 25 pinacled temple. The Lalji Temple once had elaborate terracotta panels but only a hand full have survived to this day. The temple also has traces of elaborate limestone stucco ornamentation. Just in front of the Lalji Temple is a Char – Chala (four sloped roofs) mandap, which served as a gathering platform for devotees visiting the temple. Lalji Mandir is housed in a complex in side the Rajbari Complex. The complex also houses several other structure including the6 Giri Govardhan Temple. with a mountain like roof. Giri means mountain.
- 7 Rupeshwar Shiva Mondir. Rupeshwar Shiva Mondir, a flat roof structure with a triple arched entrance. The temple had beautiful stucco work most of it no longer exist.
- 8 Pancharatna Temple. A collection of five aat - chala temples standing on a single raised platform. The temples are not identical. They not only differ in size but also in proportion.
- 9 Krishna Chandra Temple. This like the Lalji Temple is a temple complex situated within the Rajbari Complex. The Krishna Chandra Temple is a 25 pinnacled temple. The Krishna Chandaraji Temple was built 1751 – 55 and has a three arched entrance on all sides. It also has a rich terracotta ornamentation in its front facade, depicting scenes from mythologies, epics and even day to day life. The temple also has its share of stucco work. The Krishna Chandra Temple Complex also houses other temples and several other structures. 10 Vijay Vaidyanathan Temple. A massive aat chala temple , 11 Badrinarayan Temple. , 12 Radhavallabh Temple. and 13 Ramsita Temple.
- 14 Jalesvar Temple. The Nava Kailash (108 Shiva Temple) Complex is flanked on either side by two pancha ratna (five pinacled) temples. The Jalesvar Temple lies on the west.
- 15 Ratneshwar Temple. The Nava Kailash (108 Shiva Temple) Complex is flanked on either side by two pancha ratna (five pinacled) temples. The Ratneshwar Temple lies on the east.
- 16 Siddheswari Kali Temple (The temple of Ma Ambika). Siddheswari Kali Temple houses the deity of Ambika Siddheswari, after whom Ambika Kalna got its name. The idol is an incarnation of Kali and is said to have been made out of single branch of a neem tree. An inscription on Siddheshwari Kali Temple mention that the temple was constructed by Chitrasen Rai, the then King of Bardhaman in 1740. But historian opine that the temple was originally constructed in 1663 and it was renovated by the Bardhman King in 1740. Siddheswari Kali Temple follows the Jore Bangla Temple of architecture. It has a triple arched entrance and is approached by a long flight of steps. Siddheswari Kali Temple is part of a temle comple which also houses 3 aat chala shiva temples.
- 17 Gopalji temple. This is the third 25 pinacled temple of Ambika Kalna. The temple is approached by a dochala porch with a triple arched entrance. Built in 1766 the temple has intricate terracotta panels of the front surface and luckily most of it have survived to this day.
- 18 Ananta Basudev Mandir. Ananta Basudev Temple lies just north of the Siddheshwari Kali Temple and on the other side of the road. It is a huge aat chala temple, which was once covered with intricate terracotta. The temple was constructed by Trilokchand Rai, nephew of Chitrasen Rai, and was originally known as Baikunthanath’s Temple. The temple houses a four feet black stone idol of Basudev and hence the name Ananta Basudev. It was once covered with intricate terracotta. Sadly that has been lost due to unscientific restoration work.
- 19 Jagannath Temple. The twin temples of Jagannath Bari in Ambika Kalna are located on the banks of the Hooghly River. Built in 1753 by two queens of King Chitrasen –Chandakumari Devi and Indukumari Devi , these two temples are in a dilapidated condition. Although in crumbling conditions the terraoctta works in both the aat chala temple have survived and can be seen to this day. Three is also a smaller aat chala structure near the temple.
Temples and shrines dedicated to Sree Chaitanya
Sree Chaitanya (1486 - 1534) was a great social reformer and Hindu guru from Bengal. Sree Chaitanya have visited Kalna twice. Kalna houses several temples and shrines realated to the life of Sree Chaitanya. None of these temples or sites have don't have any terracotta and stucco ornamentation.
- 20 Mahaprabhu Mandir. This temple is dedicated to Sree Chaitanya and his friend and disciple Nityananda. Both the idols are made of neem tree.
- 21 Shyam Sundar Mandir. This is a temple dedicated to Nutyananda, friend and disciple of Sree Chaitanya. The shrine also contains a foot print of Sree Chaitanya.
- 22 Datankathi Tala Mosjid. Nothing much remains of the Datankathi Tala Masjid. Acoording to the foundation plaque the mosque was constructed in 896 hijri, which corresponds to 1490. A few arches and pillars is all that remains of the 500 + years structure. None of the floral and geometric terracotta designs have survived. A coat of newly added blue paint have robbed the ancient mosque of its antiquity.
Apart from the temples, Kalna is famous for its Saraswati Puja and draws huge crowd from other parts of the state. Large decorated pandals, beautiful lighting and artistic idols are the reason people visit Kalna during this festival.
Another important festival of Kalna is the Mahishmardini Puja. The festival is observed for 4 days and a huge fair takes place.
Unfortunately there are not too many places for a proper meal in the city.
For snacks there are sweet shops all over the city, where one can have sweets as well as snacks like kochuri, singara, paratha or petai paratha.
For lunch or dinner there are few small shops and roadside stalls around Chowk Bazar near the Kalna temple complex. There you can have rice, vegetables, meat or fish. None are hygienic, so if you are concerned, avoiding this places will be better. Bringing your own food is a good option.
For a more hygienic and proper meal, Hotel Priyadarshini near the bus stand is a good option for Bengali lunch and dinner.
Now too many options are available for lunch dinner hotels are below 1.Royel Restaurant 2.Rollic Restaurant 3.Haji Biriyani 4.Ahar Restaurant 5.Milan Cabin and many morw
- 1 Hotel Priyadarshini. Situated near the bus stand, this is a standard hotel. Tasty Bengali food is served.
- 2 Ramkrishna Lodge. This lodge is situated beside the 108 Shiva temple complex. If you want to stay near the main attractions, this is a good place. The lodge provides clean rooms and shared washrooms. Food is not available, but with prior order they can arrange home delivery.