Kashi and mysteries are a constant companion to each other, every street and corner has something to tell you but most of it is still untold just like the conversation between Shiva and Shakti. So I really believe that the Kashi is a conversation between these two- Shiva and Shakti and hence a primal center for Tantra Practice.
Many maths and temples in this city are dedicated to cult Tantrik practice but most of them are either least accessible to common beings ( for the sake of keeping them secret and preserved) or lost their charm due to lack of awareness among the common people.
The sacred Kali math is one of them, smeared with myths and history this frail yet glorious structure surely going to give you goosebumps whenever you are going to visit it.
History of Kali Math
The tale of Kali math starts from a Brahmin named Pt. Vaani Vilas. A Dikshit Brahmin but a non-vegetarian (like a Gauda Brahmin) and very fond of fish as a meal. Pt. Vanivilas had an intense desire to get Diksha for sannyasa from a revered sage so he came to Varanasi but he was denied the Diksha due to his non-vegetarian diet.
Dishearten Vani Vilas went to the present Lakshmi Kund, hanged a dead fish on a stick, and challenged the sannyasins of Kashi for sastrath ( debate on scriptures) with that fish. No one of them was able to win over him and Vani Vilas decided to take diksha from none other than lord Kasi Vishwanath.
He did penance at Lakshmi Kund only and finally one day Lord Vishwanath gave him Diksha for his life as a sanyasi and ordered him to construct a Dakshina Kali temple on the same place to practice austerities there.
One day while coming back from the Dashaswamedh Ghat after his routine Ganga prayers, he noticed a seller with three Idols of Kali. He sprinkled Ganga Jal on one idol and that idol came alive, laughed, and followed him when Vani Vilas asked – “Maa ! Come with me”. Vani Vilas established that Kali idol at Kali Math/mutt and started worshipping her. Legend says that the other two idols of Kali which I mentioned above are at Tarapith temple, Kamrup, and Dakshineswar Kali temple, Kolkata.
Kali at Kali math said to be a very aggressive one and with the repeated troubles (The accounts of which, needs to be kept a secret), Vani Vilas requested Maa Kali to confined herself to the sanctum only. He closed the main sanctum forever by making it a closed chamber without any access since then that room with Kali idol is locked. Supposedly the main sanctum is underground in the present math and there is a Kali Tantra inscribed on the floor just above the old sanctum. (this you can see in the room behind the present idol, a dark room with access only to the priests.)
Pt. Vani Vilas installed another Kali idol in the matha often referred to as “ HAYAKANTI KALI”, since then the Kali Math has been adorned by many wonderful Dandi sanyasis and most of them attend siddhi in Kali worship.
Now the story of Vani Vilas is said to be nearly 900 years old but the actual account of the present structure dates back to the 17th century. There was a renowned Sanskrit scholar “ Pt. Ramanand Pati Tripathi”, a well respected Brahmin in Mughal court and teacher of Mughal Prince “ Dara Sikoh “. Pt. Ramanand Pati Tripathi was chief among the group of Sanskrit teachers for Dara sikoh. He was also a very adorned Tantra worshipper and Kali Math/mutt was established by his efforts with the sanctions from Mughals. In his later life he took sanyas as Swami Gyananand, his Samadhi is still present in the Kali Math/mutt.
There are a list of Sanyasis and some key incidents attached to them like Sri Damodranand Saraswati, it is said that he used to roam near Manikarnika on a lion at night, and above mentioned the Kali yantra is established by him.
Another story of Swami Harihara Nand Saraswati that Maa Ganga used to offer flowers at his feet finally Swami Takuranand Saraswati, how he invoked the three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Math/Mutt complex when he found that one of his devotees is unable to travel to these sacred rivers though I didn’t found these separate Kunds but an old well is present in the complex.
MATH AT PRESENT
It is a sad reality that despite its glorious past, the sacred math is losing its old charm. Most of the part of matha is a ruin now and a major part has been replaced by modern brickworks. At present no Dandi Sanyasi is heading the math so one can imagine the status of management.
Despite hurdles Kali Matha is still pursuing its old tradition like an annual musical festival- Shri Kali Math Sangeet Samaroh, a three-day festival in the month of September which witness attendance of great musician in the service of Goddess Kali.
On the special occasion of Navratri and Deepawali special arrangements for puja is still being done by the locals infect on the night of Deepawali one can get a close look at the tantric worship there.
At the end I will really request you to visit the matha, whenever you go to Kashi, experience the vibes, rich history there and of course the darshan of Kali – as she is the most motherly figure in the Hindu worship despite of her fearsome appearance. Let’s hope that this Matha will reach its grand glory again in future.