Kolhapur does not have an airport. The nearest ones would be Belgaum 120 kms, or Pune 240 kms.Book with us
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Nestled in the Sahayadri mountains, Kolhapur is a princely state located in South-western Maharashtra at an elevation of 569 metres. On the banks of the Panchganga river, it derives its name from the mythological story of Kolhasur – a demon who was slain by the Goddess Mahalakshmi. The majestic Mahalakshmi Temple stands tribute to that famous victory, and is regarded in Hindu scriptures as one of six Shaktipeeth, the most important places devoted to Goddess worship.
Although the Mahalaxmi temple is the single biggest attraction that pulls in crowds and pilgrims from across the country to Kolhapur, it is by no means its only offering. The expansive Rankala lake and the lake-side parks, promenades and sit-outs offer rejuvenation, and the most magical sunsets. The Shalini Palace, built of black stone and Italian marble in 1931, flanks the west-end of the lake, with lush greenery and towering palm trees. It has been converted into a heritage hotel, and remains the only palace hotel in Maharashtra till date.
The New Palace is where the Royals of Kolhapur continue to live, although the ground floor of the palace is now an open-to-public museum. Named Chattrapati Shahu Museum after its creator and Kolhapur’s most illustrious ruler, this is likely to be as oddball a royal museum as one would ever have encountered- with its brazen display of everyday objects fashioned from animal parts, an armoury with some serious firepower and some rarest of rare art, this museum on the ground floor of the New Palace is absolutely worth a visit. So is the Old Palace, located behind the Mahalaxmi temple, where the Royals used to live till mid-nineteenth century. The Bhavani Temple is still intact, although much of the old palace was destroyed by Muslim attackers.
To understand the place of Kolhapur in Maratha history, one has to travel about 22 kms. to its northwest to Panhala Fort. Perched at an altitude of 897 metres, Panhala is one of the largest forts in the Deccan, with a perimeter of 14 km and 110 lookout posts. Most of the architecture is of the Bijapuri style with the peacock motif of the Bahmani Sultanate prominently visible on several structures, although it was built in the 12 th century by the Silahara ruler Bhoja II. This legendary fort changed hands between the Bijapur rulers, Shivaji, his sons Sambhaji and Rajaram, Rajaram’s child bride Tarabai and her successors, the Shahu’s of Kolhapur, the Mughals under Aurangzeb and finally the British, over an incredibly rich 400 year history. Yet through it all, it never suffered any major damages, and remains today, proud and resilient, run by the Kolhapur kings till its assimilation into the freshly minted Indian state of Maharashtra in 1960.
Kolhapur is quite the foodie’s delight, although it would help if one’s palate can accomodate hot, spicy food. The local Kolhapur cuisine is characterized by the use of chili, and known especially for its mutton curries. Tambda rassa (red curry) and Pandhara rassa (white curry) are two delicious gravies served here. Chicken/Mutton Kolhapuri is usually regarded as the hottest and tastiest of all curries, and will find a mention in any respectable menu card across thecountry. But all is not gloomy for vegetarians in Kolhapur. Misal, a spicy gravy of potatoes, peas and other sprouts, and one of Mahrastra’s best loved all-purpose snacks, also finds its origin here. There is a place called Gurhal where pure jaggery is made from scratch. It is certainly worth visiting the local markets to hunt down spices.
The city is particularly well known for the Kolhapuri chappal, a hand-crafted buffalo leather slipper that is locally tanned using vegetable dyes. These leather slippers are famous all across the world, and makes sense to be on your shopping list whilst here. Not as famous, but nearly so, are Kolhapuri sarees and Kolhapuri jewellery, especially the Saaj necklace that’s considered an essential for a Maharashtrian woman. Other objects of interest for shoppers would be the Petha turban that’s worn as a mark of respect by men folk, the Kolhapuri Masala, a potent spice mix that is the secret behind the legendarily spicy Kolhapuri meat preparations, and local white Gud or Jaggery, healthy and delicious.
Any trip to Kolhapur is incomplete without a visit to one of its wrestling pits. Traditional wrestling or Kushti has been patronised by the people of Kolhapur for over a century now, starting when Chattrapati Shahu Maharaj made over a 100 akharas or wrestling pits across the city to popularize the sport. Visit the Rajarshi Shahu Khasbag Maidan to see some of the wrestling in action. If you’re lucky, a tournament will be on. But even otherwise, there should be pehelwaans practicing. Young and old, they are serious about this sport. It’s refreshing to see a part of India where any sport outside of cricket is taken seriously. The other sport in Kolhapur, amazingly, is cinema. Kolhapur is the primary centre for the Marathi film industry, playing host to many festivals including an International film festival, and also boasts of a 75 acre Film City.
All said and done, Kolhapur stands out as a unique princely state not for its sights and sounds, but for it’s influence. For a tiny city-state, its contribution to Maharashtrian history, culture and coffers is considerable. From the matinee idols on screen, to the brides adorned in Kolhapuri Saaj and Sarees, to newly-weds visiting here to take blessings from Maa Mahalaxmi, to its well-loved snacks and cuisine, Kolhapur is the pride of the Maratha empire.
Kolhapur does not have an airport. The nearest ones would be Belgaum 120 kms, or Pune 240 kms.Book with us
Kolhapur lies on the NH4 connecting Mumbai to Bangalore, a little more than halfway between Mumbai and Goa. The route is serviced by state buses luxury coaches, and private taxis.Book with us
Kolhapur(Chattrapati Shahu Maharaj Jn) is on the Pune-Miraj-Kolhapur section. It is well connected to all major Indian cities Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore.Book with us
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The Dehati Restaurant is the go-to place to sample authentic Maharashtrian delicacies, especially the local Kolhapur cuisine. The Kolhapuri Thali covers it nicely, and everything tastes just brilliant. Must try dishes for non-vegetarians would include Tambhara Rassa (red mutton curry), Pandhara Rassa (white mutton curry) and Akkha Masoor (whole lentil curry). We recommend the Kolhapuri Mutton Masala Thali. The other food from Kolhapur famous across Maharashtra is Misal- the spicy and delicious snack made of sprouts, moth beans and a heady cocktail of deep-fried crunchy snack-mix artfully assembled into a unique mixture. There are several iconic Misal places here, each with a colorful past and lots of fans, but we recommend Choraje, especially their less spicy version.
The Mahalakshmi Temple was originally built during 6th century, but destroyed by an earthquake in the 9th. Later it was reconstructed and renovated under the rule of the kings Jatig I and Gandaraditya. It is said that when a demon named Kolhasura tormented Gods and humans, Maa Mahalaksmi defeated and killed Kolhasura at this very location. The main idol of the Goddess is 3 feet in height and black in color. In this form, she has four arms, and made from gemstones. She holds a mace in her upper right hand, a fruit in her lower right hand, a shield in her upper left, and a bowl her lower left hand. The crown contains an image of sheshnag — the serpent of Vishnu. Mahalakshmi is also believed to be the consort of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala. Thus it is believed that those who visit Tirumala must also pay a visit here. The temple has astounding architectural beauty. It also houses images of other important Gods like Ganesh, Dattatreya, Shiva and Parvati. In Hindu mythology, this temple is one of the six most important places dedicated to Goddess worship, making it one of six shaktipeethas.
Wrestling schools in rural western Maharashtra are called taleems, the Urdu word for training- a throwback to pre-Partition Punjab, with whose taleems they developed strong links over a hundred years ago. During the time of Shahu Maharaj who ruled Kolhapur between 1884 and 1900, grapplers from all over undivided India, many of them from the Punjab, were brought into Kolhapur. To this day there are huge tournaments in rural western Maharashtra which feature top wrestlers from Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and even some African nations. The Motibag wrestling arena is one of the most prestigious wrestling training grounds in the country, and a visit here offers a unique glimpse into the world of a dying sport- Indian pehelwaani. From young to adult, dedicated wrestlers live and train here. Although not strictly touristic, a visit here would be a wonderful tribute to a city that has given India many of her greatest wrestlers. It is also great opportunity for photography enthusiasts.
The old Palace, located behind the Mahalaxmi temple, was built in the year 1788. This was the original seat of the Chatrapatis of Kolhapur. The structure was partially burnt down during the invasion of Muslim King Sadalla Khan in 1813, but the Durbar Hall, Nagarkhana, and the famous Bhavani temple are still intact. The stone filigree work is of the highest standards. It also houses a statue of Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj. It is said that an underground tunnel connects the Old Palace to Panhala about 20 kms away.
About 22 kms. to the northwest of Kolhapur on the Ratnagiri road, at an altitude of 3,177 feet above sea level, sits the 12 th century fort of Panhala. Built by King Bhoj (Shilahara dynasty) between 1178-1209, then conquered by Adil Shah, it finally came under Marathas when Shivaji captured it in 1660. There is a very interesting story related to this fort. Many say that when Siddi Johar, a Bijapur general, attacked the fort, Shivaji escaped from the window while Shiva Kashid, in the disguise of Shivaji, fought bravely with Siddi Johar. He was beheaded, but his bravery allowed Shivaji to escape that night. A towering statue, 52 kilograms of bronze, stands in the middle of the fort to honour the one person who ensured that Shivaji survived his escape to Vishalgad. The Teen Darwaja, the three gates that provide access to the fort, have exquisite lattice work, while motifs from the Bahamani Sultanate and the Raja Bhoj era adds several layers of architectural texture reflecting the changing dynasties who ruled here. The Ambarkhana or granary built by the Marathas, also houses the palace and the administrative division, and had the capacity to store 25,000 khandis of grains. Sajja Kothi, built by the Mohammedans, was where Shivaji imprisoned his own son Sambhaji. A visit to the Nayakini Sajja, located next to one of the corners of the fort, is recommended to gain insight about the warfare strategy used by the Marathas to deceive their foes. When enemies tried to climb over the particular corner, they would fall into the ravine. Panhala is the largest of all the Deccan forts, and the only one where Shivaji spent more than 500 days of his life.
This scenic lake takes its name from the Rankabhairav temple which is believed to be submerged at its center. The circumference of the lake is 4.5 miles. It has a temple in the vicinity with a mammoth sculpture of Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. There is an interesting theory the locals believe- that this statue of Nandi moves in the direction of the lake for a distance of a single wheat grain every day, and after some time, it comes to its original position. It is said the when the Nandi idol will reach up to the lake, then the whole world will get demolished. There is a resort inside the lake known as Sandhya Math.The lake is flanked on its west by the majestic Shalini Palace, and to its east by the expansive Padma Raje gardens. The south-east bank of the lake has been developed into a pathway, park and sit-outs. The 2 ghats or embankments, Rajghat and Marathghat, flank either side. Like many of the bestattractions of Kolhapur, this lake too was constructed during the reign of Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj.
Kolhapur is famous for a special type of necklace called Kolhapur Saaj. The best place to buy the Kolhapuri Saaj necklace and other antique jewellery is at Karekar Jewelers in Rajarampuri area. Another place worth visiting is Hupari, situated just 16-km away from Kolhapur where people are skilled in the art of making jewellery and show items out of silver. Then of course, there is the world famous Kolhapuri Chappal. These beautiful wood and leather slippers are sturdy, come in a variety of designs, and age beautifully. These are available all over the world, but in their city of origin, they’re best bought at Mahadwar Road, Shivaji Road and Bahaunsingji Road. Kolhapur is popular for its cotton textiles. Traditional Kolhapuri Sarees are extremely popular across the country as bridal wear. Saraswati Saree Depot in Gandhinagar is the most famous shop to explore. Spice enthusiasts might want to pick up the local Kolhapuri Masala, a special spice mixture prepared by Kolhapurkar, a mixture of chillies onion, garlic, and other spices that is the secret behind the famously fiery Kolhapuri Chicken and Mutton curries. The Pheta, a traditional turban worn as a mark of respect, is another special item to pick from here.
In 1877, Chatrapati Shahu, the Maharaja of Kolhapur, commissioned British architect ‘Mad’ Charles Mant to design a new palace for the Kolhapur Kings. Mant completed this ‘new palace’ in 1884, an eight-angled building with a tower in the middle- a unique architectural piece that fuses Jain, Hindu and the local Rajwada styles. Since then, the New Palace has been home to the living descendants of Chatrapati Shahu. Even today, the first floor of this palace is being used by the current Chhatrapati of Kolhapur, Shreemant Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, the direct descendent of Shivaji. The ground floor of the Palace has been converted into a museum with the oddest of artifacts you are ever likely to encounter. It is believed that Shahu Maharaj went on numerous hunting tours into the forest. The rewards from these efforts ended up as bizarre creations such as walking canes from tiger backbones or ashtrays made of rhino feet. There is also an armoury, with frankly, an enormous collection of weapons. The taxidermy displays feature all kinds of exotic animals from tigers to African dik-diks. The ornate Durbar Hall is not to be missed either. But the museum also houses a rich collection of rare paintings, royal sculptures, artifacts and royal scriptures. The premises are surrounded by lush greenery, a serene lake, and a pretty interesting zoo.
Originally, Kohlapuri chappals were made using buffalo-hide, and their soles was enormously thick making them weigh up to 2 kilos. The reason behind this was that these chappals needed to be water proof and heat resistant, and needed to withstand the rugged mountains of Maharashtra. Nowadays, Kolhapuris are light as a feather and have a flat thin sole, though they’re still made from quality leather.
Kolhapur boasts of the first ‘Dalit Hostel’ (Hostel for Lower castes) in India and also the first of its kind in the world. It was started by Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj at the tun of the 20th century. Chattrapati Shahu was a social reformer, and also provided subsidized education for lower caste students.
Prabhat Film Company popularly known as Prabhat Films was an Indian film production company and film studios founded in 1929 by the noted film director V. Shantaram and his friends in Kolhapur. Later, they moved to Pune in 1933 and established their studio. The site at which Prabhat Studios was based later became the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), the country’s premier Film Institute.