Calcutta is a cosmopolitan city, where one can find several holy places, which apart from the Hindu temples, belong to other communities as well. However, besides the old religious places, founded even before the conception of the city, they include others built during the modern period, reflecting the traditional architectural style. Standing tall at 160 feet and spread across an area of around 2,940 square metres of land, the imposing structure of the Birla Temple is one of those modern temples, located on 29 Ashutosh Chowdary Avenue in Ballygunge area, opposite Ballygunge Post Office. Designed by Nomi Bose and constructed in the traditional style of architecture with modern reflections, resembling the Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneshwar, the temple was entirely built with cream-coloured sandstone and white marble.
The magnificent temple, built by the illustrious industrialist Birla family and dedicated to Lord Krishna and his beloved consort Radha, was inaugurated on 21st February 1996, after the traditional rituals conducted by Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, a spiritual leader and President of the Divine Life Society, a Hindu spiritual organisation. Apart from the temple in Calcutta, the Birla family built several temples in various other cities of the country, which include among others, the Lakshmi Narayan Temples in New Delhi and Jaipur, Lakshmi Temple in Bhopal, Shardapeeth Saraswati Temple in Pilani and Lord Venkateswara Temple in Hyderabad.
Although the splendid edifice was opened only in 1990, the construction of the structure, a perfect specimen of craftsmanship and engineering genius, began as early as in 1970. In fact, it took more than 26 years to complete the project, during which expert artisan and craftsmen from Agra, Mirzapur and Muzaffarpur worked painstakingly to carve the unique patterns on the walls of the temple. While towering domes, decorated with intricate stonework and meticulous design, adorn the main facade of the temple, the complex itself resembles a pearl white marble marvel.
Although the three corn-cob-shaped or maize-shaped towers are impressive for their size and carvings, the courtyard offers a nice place for the visitors to take a rest or spend some time leisurely in quiet contemplation. While visually appealing pictorial depictions of verses from Bhagavad Gita are engraved on the walls on the marble carvings, exquisite chandeliers and electrical lamps adorn the ceilings, adding excellent lustre and shine to the interior. Additionally, some artefacts in the temple are made up of silver and Belgian glass, which impart a unique divinity to the shrine.
Despite the chief deities of the temple are Krishna and Radha, like many other Hindu temples, the Birla Temple in Calcutta also houses several important deities.
While the left side dome of the temple houses Goddesses Durga and Goddess Shakti, the right dome houses Lord Shiva in meditation mode. Apart from that, other revered gods of Hindu mythology like Lord Ganesha and the ten avatars or incarnations of Lord Vishnu also have their places in the temple.
At the end of the day, as dusk approaches, the aesthetically illuminated temple looks like a dreamy picture, with continuous chanting of melodious slokas and soft music adding more to its spiritual charm. Although the temple is visited by the devotees regularly, the Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated in a special way, when visitors from all over gather to pay respects and offerings to the deity.