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Kali Mandir

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Kali Mandir is a Hindu temple and ashram located in Laguna Beach, California, dedicated to the worship of the Divine Mother Kail in the tradition of Sri Ramakrishna since 1993, that includes a temple, monastery, and theological seminary.

Kali Mandir
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Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 5.52.41 PM.png
KALI MANDIR "Dedicated to the worship of the Divine Mother since 1993."
Religious Nonprofit, Hindu Temple and Ashram
Founded 📆2022-06-19
Founder 👔Elizabeth Usha Harding
Headquarters 🏙️Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram, 20371 Sun Valley Dr. Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Area served 🗺️
Southern California
Key people
Elizabeth Usha Harding (President); Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati (Vice President, Head Priest, Dean of Seminary); Swami Ambikananda Saraswati (Secretary, Priest)
MembersNo membership
Number of employees
All volunteer staff
🌐 Website
📇 AddressP.O. Box 4700, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
📞 telephone1 (949) 494-1906
👍 Facebook

History and Tradition[edit]

Kali Mandir is a California 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit religious organization founded in 1993 by Elizabeth Usha Harding, author of Kali: the Black Goddess of Dakshineswar.

In a way, the publication of the first edition of this book in 1993 helped start public Kali worship in the United States. When the book sparked interest in worship, Usha brought Sri Haradhan Chakraborti, the main priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Kolkata, to Laguna Beach to perform a grand worship festival of Goddess Kali in Laguna Beach, CA. He and his assistant Sri Pranab Ghosal brought a beautiful Kali image from India and ritually awakened Her (prana-pratishtana) with the name Sri Ma Dakshineswari Kali (The Goddess from Dakshineswar). Devotees who had very little background in the intricacies of India’s temple puja standards gradually adopted this vastly rich devotional tradition one detail at a time—out of a simple love and desire to please Mother. This simple daily worship grew organically into present-day Kali Mandir, where devotees can pour forth their hearts’ yearning to the Great Mystery at the center of existence.

Ma Dakshineswari Kali, the presiding deity worshiped at Kali Mandir.

During the early years of Kali Mandir, Ma Dakshineswari Kali was worshiped in Elizabeth Usha Harding's one-bedroom apartment in Laguna Beach with annual festivals ("Big Pujas") held at Anneliese School in Lagana Canyon. After several years Usha's apartment became too small to accommodate the growing number of devotees, so Usha and Ma moved into a small rented house in the Laguna Canyon not far from Annalises School. The property was purchased in 2001 and legally transferred into Kali Mandir's name in 2018. The house underwent a major renovation in 2008 with the foundation stone of the new shrine laid on Shiva Ratri by Rev. Swami Chetanananda, Minister of the Vedanta Society of St. Louise on Shiva Ratri day, and the new shine room inaugurated on Snanyatra day by Rev. Swami Sarvadevananda, Minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California.

Kali Mandir’s focus is on the awakened deity Ma Dakshineswari Kali and the universal teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.

Worship is conducted in a similar manner as that of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in accordance with dakshina-marg or the right-handed path of Tantra, which adheres to conservative Hindu norms in the mood of selfless devotion.[1]

Although Kali Mandir may have close relationship and lineage connections with other temples, ashrams, organizations, groups, or spiritual leaders, Kali Mandir is fully autonomous and independent of any denominational control.

Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram[edit]

The principle office and root-temple of Kali Mandir is known as Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram. The ashram is located in Laguna Beach, California, in the sacred Laguna Canyon, two miles from the Pacific Ocean, and surrounded by the natural and protected beauty of the Laguna Cove Wilderness Park. Although located in a home on a private street in a residential neighborhood, the ashram and shrine is open to guests at scheduled times or by appointment for darshan, puja, kirtan and discourses. The spiritual heart of the ashram is the temple of the Divine Mother Sri Ma Dakshineswari Kali. Other murtis (images)established at Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram are Lord Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Radha & Krishna, Hanuman, and Narashinga. The ashram maintains outdoor shrines to Hanuman, Shiva, Bhairava, Manasa Devi, Shitala Devi, Smashan Kali, Quan Yin, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Coatlicue, and Neem Karoli Baba. The ashram also includes meditation gardens, a small book & gift shop, a Hindu seminary, and a residential monastery.

Residence at the monastery is restricted to those living monastic lives dedicated to spiritual practice, austerity, study, and service of Ma Dakshineswari Kali and Her devotees. Traditional standards, restrictions, rules and protocols for Hindu monastic life are observed by the residents of the monastery.[2]

Aims and Objectives[edit]

From the Bylaws of Kali Mandir[3]:

  1. The primary objective and purpose of this corporation is to function as a traditional temple dedicated to the worship of the Divine Mother Kali in the mother/child relationship.
  2. The name of the Kali image is Ma Dakshineswari Kali.
  3. Although the place of worship is open to all religious denominations, Kali Mandir shall follow implicitly the spiritual tradition of Sri Ramakrishna.
  4. The mode of worship shall be conducted in a similar order as worship is conducted at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Kolkata.
  5. Kali Mandir promotes harmony of religions following the ideal of Sri Ramakrishna: “As many faiths so many paths.” 
  6. Kali Mandir is purely a spiritual organization and has no affiliation with any political organization anywhere in the world.
  7. One of the main purposes of Kali Mandir is to create a spiritual atmosphere through daily worship, ritual, singing, chanting, reading of the scriptures and spiritual discussions.
  8. Kali Mandir stands for universal spirituality.
  9. No practices associated with a narrow sectarian cult or left-handed Tantra are to be performed here.
  10. The followers of Kali Mandir may have their individual gurus, but they shall not form any guru cult at Kali Mandir.
  11. The main guru is Ma Dakshineswari Kali Herself and Sri Ramakrishna.
  12. Kali Mandir shall promote traditional Mother worship and aim to remove misconceptions about such worship in the West.
  13. Kali Mandir provides a facility where young people can form their character, learning moral and ethical values.
  14. Kali Mandir also trains people to love and serve the community and lead an ideal life.
  15. Kali Mandir propagates a spiritual culture aimed to form a bridge between the East and West.
  16. Kali Mandir shall be financially supported through donations, and a small percentage of income shall be derived from sales in its gift shop.
  17. Kali Mandir is strictly vegetarian.

Kali Mandir Activities[4][edit]

Swami Ambikananda Saraswati offering flowers at Ma Dakshineswari Kali's feet, 2021
Nitya Puja[edit]

Daily ritual worship of Ma Dakshineswari Kali is performed daily, including Kali Puja puja in the morning and arati at sunset.

Amavasya Kali Puja[edit]

Elaborate ritual worship is performed every new moon (amavasya), which includes puja, homa, arati, kirtan, and prashad.

Kirtan and Bhajan[edit]

Kali Mandir is a musical temple with many talented and sincere singers and musicians. Ecstatic Kirtan (chanting of Divine names) and heart-felt bhajans (devotional songs) are a regular occurrence, especially during festivals.

Special Functions[edit]

Kali Mandir observes most holidays and festivals with special worship, such as Shivaratri; Janmastami; Durga Puja; Navaratri; Saraswati Puja; Lakshmi Puja; Ramnavami; Hanuman Jayanti; Guru Purnima; and the birthdays of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.


Religious discourses on spiritual life, the Hindu scriptures, and the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, are held weekly by resident and visiting sadhus.

Personal Pujas and Samskaras[edit]

Puja and homa are performed by Kali Mandir pujaris, either at Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram or in devotees homes, by special request. Samskaras (sacramental rites of passage), such as grihashanti/prihapravesh (house blessing); annaprashana (first rice-eating); vidyarambha (commencing education); upanayana (investiture with sacred thread); etc.

Covid-19 Restrictions[edit]

Following CDC and California State health directives, Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram closed to the public during the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. In order to prevent the community spread of the virus as well as protect the health and safety of our resident staff and guests (some of whom are in the high-risk category for life-threatening complications) all public gathering where canceled. While temple rituals continued unbroken, important pujas, evening arati, festivals, and satsangs where broadcast online. Since early 2022 devotees are again allowed to visit Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Ashram for darshan by appointment only. Darshan appointments can me made on the Kali Mandir website (see External Links below.)[5]

Ramakrishna Seminary at Kali Mandir[edit]

Seminary students during class lecture, 2019

Ramakrishna Seminary is an educational ministry of Kali Mandir dedicated to the training of the next generation of scholars, theologians, teachers, and practitioners in the broad and deep teachings of Sanatana Dharma. Although operating informally since 1993 in the training of the priests, monks and devotees of Kali Mandir, in 2019 Ramakrishna Seminary began offering formal classes and courses to the greater spiritual community online under the direction of Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati. The seminary combines Eastern and Western, practical and academic, ancient and modern, traditional and progressive methods and approaches to religious education and is rooted in the universal teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886), the great world-teacher and incarnation of divinity who taught the transcendent unity of religion, the motherhood of God, and the mystical path of love and devotion. Holding its educational resources and scholarship to a high standard of academic rigor, Ramakrishna Seminary focuses on the practical applications of religious thought and philosophy to the active spiritual lives of its students. Emphasis is given to personal spiritual development, cultural authenticity, and service of God in the world. Ramakrishna Seminary offers courses of study leading to a Certificate in Hindu Studies and Diploma in Applied Hindu Theology, and is developing Master and Doctoral programs as well.[6] See External Links below for more information.

Kathamrita Translation Project[edit]

Kali Mandir is currently working on a new English translation of one of modern spirituality’s most unique and influential texts, the Bengali Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, Mahendranath Gupta’s five-volume account of his meetings and conversations with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The core translation is being done by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati, assisted by an international team of editors and scholars. This translation aims to follow as close as possible the content, structure, styles and moods of the original text, and will include a numbered sentence system, making it possible to cross-reference between the English translation and the original Bengali text, as well as a transliteration scheme in Roman text, for those unable read Bengali. Work on the first volume is nearing completion.[7]

Governance and Clergy[edit]

Elizabeth Usha Harding, founder and executive director of Kali Mandir.

Kali Mandir has two bodies who govern the proper functioning of its objectives[8]:

1. A Board of Directors, with a disinterested majority, who govern the financial and material health of the organization, and

Mahant Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati, performing homa at Kali Mandir, Vaishak Amavasya, 2022

2. A Priest Body (Kali Mandir Ramakrishna Sanga) that serves the spiritual and ritual needs of the temple and devotee community. The Priest Body is headed by the Mahant (a traditional title for the superior of a Hindu temple or monastery) and includes all ordained Pujaris (servant-priest). All Kali Mandir pujaris are ordained and trained by the Mahant and are consecrated to the worship of Ma Dakshineswari Kali and propagating the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. Kali Mandir pujaris serve at Kali Mandir as well in the larger Hindu and devotee community.

Board of Directors[edit]
  1. PRESIDENT: Elizabeth Usha Harding
  2. VICE PRESIDENT: Rev. Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati, DMin
  3. SECRETARY: Rev. Swami Ambikananda Saraswati
  4. TREASURER: Sadananda (Dustin Shultz)
  5. Kajoal Roy
  6. Gopa Patnaik, EdD
  7. Rampriya Das (Trevor Hall)
Mahant (Head Priest & Abbot)[edit]
Resident Pujaris[edit]
Assistant Pujaris[edit]
  • Devahuti (Heather Hathaway)
  • Ananda Bhai (Charles Sakulpongyuenyong)
  • Rampriya Das (Trevor Hall)
  • Deva Das (Dave Alvidera)
  • Jateshwar Das (Clay Strand)
  • Adikeshava (Brain Campbell)

Kali Mandir Production[edit]

  • Mahishasuramardini Stotram, 2017[9]
  • Remember Ram, Swami Govindananda Saraswati, 2014
  • Return to the Source: Collected Writings on Spiritual Life, Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati, 2016[10]
  • Simple Kali Puja, Instructions for Ritual Worship of Dakshina Kali, Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati, 2011[11]
  • Ancient Mother, Kali Puja Live II, Various Artists, 2003
  • Esho Ma: Yearning for the Divine Mother, Songs from the Mystic Poets of Bengal, Naren K, Schreiner,
  • Gayatri, Mother of the Vedas, 2020
  • Jai Ambe, Swami Nirvanananda Live, 2001
  • Kali Kirtan, In Praise of the Divine Mother, Kali Mandir Kirtan Mandali, 2007
  • Kali Mandir Arati Bhajans, Kali Mandir Kirtan Mandali, 2011
  • Kali Puja Live, Kali Mandir, Various Artist, 1998
  • Nama Kripa, Mercy of the Holy Name, Kali Mandir Kirtan Mandali, 2019
  • Om Sri Kalikayai Namaha, Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati and Trevor Hall, 2019
  • Songs of the Madmen: Purna Das Baul Live at Kali Mandir, 2002
  • Swami Nirvanananda, Live at Trabuco Monastery, 2019
  • A Day at the Dakshineswar Temple, a documentary by Elizabeth Usha Harding, 2020[13]
  • A Walk Through Kamarpukur and Jayrambati, a documentary by Elizabeth Usha Harding (narration by Trevor Hall, music by Haradhan Das Baul), 2020[14]
  • Kali Mandir's Annual Kali Puja: Tantric Fire Ceremony and Late Night Kali Puja, 2005
  • Kali Mandir's Annual Kali Puja: Morning Worship of Sri Ma Dakshineswari Kali (2 DVD Set), 2005
  • Swami Gambhirananda, A Documentary, Elizabeth Usha Harding (narration by Rich Capparela, music by Pundit Hariprasad Chaurasia), 1991[15]

Satsang Podcast[edit]

Audio recordings of hundreds of spiritual discourses given at Kali Mandir by Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati, Swami Chetanananda, Swami Ambikananda Saraswati, Swami Sarvadevananda, and others are available for listening and download on Kali Mandir's Podbean page (see External Links below).

YouTube Channel[edit]

Video recordings of lectures, kirtans, pujas, and festivals are available on Kali Mandir's Youtube Channel (see External Links below).

Mentions in Media and Academia[edit]

  • Constructing Feminist Narratives in Contemporary Śaktism via the Nine Night Goddess Worship Navarātrī Festival at Kālī Mandir, John J G H Flicker, 2020[16]
  • Devotion is Infectious, Smita Garg, India Currents, July, 2006[17]
  • Expanding Minds Podcast: Kali Ma. An Interview with Usha Harding and Swami Bhajanananda by Dr. Eric Davis[18]
  • Exploring the Divine in a Dive Bar: Sitting Down with Trevor Hall, LA Yoga. 2010[19]
  • Gateways to the Goddess: Devotion to Kali in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Nicole C. Petersen, Hamline University, 2014[20]
  • Goddess Worship: The Hindu Goddess, Rachel Fell McDermot, Encyclopedia of Religion[21]
  • Imagemaker: A Short Film , written & directed by Uma Sanasaryan, 2021[22]
  • Indian Asceticism In America: A Visit to the Kali Temple In Laguna Bach, California, Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, Vicharasethu, Vol. 52, 2016[23]
  • Kali Comes West, Cassia Berman, Yoga Journal, June, 1997[24]
  • Kali Puja: The Art of Seeing God, Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati and Swami Ambikananda Saraswati, Light of Consciousness Magazine, Winter, 2001[25]
  • Know How California became Home to Presiding Deity of Kolkata’s Famous Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Indian Eagle Travel Beats, 2017[26]
  • Ritual, Place, and Experience in Hindu Home-Temple Visitation, Sanjoy Mazumdar & Shampa Mazumdar, University of California, Irvine, 2020
  • Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations, pg 345, Karen Tate, Consortium of Collected Consciousness, 2006[27]
  • Strange Universe (syndicated television series), Season 2, "The House of Kali", 1998
  • Swami Vivekananda and the Worship of Kali in the West, Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati, Prabuddha Bharata, January, 2013[28]
  • The Many Faces of Kali, David Nelson, Pomegranate: The International Journal for Pagan Studies, Issue 12, May, 2000 Pomegranate[29]
  • The Visionary State: A Journey through California's Spiritual Landscape, pg 223, Eric Davis, Chronicle Books, 2006[30]
  • Worship of God as Mother Kali, a Documentary by Al Eschner, 1995 [31]
  • Yogic Paths, a nine-episode documentary series, Gaia TV[32]

External links[edit]


  2. From Kali Mandir Book of the Temple
  3. Article 2, Section 1 of the Bylaws of Kali Mandir
  4. From Kali Mandir Introductory Brochure
  8. From Bylaws of Kali Mandir
  9. Available at:
  10. Available at:
  11. Available at:
  12. Available at:
  22. Imagemaker: A Short Film:
  23. PDF:
  31. Worship of God as Mother