We Kolkatans take pride in our culture, tradition, history, people, food and our rich heritage and rightly so. Kolkata has always been a popular destination for people from all over the world. In the process of discovering this majestic ‘queen of palaces’ visitors often discover their own roots, ethos and spiritual identities.
Sitalnath Jain temple, located at Badridas Temple Street in the northeastern part of Kolkata, is one of the many marvels of architecture that finds a place of pride among the beautiful structures adorning the city. Surprisingly, many of us haven’t yet explored this beautiful and serene destination!
Such is the architecture and the ambience, from the gateway to the garden you will find yourself spellbound from the very moment you set foot inside the temple premise. Built by Rai Budree Das Bahadoor Mookim, a jeweller and art connoisseur to honour Sitalnath ji, the 10th tirthankar, this temple inspires awe from one and all. Construction of the temple began in 1842 and it was completed by 1867. The doors of the temple were thrown open to the public soon after.
In terms of its architecture and grandeur, Sitalnath Jain temple is second to no other Jain temple in the city and, perhaps, even India. At first glance, the exterior might appear a bit cluttered, but a careful look will reveal that it is extremely symmetrical and ordered. A classic looking spire rises from the centre, heavily embellished with gold trim adding to the majestic look of the temple.
There is a triple-arched Rajasthani kiosk right in front of the temple. The eaves and the framework of the main temple are reminiscent of Tipu Sultan’s summer palace of Daria Daulat Bagh at Srirangapatnam in Karnataka. Across the frontage spreads a curved canopy that has obvious Burmese architectural influence. The Corinthian columns on both sides are truly striking. The beauty of the temple is enhanced by the splendid artistry that uses mirror-inlaid pillars with floral designs adorning this magnificent edifice.
Italian marble flooring, German tiles and Belgian chandeliers have been used extensively in the temple. The coloured stained glass windows transport you to a bygone era. The singhasan on which the idol of Sitalnath ji has been kept is decorated with navratnas (nine precious gems). To the south of the Sitalnath Jain Temple stands the Sri Chanda Prabhuji’s temple. On its right is Dada ji Guru temple. The fourth temple towards the north was established to honour Mahavira, the last tirthankar of the Jains.
As you walk up to the garden you discover urns, glass mosaics, planters, fountains, rockery and tile work, benches, railings, ornamental pillars, metal shamianas, a cosy greeting room, a museum, a small fish tank and several beautiful European statues making for the perfect setting for a fantasy land. The garden is so beautiful that you might be enticed to just sit here and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere that prevails. The sunset here makes for an experience that may only be described as divine bliss.
Purohit Joginder Tiwari, who has been here since 1981, feels a deep sense of connection with the Almighty and wants to serve in this temple as long as he can. Even for first time visitors like 24-year-old Souradeep Sen there is an unusual peace that reigns in this place. For 32-year-old Shail Jain, who is a regular visitor, the temple holds a very special place. “I have been married for the past eight years. The initial two years of our marriage wasn’t a happy one as we failed to have a child. One of my maternal aunts introduced my wife and me to this temple. We prayed to Sitalnathji for his blessings and today I am the proud parent of a beautiful four-year-old daughter. We keep coming back to this temple for inner peace, inspiration and to show our gratitude towards Sitalnathji.”
There is a lamp in the temple that burns with ghee and is never extinguished, no matter what. The lamp has been burning incessantly since 1867. Over 200 people visit the temple everyday. The number goes up during weekends and public holidays.
Things to see:
Italian marble flooring
Singhasan with the navratnas
Mirror inlaid pillars
Visiting hours: 6 a.m. to 12 noon
3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Location: Badridas Temple Street
Nearest Landmark: Sahitya Parishad
Entry Fee: Nil
Photography: Not allowed inside the temple
Parking: Not available
Food is not allowed inside
Drinking water is available