Sprawling over forty acres of land on the west bank of the Hooghly River, Belur; the Belur Math in Kolkata is a place of pilgrimage and also the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. People from all over the world, irrespective of the religion that they believe in, visit this temple to enjoy the tranquillity and serenity that it imbues.
Upon his arrival in Colombo in January 1897 with his small group of disciples, Swami Vivekananda had founded two monasteries. One of them is the Belur Math. The purpose of these monasteries was to train young men in their work, who would, later on, become 'sannyasis' of the Ramakrishna Mission. In fact, Swami Vivekananda himself spent the last few years of his life at Belur Math. He consecrated the ground in 1898 by worshipping the urn which contained the holy relics of Sri Ramakrishna and carried the urn on his shoulders to the place of worship. On this occasion, he uttered the following prophetic words: "The blazing light of universal harmony that will emanate from here will flood the whole world." True to these words, the Belur Math has now become the hub of spiritual movements and an assembly point of all true seekers of spirituality.
The design of the temple was envisaged by Swami Vivekananda, and the responsibility of the architecture was laid in his hands. The architecture and design of the temple 'celebrate the diversity of Indian Religions'. When seen from different angles, the monument resembles a temple, a church and a mosque. The incorporation of architectural styles from different religions conveys the universal faith in which the movement believes in.
The main entrance of the temple is heavily influenced by the Buddhist styles of the Sanchi Stupa and the entry of the Ajanta Caves. The windows and the balconies draw from the Rajput and Mughal styles of architectural designs, while the central dome is derived from European architecture. Also, the ground plan is in the shape of a Christian cross. Mainly built out of chunar stone, the 112.5 feet high temple has images of Lord Ganesha and Hanuman, who represent success and power respectively, carved above the pillars of the entrance doors.
The serene campus of the complex houses temples dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Sarada Devi. The headquarters of the worldwide recognised twin organisations: Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission are also located here. This prime tourist spot near Kolkata also boasts of a well-maintained museum, which contains precious remnants of the history of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Several educational institutes, affiliated to the Ramakrishna Mission, such as a degree college and a polytechnic, are also located here in the vast campus adjoining the Belur Math. A life size statue of Sri Ramakrishna is also situated here, seated on a hundred petalled lotus over a 'damaru' shaped pedestal made of marble. The sacred relics of Sri Ramakrishna are preserved within the pedestal. The green lawns and the trees further enhance the beauty of the campus. All of these components have together made the Belur Math an important place of pilgrimage and the spiritual ambience of this place is well known around the globe.
Other than the celebrations of all traditional Hindu festivals, such as Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja and Saraswati Puja; the Belur Math also celebrate the birthdays of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda. The birthdays of Sri Krishna, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Chaitanya are also observed solemnly. The Christmas Eve celebrations, which begin with the singing of carols and readings from the Bible are particularly impressive. The Belur Math also conducts medical services, education, rural upliftment and other spiritual and cultural activities here.
The immaculate campus of the Belur Math is further brought to life by the evening Aarti or the musical prayers that take place here. The time for the Aarti is 5:30 PM, at which an evening bell is rung to indicate that visitors are not allowed to loiter on the Math grounds and are also not allowed to visit any temple other than Sri Ramakrishna temple. The Aarti songs sung are hymns of praise to Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi. The Aarti here is different from those at other places of worship since one is expected just to sit and meditate. There is no religious offering made. Flowers and sweets are not offered.
The visiting hours of the Belur Math are as follows:
April to September: 6:00 AM to 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
October to March: 6:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM
The visiting hours of the Ramakrishna Museum (Tuesdays to Sundays) are:
April to September: 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
October to March: 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM
The Belur Math is open on all days and has free entry.
Belur Maths is located in the Northern part of Howrah and is about 4 km from Howrah Railway Station. All the modes of transport are accessible from outside the Howrah railway station and bus stand. You can travel by auto, bus or taxi. From Howrah, you can take bus number 54 to reach Belur.
Local trains also go to Belur Math. However, it is more convenient to travel by bus, auto or taxi as they drop you off at the entrance to the Math. It takes around half an hour to reach there from the railway station or the bus stand.
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