BLESSED BY THE GODDESS-MAHALAKSHMI
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The Mahalakshmi temple at Kolhapur attracts millions of devotees throughout the year who come here to seek blessings from the presiding deity and also witness what has come to be known as a natural ‘luminous miracle’.
She stands alone in the holy sanctum, resplendent in her fine robes and jewels. The holy sanctum is illuminated by just two oil lamps when the rising sun rays pierce the darkness and fall on her feet to seek blessings. The next day the rays reach upwards and on the third day the golden rays fall on her face and in moments the sanctum is bathed in luminous sunlight. This spectacle occurs twice every year, once in the month of Kartik and later in the month of Magha (November 9 to 11 and January 1st or 2nd). Thousands of people gather at the famed Mahalakshmi temple at Kolhapur to witness this ‘luminous miracle’ where nature meets divine power.
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Similar congregations are seen during the month of Chaitra, the first month in the Hindu calendar and during the ‘Navratra’ and ‘Dassera’ festivals in the month of Ashwin. The Mahalakshmi temple of Kolhapur is full of devotees-men women and children-all year round. This abode of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is situated in Kolhapur which lies close to the border of the southern state of Karnataka. Kolhapur, or the ancient city of Karaveerm, figures prominently among the most visited places of pilgrimage in India.
The Mahalakshmi temple is among the most revered ‘Sade Teen Shakti Peeth’ or the major pilgrimages of the four goddesses worshipped by Hindus. Kolhapur is also called the ‘Kashi of the South’ by the devotees. In the ancient Puranas of Devi Bhagwat, the temple is mentioned as one of the foremost in the country which every devotee of the goddess must visit in his or her lifetime.
The name Kolhapur comes from a folklore. The goddess Lakshmi or Amba came to the ancient city to free it from the atrocities of a demon named Kolasura. After a fierce combat, the demon was killed. Since then the goddess made Karveer her home. Though no historical records of the beautiful temple are available, it is widely believed that around the 9thcentury a temple was built around the statue of the deity by the then ruling dynasties. The kings from the Rashtrakut, Kadamb, Shilahar, Sind, Chalukya and Yadava dynasties find mention in the ancient stone etchings. All the royal patrons worshipped the goddess and gave away land, jewels and silks to the reigning deity. The Rashtrakuta king Amoghvarsha alias Virjaraj is said to have cut his small finger in order to please the goddess as her wrath had killed his numerous subjects in an outbreak of an epidemic.
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The temple which existed originally has been lost to natural forces of floods or earthquakes. It may have been built in the 7th or 8th century by the Chalukya king, Mangalesha. Later the temple was reconstructed by the many rulers that followed. Today it stands in an area of 27000 sq feet and 45 feet from the ground. The outer wall has four entrances and the main entrance. The main entrance leads to the main hall or the Garud mandapam and the Ganapati Mandapam. The Kurma Mandapam follows, flanked by the statues of Mahakali and Mahasaraswati. Straight ahead lies the sanctum of the temple with the main deity Mahalakshmi.
On the left side of the Kurma mandapam, a staircase leads to the upper floor which houses a Shiva temple. This temple is situated directly above the deity below. The Shivalingam is also known a Matulinga. This shrine may have been built later in the 12th century. Behind the Shiva lingam, a Ganesh statue is situated on a high stone pedestal. Situated directly opposite is a beautifully carved figure of Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva.
This spacious and lofty temple is nothing short of an architectural marvel of its time. The exquisitely carved stone pillars and the loft arches are spectacular. The temple has a large courtyard which also houses a Siddhivinayak temple. One of the pillars has an inscription of Emperor Shinghan, a descendant of the Yadava dynasty. Along the outer wall of the temple are situated the shrines of Navgraha, Vishnu, Tulajabhavani, Radhakrishna, Vithal, Dutta, Ram and Hanuman.
The path leading up to the temple is a busy market full of attractive curios and puja items. Inside the temple, the small stalls of coconuts, flowers, garlands, Haldi-kumkum, sarees, Prasad etc attract tourists and devotees. Married women seeking the blessings of the Mother invariably buy bangles and other items which are considered auspicious. The Mahalakshmi temple and the bustling market around hordes of devotees from across the country and also from abroad all the year round.
The Mahalakshmi temple is among the most revered ‘Sade Teen Shakti Peeth’ or the major pilgrimages of the four goddesses worshipped by Hindus.
Distance from Mumbai-403 km
Connected by Air, Rail and Road from Mumbai.
Kolhapur is a famous city in Maharashtra well connected by all means of transport.