Taraknath Temple of Tarakeshwar is one of the prominent pilgrimage centers in Bengal. Tarakeshwar is located near Serampore near Calcutta in Bengal. This temple dates back to the 18th century. Legend has it that a devotee by name Vishnu Das emigrated with his clan from Oude (Ayodhya) and was viewed with suspicion by the locals. It is believed that he proved his innocence by holding in his hand a red hot iron bar. Later, his brother discovered a site in the nearby jungle, where cattle discharged the contents of their udders (milk) at a particular spot each day. Upon investigation, they discovered a Shivalingam. A dream is said to have revealed to them that this Shivalingam was a manifestation of Tarakeshwar - Lord Shiva ... the Param Bramh... the primordial and ultimate force of the universe...the source of everything. A temple was built at this spot, and was renovated in subsequent years.
The principal attraction is the temple of Taraknath, an 'atchala' structure with a 'natmandir' in front. Close by are the shrines of Kali and Lakshmi-Narayan. Dudhpukur, a tank to the north of the Shiva temple is believed to fulfil the prayers of those taking a dip in it.Pilgrims visit the temple throughout the year, especially on Mondays. But thousands of pilgrims visit Tarakeswar on the occasions of 'Shivaratri' and 'Gajan', the former taking place in Falgun (Feb-March) while the latter lasts for five days ending on the last day of Chaitra (mid-April). The month of Sravana (mid-July to mid-August) is auspicious for Shiva when celebrations are held on each Monday.
On the first day of Sravan (mid July 2010) we decided to travel from Kolakata to Tarakeshwar. Its a 2 hour drive and around 70 kms from Kolkata. The first part of the drive via the NH2 is smooth.However from Singur, where we diverted towards Tarakeshwar the road became a bit bumpy. Along the road we passed across hundreds of devotees clad in saffron carrying water from Ganga in clay pots attached to two ends of a decorated bamboo sticks walking barefooted and chanting eulogy of Baba Taraknath. These devotees walk for around 30 kms and include men and women of various ages and social standing. The road is through green paddy and jute fields and is quite soothing for the eyes.
On getting to Tarakeshwar and asking our ways through a few narrow alleys we reached the West Bengal Tourist Lodge. We checked in there (A/C Rs 1210, Non A/C Rs. 570). The lodge is very nice and rooms are pretty neat. It is very near to the main entrance of the temple. From the hotel we fixed a guide-cum-priest. After our bath, we started on towards the temple. Inside the temple complex its like most holy Hindu pilgrimage places - teeming with people, lined with shops and hounded by beggars. However, the devotion of the devotees and the aura of the place soon took hold and these small distrations did not cause too much problem. We offered our prayers and poured water over the deity. Please be aware in Sravan, it is not possible to touch or pour water diretly over the deity. The water is poured into a vat from which it flows over to the deity. This is done to keep the crowd at bay. However, with the help of our guide we were able to get a good darshan of Lord Taraknath.
Once done, we did some petty shopping and then returned to the lodge and had a nice lunch there. The environment around the lodge is nice and a night stay would be a pleasant experience.However, we returned back to Kolkata on the same day after taking a few hrs of rest at the lodge.