As West Bengal marked its biggest festival of Durga Puja last week, one of the oldest Kali temples in Siliguri town, which has a glorious saga of anti-colonial struggle, stepped into its 88th year of organising the Puja this year. The puja at Anandamoyee Kalibari is arguably the second oldest in the town after the one organised by Mitra Sammilani.

However, people are hardly aware of the historical legacy attached with the temple that came into existence way back in 1915. The minstrel, Charan Kobi Mukunda Das, who came to Siliguri in May 1924, played an important role in the establishment of the temple, which was originally a meeting place for revolutionaries.

It was constructed on around 16 katthas of land and initially had a tin shed.

“The bard envisaged the temple as a training ground for wrestling, Yogasan, stick fighting and some forms of self-defence exploits. Lakhs of visitors thronged the temple during the puja days,” the president of the Anandamoyee Kalibari Samity, Mrinal Kanti Chowdhury, said.

General Secretary of the Samity, Bhaskar Biswas, said they still swear by tradition and strictly adhere to the rituals and schedule.

“It is because this conventional style that strikes a chord with devotees who throng this place. The Durga idol continues to be Ekchala, which means the goddess and her children are built on one frame. The idols are made in the mandap (place of worship) itself. An artisan works on the idol from the day of Rathyatra every year, which is celebrated more than three-and-a-half months before the Pujas,” Mr Biswas said.

The samity now plans to install ‘permanent’ idols made of marbles. “We plan to have Durga idols made of marble and are trying to have them as early as next year. Such idols are made in Markana in Rajasthan and they will weigh around nine tons. Once the permanent idols are installed, there will be worship of the Durga in the temple every day,” Mr Biswas added.

Joint secretaries of the Durga Puja organising committee at the temple, Sudipta Kumar Chakrabarty and Asoke Basu, say lakhs of pandal hoppers flock to their puja every year.

“It always makes it difficult for us to control the crowd. Apart from that, a large number of people gather here to offer puspanjali on Ashtami and Navami,” they say.