Sheryl writes from India.

Part 1: Puri
Part 2: Kolkata
Part 3: Khalaigat
Part 4: Assam
Part 5: Trains
Part 6: Sikkim
Part 7: West Sikkim
Part 8: Darjeeling
Part 9: New Delhi

Home > Part 3: Khalaigat

Hello! Still in Kolkata. Had a wild experience at the Khalaigat or the Kali Temple. I'm not up on my Hindu dieties but the book says, "...dedicated to Kali, the black goddess and form of Shakti. According to legend, Shiva went into a frenzy after the death of his wife Sati, dancing w/her dead body and making the whole world tremble. The gods had attempted to stop him in various ways before Vishnu took his solar discus and chopped the disintegrating corpse into 51 bits." The spots where each piece fell became pilgrimage sites.

The place was packed with Indian pilgrims. The whole area leading up to the actual temple has stalls selling flowers, incense, and the like. Once you get near the temple, a long line forms. We left our shoes, along w/everyone else, at one of the various "shoe stalls". The line was fairly orderly until we got near the inner sanctum, then the frenzy began. People pushed and shoved to get inside the chamber where priests were making some offerings. The offerings go on continually, but as we approached the door, they really started shoving. The floor was slippery w/either ghee (clarified butter) or sacrificial blood. Hard to tell. Once we were shoved out the opposite door things calmed down again. There are ritual sacrifice sites where they slaughter goats generally. Yep, had to walk through that with bare feet.

I mentioned the beggars the other day. My sympathies are more aligned with the dogs. They are everywhere and just lie around panting or sleeping in the heat or scavenging in the fragrant garbage piles. Most of the females seem to be nursing pups. Some dogs are so emaciated it's a wonder they're alive. I don't know their purpose - it's too hot here to be a dog. I did see a Golden retriever at the theater complex and a Doberman, and a sweet pit bull in Puri. The middle classes have purebred dogs as they do everywhere - and it's always an odd sight.

There are no wandering cows here in Kolkata. Down south they were everywhere; in the streets, lying in the middle of the road, on the train tracks. Cows are sacred here and Hindus do not eat them. People often keep cows for milk but bulls wander freely as do cows. They seem to be Brahmas, with the shoulder hump but a small variety as is common in hot climates. Generally the animals (and people) are smaller. They are very docile, are happy to be petted or fed (they scavenge and people feed them). They are even decorated for holidays - garlands and red paint on their foreheads.

It's late and we're flying to Assam tomorrow. Until next time.