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Some places appeal so much to your heart that you get an intense desire to visit them, Khidrapur is one of such places. I came to know about this place some half an year ago and was keen to visit. Each hectic visit to Kolhapur somehow didn’t allow me to do so and this fact made the desire stronger and deep. Finally my latest trip to Kolhapur was fruitful. My sis took out time from her busy schedule and made it so.

We headed for Khidrapur in the morning. We took up road to ‘Narsobachi wadi’. It was pleasant drive through lush green fields of sugar-cane. It rained very heavily which added to the atmosphere. I found some birds like Shrikes, Brahminy Kites and Black-shouldered Kite on the way.

To reach Khidrapur (from Kolhapur):

  1. Take Kolhapur-Miraj Highway.
  2. Cross small villages like Dharma-nagar, Chipri, Shahu Nagar, and Shirol to reach Narsobachi wadi.
  3. From Narsobachi wadi, take road of Kurundwad and then via Sainik Takli reach Khidrapur village.
  4. Ask for ‘Kopeshwar Temple’.
  5. Approx distance is 60-65 Kms.

We reached Khidrapur. It is very small village with farming as primary occupation.

Kopeshwar TempleAs I parked my car, I got few early glimpses from road. This magnificent temple belongs to Lord Shiva, and named as ‘Kopeshwar’. I crossed the old stone entrance which brought us to temple vicinity. Kopeshwar reminded me of wonderful architectural carvings temples of Halebidu and Bellur. It is believed that Kopeshwar temple was built by three generations of kings, the Shilahar kings Gandaraditya, Vijayaditya and Bhoj-2 between 1109 and 1178 AD. There are Devanagri writings in the temple to support this. It’s also one of the few temples where both the Shaivas and Vaishnavas, who are arch rivals, come together in worship.

The mythological story behind the name ‘Kopeshwar’ is – Devi Sati (daughter of King Daksha) was married to lord Shiva. Daksha didn’t like in son-in-law at all. He was about to perform some yagna (hindu ritual performed along with holy fire) and he didn’t invite Sati & Shiva. Devi Sati felt sad and went to meet her father asking the reason behind not inviting her husband. In turn, King Daksha insulted Shiva and it was unbearable for Sati to tolerate her husband’s insult. She jumped in the yajna. Hearing this news, Shiva was furious and he punished Daksha by cutting his head. Later on, due to request of other deities, Shiva took back the curse and granted him life with goat’s head. It is believed that angry Shiva was brought to this place (temple) to cool his anger. Hence the temple got its name i.e. ‘Kop’ means anger and ‘Eshwar’ means lord Shiva.

Swarg MandapTemple stand firm with all its glory of stone carvings of 95 elephants and 108 pillars and hundreds of sculptures depicting scenes about from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Shiva, the twelve astrological signs and flowers, trees, birds, human figures. As you step into the beautiful Swarga Mandap, you can actually feel the coolness. There are 12 superbly carved pillars which support the stone ceiling that is open to the skies. There is a beautiful round black stone slab at the centre which is called the ‘rangshila’. It is an amazing experience to sit on the centre of the stone round open ‘akaash gavaksh’ on the ceiling and look towards the dark inner sanctum of the grabha griha with its beautiful Shiva linga. It is said that all ‘adhyaaya‘ (parts) of ‘Shivlilamrut‘ are carved on the walls of the temple.

Next comes Sabhamandap, Antaral-kaksha and Garbhagriha. The Garbhagriha is more cold and dark. The shiva linga, burning lamps make the atmosphere peaceful and divine.

I was surprised to know that there was no nandi in the temple in spite of the fact that it is Shiva mandir. This is probably one of the unique things about this place. Another unsual thing here is sanctum has lord Vishnu first and then the Shiva linga to protect it. Each visitor first sees lord Vishnu and then Shiva.

It is sad that most of the sculptures are badly damaged by Islamic invaders in the later centuries. There is a story that one of Aurangzeb’s descendants strayed when wandering around on her own and came across this temple. She loved the place so much that she refused to leave the temple complex and go with her attendants. The Mughal Emperor came personally to fetch her. She agreed to leave on the only condition that he will not harm the temple and damage its beauty and so the temple remained untouched from the otherwise merciless Aurangzeb.
 
Khyder Khan, a later invader supposedly mutilated the carvings on the temple and cut almost all the elephants’ trunks. There are no exact historical evidences of ‘who destroyed what’ but it is very painful to see such beauty ruined. Unfortunately, the village of Wadi-Kopeshwar later came to be known as Khidrapur after this cruel invader.

Kopeshwar temple gave me much more than I expected. It gave me peace, joy and an opportunity to appreciate my homeland. Once again I felt proud to be an Indian and lucky that I can see all this. I clicked some snaps. It is really sad that such wonders are still unknown to the tourists. Saddest part is there are no milestones or sign boards about Khidrapur. We had to wait and inquire at several places. Also there is no much information available on internet.

This ancient architectural splendor should be made popular so that more and more people of similar interests can come and visit here. Such place needs to be maintained and conserved.

I decided to take another way while returning just for sake of finding new route and took road to ‘Ichalkaranji’. A fox gave us generous visit on the way and disappeared in sugarcane fields. It rained very heavily and many huge trees were uprooted on the way. I took a bypass through small village. It was messed up too. I could see a huge line of cars in jam for about 2 Kms at least. Paul, our lab doesn’t like it, if the car stops and in few minutes his barking attracted all the kids of the village. Kids gathered around our car and tried to get his glimpses through sun control filmed windows. Whole situation seemed funny and equally irritating as Paul was getting impatient. Finally, when I was about to start my car, I opened the car windows and all kids were very happily to see our handsome black Labrador.

After testing all my patience by worst traffic jam, lengthy waiting hours at railway crossing and narrow roads, I reached Kolhapur at 8:00pm.

Kopeshwar, (yes I prefer to call it just ‘Kopeshwar’ instead of ‘Khidrapur – Kopeshwar’) is strictly no miss-miss place if you are planning a visit to Sangli, Miraj, Kolhapur and alike.

Few more snaps here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/khidrapur/

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18Shivaji Maharaj always fascinated me since my childhood. In fact, I liked the history because of him. I was in 3rd grade and my history teacher went an extra mile and told the class abt Sambhaji maharaj’s bravery and his heroic death and since that very moment I am completely in love with this Yuvraj…of course! Shivaji has his own share of my respect but Sambhaji still remains very close to the heart. Bottom line is – I still can’t get over my fascination for these great Marathas. 🙂

Raja Shivchatrapati‘ series which comes on ‘Star Pravah‘ channel added to the desire and I just wanted to visit fort Raigad. We were discussing about a place for team outing and suddenly we all were like “Raigad! Raigad!”. Finally everything was organised (yes, I and my another colleague were organizers!) and we started for Raigad on saturday early morning. Most of my colleagues had never been to Mulashi-Tamhini before and so all the excitement started from Pune itself.

To reach Raigad:

  1. Start from Chandani Chowk(Pune) and take Paud road.
  2. Cross Pirnagut, Mulashi, Tamhini ghat, Nizampur to reach‘Mangaon’.
  3. Take NH-17 and head towards ‘Mahaad’.
  4. On left hand, you will see road which goes to Raigad fort. There are huge letters ‘Raigad Ropeway’ on the hill by road side.
  5. Travel 25 kms more to reach village ‘Pachaad’ which is at the base of the fort.
  6. Total distance is approx 150 Kms.

Mulashi and Tamhini always gave me the intense feeling of nature’s treasure. Lush green, heavy rains, mist over mountains, eye-catchy view Mulashi backwaters, rain-washed road, lots of waterfalls and birds. I have so many good memories of the place. This time we took 1-2 halts in the midway but rains played the spoiled sport as far as photography was concerned. I didn’t wish to make my camera wet.

Raigad RopewayOur journery was great fun with lots of latest songs, chit-chat and stuff. We reached village ‘Pachaad’ at base of  Raigad at 12. There is palace of Shivaji’s mother Jijabai here. We proceeded to ropeway base centre. We took the tickets and boarded in the cable car. It was a thrilling experience. Raigad ropeway is supposed to be steepest ropeway in Asia. As the cable car proceeded we were literally in the clouds. We were bit scared for a moment but soon the happiness took over and we started enjoying the view. Within few minutes, we were atop of the fort. Ropeway brings you to the backside of the fort. We booked the guide and then had lunch in MTDC hotel which was not so satisfying.

We entered Raigad fort through the ‘Mena Darwaja’. “Mena” means palkhi or palki (i.e. sedan chairs or palanquin). It was entrance to the queens and royal ladies’ palanquins. This leads to the Queens chambers, each Queen had separate chamber. The main palace was made up of wood and in front there were 3 hexagonal minars which were watch towers.

Minars RuinsRuins of these minars stand in front of the palace grounds overlooking an artificial lake called Ganga Sagar Lake. On other side of queens’ chambers is the residences of ‘Astha-pradhan’ means eight ministers of Shivaji. The midway leads to Shivaji Maharaj’s own palace and huge Maratha raj-darbar i.e. King’s court facing the Nagarkhana Darwaja. The newly installed Maharaj’s statue on the throne ‘Meghdambari’ is worth seeing. The unique thing about design of this court was anything spoken from any corner of the court is clearly heard at throne.

Outside the court, there is open ground called ‘Holi cha maal’ which was place for Holi festival. Adjacent to this, there are ruins of huge market place. It was designed such that one can shop even while riding or sitting astride a horse.

Another and famous statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji maharaj is erected in front of the ruins of the main market avenue that eventually leads to the Jagdishwar Mandir. Jagdishwar temple is serene and has Shivaji Maharaj’s Samadhi and also tomb of his dog called ‘Waghya’.

The main entrance to the fort is the imposing Maha Darwaja. The convoy of the king and the king himself used the Palkhi Darwaja. To the right of Palkhi Darwaja, is a row of three dark and deep chambers. Historians believe that these were the granaries for the fort.

We then headed for the execution point called Takmak Tok(point). It is a cliff from which the culprits and sentenced prisoners were thrown to their death. The area is now fenced off. This place is extremely airy and gives scary view from top. In addition to this, there are many lakes like ‘Kushavart’, ‘Kolimb’, ‘Gangasagar’, ‘Hatti Taake’, etc which were built on the fort for water supply and Bhavani temple, Khalbat-khana, Hirkani Buruj, Shirkai devi temple, residences for foreigner guests in Shivaji’s era.

Shivaji Maharaj spent most of his life on this fort i.e. about 25 years. This fort being powerful was converted into capital of Maratha kingdom. Fort evidence most of the major incidents in Maratha dynasty like coronation of Shivaji and his death. Forts like Torna, Rajgad, Kavlya and Lingana can be seen towards the East of Raigad. Towards the South are Vasota, Pratapgad and Makarandgad.

After Shivaji’s death, Raigad did see the worst of the history. Raigad, earlier known as Rairi, is obscure. In the 12th century Rairi was a seat of the Shirke-Palegar family. After changing several hands, it was captured by Shivaji from Chandrarao More in 1656 AD. Shivaji chose Rairi for his capital and renamed it as Raigad. The gigantic construction work was entrusted to Abaji Sondeve and Hiroji Indulkar. In its glory days Raigad had more than 300 houses, and structures. After Shivaji, the fort remained in the hands of Sambhaji till 1689 AD. After Sambhaji Maharaj, Zulfikarkhan a warrior of Aurangzeb won this fort by bribing the chief of the guards. He captured wife and son of Sambhaji maharaj. After Aurangzeb the fort was handed to Siddis of Janjira. They kept it with them till 26 years after the death of Aurangzeb. Bajirao Peshwe won it for Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj i.e. Marathas in 1735 AD. From Peshwas, Raigad was surrendered to the British in 1818 AD and they gave it in the captivity of forest department.

I was so excited by the fact that I was on same land where my favourite icons Shivaji and Sambhaji lived. My mind went back to Shivaji’s period and imagined him in every place I visited – his throne, his raj-darbar, queens’ chambers, Jagdishwar temple. I bowed at his throne and Samadhi. Each stone from the ruins was defending the history and for me it was no less than idol of any god.  Pity! Our government is not much alert about good maintenance of such gifted treasure. 😦

It was raining like cats and dogs. I clicked as much as snaps I can while protecting my camera from rains at same time.

We decided to descend the fort in the afternoon and thought to take the stairs seemed impossible due to heavy rains and fog. We booked the tickets for ropeway and boarded in the cable car. We did miss the main darwajas (fort entrances) because of this but there is always a ‘next time’. 😀

I paid tribute to this great maratha and this great fort in my mind and bade a good-bye. Raigad was indeed an unforgettable experience!

For map of Raigad, click – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/3899680852/in/set-72157622299929624/

For more snaps, visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157622299929624/detail/

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