The ancient Kopeshwar temple at Khidrapur in Kolhapur District is dedicated to Lord Shiva and sits on the bank of River Krishna. There are reasons to believe that even though the construction of Kopeshwar temple started sometime in 7th century AD, the work remained incomplete largely due to constant skirmishes between warring rulers of the region. The renovation was completed only in the 12th Century by the Shilahara and the Yadava Kings.
This temple is in four parts, all interconnected through vestibules. The first structure you enter through is the Swarga Mandap (Heavenly Hall). The architecture of Swarga mandap is unique. This mandap is round in shape and is constructed with the support of 48 well carved rounded stone pillars which are placed in three circles. Each of the 48 pillars has been carved in different shapes -round, square, hexagon and octagon. Another unique feature of Swarga Mandap is that a part of the circular ceiling in the middle (with a radius of 13 feet) is open to the sky. The sanctum is conical. The exterior has stunning carvings of deities and secular figures. Elephant statues sustain the weight of the temple at the base.
This is a unique temple inasmuch as visitors first get a glimpse of Lord Vishnu as Dhopeshwar in ling form instead of the Shivaling which is usually the case in temples consecrated to Lord Shiva. The Shivaling is facing north and both lings are found in the same sanctum sanctorum. Another notable feature of this temple is that there is no Nandi at the entrance- which is the norm for all Shiva temples. The mythology behind these unique features makes for a fascinating explanation.
It is believed that Daksha, who did not like his youngest daughter Sati marrying Lord Shiva, conducted a Yagna to which he did not invite the couple. Sati visited her father’s house on Shiva’s Nandi to confront her father. Dakhsa insulted her in front of the guests present at the Yagna. Unable to bear any further insults, Sati jumped in the fire of Yagna and immolated herself. When Lord Shiva came to know about it he was infuriated. He punished Daksha by severing his head. Lord Vishnu pacified Shiva whereupon he restored Daksha’s head but with a goat’s head. The furious Shiva was brought to Khidrapur temple by Lord Vishnu to calm him down. Hence the temple got its unusual name as Kopeshwar (wrathful god). This explains as to why Lord Vishnu is in the temple in the form of a ling (phallus) along with Shivling and Nandi is not seen in this temple as Sati rode on the Nandi while visiting her parent’s home.
The Kopeshwar temple is a must-see on the tourist itinerary for its ancient and artistic sculpture. This is a busy temple which sees a lot of worshippers on Mondays and Shivratri nights.
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