Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple
The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple, also known as the Amba Bai Temple is located in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. The Temple is extremely sacred, especially to the followers of the Shakta sect who worship Adi Parashakti as their main deity. The Goddess Adi Parashakti is considered as the “Supreme Being”. She is the original creator, observer and the destroyer of the Universe. She created the trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva along with Goddess Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. She is believed to be the Goddess of Nature itself. The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is believed to be one of the eighteen Maha Shakti Peethas as described in the Ashta Dasa Shakti Peetha Stotram written by Sri Adi Shankaracharya.
As per the beliefs of the Shaktism sect, in the Srimad Devi Bhagwat Purana, Adi Parashakti addresses herself as the “owner of the universe, absolute reality, dynamic in feminine form and static in the masculine form”. She anoints Lord Brahma as the generator of the universe. She makes Goddess Saraswati (Adi Parashakti’s avatar) the goddess of wisdom and knowledge and partners her with Lord Brahma. She creates Lord Narayana (Vishnu) and addresses him as the immortal preserver of the universe. She mentions that he will take different avatars to preserve the continuity of life. He will be accompanied by Goddess Mahalakshmi, a form of Adi Parashakti herself. Lord Narayana will be the supreme of deities with form. Lastly, she instructed Lord Rudra to be the personification of time. She anointed the task of destroying and regenerating the universe. She took the form of Mahakali or Parvati as his consort. Mahakali will destroy evils from the universe.
The greatness of Goddess Adi Parashakthi is described in several other sacred ancient manuscripts such as Devi Mahatmyam, Shiva Purana, Vishnu Purana, and the Shakta Purana. At the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple, the Goddess Adi Parashakti is present in the form of Goddess Mahalakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu.
The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple architecture follows the “Hemadpanthi” style. The Temple Complex consists of five huge towers and the main hall. The biggest spire is above the sanctum housing Goddess Mahalakshmi. The North and the South domes house Goddess Mahakali and MahaSaraswati respectively. The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple also houses a Shree Yantra which geometrically represents the three Goddesses. The Temple has four entrances but the main entrance called the Mahadwaar lies towards the West. It is believed that the Mahadwaar was built by Sri Adi Shankaracharya himself. The Sheshashahi Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Navagraha Temple, Vithal Temple, and Rakhumai Temple are all present in the complex. Towards the southern side, several shrines dedicated to Kalbhairav, Siddhivinayak, Radhakrishna, Annapurna, Indrasabha and Rameshwar are present.
Above the main sanctum, on the second level, a shrine dedicated to Lord Ganapathi is present. A Shiva Linga called the Matulinga can also be seen along with a stone Nandi.
The form of the Goddess worshiped in the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is unique and a sight to behold. Unlike the usual calm representation of Goddess Lakshmi sitting on a Lotus, the idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi is 3 feet tall and weighs 40 kilos. The idol is in a standing posture with four arms. In the lower right hand, she holds a Mhalunga (a kind of Citrus fruit). In the upper right hand, she holds a large mace and in the lower left hand, she holds a bowl. In the upper left hand, she holds a shield, locally called as a Khetaka. A stone Lion, the Vahana for the Goddess stands behind her. The crown of the Goddess contains the image of a Sheshnag, representing Lord Vishnu. A Shiva Linga is also carved on the crown but is not visible to the devotees as it lies buried under the Goddess’s ornaments.
Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple History
- The initial Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple was very small and enshrined only Goddess Mahalakshmi. Successive additions and renovations were done by several dynasties who ruled the area of Kolhapur. The Chalukyas, Shilaharas, and the Yadavas played a major role in the extension and renovation of the Temple Complex.
- The written records for the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple history date back to the Chalukya period 550 AD to 660 AD. It is commonly agreed that the original Temple was built during this particular period by the Chalukyas as also evident from the distinctive architecture style. However, an earthquake in the 8th century destroyed most of the ancient structure. Some portions survived and can be seen till date.
- The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple was unknown to the world for a long time as it was covered by tall forests. Eventually, the Konkan King Karnadeo discovered the Temple’s existence in 109 AD.
- King Gandaraditya of the Shilahara dynasty (11th century) built the path on which the devotees circumambulate the main sanctum. He also built the two shrines dedicated to Goddess Mahakali and Maha Saraswati. It is believed that the Matulinga installed on the second level of the main sanctum was installed during the Yadava reign.
- The Eastern entrance of the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple Complex has an inscription dating back to the Maratha reign in the 18th century. It states that renovation work was carried out by the Dhabades and the Gaikwads who were ruling the area at that time.
- In 1941, Shrimant Jahagirdar Babasaheb Ghatge installed the idols of the nine planets in the Navagraha Temple. The five domes or spires were constructed comparatively recently by Sri Shankaracharya of Sankeshwar in the 19th century. The Garud Mandap was built under Daji Pandit between 1838 – 1843. The Kurma Mandap and the Ganapati Chowk is believed to have been built by the Yadava dynasty.
- There are several legends associated with the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple. One of the legends mentioned in the Karavira Mahatmya mentions that a demon by the name of Kolha resided at the place which was previously called as Padmavathi Pura. When he went for penance to Lord Brahma, another demon by the name of Sukesi occupied his kingdom. He killed Sukesi and made his son Karaveera as the king. However, Karaveera was killed by Lord Shiva in a battle. In the thirst for revenge, he practiced penance to Goddess Mahalakshmi (another form of Parvati or the Adi Parashakti) and asked her not to enter the city for 100 years. She obliged and left. Kolha terrorized people and other Devas and took up residence in Swarga. The Gods requested Mahalakshmi to return to the city and annihilate the demon. After 100 years, Goddess Mahalakshmi returned and with the help of all the other Gods and Goddesses, killed the demon Kolha. Before his death, Kolha apologized and requested for three boons which the Goddess granted. He wanted to name the city as Kolhapur, the Goddess should stay here and protect the city and lastly the place should become a Siddha Kshetra.
- Another popular legend associated with the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is that of Goddess Mahalakshmi associated with Lord Vishnu. At the onset of the Kaliyuga, Lord Vishnu decided to leave Venkatdri for Vaikuntam. Lord Brahma was saddened and asked Narada to convince Vishnu to return. Narada went to the banks of Ganga where he saw Rishi Bhrigu performing a Yagna. Rishi Bhrigu was unable to decide the benefactor of the Yagna. He went to Satyalokam and found that Lord Brahma was busy chanting Vedas, uttering names of Narayana and looking at Saraswati. He went to Kailasam and found that Lord Shiva was busy sporting with Goddess Parvathi. He went to Vaikuntam and found that Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi were reclining unmindful of his visit. He grew angry and kicked Vishnu on his chest. Lord Vishnu immediately got up and massaged Rishi’s foot all the while enquiring whether he was hurt. Rishi was impressed by his composure and decided to dedicate the Yagna to Lord Vishnu. However, Goddess Lakshmi was very angry over what occurred and left Vaikuntam to Karavirapura (Kolhapur).
Significance of the Temple
- The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is considered to be one of the sacred eighteen Maha Shakti Peethams that are situated in the Indian peninsula. The Temple is an important pilgrimage site especially for believers of the Shaktism sect. These Temples or the Peethams are mentioned and praised in the Ashta Dasa Peetha Stotram by Adi Shankaracharya. It is believed that worshiping at the Peethams will provide protection to the devotee forever against all evils along with abundant good health and fortune.
- It is believed that Lord Dattatreya comes and visits Goddess Mahalakshmi every noon to seek her blessings.
- It is a belief that the darshan of Sri Balaji at the Tirumala Devasthanam in Andhra Pradesh is incomplete without visiting Goddess Mahalakshmi at Kolhapur.
- The idol of the deity Goddess Mahalakshmi is believed to be made of precious gemstones and dates back by 5000 years. The idol is carved out of a single stone and weighs abut 40 kilos.
- The idol of the deity faces west, unlike most temples where the main deity faces either the east or the north. A window is present on the west wall of the sanctum, through which the rays of the setting sun illuminates the deity’s face, body and feet twice every year. The occasion is considered to be extremely auspicious and lasts for three days each time.
- The region of Karveer, the ancient name of Kolhapur is mentioned in the Puranas as Avimuktakshetra. It means that the region is eternally blessed by Lord Vishnu and Goddess Mahalakshmi who will reside here even during the Mahaprayakala or the Pralayam.
- The Sheshashahi shrine located inside the Temple Complex has figures of the 60 Jain Tirthankaras on the dome. The shrine is believed to be dedicated to the Jain Tirthankara Neminath. However currently, an idol of Lord Vishnu reclining on the Shesha Nag is worshiped here. It is believed that this Temple s also sacred to the followers of Jainism.
Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple Timings
- The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple opens at 4 AM and closes at 11 PM.
- The general darshan begins at 4:30 AM and ends at 11 PM.
- The Timings of the Temple might differ in the months of Karthik (November) and on the Tripuri Poornima.
The Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple does not impose any strict dress code but it is advised to wear decent dresses for the visit. It is recommended that Shorts, Bermuda shorts, and miniskirts are to be avoided.
Poojas and Rituals
The daily schedule of the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple is as below:
- Ghantanaad – The ringing of the Temple bells starts at 4 AM daily, signalling the beginning of the day and time to wake up.
- Kakad Aarti – The Kakad Aarti is a form of morning Mangal Aarti which is performed to wake up the deity. Several chants and stotrams are recited to create a holy environment conducive to the waking up of the Goddess. The Kakad Aarti can be witnessed at 4:30 AM in the morning. The Aarti is then performed for The Matulinga, Lord Ganapati, Goddess Mahakali, Goddess Maha Saraswati and to the Shree Yantra.
- Morning Mahapuja – The bells ring again at 8 AM signaling the beginning of the morning Mahapuja. The Goddess is first bathed with holy water and then decorated with Chandan and flowers. The Golden crown and the Golden footwear are placed on the Goddess amidst the chants of the devotees.
- Naivaidyam – The process of feeding the Goddess with holy food prepared in the Temple Kitchen starts at 9:30 AM. Preparations of Rice, pulses, fruits and vegetables are decorated around the deity’s feet and worshiped reverently.
- Afternoon Mahapuja – The ringing of the bells at 11:30 AM indicate the start of the afternoon Mahapuja. Naivedyam is offered to the Goddess mainly consisting of Puranpoli, Rice, Dal, Vegetable, and Koshimbir. Special Poojas are performed in the afternoon with flowers and Kumkum. Panchamrit Abhishekam is performed for the Goddess.
- Alankar Pooja – The idol of the deity is decorated with Gold Jewellery, Chandan, Kumkum, and Flowers. A traditional Saree is wrapped around the deity and then ornaments like Kundal, Mangalsutra, Kirit, Chains, Kolhapuri Saaj and Tikhar are placed on the deity.
- Dhup Aarti or the Bhog Aarti – At 7:30 PM, the bell rings again indicating the beginning of the Dhup Aarti. The Goddess is offered holy Naivedyam and evening Aarti is performed. On Friday evenings, Mahanaivedyam is offered to the Goddess.
- Shej Aarti – The Night Aarti or the Shej Aarti is performed at 10 PM. The ornaments are removed from the deity and milk and sugar is offered. The Goddess is allowed to sleep amidst the chants of the priests.
Festivals celebrated at the Temple
- Navaratri Mahotsav – The festival is celebrated in a grand manner for a period of ten days in the Hindu month of Ashwini which usually falls in October. A special Abhishekam along with Mahanaivedyam and Aarti is performed every day at 8:30 AM and 11:30 AM. At 9:30 PM every night during the festival, a procession is taken out in a Ratha decorated with lights and flowers. The whole Temple is lit and decorated with thousands of lamps. The Military bands perform music at the start of the procession. The idol of the deity returns to the Garuda Mandap where a one canon salute is performed signaling the end of the day. Several cultural programs are organized by the Temple administration during these days.
- Lalitha Panchami – The fifth day of Navarathri is celebrated as the Lalitha Panchami in dedication to Goddess Lalitha. She is worshiped as a form of Goddess Shakti. The Goddess is believed to be a form representing the five elements of Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Space. On the special day, after special Abhishekam at 7 AM and 10 AM, the Goddess is given one canon salute. The procession begins at the Temple and moves to the Goddess Tryambuli’s Temple situated at a short distance. The Chhatrapati, royalty of Kolhapur performs the ceremony of Kushmandabali. It involves breaking a Pumpkin into two with a sword symbolizing the destruction of the enemy. The procession returns to the Temple at around 2 PM.
- Kirnotsav – The unique festive tradition of the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple takes place twice in a year, once on January 31 and next on November 9. Each time, the celebrations last for three days. These days signify the Sun God paying respect to Goddess Mahalakshmi by bowing to her feet. On January 31, February 1 and February 2, the rays of the setting sun fall on the feet, chest and the entire body respectively. The occurrence repeats on 99, 10, and 11 November. Thousands of devotees visit the Temple in the evening to view this phenomenon and get the blessings of the Goddess.
- Rathotsav – The grand celebration occurs in April every year. The silver figure of the Goddess is taken around in a procession around the Temple between 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. After giving a one canon salute to the Goddess, the procession moves out of the Temple at 9:30 PM. This is the time for devotees to present their offerings to the Goddess. A Police and a Military band play the music and escort the Ratha which is beautifully decorated with flowers and lights. Rangolis are drawn around the Temple Complex.
- Deepavali – The grand festival of lights is celebrated in the Temple with great religious pomp. The Temple is decorated with hundreds of lamps and several cultural programs are performed for the devotees in the complex.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
- By Air – The nearest airport is the Kolhapur Domestic Airport located 10 km away from the Mahalakshmi Temple Complex. The flights to the airport are limited to Belgaum and Pune. However, the Belgaum airport and the Dabolim airport (Panaji, Goa) are located approximately 100 and 140 km away respectively. Buses and Trains are available from these places that connect Kolhapur.
- By Train – The nearest Railway station is the Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Terminus, located about 5 km away from the Temple. The city is well connected to all the major cities in India. Several trains halt at the junction and connect cities like Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Bengaluru, Tirupati, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Dhanbad, and Solapur.
- By Road – The Maharashtra State Transport Corporation (MSTC) operates regular buses from all major Maharashtrian cities like Mumbai, Pune, and Sholapur to Kolhapur. Buses are also available from Goa and Bengaluru. Several private bus operators also ply buses to Kolhapur from major cities like Bengaluru and Pune.
Where to stay
Several guest houses are available for a stay near the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple complex as well as in other parts of the city. The prices are reasonable. One can book rooms from a wide range of options. Most of the hotels provide decent and hygienic accommodation along with the restaurant facilities. Some of the popular hotels are the Padma Guest House near the Temple, Hotel Jyotiba, Hotel Pearl and the Heritage resort.
Where to eat
A large number of private restaurants are present around the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple Complex that serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine. The Kolhapuri cuisine is quite spicy and popular here and a must for every visitor to try.
One must taste the Kolhapuri Misal dish that is a delightful, authentic and indigenous vegetarian dish eaten with bread. The Tambada Rassa, Roasted Mutton and the Pandra Rassa are must have nonvegetarian dishes in Kolhapur. Besides these delicacies, sweets, especially the Pethas, are very popular in Kolhapur.
- Jyotiba – The Temple is located 17 km from Kolhapur city near Wadi Ratnagiri. It is believed that after defeating Kolhasura, Goddess Mahalakshmi decided to settle in Kolhapur. For the protection of the city, she appointed four guards in the four cardinal directions to protect the region of Kolhapur. The Jyotiba Temple is located on the Northern side. The deity is believed to be the incarnation of the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as well as Jamadagni. It is believed that Jyotiba helped Mahalakshmi in her fight against Kolhasura and the demons.
- Bhavani Mandap – The small shrine dedicated to Goddess Bhavani is located just a few meters away from the Mahalakshmi Temple. It is a belief that Goddess Bhavani is the sister of Goddess Mahalakshmi and is a guest of Kolhapur. Several Poojas and rituals are performed for the Goddess and it is believed that a visit to the Mahalakshmi Temple is incomplete without visiting Goddess Bhavani.
- Narsinhwadi or the Narsobachi Wadi – This shrine is located at a distance of 55 km from Kolhapur. Lord Dattatreya, believed to be an incarnation of the holy trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is worshiped here in the form of Shri Narsinh Saraswati. This is also the site of the confluence of two rivers, Panchganga, and Krishna.
- Bahubali Hill Temple – The shrine dedicated to the Jain Digambara Bahubali is situated 27 km from Kolhapur. The hills are popularly called as Kumbhojgiri. The statue of Bahubali is 28 feet tall and surrounded by shrines dedicated to the 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism. A flight of 400 steps needs to be climbed to reach the main shrine.
- Kopeshwar Temple – The artistic and sacred Temple is located at a distance of 60 km from Kolhapur. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu can also be visited inside the Temple complex. Both the deities face north. On the outer circumference of the Temple, the complete “Shiva Leelamrit” is carved in stone. The Temple statues are exquisitely carved. The vestibule of the Temple is called Swarga Graham and is open at the top.