Steeped in history and heritage, replete with stories of conquests and valour, and boasting of multiple cultural influences, Kolhapur is today a prosperous, industrial city. Taking pride in its well-maintained monuments and embracing modernity at the same time, Kolhapur is where the past and the future meet. The city of about 5,50,000 residents is located in southwest Maharashtra on the banks of river Panchaganga, nestled in the Sahyadri ranges.

HISTORY

Like India itself, Kolhapur was ruled by a succession of regimes, each leaving its impact on the city. So significant was it in ancient India that it was known as Dakshin Kashi (Kashi or Benaras of the South). It also finds mention in ancient texts such as the Padmapurana and the Skandapurana.

Kolhapur was the centre of power for the Shilahara dynasty between 940 and 1212 CE. Many of the magnificent Hindu and Jain temples in and around the city were built during this glorious period. The Hindu era lasted till 1347, followed by the Muslim rule which was from 1347–1700.

Kolhapur came to be the last trace of the lineage of the Maratha warrior Shivaji, who died in 1680 CE after dealing several blows to the Mughul empire. The line descending from Shivaji’s younger son took control of the Southern Maratha territory and established their capital at Kolhapur. It was in 1707 that Tarabai established the Kolhapur state, following which the Marathas controlled this area until 1849 when the British took over and Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj was installed as the ruler of Kolhapur.

It was under Shahu that Kolhapur flourished. He extended his patronage to theatre, music, painting, sculpture, wrestling and the arts. He is also credited with establishing several educational institutions and hostels as well as creating employment opportunities for students belonging to the so-called backward class. He continued to be the ruler of Kolhapur until his death in 1922.

After India’s independence in 1947, the Maharaja of Kolhapur acceded to the dominion of India and later merged with Bombay state in 1949.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Kolhapur’s famous sights include its palaces, temples and lakes, while its must-have experiences include shopping for saris, jewellery and its fabled leather chappals as well as savouring its spicy food.

Courtesy MTDC
Mahalaxmi Temple, Kolhapur
Mahalaxmi Temple, Kolhapur

Mahalaxmi temple

Kolhapur is intrinsically linked to Mahalaxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. A mythological tale says that it was Mahalaxmi or Ambabai who slayed the demon Kolasur and granted his dying wish to have the city named after him.

The Mahalaxmi Temple is probably Kolhapur’s most visited tourist attraction, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors as well as devotees each year. Over the years, members of several royal families have sought blessings of the goddess. The temple has artistic structures and houses temples of other deities such as Kashi Vishweshwar, Kartikaswami, Sheshashayi, Siddhivinayak, Mahaswaraswati, Mahakali and Rama.

The temple’s construction was initiated in seventh century CE by the Chalukya ruler, Karandev. Later on, in the ninth century, the Shilahara Yadavas beautified it further.

The goddess’ 3-ft stone idol, a monolith, is said to weigh 40 kg. It is mounted on a stone platform and is said to be composed of uncut diamonds and precious stones.

While a palanquin procession of the goddess is organized every Friday, the year’s biggest celebrations take place on the festivals of Chaitra Poornima and during Navratri, when devotional music concerts are organized on the temple premises.

The temple is one of the shaktipeethas (or places associated with Shakti, the goddess of power) in India.

Devotees can stay at the nearby dharmshala (boarding house) for a nominal fee.

Timings 4.00–11.00pm

Temblai Temple

Situated atop a hill, Temblai temple honours goddess Renuka. A tank Tarkateertha used to be located nearby and is still partially visible. It is now called Takala. The idol in the temple is said to be swayambhu (self-manifested) and made of black stone. The idol has its back turned towards the Mahalaxmi temple and there is an interesting legend to explain this. It is said that Renuka and Mahalaxmi were sisters. Renuka helped Mahalaxmi defeat the demons, but after the war, Mahalaxmi did not accord due respect to Renuka, because of which she got angry and settled on this hill. This is why her idol faces the east while that of Mahalaxmi faces the west. A huge idol of Lord Ganesh has been installed at the centre of the hilltop and a garden has also been developed at the spot. The view of the city from the hilltop is quite magnificent.

Courtesy MTDC
The grand façade of the Chhatrapati Shahu Museum
The grand façade of the Chhatrapati Shahu Museum

The Old Palace

While the Bhawani temple is its main attraction the Old Palace by itself is worth lingering. Built way back in 1788, it has been maintained well. It is located behind Mahalaxmi temple and has beautiful filigree work in stone. The Nagarkhana, Darbar hall and horse stables are some of the Old Palace’s other attractions. In 1830, the palace was partially burnt in an invasion by Mughals. It was restored and maintained much of the old-world charm.

The New Palace (Chhatrapati Shahu Museum)

A majestic building in black stone, the New Palace was built between 1877 and 1884. It has extensive premises with a garden, fountain, wrestling house, zoo and a lake. The palace is octagonal with a tower in the centre over which a clock was mounted in the year 1877. Although the palace is still the residence of the descendents of the royal family, a large part of it has been converted into the Chhatrapati Shahu Museum. The ground floor houses a fine collection Kolhapur rulers’ memorabilia such as costumes, weapons, jewellery, games, embroidery and so on. A part of the museum also has several stuffed animals including tigers, lion, black panther, Himalayan black bear among others. The darbar hall has stained glass paintings depicting scenes from the life of Shivaji.

Timings 9.30am–6.00pm, on all days except Monday

The Town Hall Museum

This impressive Neo-Gothic style building, completed in 1876, was built as the city’s town hall. Now converted into a museum, it holds Satavahana period items discovered during excavation at the nearby Brahmapuri hill. The items include pottery fragments, coins and beads. Old sculptures, filigree work in sandal wood and ivory and paintings of master artists of the region are all displayed here.

Punit Paranjpe
Palm trees lining the pathway by Rankala Lake
Palm trees lining the pathway by Rankala Lake

Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir

The Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir, built in 1882, is visited by archaeology as well as architecture students to study its sanctum that has been built without the use of any pillar. The idol of Lord Ganesha in the temple was found while repairing a well.

Rankala Lake

The lake gets its name from the Rankabhairav temple locted in its centre. Prior to the eighth century, the lake is believed to have been a stone quarry. An earthquake in the ninth century opened up an underground water source due to which the water body was formed. The lake has a temple nearby with a huge statue of the Nandi bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The beautiful Shalini Palace that was recently converted into a hotel is situated on one of the banks of the lake. The municipal corporation has beautified this area by developing a garden and a lake side pathway.

SHOPPING

Kolhapur is well-known for its textiles and cottons, in particular Kolhapuri saris. But it is, of course most famous for its jewellery and leather sandals or Kolhapuri chappals. The jewellery from Kolhapur is known to dazzle the beholder and is beautifully crafted with delicate embossing and workmanship. Some traditional jewellery items include saaj, thushi, manchali and jijamata haar. Mahadwar and Shivaji Roads are good places to shop. You can find a good variety of Kolhapuri chappals and other leather goods on Bhausinji Road. Shetkaari Bazaar is the cheapest place to shop and is popular among the villagers from surrounding areas.

WHERE TO STAY

Located on Old Pune-Bangalore Highway, Kawala Naka, Sayaji Hotel (Tel: 0231-4006666; Tariff: 3,500– 5,500) has executive rooms and suites. There’s also a multi-cuisine restaurant. Hotel K Tree, in Shivaji Park, (Tel: 2526990; Tariff: 2,700–4,000) has rooms in deluxe, super deluxe and theme suite variants.

Hotel Victor Palace (Tel: 2537001- 08; Tariff: 4,380–7,103) at Rankala Lake is a good option. Hotel Pearl (Tel: 6684451; Tariff: 2,500–5,500) in New Shahupuri lives up to its name and is the pick of the mid-range hotels. Hotel Panchshil (Tel: 2537517; Tariff: 3,200–10,000) in Shivaji Park is clean but cheerless. Hotel Vijayraj (Tel: 2651124/ 04; Tariff: Rs. 975–1,400) in Tarabai Park offers clean rooms and is the best budget choice in the city.

WHERE TO EAT

If you are looking for authentic Kolhapuri non-vegetarian thalis, Padma Guest House is highly recommended. Tucked in a lane near Padma Talkies in Laxmipuri, this unpretentious eatery serves lip-smacking chicken and mutton dishes with tambda and pandhra rassa. The mutton pickle as well as biryani are must-have items too. Located on National Highway 4, Parakh is another place that serves nonvegetarian thalis. Many recommend this place for authentic Kolhapuri food. Aahar Misal is a Mangalwar Peth-based joint, established in 1948, which started serving misal pav in 1968. The owners served a spicier version of the dish to stand out from other joints. Located in Udyamnagar, Phadtare Misal is a modest eatery that serves a Jain version of the misal, apart from the regular variety.

Know your Kolhapuri

The genuine Kolhapuri is stitched completely by hand without the use of nails or glue. It’s made of hard leather and is always flat, with little difference between designs for men and women. The colour is a deep tan.

Over the years, the humble Kolhapuri changed its shape and size to meet the demands of the market. Today, it is available in heels, and four more colours have been added to the tan palette – white, black, mustard and deep maroon. The maroon looks quite attractive against your feet, but beware, the colour has a tendency to rub off on your feet might be difficult to scour off. Some of these chappals have a thin, attractive golden zari stitching on the top. An authentic Kolhapuri can be bought for anything between 300 and 700.

FAST FACTS

When to go September–April is the best time to visit Kolhapur when the weather is very pleasant. The monsoon season (June–September) can be best enjoyed by nature lovers when hotels offer huge discounts

Tourist Office

MTDC
Kolhapur
Tel: 0231-2652935
W maharashtratourism.gov.in
STD code 0231 

 

GETTING THERE

State Desh

Location A city in the Panchganga River Basin

Distance 237 km S of Pune

Route from Pune NH4 via Satara  

Air Nearest airport: Belgaum (120 km/2 hrs). Taxi costs 4,200–4,500

Rail Kolhapur Railway Station

Road It is a long drive from Mumbai to Kolhapur through the Expressway to Pune, NH4 to Kolhapur via Satara.

Bus Plenty of ST and Volvo buses from Mumbai and Pune ply to Kolhapur. Log onto W redbus.in for bookings