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Where Food and Faith meet History

Where Food and Faith meet History

Tripueshwari Temple

Tripureswari Temple is no ornately carved marvel of sculpture and architecture. Instead, it is a place of simple faith and intimacy

by Joy (Sirshendu) 

From the busy junction of Garia in south Kolkata a road heads south-west towards Boral where Satyajit Ray did the shooting of Pather Panchali, in the 1950s

One winter morning, sunny and slightly cold, my wife, brother and I set out to visit the Tripureswari temple of Boral. After about a mile on the road to Boral a small lane branches out to the right towards the temple. It was a short pleasant walk past a pond thick with plants, old houses on both sides, small courtyards with children playing, bicycles and rickshaws and most importantly cats. Cats of all sizes and colors, some darting about, some licking themselves furiously and some sitting on the fences and ledges, surveying the world and looking disdainfully at us. Right at the end of the lane is the main gate of the temple.

Entering the temple compound one immediately feels the peace and simplicity of the place.

This was no ornately carved marvel of sculpture and architecture. Nor was this a place of one-click reset of one’s sins counter where millions line up for an easy way out. It seemed like a place of simple faith and intimacy.

On auspicious days it seems the temple can get really crowded but there were only a few visitors at that time. As we entered after depositing our shoes at the gate, towards our right was a huge old tree with a paved sitting area under its shade. Beside the tree was a Shiva shrine which was still closed.

In front was a garden full of flowers in bloom and immediately beyond that was the main shrine with the idol of Goddess Tripureswari. We watched as a steady stream of people, possibly living close by – office-goers, students in uniforms, mothers with small children wrapped from head-to-toe, retired old men in monkey caps – all came and prayed to the divine Mother and went on their way, exchanging greetings of easy familiarity.

After spending a blissful hour or so, sitting and drifting around, with the winter sunshine on our backs, it was time for us to focus on the real objective of our visit. Food. The temple serves really delicious vegetarian Bengali food as Prasad. It is not free. One has to buy coupons in the morning and then come back after the bhog has been offered to the deity.

To the right of the temple after crossing the garden is the temple office with the kitchen and dining hall adjacent to that. We made our way to the office which was like a typical old-style sarkari daftar with a long wooden table covering most of the space and benches along whitewashed walls. There were a couple of people inside but the main clerk had not arrived yet. We waited listening to their delightful everyday gossip. Eventually our man arrived, half-sweater-ed, muffler-ed and unapologetic, and after taking his time to settle down brought out a coupon book.

There is a regular prasad that is prepared every day which has a fixed price. However, many people book the temple for various personal ceremonies and on those days the food is prepared according to their wishes. On such days everyone gets to have the “special” menu and pay for it accordingly. It happened to be a special that day and having collected our coupons we were told to come back after a couple of hours.

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Walking out through the back gate of the temple we entered an old residential area. It had started to drizzle and it was fun walking around the narrow lanes. About a kilometer from the temple is Sen Dighi – a lake believed to have been constructed 800 years ago by Ballala Sena the famous king of the Sena dynasty. The area apparently has yielded several archaeological artifacts dating back to Mauryan and Gupta periods. In fact, although the present Tripureswari temple is of recent construction, an ancient structure of an older temple has also been excavated.

We returned to the temple after a while and sat around it along with several other people who were there to collect the prasad. They took our coupons and tiffin carriers and after a while they were returned to us filled with prasad wafting a delicious aroma.

Food, faith and history – what a delightful way to spend a day.

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