Kolhapur- home to the brave Marathas

6 Feb

Kolhapur – a sleepy town or so I thought ; infact I don’t think I ever thought about it at all …. Until Govind our driver sped the bus towards a long winding road which said ‘Welcome to Kolhapur.
Early morning …. Trucks outside the office of ‘Sakal’ the local newspaper had drivers lazily chattin up with each other ; Bright faced school children scamper across the streets and slowly two wheelers begin to fill the space between the sparse vehicular traffic .
More into the city and the only other competition for these two wheelers are the 3 wheelers who jostle between the the traffic pushing their way in just to tell you that they are an aggressive lot to reckon with . These autos are different from the ones one spots in mumbai . They cater to 6. – 7 people at a time which I thought was a great idea these kolhapuris had . If this wasn’t chaotic enough bullocks with large loads of sugarcane also headed along nonchalantly, their owners oblivious to the traffic.
The main focus of the city is the Mahalaxmi temple which I am told is very old and the crowning glory of this city. Built in black stone the idol is impressive and adorned in bright gold . The best part of the temple was the courtyard where one could sit ,relax ,be a part of the crowd and yet have quiet time . The vendors around peddling their wares -dazzling ornaments and the tasty pedas (sweet) can keep you sitting there for hours
Within the same courtyard is the Bhawani mandap with an impressive statue of emperor Shahu surrounded by the ferocious animals he hunted down. Legend goes that he was so powerful that he could kill a lion by choking him .and yeah he looked impressive alright !!!
The lanes outside the temple are narrow and laced with shops of all kinds – footwear, clothes, jewellery and all kinds of paraphernalia which definitely demands that you take a look .
A visit to Kolhapur must include a trip to the fort at Panhalgad .
Built by raja bhoj of the naga race , this fort has been ruled by many regimes but rose to fame in the glorious days of the Maratha king Shivaji.
There are three entrances to this fort On the west end is the impressive ‘teen darwaja’ ( three doors). The upper side of the door has carvings one of which is a large tiger pinning down an elephant … which our guide informs is to show that the mind is mightier than might. A quality that made Shivaji the greatest of the Maratha kings .

The temple dedicated to Raja Shivaji is as impressive as the palace of his daughter in law Tararani – the founder of the state of Kolhapur .
A little away is the beautiful Sajja kothi- a view from its terrace is breathtaking . A few minutes of quiet time there , looking out at the valleys,lakes, hills and nearby districts and you begin to feel this immense feel of royalty and grandeur
These guys really knew how to stash up their produce- The ambarkhana or granaries namely Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati are colossal with air holes above and a sloped floor that could store gargantuan amounts of rice and other grains for use during a siege. Just to get a perspective of the amounts stored – 25000 khandis of rice ( 1khandi = 50 kgs) and other grains could be piled up here .
Just in front of the ambarkhana stands the relic of jakhubai telin. Legend goes that the top portion of the fort was only completed when she decided to sacrifice her life. Call it superstition if you may but it’s only when she decided to call it a day that fortification was completed .
A well of ghee – that was something! Our friendly guide informed us that in those days tax was collected in the form of ghee and stored . Why ghee – because ghee was medicinal and could be used to heal wounds .
Nature seemed to have blessed this town with diverse kinds of trees which had led to an ambitious botanical garden project by the government.
The Shahuji Chhatrapati museum at Kolhapur built in 1877 is a fine piece of architecture . Acres of sprawling grounds with fountains , ponds and even a zoo gives a peek into the ways of royal living . The museum displaces all the jewellery , armoury , costumes elephant saddles and even stuffed animals.
What is awesome is the darbar hall with its arches complete with stain glass windows – which depict details of the life of Maharaja Shivaji. A raised throne adds to the magnificence of this inspiring hall.
Village life like it used to be is seen at the Siddhagirwax museum… Although well showcased people just ambled around trying to figure out what each model displays . Maybe a walking audio tour and a live performance of some of the displayed feats would make the place much more interesting .
This town of temples and palaces has something for everyone to take home too – jewellery , chappals and yup it’s a foodie paradise for those who love spicy food
Me …. I got home some of their masala to use on days I’de like my ears to sing and feelings of awe and respect for this great Maratha warrior – Shivaji

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