Mahalaxmi (Mahalakshmi) Temple located near Kolhapur is a famous spiritual centre of Maharashtra. Over the years, members of several royal families have sought the blessings of the goddess -- Mahalaxmi or Amba Bai. This temple draws a large number of devotees from all over the country. Mahalaxmi also is mentioned in many Puranas.
In the 7th century AD, the Chalukya ruler, Karandev
initiated the construction of this temple and later on in the 9th century,
the Shilahara Yadavas made additions to the temple. The temple complex is
exquisitely carved and has artistically sculpted structures.
It also houses the temples of other deities such as Kashi Vishweshwar, Kartikaswami, Sheshashayi, Siddhivinayak, Mahaswaraswati, Mahakali, Shree Dutta and Shree Ram. The temple is built in "Hemandpanthi" style and has 5 tops. Attached to the original Mandir is a pendal called "Garud-Pendal".
According to researchers it is believed that the idol is
5-6 thousand years old. The idol goddess kept in the sanctum weighs 40
kgs. The idol has not been fashioned by any human being but exists in its
natural form -- a primeval monolith of uncut diamonds and precious stones.
This is known as Swayambhu. It contains mater mixed with 'Hirak' bits.
This throws light on its ancientness.
The idol is standing on a stone square and resembles the outside of Shiv Linga. One can see lion standing behind the idol and there is a natural "Padma-Ragini" (Lotus) in the middle. The idol is four handed bearing a cane sword & shield. Down the right hand holds "Mhalung" (A kind of fruit) and the left holds dish of "Pan". There is a crown on head, which is overshadowed by "Sheshani" (Mythological Cobra with hood, the bed of lord Vishnu).
The most important ritual is 'Aarati'. It is performed
daily at 4.30 am when the Mandir is opened. It is performed after the
worship of the idol's feet, which is called 'Kakadarati.' Devotional songs
in 'Bhup-Rag' are recited at that time.
At 8.30 am Mahapooja is performed followed by "Mangalarati". At 11.30 am, worship with fragrant flowers & Kumkum is done for the devotee's camphor is burnt and 'Naivedya' (Rich dishes) is offered. Then there is 'Pooja' with ornaments. In the interior of the Mandir, Vedic hymns are chanted. After 7.30 pm, after ringing of bells, 'Aarati' is done. This is called "Bhog -Arati". Every Friday, 'Naivedya' is offered to the Devi at night. After Aarati, ornaments are taken off and returned to the treasury. At 10.00 pm "Shejarati" is done where milk with sugar is offered to Devi.
A special type of festival is celebrated known as "Kirnotsv" i.e. the festival of rays. This is celebrated because on certain days the rays of the Sun directly fall on the idol of the Goddess Mahalakshmi. These days are from 9th of November to 11th of November and 31st January to 2nd of February. Besides, there is the 'Palkhi' ritual performed on every Friday. There are enthusiastic celebrations on the Hindu festivals of Chaitra Poornima and Navratri. The temple also holds music concerts wherein renowned artistes perform during festivals.
Kolhapur is connected by road, rail and air to all major cities in Maharashtra. State transport buses as well as many private luxury buses especially from Mumbai ,Pune ,Sangli ,Satara are there for Kolhapur.
Dharamshala's are available for convenience of the pilgrims.