The four Shakti Peethas of Maharashtra are Tuljapur
enshrining Bhavani, Kolhapur enshrining Mahalakshmi,
Mahur enshrining Mahamaya Renukaand Saptshringi
enshrining Jagadamba. Other Shakti temples in the state are those at Ambe
Jogai and Aundh.
Kolhapur 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.
Legends: The Karavira
Mahatmya states that Vishnu resides in the form of Mahalakshmi at Kolhapur. Legend has it
that Kolhasura, a demon that tormented the Gods and other beings, was
destroyed by Mahalakshmi here at Karavira, and that the spot of his death became a thirtha
and that she took abode here in a shrine which constitutes the temple today. (Legend also
has it that Parvati - Kolhambika destroyed the demon Kolhasura at Tryambakeshwar).
History:: Although several
parts of the temple are of the second half of the second millennium CE, epigraphic
references place the deity in the 7th century CE, and the temple in the 10th century
CE. For a period in the interim, this temple had fallen out of worship and the image
of the Goddess was housed elsewhere. Worship was restored in the year 1715 after the
Marathas rose to power.
The Temple: The main entrance Mahadwara
of the temple is the western entrance. Upon entering the Mahadwara one is confronted with
several deepamaalas on either side, and enters the Garuda
mandap with square pillars and foliated arches of wood, characteristic of
Maratha temples. This mandap dates back to the 18th century. An image of garuda faces the
sanctum. Another stone mandap, on a raised platform enshrining Ganesh, also faces the
sanctum. Following this is the mandap with three shrines facing west. The central one is
that of Mahalakshmi and the two on either side are those of Mahakali
The temple complex exhibits mortarless construction
echoing the style of the early Deccan temples. Also to be noted here are the horizontal
mouldings and the vertical offsets which create a rich light and shade pattern. 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.
The image of Mahalakshmi carved in
black stone is 3 feet in height. The Shri yantra is carved on one of the
walls in the temple. The sanctum is designed such that once a year, the setting rays of
the sun fall on the face of the image of Mahalakshmi for a period of 3 days in the months
of Pisces and Leo.
Above the Mahalakshmi sanctum is a shrine with a Shivalingam
and a nandi. The devakoshtas house Venkatesha, Katyayani
and Gowri Shankar - facing the north, east and the south. There are a
number of subsidiary shrines in the courtyard to the Navagrahas, Surya,
Mahishasuramardini, Vitthal-Rakhmai, Shiva, Vishnu, Tulja Bhavani and others. Some of
these images date back to the 11th century, while some are of recent origin. Also
located in the courtyard is the temple tank Manikarnika Kund, on whose
bank is a shrine to Visweshwar Mahadev.
Worship: Five worship services are
offered each day here. The first one is at 5 am, and it involves the waking of the
deity with a Kakada - torch, to the accompaniment of hymns. The second
worship service at 8 am involves the offeirng of the Shodashopachara
pooja consisting of 16 elements. The afternoon and evening services and the Shejaarati
pooja constitute the three other services.
A festival image of the deity is taken out in
procession around the temple courtyard each Friday, and on full moon days.