Mahalakshmi Temple, Kolhapur
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|Shri Mahalakshmi (Ambabai) of Kolhapur|
Shri Mahalakshmi (Ambabai) Idol in the garbgruha of the shrine
|Date built||7th century|
The Shri Mahalakshmi (AmbaBai) Temple of Kolhapur in Maharashtra, India, is one of the 18 Shakti Peethas listed in various puranas of Hinduism. The temple is of special religious significance and is considered to be a place where Shakti (Energy of the Supreme Lord) manifests and as one of only six sacred houses of Shakti where worshipers can either be freed from or granted their longings.She is fondly called Ambabai which means Divine Mother. 
Located on the banks of the Panchganga River, about 156 miles (252km) south of Pune, the Kolhapur Shakti Peetha takes its name from Lakshmi, the four-armed, gemstone-adorned goddess of good fortune, the universal form of whom is Shakti. Lakshmi is endowed with six divine qualities, among them prosperity (spiritual and material). It is believed that the divine couple, Lakshmi and Vishnu reside in the area.It is aslo believed that Lord Vishnu resides here in the form of Mahalaxmi 
Mounted on a stone platform, the murti of the crowned Goddess is made of gemstone and weighs about 40 kilograms. 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. A stone lion (the vahana of the goddess), stands behind the statue. The crown contains an image of the Sheshnag, the serpent of Vishnu.
In her four hands, the deity of Mahalakshmi holds objects of symbolic value. The lower right hand holds a mhalunga (a citrus fruit), in the upper right, a large mace (kaumodaki) the mace of Vishnu with its head touching the ground, in the upper left a shield and in the lower left, a bowl (panpatra). Unlike most Hindu sacred images, which face north or east, the deity faces West (Pashchim). There is a small open window on the western wall, through which the light of the setting sun falls on the face of the image for three days around the 21st of each March and September.
There are a number of other 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.
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The temple belongs architecturally to the Chalukya empire and was first built in the 7th century. The temple is referred to in multiple Puranas. There is evidence to show that the Konkan king Kamadeo, Chalukyas, Shilahara, Yadavas of devagiri dynasties visited this city. Adi Shankaracharya also visited. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj & Sambhaji reigned.
In 109 A.D, Karnadeo cut off the jungle and brought the temple to light. The existence goes back to the 8th century, according to Dr. Bhandarkar & Mr. Khare.[who?] In the 8th century, the temple sank down due to earthquake. In the 9th century, Gandavadix (King) extended the temple by building Mahakali Mandir. During 1178–1209, in the reign of Raja Jaysing & Sindhava, South gate & Atibaleshwar Temple were built. In 1218, Yadav king Tolum built Mahadwar, and offered jewels to Devi. Further, Shilaharas built Maha Sarasvati Mandir. He being a Jain, got 64 idols carved. It is possible that new idol called Padmavati was installed at that time.[according to whom?] Further, in Chalukya times, Ganapati before the temple was installed. It seems that the original temple was of the jain according to some historians[according to whom?] and was constructed by king Padmalayan. many walls of the original temple have jain idols and can be seen. In the 13th century, Shankaracharya built Nagar Khana & Office, Deepmalas.
Later during the time of maratha empire, the temple was repaired. Though many invasions over this part of India have caused some damages of the beautiful idols which are all around the temple.
During 1712–1792 (Sambhaje Reign) Narhar Bhat Shastree had a dream which he told to Sambhajee. In the Mughal reign, the worshippers had hidden the idol for protection. Believing Sangavakar's dream, Sambhajee started a search. This idol was found in a house in Kapila Teertha Market in the city. According to Sambhaji's letter dated 8 November 1723, Sindhoji Hindurao Ghorpade of Panhala installed the idol again on 26 September 1712 (Monday, Ashwin Vijiya Dashami). The number of devotees grew, and in due course of time, the Devi became the Deity of Maharashtra. The idol began to denude due to Abhishekas. So Sankeshwar Shankaracharya got it repaired. After Vajralep & sacrifices, it was again installed at the hands of Kolhapur Shahajee Raje in 1954. There are 5 main temples and 7 Deepamalas now. Around are 35 temples of various sizes and 20 shops. There are 5 Hemad-style tops and a Garud Mandap.
Legends and Significance
It is said that both Shri Lakshmi and Shri Vishnu reside in the Karveer area eternally and shall not leave even at the time of Mahaprayakala. This region is therefore also referred to as an avimuktakshetra. Karveer region is eternally blessed and is believed to be held by Mother Jagdambe in her right hand, and so this region is protected from all destruction. Lord Vishnu himself adores this region more than Vaikiuntha or the Kshirsagar since it is the home of his consort Lakshmi. According to popular legends, Mahalakshmi left Vaikuntha and arrived at Kolhapur on hearing that Lord Venkatesh (Vishnu) her beloved husband failed to take action against sage Bhrigu for his horrific behaviour towards him. An angry Mahalakshmi is said to have observed strict penance in Kolhapur for several years until upon hearing the news of her husband being married to Tirumala Padmavati, another avatar of Mahalaskhmi. The greatness of this region has therefore attracted many sages and devotees, the blessings and affections showered by this region on its devotees are immeasurable. It is believed that Prabhu Shri Dattatreya still comes here every noon to seek alms.
The deity of the Goddess Mahalakshmi is made of gemstone and is considered to be at least 5000 to 6000 years old. It weighs about 40 kilos. The precious stones that adorn the deity indicate the antiquity of the deity. The platform of the Goddess Mahalakshmi is made of stone. The deity of the Goddess has four arms. In the lower right hand she holds the matulinga, (a fruit similar to and ordinary lemon but much larger in size). In the upper right hand she holds large mace, kaumodaks, its head touching the ground. In the upper left hand she holds the shield or khetaka, and while in the lower one she holds a bowl, panpatra.This temple gives equal importance to all sampradayas and not only Shaktism.To the Vaishnavas who believe Narayana as Supreme she is undoubtedly Laxmi the divine consort and Shakti of Vishnu.By Vaishnavas she is regarded as Mahalaxmi, the consort of MahaVishnu.
On the crown of the Goddess Mahalakshmi are a cobra-hood and a Shiva-ling with a Yoni around it. Standing behind is the Goddess' vahana-a lion. Almost all the idols of the God face the north or the east directions, whereas here the Idol faces the west. The small window on the western wall which is open. Once a year, the rays of the Sun during sunset falls on the face of the image through this window. This period lasts for three days, each time, the 21st, of the months of March and September. This period is considered extremely auspicious, the Devotees throng the temple on all the three evenings the temple for a glimpse of the beautiful image bathing in the golden rays of the setting sun.
Mahalaxmhi had a fight with her husband and she settled in Kolhapur. She had no roof over her head, so her loyal servants, who were demons, built her a big temple with beautiful carvings made of stones from the lake Rankala within one night. The people treated her very well, and so she promised that there would be no poverty. No person in Kolhapur will remain poor. The temple is in the same condition.
The Kolhapureshwari temple is reverred as a Shakti Peetha, well known as Shri Peetham.
Shakti Peethas are highly revered shrines of Shakti by the Saktha sect (Shaktism) of Hinduism. The mythology of Daksha yaga and Sati's self immolation is the story of origin for the Shati Peetha temples. They are believed to have formed when the body parts of Sati Devi fell while Shiva was carrying her corpse after her death.
Worship services are offered each day throughout the year. Daily schedule is as follows,
|1||Opening of the Temple||4:30 a.m|
|2||Kakad Aarti (The Morning Aarti)||4:30 to 6:00 a.m|
|3||Morning Mahapuja||8:00 a.m|
|4||Nevaidya (Offering of Holy Food)||9:30 a.m|
|5||Madhyan Aarti (The Afternoon Aarti)||11:30 a.m|
|6||Alankar Pooja||1:30 p.m|
|7||Dhup Aarti (The Evening Aarti)||8:00 p.m|
|8||Shej Aarti (The Night Aarti)||10:00 p.m|
Special Events: A festival image of the deity is taken out in procession around the temple courtyard each Friday, and on full moon days.
Kirnotsav (lit. festival of Sun Rays) is celebrated in the Mahalakshmi Temple at Kolhapur, when the rays of the sun fall directly on the deity at the time of sunset. It is said that the Sun god pays his homage to Mahalakshmi Ambabai for three days in a year. This will be on the occasion of “RathaSaptami”.
- 31 January & 9 November: Sun rays fall directly on the feet of the deity.
- 1 February & 10 November: Sun rays fall directly on the chest of the deity.
- 2 February & 11 November: Sun rays fall directly on the entire body of the deity.
It is not surprising that even the rays of a setting sun pay homage to Goddess Mahalakshmi Ambabai as the life of human being revolves around illumination and prosperity. But it is the wonder of wise architects who built the temple of Mahalakshmi at kolhapur that the rays of the setting Sun, bow at the feet of the Goddess through a window, for a while before vanishing. It is the architect's excellence, which was done more than 1000 years ago, and can still be observed. This special event is celebrated by thousands of people as Kiranotsav.
- Tate, Karen (2005). Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations. CCC Publishing. p. 197.
- Lester, Meera (2011). Sacred Travels: 274 Places to Find Joy, Seek Solace, and Learn to Live More Fully. Adams Media. p. 103.
- Balasubramanian, Lalitha (2017). Temples in Maharashtra: A Travel Guide. Notion Press. p. 99.
- Bansal, Sunita (2008). Hindu Pilgrimage. Pustak Mahal. p. 181.
- "Mahalakshmi Kolhapur Daily Schedule".