Puri, the holy city of Lord Jagannath, is also famous for its Sakta temples. Both inside and outside of Jagannath temple there are several temples dedicated to Sakta deities like Vimala, Harachandi, Daksina Kali, Shyamakali, etc. which represents the popularity of Saktism at Puri. There is a temple dedicated to Goddess Kali at Bali Sahi. The presiding deity of the temple is a four armed Kali. The temple, locally known as Shyamakali Temple, is the oldest temple of Puri where Goddess Kali is worshiped. Tourists can approach the temple by using the road leading towards Swargadwar from Singhadwar (Lion's Gate) of Lord Jagannath Temple, there is a diversion to Bali Sahi. After enetring this lane you can reach Shayamakali Chowk, the temple is situated on the right side of the Shyamakali lane, leading from Shayamakali Chowk to Tiadisahi.
Kali is also called as 'Shyamakali' who is the first of the ten avatars (incarnations) of Goddess Durga. Shyamakali is the fearful and ferocious form of the Mother Goddess Durga. In this temple Goddess Kali stands in Pratyalidha pose on the chest of Lord Shiva and posseses four hands. She is engaged here in reverse cohabitation with Lord Siva. She holds a sword and displays Abhaya-Mudra in her upper left and right hands respectively while her lower left hand is holding a severed human head and the lower right displays Varada-Mudra. In this context it is noteworthy that her kind aspect is demonstrated by holding of the sword in her left hand, because the sword in right hand symbolises destruction. She posseses three eyes and is surrounded by jackeles and vultures carved on the side. The height of the image is around four feet. The height of the slab of deity measures 3.5 feet. It is also carved with figures of dog, jackle, kite and crow.
There are other two images carved on the left side of Shyamakali. These images are four handed and known as Vimala and Sarbamangala. The image of Vimala is seen standing and holding a noose, a human figure and a vase. Likewise the seated image of Mangala holds a full moon, rosary and lotus. The significant aspect of this image is that she holds a pestle in her upper left hand.
Structure and Architecture
Shyama kali temple is facing towards east. This temple is built in both sand stones and bricks. It consists of three components such as Vimana, Jagamohana and Natamandapa. The Vimana of the temple is about 20 feet from the surface of the temple complex. The central niches of the three sides of the Vimana are housed with parsvadevata (subsidiary Deities) images of Devi Kukutamukhi, Srugalamukhi and Asvamukhi. Devi Kukutamukhi is the parsvadevata of the northern side. The two-armed Devi has been installed on the plain pedestal. Her left hand displays a pana patra and the right hand holds a club. Dog, the mount of Devi is carved on the left side of the pedestal. The two-handed image of Devi Srugalamukhi is the parsvadevata of the western side. Here Devi is in seated posture on a plain pedestal. Jackle, the conventional mount of Devi is installed on the left side of the pedestal. Devi Asvamukhi is the parsvadevata of the southern side. She has been installed on the backside of a horse. The Vimana has one doorway towards the Jagamohana.
The Jagamohana of the temple is a flat roof structure, and its height is about 12 feet. Inner side of the eastern wall contain two Mahavira (Hanumana) images. The Jagamohana has five doorways, one on eastern, three on western and one on southern side respectively. The doorjambs of the eastern side are decorated with naga-bandhas. The centre of the doorway lintel is decorated with a khadga (sword). Navagrahas are carved above the doorway lintel. Ganga and Yamuna are acting as the dvarapalas (door keepers) of the eastern side doorway.
The Natamandapa of the temple is a flat roofed structure and its height is about 15 feet. The outer walls of the Natamandapa are completely plain. Lion, the conventional mount of Devi is installed on the plain square sized pedestal, which noticed in the centre of the floor of Natamandapa. Inner wall of the Natamandapa is housed with sculptures of various deities and they are finely painted with different colours. The Natamandapa has two doorways: one on the eastern side and another on the north-east corner.
There is a small Shiva temple noticed in the southern side of the Shyamakali temple complex. The temple complex of Shyamakali is enclosed by a boundary wall of 12 feet in height and it is made of bricks.
Festivals and Rituals
Festivals like Kali Puja, Deepavali, Durga Puja, Jagadhatri puja etc. are observed here with great devotion. On the Kalipuja day lot of devotees arrive here to offer their prayer to Goddess Kali to get her blessings on this auspicious day.
Shyamakali has been the official deity for the Gajapati Maharaja (King) of Puri for hundreds of years. Over her altar one can see the insignia of the royal family of Puri. Shyamakali is one of the famous Goddesses of Puri. Till today, according to the royal custom, the new king after his coronation, first visits this temple and worship Shyama Kali. Originally the temple was under the direct supervision of the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri, but at present chief priests of the temple are taking care.