Mahalakshmi temple,also known as Ambabai Mandir is a Hindu temple dedicated to Devi Mahalakshmi in the holy town of Kolhapur in the Bharatiya state of Maharashtra. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas,18 MahaShakti peethas mentioned in Devi Purana, Ashtadasa Shakti Peetha stotram of Adi Shankaracharya where the eyes of Maa Sati fell here.
The presiding deity is a murti of Maa Ambabai made out of gemstones,dressed very beautifully in silken cloth and adorned with precious gemstones, making it the only murti to be crafted out of gemstones unlike most cases where the murtis are usually stone or wood or metals.
After the events of Daksha Yagna, Shiva, crazed with grief, picked up the burnt corpse of his beloved Sati and wandered throughout the entire universe with it. Seeing this, the devas requested Vishnu to end the sorrow of Mahadeva, to which Vishnu cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces, of which the eyes of Sati fell at this very place.
During Kaliyuga, Narada asked the sages as to who will accept the offerings of a grand Yagna performed by them out of the Trimurti (three deities- Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara). They ask the renowned rishi Bhrigu, who has an extra eye in his foot representing arrogance to decide. Bhrigu decides to go to Satyaloka, Kailash and then to Vaikunta to do so.
However,on reaching Satyaloka, Brahma did not pay attention to him. He cursed Brahma that he would never be worshipped at all. Proceeding to Kailash, he cursed Shiva too that he would be worshipped only as a Shivalinga.
Finally, he came to Vaikunta and expecting further disrespect,kicked the chest of Vishnu where Lakshmi resided. However,Vishnu wished to was the sage’s feet and while doing so,shut the eye in his foot, ending the arrogance of Bhrigu. The great sage, having realised his mistake, asked for forgiveness.
Lakshmi, miffed with Vishnu for not punishing the sage for insulting her, left him and came to Kolhapur (earlier known as Karvirpur). However, she came here for a reason.There was a rakshasa named Kolhasura who was tormenting the people. She killed him, and accepting the wishes of the people, decided to reside here.
History and Architecture
The temple dates back to 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 and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj ruled this area and they also visited the temple regularly.
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.In the 8th century, the temple sank down due to an earthquake. In the 9th century, Gandavadix (King) extended the temple by building Mahakali Mandir.
During 1178–1209, in the reign of Raja Jaysing and Sindhava, South gate and 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 murtis carved. It is possible that a new murti called Padmavati was installed at that time. Further, in Chalukya times, Ganapati before the temple was installed. In the 13th century, Shankaracharya built Nagar Khana.
Later during the time of the Maratha Empire, the temple was repaired. Though many invasions over this part of Bharat have caused some damages to the beautiful murtis which are all around the temple.
During 1712–1792 (Chhatrapati Sambhaji II Reign) Narhar Bhat Shastree had a dream by goddess Mahalakshmi informing him of her location, which he told to Chhatrapati Sambhaji. In the Mughal reign, the worshippers had hid the murti for protection. Believing Sangavakar’s dream, Chhatrapati Sambhaji started a search. This murti was found in a house in Kapila Tirtha market in the city.
According to Chhatrapati Sambhaji’s letter dated 8 November 1723, Sindhoji Hindurao Ghorpade of Panhala installed the murti again on 26 September 1712 (Monday, Ashwin Vijaya Dashami). The number of devotees grew, and in due course of time, the Devi became the deity of Maharashtra.Shankaracharya got it repaired.
After Vajralep and 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.
The temple has 7 main portions. The main temple houses the sanctum sanctorum of Goddess Mahalakshmi. Other gods have separate shrines dedicated to them. They are Saraswati, Mahakali, Shiva, Vishnu and the Navagrahas. There are also 3 mandap areas – for Ganesha, Garuda and the Madhya mandap. The sun’s rays fall directly on the main murti twice a year, i.e. January-February and November.
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 a Shiva Lingam and five hooded cobras. The temple is a Śāktaḥ Shrine dedicated to Mahalakshmi who is the presiding goddess of Pradhanik Rahasyam of Devi Mahatmya.
Further, it is known that Ambabai carries a Lingam atop her head (beneath the decorative crown), holds a mātulunga fruit, mace, shield and a pānapātra (drinking bowl). This is the description mentioned in the Rahasya of Devi Mahatmya. 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-Rukmini, Shiva, Vishnu, 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 another shrine to Visweshwar Mahadev.
1. It is believed that Maa Lakshmi will reside here till the time of Mahapralaya and save the place by holding it in her right hand.
2. The sun rays fall on the deity during sunset every-day and during Kirnotsav, when the sun deity seeks her blessings.
3. The murti weighs 40 kilos,which is highly unusual and made of precious gemstones.
4. The temple has a strong spiritual connection with the Itihasa of Venkateswara Swamy Temple in Tirumala.
5. Bhagwan Vishnu keeps a silent vigil over this place as it is the favourite of his beloved.
6. The pujas conducted here offer great prosperity to the devotees.
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.