The story begins on the banks of the River Panchaganga where Kolhapur is situated, where an old and beautiful Shiva temple stands in a state of magnificent ruination. Ebbing waters, a bridge a little further away and the majestic temple form the backdrop of this story.
Once upon a time, there lived a demon called Kollasura. He tormented the local people who prayed for deliverance from his evil influence to Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity and protection. Soon the Goddess herself came and conquered him and that’s how this place came to be called Kolhapur. Gratitude to the Goddess gets displayed to this day. People, not just from Kolhapur, but devotees from far and wide come to make their offerings to Mahalakshmi at a temple in her honour located in the heart of old Kolhapur town. Here, all activities revolve around the temple, with Tuesdays and Saturdays demarcated as special days during which crowds throng the temple premises, firm in their belief that Mahalakshmi will not only fulfil their desires but also help them attain salvation.
There is indeed a spiritual beauty about this region, with its rivers and lakes flowing unaware of their beauty, ancient monuments carrying their age with elegance, its forts standing tall and telling a story of Maratha bravehearts. From the religious tourists to compulsive shoppers and history fanatics, Kolhapur has something interesting for everybody. So let’s see what the city provides for the history lovers. Panhala or Panhalgarh, about 19kms north-west of Kolhapur, is possibly the largest and most important fort of the Deccan. This majestic fort is a sole witness of Maratha warriors’ bravery and devotion. Who would forget Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s escape from the confinement at Panhala fort and the sacrifice of Bajiprabhu Deshpande! Then there is the New Palace or Chhatrapati Shahu Museum. A royal palace partly converted into an unforgettable museum, the New Palace has lush green parks, a zoo and a picturesque lake to soothe tired souls. The museum houses rare paintings and artifacts used by the royal family. Royal weapons and a tableau depicting court life of the last century create an aristocratic ambience. The Rankala Lake is one of the most popular attractions of Kolhapur. Situated in the heart of Kolhapur, Rankala Lake is a man-made lake which came about during the reign of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj. The lake got its name from the temple of Rankabhairav which lies at the centre of this wide and spacious lake. Legend has it that a golden temple is submerged under the temple of Rankabhairav. The Shalini Palace stands on the west bank of the lake. It is built of intricately carved black stone and Italian marble. Recently, the palace was converted into a hotel.
Kolhapur also offers a myriad of attractions for the shoppers. First, there are those marvelous leather sandals that are branded by the name of the city: the Kolhapuri chappals. An entire neighbourhood, adjoining the temple, houses shops that only sell this locally made footwear, available in an infinite number of styles. If one likes costume jewellery, once again Kolhapur is the place to be in. Termed Kolhapuri saz, one can get loads of jewellery made of silver dipped in gold, at affordable prices. Mangalsutras and artificial pearls are the more common pieces. They are well crafted, too. However, if one prefers gold ornaments, the city has an amazing variety to offer, from jewellery made with one gram of gold to much heavier pieces. Kolhapur also offers a range of cotton textiles.
For foodies, there is an assortment of vegetarian food on offer; however, it is for its meat preparations that the city is rightly famous. The food here is tantalizingly delicious. Finger-licking good, Kolhapuri tambda and pandhara rassa and also Kolhapuri missal come spiced with Kolhapuri chillies, which are extremely hot to the taste. It is really contradictory that a city renowned for its sugar factories, it’s the chillies that win hearts!
Kolhapur is a fascinating piece of land which reflects rich culture and history. It boasts of a large number of popular and revered religious venues as well as innumerous forts which are the epitomes of Maharashtra’s diversity. It is a must-see destination which lingers in the memory long after you have headed back home. Kolhapur seems to suggest, by its very existence, that life is to be lived fully and well.
Team Veena world