Temple to Lord Amitabh Bachchan, Kolkata

Sanjay bought this chair from the sets of one of Amitabh Bachchan's movies. The shoes that Amitabh wore in one of his moves sit on the chair. There is also the  portrait of the Bollywood superstar on the chair. Sanjay and his son worship Amitabh Bachchan in this temple here. The yellow shawl has `Jai Shree Amitabh' emblazoned on it. Sanjay has a special prayer or `Amitabh Chalisa' for Big B. He says Amitabh is a living breathing god in their midst. (sanjay austa      sanjayausta@gmail.)

Worshipping Amitabh Bachchan at his temple, Kolkata.

This article first appeared in the Bangkok Post. Oct 2013.

The address to where I am headed is so bizarre that I expect everyone to point it out to me along the way.  But whomsoever I ask for directions on the street shake their head, laugh and look at me with amusement. This includes a huddle of auto-rickshaw drivers  at a street corner. Its only out of sheer curiosity that  a younger of the lot agrees to hunt it down for me.

I am in Ballugung area of  old Kolkata looking for the Amitabh Bachchan temple.  I have had it   from a reliable source but the titter it causes makes me skeptical and want to retrace my steps.      But this is India where, if you look hard enough, the weird and the whacky are found at every turn.

For us, it takes countless twists and turns in the winding,  crowded streets until we arrive at a dark nook of  an apartment block. Tucked away in  its  dark recesses lies the   Amitabh Bachchan Temple.  A fluorescent banner ‘ Jai Amitabh Bachchan’ on a doorway, announces it unambiguously.

This is clearly not a fans shrine to their superstar.  Bollywood fimstar Amitabh Bachchan is worshipped here as a God incarnate and  full rites and rituals are accorded to him as to any  Hindu God including the devotional aarti  sung to him in pious clamor to the accompaniment of  cymbals and bells.

And the temple is like any other Hindu temple with its religious protocol and symbols and customs. So much so that as we cross the threshold, the autorickshaw driver, as if on an ancient impulse,  folds his hands in reverence.

The front room of this two room temple complex is a  montage of  Amitabh Bachchan’s photographs from his various films. The sanctum sanctorum has been plastered with a  ‘ Jai Shree Amitabh ‘ wall paper. In the center sits an ornate dark-green chair procured from the sets of Aks – a supernatural thriller.  On the chair is placed a glass case with a pair of white leather shoes in it. Shoes that Amitabh wore in the film  Agnipath. And on the glass case rests Bachchan’s side portrait with him wearing a sort of tiara –and ‘GOD’ blazoned  brazenly  over the photograph.

Hindus,  it is said will worship anything. There are already 330 millions Gods in the Hindu pantheon and growing.   For many therefore its not surprising that Amitabh Bachchan, an icon for millions,  is the latest candidate to join this grand Hindu panoply.

‘’ I don’t like the word fan. I am a devotee’’, says Sanjay Patodia who constructed this temple in the portion of his house in  2003. Devotees like Patodia are in earnest and are convinced Bachchan is God Himself. Patodia enters the temple adorning a shawl that has ‘’Har Har Amitabh’’ and ‘’ Jai Shree Amitabh’’ printed all over   it.  “ There are many forms of God and to us he is one of his many forms’’, says Patodia.

Patodia is one of the hundreds of Bachchan fans in Kolkata who have turned their admiration for the Bollywood superstar into a religious fervor.

And what does Amitabh Bachchan,  who has trouble even acknowledging his celebrity and superstardom, think of a  temple in his name? Much in  contrast to the  chest thumping Shah Rukh Khan who doesn’t flinch from using words like badshah and other superlatives for himself,  Amitabh is  acutely embarrassed by his fan’s  holy zeal and has expressed as much.

 “We listen to every word of his but this is where we disobey him. We will continue to worship him as God whether he likes it or not”, says Patodia.

Like all Hindu Gods there are some auspicious dates marked out for Bachchan’s worship.  One is his birthday when Patodia along with other devotees make their annual pilgrimage  to Mumbai to see him in flesh and blood. The other is August 2nd  which is celebrated as Amitabh’s  ‘’second birthday’’. It was the day when Amitabh Bachchan recovered from his near fatal injury he had incurred on the sets of Coolie.

On this day, besides performing all the ecclesiastical duties including chanting, aarti and puja for the filmstar,  the devotees organize blood donation camps, distribute clothes to the poor and organize quiz contests on the life and times of Amitabh.

These activities, a mix of devotion and philanthropy are organized under the aegis of the All Bengal Amitabh Bachchan Fan’s Association (ABABF).  Not all members are however devotees but all  regard Amitabh  a paragon of virtue.

But for many like Patodia nothing comes between his God and him. “Not even my wife’’, he says. ‘’ I told her when I got married to her that this is something she will have to live with’’, he says.

She complied, including naming their two children after Amitabh’s kith and kin. Abhishek their 13 year old son is named after Amitabh’s filmstar son and Agastya their seven year old son is named after Amitabh’s grandson.

This is the Amitabh Bachchan temple in Kolkata. Sanjay here worships to `god' Amitabh every day seeking his blessings as he utters the Amitabh Chalisa. (sanjay austa      sanjayausta@gmail.)

Sanjay Patodia in the Amitabh Bachchan temple, Kolkata.

2 Responses to “Temple to Lord Amitabh Bachchan, Kolkata”

  1. […] His acting has been widely revered across all corners of the country and it’s not outrageous that fans have built a temple for him in Kolkata. The temple isn’t a shrine, Mr. Bachchan is worshipped here as god incarnate […]

  2. bittu says:

    India is funny country where anybody can be worshiped as God. But sprituality is totally different. ..and and any living bodycan not be equated withGod.
    I will say to Sanjay patodia if he would have touch the feet and serve his parents daily morning who hv given him birth and brought him up..from all odds, certainly qis soul will rest in peace after death.

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