Kolhapur - A tete a tete with the city
Location : Western India, Southwestern Maharashtra
Best Time to Visit : November to March
Local Transport : Auto rickshaws, bus, taxis
Places to See : Mahalaxmi Temple, The New Palace or the Chhatrapati Sahu Museum, The Town Hall Museum
Souvenir : The world famous Kolhapur footwear, silver jewellery.
The Tale of the City
The history of Kolhapur is divided into three periods - the Hindu period up to 1300 AD, The Muslim period from 1300 AD to 1700 AD, and the Maratha period from 1700AD onwards. The Hindu period is further divided into the periods being ruled by various dynasties.
The Hindu period was ruled by the Mauryas, Kadambs, Chalukyas, Satwahans, Rashtrakuts, Devgiri Yadavs and Shilahars. The city progressed during the rule of the Satwahan dynasty. The city at time was struck by earthquakes and was destroyed. The city was again re - established by the Rashtrakuts and the Shilahars. In the year 1945, there were archaeological excavations that were conducted in and around this area especially the Bramhapuri area. It showed proof of the ruins of a prosperous ancient township. Many coins, earthen utensils, remains and ruins of houses that were built during the Satwahans, Shilahars and Bahamanis were found. There was also a statue of Roman Poseidon, which showed proof that the country had trade relations at that time with the European Romans. In the year 1894, Shri Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj was the King of Kolhapur. This princely state of Kolhapur merged with India after independence.
Kolhapur - Down the Ages
Located on the banks of the Panchaganga River, the city has its own charm. The Sahyadri Ranges lie to the west of the city and this beautiful place is beautified further as it has beautiful rivers on all sides. Down the Ages has seen Kolhapur being the capital of Kolhapur state. This city was also the headquarters of the British for the States of Deccan. Kolhapur has a lot of antiquity factor. The Brahmapuri knoll in front of the River Panchganga and the artifacts of the ancient era and Roman coins are all testimony to the fact that this city has been existing from ancient times. Buddhism found its initial base here and down the ages Kolhapur has grown into a flourishing, successful city with facilities for education, occupation and industries.
Kolhapur - Travel kitty
As we enter Kolhapur, the leather city, the ambience and the intriguing surroundings enhance the mysterious look to the place. It is a cosmopolitan state today and the influence of the neighboring states is there in the local dialect of the people. Thus, a tourist could get to hear a mixture of Kannada the Language of Karnataka, the neighboring state and Marathi being spoken in this place. This is a great travel kitty for the tourist. Besides, the famous leather footwear here sells like hot cakes. It is popular not only in India but across the world. Kolhapur is also famous for its silver jewellery, which is also famous worldwide. Kolhapur also has handlooms where articles are produced which are good as a nostalgic travel kitty. A tourist coming here would be able to assemble a lot of data about the evolution of the city, the religion prevalent here and the tradition and culture of the local people residing here. It is an experience, which is the best travel kitty for the tourist.
Kolhapur - Joie de vivre in the city
Kolhapur, the handloom city, is a city with a strong Hindu influence. The temples, the construction and the lifestyle reveal this. This place is known for all the good things like the leather footwear, silver jewellery, the silver ornaments from Hupari and Ichalkaranji for hand and power looms. A person coming here would be quite struck by the innumerable places and towns with religious importance. He would see the following here:
Mahalaxmi Temple : Located near Kolhapur, the silver jewellery centre this is a very famous spiritual hub of Maharashtra. Many members of royal families have come here to seek the blessings of the Goddess Mahalaxmi or Amba Bai. Devotees from across the country come to visit this temple with a lot of pomp and glory.
Ganesh Temple : The Binhkhambi Ganesh Mandir as it is known, as is a famous temple, which is built for the Indian God Ganesh. The architectural elegance here is a remarkable feeling and the students of architecture would surely regard this as an example to follow. This unique temple is built on the special idea that there are no pillars. This magnificent piece of human art is worth a watch and a visit at least once.
Tryambuli Devi Temple : This temple is located on top of a hill. “Tarka Teertha” is a tank that is found near the temple. Today it is called as “Takala”. There is a certain belief about the idol that it was created on its own. The idol has four hands and its back turned to Mahalaxmi. It is made of black stone and is called “Trayamali.” There is the Indian auspicious month of Ashadha. In that month, there is a ceremony in this temple of pouring water on the steps of the temple. This is a grand ceremony.
Bahubali of Kumbhojgiri : These Bahubali hill temples are found lying around 27km away from Kolhapur. They are known as “Kumbhojgiri”. This place is a popular religious spot for Hindus and Jains. In 1935, there was Celibacy Resort established here. It was named after the Sage Bahubali. History has it that he meditated here before 300 years.
Khidrapur : This is a temple of Kopeshwar or Mahadev. This is actually a chest of surprises. It has the best-carved sculptures ever and the architectural splendor is evident even as we enter the temple. The entire temple is found resting on a semi –circular platform. This platform rests on the back of 92 carved elephants.
Jotiba : This temple has a legend behind it. According to the legend, Jotiba actually belonged to the Nath cult. Jotiba helped Mahalaxmi to fight the demons. He then found a kingdom on top of the mountain. Jotiba was the son of Vimalmbuja who was the wife of Sage Pugand. As Jotiba was born on Chaitra Sahu, a fair is held in this month every year. Many devotees come with tall sticks called “Sasan” and scatter a lot of gulal. Due to continuous scattering of gulal, this whole mountain turned pink. This is one of the temples where the 12 jyotirlingas of Maharashtra are housed. There are two other temples here. One is the Kedarnath temple and the other is the Wadi Ratnagiri temple. The temple was originally built by Navajisaya in 1730. The interiors of the temple are ancient and antique. The unique feature of the idol is that it is four handed.
Shankracharya Math : The Shringeri Math is one of the four Indian Mathas of the Seer Shankaracharya. The ruling Shankaracharya Shri Vidya Shankar Bharati was the ruling Shankaracharya who founded this “Matha” at Kolhapur in the 13th AD.
Shahaji Chhatrapati Museum or The New Palace : This is a unique and intriguing collection of the Maharaja’s possessions. This Maharaja passed away in the year 1983. The palace was designed by Charles Mant the British architect in 1881. This was built in the Indo - Sarcenic design.
The Town Hall Museum: This is a museum where there are a lot of antiques preserved. These antiques are those that were found at the excavations of Brahmagiri. These include, filigree works in ivory and sandalwood, old coins and lot of paintings of artists in the area. The display of these articles is a remarkable sight and the experience is unbelievable.
Bhavani Mandap or The Old Palace : This is located just behind the Mahalaxmi temple. This amazing structure has a magnificent marquee. The filigree work done in stone is an exquisite work of art. The Bhawani goddess presides over this palace. It is said that Sadat Khan, a Muslim King conquered this palace in 1813 and at that time, a portion of the palace got burnt. With its 14 square
s and the amazing construction, this palace was a beautiful proof of good architecture. However, today only seven squares remain. Yet the splendor and grandeur remains untouched and the magnificence are felt even now.
Shalini Palace : This is found on the western side of the Rankala Lake. This was constructed in 1932 and continued till 1934. The palace has been named in memory of the Kolhapuri Princess Shrimant Shalini Raje. The picturesque surroundings, the greenery, the lush expanse of meadows, beautiful gardens all contribute to the natural beauty of the palace. The exquisite black stone and also the Italian marble give a very elegant look to the palace. The doorways are found with very elaborately decorated rich doorways. They are etched with Belgium glasses. These are found to have the crest of the Kolhapur Maharaja. All this makes the place look very royal and grand. The palace has a breathtaking look because of the majestic arches. These arches are made of black stone and they form a verandah and a porch there. This place has been converted to a hotel in 1987. This is the only hotel which was actually a palace in Maharashtra.
Rankala Lake : This Lake has an intriguing story. The place where the lake is actually a large mine of black stone. This place has been witness to many historical events. In 800 -900 AD there were many earthquakes. These earthquakes converted the mines into big craters and holes. Water accumulated in these holes and a lake was created. This is today’s Rankala Lake. It is located half a kilometer away from the Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur. It has a circumference of 2.5 miles.
Panhala Fort : Situated 18 km from Kolhapur this has a lot of legend behind it. It is said that this is the place where God Parashurama came. It is believed that this fort was founded by Raja Bhoja in the 12th century AD. This is the largest amongst the Deccan forts and has been built between 1178 - 1209 AD. This fort is the only one where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj the great Maratha ruler has spent around 500 days.
Fort Vishalgad : This is a magnificent piece of architectural splendor. Located around 76 km from Kolhapur, this is named so as it is extensive and vast. Thus it is called Vishal or vast. There are steep cliffs, amazing landscapes and superb scenery, which lend beauty to the beholder’s expectation. Steep cliffs and a deep narrow river separate the fort from the nearby land. There are lots of remnants of old buildings. This place today is known as Malik Rahihan Dargah.
Bhudargad Fort : This fort is found in the southern part of Kolhapur city. It is situated on top of a huge rock. This is found amidst the mountain ranges. People say that the fort from a distance resembles the crescent shaped moon found on the hair locks of the Indian god Lord Shiva.
Paargad Fort : This fort also lies on the south end of Kolhapur. Surrounded by picturesque green surroundings and exquisitely carved statues made of bronze, this fort offers the best for a historian’s delight. A Bhagawati Bhavani temple and Shivaji statues are found here.
Narasimha Wadi : This is a beautiful small village near Kolhapur. Many tourists visit this place as it has achieved great significance archaeologically. It is found at the place where the rivers Krishna and Panchganga meet. This village is also known as “Narsobachi Wadi.”
Dajibur Bison Sanctuary : This is situated on the Kolhapur Sindhudurg border. The backwaters from the Radhanagari Dam surround it. The landscape and topography of the place is beautiful enough to set a tourist running to this spot often. Thick forests and rugged mountains make it the ideal place for Wildlife. There are zero human habitats here.
Holiday Spot and Mountain Resorts :
Amba : This is a beautiful, picturesque place with a lot of scenic beauty. Located on the edge of the Western Ghats, it offers immense tour value and the stunning atmosphere is juxtaposed with a forested area and is relatively less visited by tourists. A trek up the hill into the forest is a good way of knowing the place well. The beautiful sight of the Konkan and the Deccan Plateau from atop is stupendous. It is a much sought after holiday spot for people.
Amboli : This is nestled in the Sahayadris. At a height of 690m, this is a mountain resort that offers the best view of the vast expanse of greenery all over. The coastal highlands settle here and start forming flat level lands like beaches etc after this place. Fishing is possible in Haryana Kasha. There are also the picnic spots at, Mahadev Gad Nagatta Falls and Narayan Gad. Besides this, the tourist could also go to the mines of Bauxite, which lie just 10 km away from the city of Amboli. After a tired tour, if the traveler wants to rest then Amboli is the place he should come to.
As the tourist moves out of this place there is only one thought in his mind ,” And miles to go before we creep into the other side of Kolhapur.”