Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple

Kolhapur ( कोल्हापूर) is located in Kolhapur district and is well connected with Pune, 240 km north. It is on the national highway between Bangalore and Pune. It is situated on the banks of the Panchganga  river and is full of ancient temples and shrines.  Goddess Mahalakshmi resides in Kolhapur, and is been a famous holy place right  from ancient times pilgrims from far and near have continued to flock here in their thousands year after year. So great was indeed its repute that it was known as ’Dakshin Kashi,’ the Kashi of the south.  For the Legend / Story behind this ancient temple visit  Kolhapur Ambabai – Kshetra Purana

The four Shakti Peethas of Maharashtra are Tuljapur  enshrining Bhavani, Kolhapur enshrining Mahalakshmi, Mahur enshrining Mahamaya Renukaand Saptshringi  enshrining Jagadamba.

Temple Architecture

The temple dates back to Circa 600 to 700 A.D. constructed during Chalukya reign.  Though the temple was built by the Chalukya ruler, Karandev, it was the Shilahara Yadava who extended and beautified it.  The Mahadwara  – main entrance  of the temple is the in the west with lots of small shops selling items for worship of the Devi.  Walking further down the Mahadwara one is confronted with several deepa maala’s on either side, then comes  a large open hall of timber construction. The huge square pillars and foliated arches in wood are characteristic of Maratha temple architecture. This Mandap is  called as Garuda-mandap and was constructed during the eighteenth century. An image of Garuda, the vahana of Vishnu, is housed in this mandap so as to face the sanctum. Adjoining it towards the east is a small mandap of stone construction. It is built on a raised plinth. An image of Ganesh nearly four feet in height stands in the centre facing the sanctum. In the central shrine, facing the west, stands the Ambabai. The northern shrine is occupied by Mahakali, the southern by Mahasaraswati.  Also seen in this temple is a rich display of sculpture of figurines in dancing poses, musicians, Gods and Goddesses. The three sancta have rather simple shikharas of brick and mortar dating back to the 19th century. An extremely unusual position is occupied by a Shiva ling. Immediately above the garbhagriha of the Mahalakshmi shrine is a second storey. Here a Shiva ling and a nandi are placed, it is still a mystery as to when and by whom it was placed.

The Idol

The image of the Goddess has an extremely pleasant appearance. It is carved in black stone, is  about three feet in height and has four arms and crowned Goddess made of gemstone and weighs about 40 kilograms.  It contains mater mixed with Hirak bits.. The typical ayudhas of the devi are as follows. In the lower right hand is the matulinga, a fruit not unlike the ordinary lemon, but much larger in size. In the upper right hand is a large mace, kaumodaks, and its head touching the ground. The upper left hand holds the shield or khetaka, the lower one holding a bowl i.e. panpatra.  There is a natural “Padma-Ragini” (Lotus).  On the ’crown of the devi are a cobra-hood and a Shiva-ling with a yoni around it. Standing behind the devi is her vahana-a lion. The iconographical descriptions of the Goddess, going back to the thirteenth century or even earlier according to some authorities, resemble most of the lakshanas of the present image. The earliest mention comes from the Vishvakarmashastra as quoted by Hemadri in his Chaturvargachintamani. It refers specifically to the Karvirvasini Mahalakshmi.

Unique Feature
Unlike most Hindu sacred images, which face north or east, the image of this deity looks west (Pashchim). There is a small open window on the western wall, through which the setting sun rays falls on the face of the idol for three days around the 21st of each March and September.

How to reach?

KARVIR, the modern Kolhapur,  is well connected by rail and road with the major cities of India.Trains ply between Kolhapur and Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and other important cities of Maharashtra like Pune,Sangli, Miraj. The city is also well connected by a road network.

The MTDC Tourist Office (226-52935), Kedar Complex, Station Rd, a five-minute walk from the railway station, operates a guided tour of Kolhapur and Panhala (Rs 60, approx). Hours: 10 am to  5:30pm

By Air: Mumbai and Pune are well connected by domestic & international airlines. One can either take a train or bus to reach Kohlapur from Mumbai and Pune.

By Rail: Kolhapur is nearest Railway Station (5 km away), there are regular trains from Mumbai to Kolhapur.

By Road: Kolhapur is nearly 400 km from Mumbai, 240 km from Pune. Kolhapur lies on the NH 4 between Bangalore and Pune.


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