The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is one of the 108 Shakti Peethas mentioned in the ancient Indian scripts. Legend says that Karveer or modern day Kolhapur is the permanent abode of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Mahalakshmi. Shri Dattatreya the incarnation of the holy trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, is supposed to visit every afternoon for alms.
Darshan at Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple begins at 430 am with Kakadarti. Morning Pooja is at 8am while the Holy food of Nevaidya is at 930 am. The afternoon Pooja is at 1130 am. Alankar Pooja is performed at 130 pm. Dhuparti is done at 8pm. The day closes at 10pm with the Shejarti.
Kolhapur is connected by Air through the Ujlaiwadi Airport located 13 Kms from the City Center.
The Chatrapati Sahu Maharaj Terminus connects Kolhapur to other cities like Mumbai, Pune, Ahmadabad and Bangalore via Rail. Kolhapur to Mumbai is 400 KMs. Koyna Express leaves daily from CST at 840am and reaches Kolhapur at 7pm. If you prefer a night train then Mahalakshmi Express leaves CST at 820pm and reaches Kolhapur at 550am.
Pune to Kolhapur is 230 Kms and can be done by Road in 4 hours. Paulo Travels runs Ac volvo seater for charge of Rs 350. It departs Pune at 9pm and arrives Kolhapur at 230am. Neeta has a morning AC Volvo service which leaves Pune at 8am and reaches Kolhapur at 1115am. While Trains are also available, that takes nearly 7 hours.
Hotel Pankaj Executive is on Bangalore Pune Highway near new koyna bridge at Karad and rooms cost Rs 600 onwards. contact no is (02164) 222570. Hotel Shailini Palace is in Rankala and can be contacted at 0231 2630401. Just outside the Temple, Dormitaries are available at Mahalakshmi Bhaktanivas for the night and check put is 8am. Contact no is (0231) 2548937
Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is supposed to have been built around 700 AD in the Chalukya style of architecture. The deity is supposed to have been consecrated in the temple by King Manglesh of the Chalukya dynasty.
The main statue of Goddess Lakshmi is 6000 years old and is made of Gemstone weighing nearly 40 kilograms. The image of Mahalakshmi is carved in black stone and is 3 feet high. The Goddess has 4 hands with which she holds a Mhalunga the citrus fruit, Kaumodaki the mace, Khetaka the shield and Panpatra the bowl.
Over the sanctum sanctorum of the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple, there is a structure that houses an idol of Ganapathi. Opposite the Ganapathi idol is a rectangular Shiv Linga called Matulinga which was created during the Yadava period in the 12th century AD.
Kurma Mandap is an interesting hall inside the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple complex with an idol of a Kurma or Tortoise in the center. Devotees come here to get holy water sprinkled form a conch. The walls of the hall need special mention due to some intricate carvings made of Black Cuddapah stone and Basalt.
The Dwarpal or Doorkeepers of the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple are Jay and Vijay. Legend says they built the temple in one night! As proof the idols of Jay and Vijay are accompanied by a spade and a hoe as well!
Devotees at Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple can make offerings at any of the 5 services that are carried out every day. The first service is at 5 am when the deity is woken up with a Kakada or torch and hymns are sung. The next service is at 8 am when Shodashopachara Pooja is carried out.
Services are also carried out in the afternoon and evenings. Shejaarati Pooja is the final service of the day at the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple.
The idol was supposed to have gone underground during the Mughal Era. Sometime in the early 1700s, Narhar Bhat Shastree had a dream where he saw the Idol. He went and narrated his dream to his King Sambajee. An expedition was carried out and the idol was found in a house in Kapil Teerth Market!
Navratri is one of the best times to visit the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and splendor in the temple. Abishek starts at 830 in the morning followed by Mahanaivedya and Aarti. The deity is elaborately decorated. Towards the evening the Deity is carried in a grand procession within the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple Complex. Upon return, the Deity is offered a Cannon salute!
Kiranotsav or the festival of Sun Rays is celebrated on all days when the Sun illuminates the Deity. Sun rays fall on the feet of the deity on 31st January & 9th November, on the chest of the deity on 1st February & 10th November and on the entire body on 2nd February & 11th November.
Rathotsav or the chariot festival of the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is a glittering function held in April. The deity is taken out in a procession over a chariot adorned with flowers and lights. The chariot goes around the temple complex and then into the city. It’s a beautiful spectacle to see the Rangoli or floor paintings all along the route of the chariot accompanies with fireworks.
Archaeological excavations carried out on Brahmapuri Hill near Kolhapur have found several artifacts from Ancient Greece and Rome. An Ivory Idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi was one of the prominent excavations. What makes this remarkable was the finding of an identical Ivory Idol in Pompeii in an ancient Roman site in modern day Italy. The influence of Goddess Mahalakshmi seems to have been prevalent in faraway Rome!
While at Kolhapur you can visit Chatrapati Sahu Maharaj Museum. Chatrapati Sahu Maharaj is considered to be one of the greatest rulers of Maharashtra. He is famous for bringing in social, cultural and economic reforms including the Vedokta and Satya Shodhak movements. The Palace of Sahu Maharaj was completed in 1884 and reflects architectural elements from both Hindu and British styles. This palace has been converted into a Museum today and is worth a visit. There is also a picturesque zoo set around the Museum.
Kolhapuri Chappals or Slippers are world famous. They come in 3 varieties, Kolhapuri, Kapashi and Dongari. They are usually made from chrome tanned leather.
Kolhapuri Pheta or Turban used to be an integral part of the Male Costume. Today it is a customary honor to make guests wear it. It is usually made from Silk or Cotton and is 3.5 to 6 meters long and 1 meter wide. Saffron is the most popular choice of color.
Kohapuri Saaj is the traditional necklace worn by women. The best place to get one is from the jewelers in the Gujri market.
For a travelogue on 1000 Pillar Jain Temple at Moodabidri near Mangalore, visit Jain Temple.