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Maharashtra: Kolhapur - A Travel Guide
Located at an elevation of 563 meters, Kolhapur, on Bangalore- Goa National highway, is situated on the southern River banks of Panchganga. The name of Kolhapur can be seen in few Hindu mythological books. It is known to be as one of the 51 shakti pithas of Hindu communities. The divine paradise, Kolhapur, houses more than 51 scattered holy temples. The salubrious climate of Kolhapur is worthy of mention as well. It has, nevertheless, become a prominent industrial city of Maharashtra now. It is rich in minerals. The city has huge quantities of bauxite. There are not many people in India who haven’t heard about the name of the Kolhapuri Chappal.
Indo- Saracenic architectures were invented for the first time in 19th century by Major Charles Mant blending Hindu, Jain, Muslim and western art forms in Kolhapur. Edifices like Town hall (1873), General Library (1875), Albert Edward Hospital (1878), High School (1879) and New Palace (Rajwada) demonstrate pretty Indo- Saracenic architectural form.
Amba Bai or Mahalakshmi temple, on the prolonged river banks of Panchganga was erected by the emperor Karnadev of Chalukya dynasty in 634. The captivating architectural grandeur depicted on the walls of this temple is a treat to the eyes of the holiday makers. The peak of this divine pyramid-shaped temple is based on innumerable small and big pillars. Besides Vishnu, 8 other deities are innovatively engraved on the walls of the temple. The colossal Gopuram, made up of black stones, is spread across the north-south and north-west sides of the temple. The architecturally rich portraits, displayed on the impressive ceiling of the temple are laudable. The south facing quadrilateral idol of Devi Mahalakshmi, is formed artistically by black marbles. She is carrying a club, a buckler, fruit and pot in her hands. She has a crown of cobra on her head. She comes out of her shack and moves around the city on every Friday riding on her palanquin. A lot of other deities are also residing in this consecrated temple.
The Brahmapuri hill, located towards the western side of the Mahalakshmi temple, houses a cremation ground for the Brahmins. Ganapari temple (without any pillar), Brahmeshwar temple, Kohl Khandoba, Temblai and Jyotirlingam temple are dotted in and around the city of Kolhapur. Pilgrims get attracted towards the Jain temple, Jain Swamy Math, Shankaracharya Math and Babujamal Dargah of Kolhapur.
Watch the skirmish ground of Kolhapur. Students are learning lessons from the experts here all throughout the day.
Once destructed by a devastating fire in 1810, the 200 years old Rajwada or the old palace, houses a school now. Innumerable Maratha devotees flock to the spot in numbers to pay tributes and honor to the Goddess Bhavani who is residing on the holy throne of the nearby consecrated temple. The nearby picturesque Rankala Lake looks startling with a hallowed temple, positioned right in the middle of the Lake. One of the renowned and significant heritage hotels of Maharashtra called Shalini Hotel is placed on the northern banks of the beguiling Rankala Lake. The holy tank, Koti-Tirtha is an immensely popular destination both for the pilgrims and tourists. The contiguous Town hall museum showcases countless numbers of substances which were excavated during 1945.
Devotees, tainted with sins, congregate on the Panchganga banks, right beside the Brahmapuri tila, to take a holy dip and eradicate their sins. The shrines of Shivaji and Sambhaji (the eldest and successor of Shivaji) are there in Rani Baug. Plenty of people who respect the cultures and traditions of Kohapur are visiting this place to touch the shrine of Sambhaji, the creator of Kolhapuri cultures.
The new Rajwada or the new palace, erected in 1881, is another appealing destination of Kolhapur. The royal family members are still living on the 1st floor of the palace. Besides the octagonal clock tower and lavishly designed Darbar hall, the Shri Chhatrapari Shahuji museum is another attractive spot. The rich museum has an assortment of historical evidences of the imperial family. The son of Sambhaji, Shahu Chhatrapati, was honored with the crown of Maharaj. It was given by the British. British had sent a letter to Shahu Chhatrapati to let him know about the honor. That historical letter is kept in the Chhatrapati Shahuji museum. Apart from this letter, ashtray (made up of tiger legs), Coffee table (made up of elephant legs) and the sword of Aurangzeb are kept in this impressive museum. The oil painting of a woman, drawn by W R Waghela looks inspiring. It seems that she is always keeping an eye on you. Don’t forget to go to her and see her face.
How to reach Kolhapur: You can avail a packaged tour of MTDC to complete the tour of Kolhapur along with Jyotiba and Panhala. Autos and buses ply to various other destinations of Kolhapur from the bus stand and railway station both of which are located 1 km away from each other. Kolhapur can be accessed by bus from Mumbai in 10 ½ hours. The city of Kolhapur is easily accessible by bus from Mumbai and Pune.
Where to stay at Kolhapur: Hotel Amir, Hotel Gokul, Hotel Panchshil, Hotel Woodlands, Shreyas Lodge, Niagara Lodge, Hotel Girish, Hotel Shalini Palace, Hotel International, Hotel Victoria Palace, Hotel Rajhansha and Hotel Lishan.
Panhala: About 20 km away towards the north- west side of Kolhapur, the small hill resort, Panhala, is located at an elevation of 977 meters and is positioned near the Brahmapuri Tila.
The excavation that had taken place in 1945 in Panhala, has confirmed the existence of Nag dynasty at Panhala. The name previously, however, was Pannagaloy. Ancient Ambabai temple, school, hostel and many more primeval evidences of Yadava dynasty were excavated and had revealed the singular and unique cultures of Yadava dynasty. It is believed that the pandit Parashar used to live on the holy land of Panhala.
The 9 meters tall and 9 km long historical fort, built by the emperor Bhoj in 1192, had 3 doorways. The historical value of the fort is enormous. The control of the fort had been shifted to many royal emperors over the years. Hence, every brick of the fort is the lonely witness of the ancient traditions of various dynasties.
The Konkani Darwaja, Vishnu Tirtha Kup Sambhaji temple, Someshwar temple, Maruti temple, Gangakothi, Sajjakothi and Sunset Point are the other coveted destinations Kolhapur. Many wealthy families spend their lavish lives building homes around the Kolhapur fort. The renowned Indian singer, Lata Mangeshkar, also has built her own bungalow here.
How to reach Panhala: Hire a car from Kolhapur to Panhala for a comfortable journey.
Where to stay at Panhala: Holiday Resort MTDC, Hotel Hilltop, Valley View Hotel, Maha Laxmi Reosrt, Meghdoot Hotel and Ananda Hotel.
Jyotiba: Jyotiba is an incarnation of Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwar. Scindia emperors used to pay tribute with honor to Jyotiba. The façade of the consecrated deity can be watched crossing a stairway. The righteous temple is situated at a distance of 17 km towards the north- west side of Kolhapur.
The fair, held during Chaitra- Baishak (months according to the Hindu calendar year) pulls pilgrims from faraway places every year.
Vishalgarh fort: About 112 km away from Jyotiba temple, the Vishalgarh fort, carries the old memories of stately emperors and their families. The picture-perfect fort houses the divine Amriteshwar temple, pretty Sati Bridavan and Hazrat Baba Dargah.
Sindhu fort and Radhanagari dam: If you are interested, then it is not a bad idea to flock to the primeval Sindhu fort (about 52 km towards the southern side of Kolhapur) and Radhanagari dam. Hordes of holiday makers should catch a glimpse of another dam nearby as well. The serene ambience and an engrossing Lake in the middle of both the dams are treats to eyes of the travelers.
Dajipur Bison Sanctuary: The Dajipur Bison Sanctuary, located at an elevation of 1200 meters, is covering a straggling 351 square km of lands and is a sought after destination for all the wildlife sanctuary and nature lovers. The best time to watch the ambling bison on the lush green manor of the sanctuary is during December- June.
Bird watchers would be enthralled watching the beautiful and colorful flying birds, such as, myna, Black headed bulbul, Parakeet and Cuckoo. For a mind-blowing experience stroll around and watch innumerable natural denizens ambling on the compelling Greenland of this tropical forest.
How to reach Dajipur Bison Sanctuary: The riveting Dajipur Bison Sanctuary is located at a distance of 490 km and 80 km away from Mumbai and Kolhapur respectively. Hiring a car to the sanctuary from Kolhapur would be the best option. Kolhapur and Mumbai respectively are the nearest railway station and the nearest International airport of the sanctuary.
Where to stay at Dajipur: Bison Jungle Resort and Forest Rest House.