Behind the inception of this temple is the stirring story of the founder, Elizabeth Usha Harding. Harding had been to India several times and written a book entitled Kali, the Black Goddess of Dakshineswar. Someone suggested that she get an image of Kali Ma and show people a Kali Puja. The head priest of the Dakshineswar Kali temple in Kolkata, Haradhan Chakraborti, agreed to come and perform the Puja. Harding had lost her mother the previous year (1992), and recollects grieving over her passing away when something miraculous happened. The Kali image arrived from India on the same date when her mother normally arrived in the United States to visit her every summer.

In June 1993, the priest, Haradhan Chakraborti, performed elaborate rituals and awakened the murti as Sri Ma Dakshineswari Kali of Laguna Beach.

“After that first Kali Puja weekend,” says Harding, “everything changed at a rapid pace. Devotees started pouring in to learn the puja. A wonderful blend of Indian and Western devotees began to worship Ma much to the annoyance of a downstairs neighbor who used a broomstick to pound on the ceiling when he heard bells and cymbals.

“When we counted more than 45 pairs of shoes outside the small apartment during an amavasya Kali puja, we realized that we had outgrown the facility and moved to a charming property in Laguna Canyon. Ma created a couple of miracles, and we were able to purchase this property and turn it into a veritable oasis filled with traditional Indian values. Besides Ma’s main shrine room, we created an outdoor shrine under our holy tree where devotees can worship a beautiful Shiva lingam and Manasa Devi.”

2bbfa0883ba8f6a9ade590e7fd05d297-3Following practices at the Dakshineswar temple, the devotees perform daily puja in the morning and arati in the evening. Elaborate monthly amavasya Kali pujas are held, and an annual Kali Puja Festival is organized every summer. Harding explains that Kali Mandir is a temple modeled after the public Indian temple ideal—there is no presiding guru, no membership, and it is open to all.

“We follow the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. All activities (puja, homa, kirtan, satsang, and seva) at the Mandir revolve around the beautiful image of Ma Kali. We are strict vegetarians, and we aim to live according to Sanatana dharma,” she adds.

Many young people flock to the Kali Mandir. The Mandir provides a facility where devotees can worship and communicate with their Divine Mother. “Devotion is infectious—one catches it from another who has it!” observes Harding.

This year, priests from the Dakshineswar Temple, Chakraborti, and his assistant Pranab Ghosal will come from Kolkata to perform pujas and homa. Among the artists perfoming are Bhagavan Das, Dave Stringer, Mukesh Desai, Swami Nirvanananda, Shanti Shivani, Sargam and Suman Shah, the Temple Bhajan Band, Swami Bhajanananda and the Kali Mandir Mandali, Manju Chakraborti, Suniti Bergman, and Suniti Sundaram. There will be odissi dances by Laboni, Shivani, and Shalini Patnaik, and Yuki Mukhopadhyay. With a spiritually charged atmosphere, devotional music and dances, individual flower offerings, and delicious vegetarian meals, the event promises to be quite extraordinary.

Saturday, July 22, 9 a.m.-10:45 p.m.; Sunday, July 23, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Anneliese’s Preschool, 20062 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach. $80 per person or $160 per family suggested donation. (949) 494-1906.

www.kalimandir.org

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