Over the sanctum sanctorum rises a superstructure. It has an “upper temple” that houses an icon of Ganapati with a decorated stone frame behind the idol sporting a Kirtimukh in the centre. In front of the Ganapati Idol is a rectangular Shivalinga better known as Matulinga (Shivalinga atop the Goddess idol) and outside this chamber lies a bull, vehicle of Lord Shiva. A staircase to the left of Goddess Mahalakshmi’s shrine leads to this storey of the temple.
It is said that the Matulinga was installed during the Yadava Period in 12th century as the devotees are not able to see the Shivalinga that is carved on the crown of Goddess Mahalakshmi since it remains covered. With the installation of Matuling devotees could worship it as the supreme from of genesis.
Two Additional Shrines
King Gandaraditya, also of the Shilahara Dynasty, embellished and completed the construction of Kolhapur temple of Goddess Mahalakshmi in 11th century A.D. He built the path on which the circumambulation is done around Goddess Mahalakshmi. He also added two sancta Sanctorum where Goddess Mahakali and Mahasaraswati were consecrated. On the left side of the main shrine is the temple of Mahasaraswati and on the right is the Mahakali temple. This temple houses the Shree Yantra (geometrical depiction of the Goddess) and in one niche in the wall lies and idol of Ganapati.
First Archway Or The Main Shrine's Doorway
A few feet from this archway in the sanctum lies another arch-like gateway made up of black stone which is considered to be the manifestation of Shiva and Shakti. The weight of the entire temple rests on this frame work. Lalat Bindu, which is the centre point of the frame has Ganesh idol installed on it. This part is usually called the Ganesh pattika, plinth moulding of rectangular cross section having Ganesh depiction. Three consecutive frames are found along with this plinth moulding. The door jambs have sculpted designs on them.
Darshan And Kurma Mandap
The first mandap or hall called rangamandap that starts from the place where first archway is built is octagonal in shape. This part of the temple is divided into two. The part immediately after the first archway was traditionally called Darshan Mandap as from there the idol of the Goddess can be viewed at the closest (Darshan = view, mandap=hall). The ceiling of this hall is made up of octagonal layers.
Then comes another hall called Kurma mandap. It is called so as it has a Kurma (tortoise) installed in the centre. This Mandap is now called Shankha Tirtha Mandap because the holy water called Tirtha is sprinkled on the devotees from the Shankha (conch) in this hall. The ceiling of this hall is intricately carved. Both the halls have several pillars with sculpted patterns. For this, black Kaddapah stone, Basalt, Karnataka stones were used.
These halls have a stone archway almost similar to the earlier one that leads to the Ganapati chowk. However this archway has decorative grilled screen walls on both the sides. Next to these screens are two idols of Dwarpals (the doorkeepers), called Jay and Vijay on either side. The legend states that Jay-Vijay built the temple of Mahalakshmi in one night. To justify this, images of spade and hoe are found close to the doorkeepers.
This hall is third from the sanctum sanctorum. It has a Ganapati Shrine in the centre. To the either side of the shrine are statues of Sage Agasti and his wife Lopamudra. On the outer side of the northern wall of this hall is a beautiful sculpture of Uma Maheshwar (Loard Shiva with Goddess Paravati) and statue of Lord Venkatesh as well as an idol of Goddess Katyayani in a niche in East. Kurma Mandap and Ganapti Chowk were built by King Singhan of the Yadava Dynasty.
The part of the temple from the sanctum sanctorum of Goddess Mahalakshmi up to Ganapati chowk is made up of black stone. There is a sharp contrast in the construction of the temple till the Ganapati chowk and the part thereafter which was constructed in wood during the Maratha reign.
The outermost hall which is called Garud Mandap was added during the administration of Daji Pandit between 1838 and 184318. Daji Krishna Pandit was placed at the head of the regency of Kolhapur by Mr. Townsend, the Political Agent Southern Maratha Country during the British rule in India and Shortly after he was made sole minister of the State after the death of Shahaji Chhatrapati also called Baba Saheb Maharaja.
Outer Side Of The Main Temple
The outside of the three sancta is embellished with exquisite carvings. Besides the geometrical and floral patterns there are niches all along the wall. Each niche has beautiful sculptures of Surasundaris (musician ladies) and dancing Apsaras19 popularly called Chaushastha (for64) Yoginis20.
Spires And Demos
The five spires and demos of this temple are said to have
been added by Shankaracharya of Sankeshvar (1879-1967). An aerial view shows that they form a cross. There is one dome in the center and four other that lie in four cardinal directions of North, South, East and West. Under the tallest dome on the east lies the sanctum of Goddess Mahalakshmi. Below the one in the center is the hall called Kurma Mandap and under the one on the west side is a small Ganapati temple and a hall called Ganapati Chowk. On the north and south are two domes having below them respectively Goddess Mahakali and Mahasaraswati’s sancta.
As all the five domes are built relatively recent times the structure of the domes is a modern one which has triangular step like shape. They are currently cream coloured with orange and yellow spires.
These domes and spires can be accessed from the superstructure of the upper temple
Navagraha Temple (Temple Of Nine Planets)
On entering in the temple complex from the Ghati Darwaja is the Navagraha temple on the left side. In 1941, Shirmant Jahagirdar Babasaheb Ghatge got the idols of nine planets installed in this temple. On a raised stone platform there are statues of nine planets including the Sun God in his chariot, Shivalingas and Ashtabhuja Mahishasurmardini. A small open hall like structure in front of the Navagraha temple dates back to the Yadava Period. Made of black stone it has sculptures of nine planets, Lord Vishnu reclining on the mystic serpent Shesha and Ashta Dikpal (guardians of eight directions.)
Along the southern gate called Vidyapeeth Darwaja are shrines of various gods and goddesses namely Radhakrishna, Kalbhairav, Siddhivinayak, Sinhavahini, Tuljabhavani, Lakshmi-Narayana, Annapurna, Indrasabha, Rameshwar, Narayanswami Maharaj. In the temple complex besides the main temple there are a number of other aforementioned small temples of which Navagraha and Sheshashahi temples are of special interest due to their intricate art sculptures.
A canon is located near the northern entrance which is fired on specific days. The litter of the Goddess receives one canon ball salute. This tradition was started by Queen Tarabai, daughter-in-law of the Maratha Regent Chattrapati Shivaji.
There were two ponds of holy water called Kasi and Manikarnika. The images and Veergal (the hero stones) that lined up these ponds have been removed and some of them have been placed in the Town Hall Museum. A garden has been developed in the place of Manikarnika pond.
Sheshashahi Temple (Vishnu Temple)
On the side of the eastern entrance lies an intricately carved Sheshashahi temple, octagonal in shape. Inside the dome of this temple are two tiers of exquisite art. The topmost tier has 6 Petals of a flower and the lower tier has 16 petals of flowers sculpted on it. At the edge of the dome touching the main walls of the temple are 60 statues of Jain Tirthankaras. It is believed that this temples is of a Jain Tirthankara called Neminath. However the sanctum has an idol of Lord Vishnu reclining on the mystic serpent Shesha.
To the north lies the Ghati Darwaja sporting a huge bell installed by Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (1874 to 1922). On the bell is mentioned “J.W. BENSON LIM.CLOCK MAKERS, LUDGATEHILL, LONDON E.C. 1902”. The gong of the bell is heard at specific times in the day. The earlier bell is now kept in the Town Hall Museum of Kolhapur. Inscribed on this bell there is a sentence in Portuguese: AVE MARIA GRATIA DOMINUS TECUM IHS (Hail Mary full of grace! The Lord is with thee). It is believed that this bell was brought to Kolhapur by Chhatrapati Sambhaji after the battle in Goa in 1683. The inner side of this gate has a lovely sculpture of Kirtimukh. Along the northern door are the temples of Navagraha, Viththal and Rakhumai.
Boundary Wall, Entrances And The Complex
The main temple is surrounded by an almost pentagonal shaped stone wall which serves as the boundary of the complex. The open space between the wall and the main building is paved with stone slabs. The boundary wall has four entrances on four sides. The Mahadwar, the main entrance is on the west side of the complex. From this entrance the idol of the Goddess is easily visible. Adjoining the Mahadwar is the Nagarkhana at an elevation. It is a wooden structure having the musical instruments of Soanai23 Chowgada24 that are played during Aarti25 time and other major occasions. It is said that these two structures along with the Kacheri (Office) were built by Shankaracharya of Shringeri who also gave donation so that the musical instruments would be played everyday. Above the drum-chamber is the holy kitchen where meals of the Goddess were prepared. The current kitchen is at the ground level next to the Nagarkhana.
The entrance on the eastern side called Purva Darwaja (Purva=East, Darwaja=Door) has an inscription dating back to the Maratha period of 18th century stating that it was renovated by Army chiefs, Trimbak Dabhade26, Yashwantrao Dabhade as well as Bhairavjirao Gaikwad and Bhagwanrao Gaikwad.