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Shiva Worship in Bengal – Shiva Temples in Bengal

Bengal has a history of a mixed religion and culture. Regional deities have been worshipped even when there was acceptance of new Gods at nearby regions. Panchopasana, the worship of five Gods, is common in Bengal. A Shiva worshipper not only worships Shiva but also is a worshipper of Agni, Shakti, Surya, Ganapati and Vishnu. So the Shiva Temples co-exist with the local, as well as other, Gods.

In Bengal, Shiva seems to have been ascribed some unique and strange dimensions, which endear him to the populace, who are able to identify with his pot bellied lazy cultivator image, nagged by a beautiful wife, who is the darling of her parents. These errant ways are ascribe to as his leela.

Shiva is very popular among the common people of Bengal. His worship does not require any big or expensive arrangement; only a little water and fee bel leaves can suffice a Shiva puja.

He is called Ashutosha, one who is pleased instantaneously or easily. Shiva is believed to grant every wish of his worshipper easily.

Young girls are taught to worship Shiva for the fulfillment of their wish to get married, and to find a man who is easily pleased like Him. “Be happy like Shiva-Parvati is a popular blessing at Bengali weddings.

Like in majority of regions in India, Shiva worship in Bengal is generally performed before a linga, which symbolizes Shiva and is considered to be the link between the unmanifest and manifest aspects of the God.

Apart from the kings of Bengal who have built Shiva temples in Bengal, commoners too have made small temples, especially as part of the temple complexes to the Mother Goddess.

There is also a rich literature in Bengali dealing with the folk aspects of Shiva, better known as Sivayana Kavya.

The important Shiva temples in Bengal are located in Tarakeshwar in Hooghly, Nakuleshwar in Kolkata, Dakshineswar in Howrah and Bakreshwar in Birbhum and Burdwan Districts.

Tarakeshwar is probably the most important of all the shrines. Here, the Shravani Mela, a month long ceremony, is held, wherein thousands of pilgrims assemble to pour water on the Shivling. Thousands of devotees from far off places carry holy water to offer to Tarakeshwar in the month of Shravana (July August).

Baba Sandeshwar is a well known shrine of Shiva in the Hooghly district. Another well known shrine is the Nakuleshwar shrine adjacent to the Kali temple in Kolkata. One hundred and eight Shiva temples were erected in Dakshineswar, along with the famous Kali Shrine worshipped by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

In Burdwan, another 108 Shiva temple exist. Bhukailash is also well known and is visited by hundreds of people during Shivratri and Shravani Mela festivals.

In Nadia district, Shiva Nivasa is very important temple. The Shiva Lingam is so large that it requires a worshipper to climb on a ladder to pour water on the linga.

In Darjeeling, the temple of Durjoy Linga is also very fascinating.

Bakreswar Shiva in Birbhum district is an awe inspiring shrine of Shiva.

Two forms of the great Mother Goddess, conceived as the wife of Shiva, are very popular in Bengal. One is the placid and fair-complexioned form called Gauri, Parvati, Bhagavati, Uma etc. And the other is the dark-complexioned, hideous and fearful looking Kali, Shyama, Kalika, Bhadrakali, Mahakali, Guhyakali, Dakshina Kali, Rakshakali, Smashana Kali etc. Her worship is very popular in Bengal.

Dakshina Kali is said to have been conceived and popularized by Krishnananda Agamavagisa, the author of Tantrasara, who flourished in the 17th century AD.

As Kalika Devi is worshipped in Bengal, a Shiva temple always co-exists nearby. So in all the places where there is a Kali temple, there is bound to be a Shiva temple but no viceversa.

There are quite a few places in Bengal which are identified as Shakti Peethas, and a form of Shiva as Bhairava is associated with the Mother Goddess. Also, in all the burning ghats there is a Shiva temple as He is known as the destroyer at the time of Pralaya.

  • Religion in Bengal: During the Pala and Sena Times: Mainly on the Basis of Epigraphic and Archaeological (1985) Rama Chatterjee – Punthi Pustak – Kolkata.
  • Human Fertility Cults and Rituals of Bengal : A Comparative study (1989) Pradyot Kumar Maity – Abhinav Publications Delhi.
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IX page 54 – 55 - IHRF