One does not have to be deeply religious to be a visitor, the quaint atmosphere is sure to win over the heart and soul of any visitor.
You can also drive to Belur, but we decided to park our car at Shyambazar, and take a ferry from Bagbazaar across the Hooghly to Bandhaghat, to breathe in the crisp morning air.
It was a pleasant morning with light breeze blowing and we were looking forward to the ferry ride. The ferry service connects Kolkata to Howrah and several other suburban townships along the bank of Hooghly. It provides a pleasant, pollution free, alternative route. Ferry services along the Hooghly also provide a hassle-free and relaxed way to see many of Kolkata's top attractions. Ferry services are run by two agencies - the state-owned West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation and the cooperative Hooghly Nadi Jalpath Paribahan Samanbay Samiti.
|Bagbazaar Ferry Ghat - Ticket Window; takes you back to the 60's|
|Bridge on the river Hooghly|
|M V Jalapath - an old war horse|
We got off just outside the gate of the Math.
The drive down the Grand Trunk road left us thirsty and craving for a cool drink and thankfully we found just what we needed.
Now, recharged and rejuvenated we trudged along ...
Once you step inside the arches of the Math, it is a different world inside - nothing like it's outside 'cousin'. Serene, at peace, uncluttered, without litters lining the streets, pavement for people to walk on. The place exudes an other worldly charm about it, it welcomes you and embraces you with wide open arms.
It is worthy to be noted that photography is STRICTLY prohibited, but that was not to stop me from clicking these pictures. It would have been a shame if I were not to be able to share these illustrative pictures here on this blog ! I would later on check with an employee at the Math, the reason for this prohibition - my query was answered with a not so clear reply. The gentleman I spoke to, thought the recent terrorist attacks on places of worship might have had something to do with it. My travel partner, implored me not to press this issue any further. Some questions are best left unanswered, he added.
I continued to click sneakily though and continued to tempt fate.
|The main temple|
|View from the rear balcony on the first floor of Swami Vivekananda Temple|
The lobby of the main temple is something beyond what pictures could tell you. It is to be felt and not spoken about. Just calling it very peaceful and serene would be a gross understatement. Such is the quietness of this prayer hall, that the occasional hushed whispers among devotees sound louder than thundering storm clouds. The place beckons people to meditate. Lower your head in the existence of a supreme presence. This is one place that even an agnostic should visit.
After walking up to the altar of this temple and offering my prayers which has an idol of Sri Ramkrishna. I walked towards the rear of the lobby and sat down, closed my eyes, straightened my back and spent a few minutes in meditation and found my soul.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself wanting to click a picture of this hall. I looked around and cautiously fished out my camera phone and clicked a picture. I ran out of fortune. The noisy 'click' sound of the camera woke up an old lady, seated right behind us deep in meditation and I was scolded with raised eyebrows - আপনি জানেন না ছবি তলা নিশেদ আছে ? বায়িরে লেখা রয়েছে তার শুত্তেও আপনি ছবি তুলছেন !
Upon hearing the crackling sound of the scold, I craned my neck over my shoulders and looked back at the old lady in embarrassment and begged for forgiveness without uttering a word.
Since I do have THE picture let me share it here ...
Few plates of "Kochuri" and a few burps later we resumed the short walk to the ferry ghat ...
We took the ferry from Belur to Baranagar and after nearly an hour's wait took a connecting ferry back to Shyambazar.
I encourage all to visit Belur Math on your next trip to Calcutta and find your soul. You will be pleasantly surprised with the environs, the cleanliness, the serenity and the spiritual ambiance by the riverside. They have a very informative website take a look. Just like morning shows the day, the website tells you how well disciplined an institution is. I am almost embarrassed to say that I waited this long to visit this gem.
Belur Math is for the early to rise and early to bed. The doors are thrown open at 6 am, and everything closes at 11:30 fore noon. Including the main temple, Swami Vivekananda temple, the museum and the library too. They do open again at 4:30 pm in time for the 'Sandhya Arati' which I am told is a sight to behold. If I am not mistaken they remain open till about 7 pm. This place does work like clock work.