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Tourist Places To Visit In Kolhapur
Ruled most efficiently by a number of glorious kingdoms including the Satavahanas, Shilaharas and Marathas under Queen Tarabai and under the most renowned Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, Kolhapur has always been considered one of the most important cities of Maharashtra. The beautiful land forms around the city including the towering Sahyadri mountain ranges, the picturesque rivers and the ancient temples and monuments counting the most noteworthy Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple, have made Kolhapur a must visit tourist city.
Ancient Buddhist and Jain caves in Kolhapur and Satara vouch for the peaceful coexistence of religions in the region. The assortment of places of interest is what makes Kolhapur a touristy city. We shall check out a list of some of the most remarkable places you could visit.
Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple
The Karavira Mahatmya says that the Goddess Mahalakshmi destroyed the asura Kolhasura at Karavira (Kolhapur) and settled at the place where the temple was built later. The temple is said to have been constructed in the 7th century, with modifications in the 10th century and regular worship offered to the Goddess after the Marathas rose to power.
The idol of Mahalakshmi carved out of black stone is in the central shrine, while the shrines on either side house the idols of Mahasaraswathi and Mahakali. On a floor above the main shrines are a Shiv linga with a Nandi and a stairs on the left of the shrine lead up to the upper floor. Mahalakshmi temple at Kolhapur is one of the most popular pilgrim centers of Maharashtra. Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple is about 2 km from the railway station.
According to legends, the Goddess Mahalakshmi settled down in Kolhapur and selected four Shakthis to guard the four corners of the region. The northern side was assigned to Jyothiba or Kedareshwar who was an incarnation of Dattatreya. A small temple was built for Jyothiba and in 1730 it was revamped by Maharaja Ranoji Shinde of Gwalior. There is a cluster of three ancient temples, along with shrines to Nandi, Mahadev, Goddess Chopdai and Kalabhairav.
Thousands of pilgrims visit Jyothiba Mountain during the Chaitra festival (April - May) when the very air turns festive with chanting and the pink of gulal. The Sasan Kathi procession is a not to be missed ceremony of the Chaitra festival. The Jyothiba temple is about 18 km from Kolhapur.
The Panhala Fortress, said to be the largest fort of the Deccan was built round 1178-1209 AD. Built as an architectural marvel that showcased the military acumen of the armies of yore, the fort had a theen darwaza or three gates that opened at odd angles, trapping the invading soldiers in a maze and preventing an attack.
There was also a well that led to a river beyond that was used to carry secret messages from inside the fort to soldiers outside the citadel. It is said that the Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji spent more than a year at the fort. The Panhala Fort that offers a beautiful view of the Sahyadri mountain ranges is about 20 km from Kolhapur.
New Palace Museum
The New Palace or Nava Rajawada is the residence of the descendants of Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur. On the ground floor of the Palace is a museum that is a veritable spread of visual information on the ancient culture and rule of the Marathas as well as memorabilia of the other rulers of the ancient period.
There are royal clothes, coins, armors, jewelry, a sword used by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and letters penned by the British Generals. The Durbar Hall has been modeled on the ancient splendor of a royal court and the photo gallery has a collection of remarkable photographs, while there’s a display of the trophies of royal hunts, too. Check out the lake and the small zoo within the palace premises.
Shri Kshetra Narasimha Wadi
Also known as Narasobachi Wadi, the Shri Kshetra Narasimha Wadi is a temple that is located at Narasinmhawadi, about 30 km from Sangli. Surrounded by dense forests of Audumber trees and the pristine confluence of the Krishna and Panchganga Rivers, the Mandir is a must visit.
According to the Guru Charitra, Swamy Shri Narasimha Saraswathi stayed near the Panchganga River for 12 years and left behind His Padukas as he departed from the region. The Padukas are displayed for worship under an Audumber tree and invocations are offered to the Padukas with the faith that the prayers of devotees would be answered. The temple sits on the banks of the Krishna and Panchganga Rivers. The temple is about 52 km from Kolhapur and you could find buses that ply from Kolhapur to Narasimhawadi.
Siddhagiri Museum located within the precincts of Kaneri Math is an open air museum with life sized wax statues of people who lived hundred years back. There are simple depictions of the rural life that existed ages ago. The museum grounds are spread over 7 acres and have about 350 statues of village folk along with domesticated animals, going about their business.
The Math has a temple to Shiva and a well-manicured garden where you could spend an evening in bliss. Siddhagiri Gramjivan Sangrahalaya as the museum is called is located at Kaneri about 4 km off the Bengaluru – Pune Highway. The Math is about 13 km from Kolhapur.
On the foothills of the Jyothiba temple are the ancient Pohale Buddhist caves. The road towards the caves lead through charming green woods and villages and it would be a lovely trip during winter. The caves, about 6 of them date back to the 7th century AD and though partly in ruins are fascinating places to visit.
The laterite caves carved into semicircular patterns have a large vihara as well as a chaitya, with decorated roofs and water cisterns cut into the rocks. Yet another reason to visit the caves are the abundance of birds like peacocks, doves, Indian green bee eaters and kingfishers that can be spotted here during winter.
Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir
Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir or Joshirao Ganpati Mandir built about 1882, is one of the oldest and most significant temples in Kolhapur. The sanctum of the temple has no supporting pillars and is said to have been carved with a single stone. The temple is a small one, but is quiet and not crowded at all times, so you could offer your prayers and explore the column less temple in peace.
The ochre colored idol of Ganpati is a beatific one and attracts a lot of pilgrims during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. The Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir is a short walkable distance from the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple and is worth a visit, both for pilgrims and students of architecture.
Town Hall Museum
Kolhapur’s Town Hall is an historic building by itself that served as its name suggests, the Town Hall during the British period. The imposing neo gothic structure was built by Charles Mant by around 1872-76 and now houses a museum of artifacts collected from the region from around the Satavahana and Shilahara Bahmani periods.
There are seven galleries that display weapons, antique coins, ancient sandalwood and ivory jewelry, paintings and sculptures and exquisitely carved statues. Check out the assorted collections of paintings of popular artists and historical artifacts contributed by local residents. The Town Hall Museum is open on all days, except Monday and is open from 10.30 am – 5.30 pm.
If you are a history and architecture enthusiast, the Kopeshwar temple is a must visit. Built on the banks of the Krishna River by the Shilahara King Gandraditya in the 12th century, the Kopeshwar Temple to Shiva is matchless in its exquisite craftsmanship. The temple is divided into four and the highlights are the conical domes with a circular opening at the top in the Swarga Mandap and the intricately etched sculptures on the exterior walls.
Inscriptions on the outer and inner walls record the two major battles that took place in the region, one between the Chalukyas and Cholas in 1058 CE and the other between the Shilaharas and Yadavs in 1213 CE. Kopeshwar Mahadev Mandir is at Khidrapur, about 60 km from Kolhapur.