The Dakshineswar Kali Temple was founded around the middle of the 19th Century by Rani Rashmoni. Rani Rashmoni was a Mahishya by caste and was well known for her philanthropic activities. In the year 1847, Rashmoni, prepared to go upon a long pilgrimage to the sacred Hindu city of Kashi to express her devotions to the Divine Mother. Rani was to travel in twenty four boats, carrying relatives, servants and supplies. According to traditional accounts, the night before the pilgrimage began, Rashmoni had a vision of the Divine Mother, in the form of the goddess Kali in a dream and reportedly said,
There is no need to go to Banaras. Install my statue in a beautiful temple on the banks of the Ganges river and arrange for my worship there. Then I shall manifest myself in the image and accept worship at that place.
Profoundly affected by the dream, Rani immediately looked for and purchased a 20-acred plot in the village of Dakshineswar. The large temple complex was built between 1847 and 1855. The 20-acre (81,000 m2) plot was bought from an Englishman, John Hastie and was then popularly known as Saheban Bagicha, partly old Muslim burial ground shaped like a tortoise, considered befitting for the worship of Shakti according to Tantra traditions, it took eight years and nine hundred thousand rupees to complete the construction, and finally the idol of Goddess Kali was installed on the Snana Yatra day on 31 May 1855, amid festivities at the temple formally known as Sri Sri Jagadishwari Mahakali, with Ramkumar Chhattopadhyay as the head priest; soon his younger brother Gadai or Gadadhar (later known as Ramakrishna) moved in and so did nephew Hriday to assist him. On 31 May 1855 more than 1 lakh Brahmins were invited from different parts of the country to grace the auspicious occasion. The next year, Ramkumar Chhattopadhyay died, the position was given to Ramakrishna, along with his wife Sarada Devi, who stayed in the south side of the Nahabat (music room), in a small room on the ground floor, which now a shrine dedicated to her.
From then until his death 30 years later in 1886, Ramakrishna was responsible for bringing much in the way of both fame and pilgrims to the temple.
Rani Rashmoni lived only for five years and nine months after the inauguration of the temple. She seriously fell ill in 1861. Realizing that her death was near she decided to handover the property she purchased in Dinajput (now in Bangladesh) as a legacy for the maintenance of the temple to the temple trust. She accomplished her task on 18 February 1861 and died on the next day.
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