Situated at Khidrapur, which lies at a very close proximity to Kolhapur, one can find the multi-dimensional temple of Koppeshwara, which is an example of the exquisite architecture one can find there. It shows the deep spiritual understanding of the architect, which gives the depth in the narrative sculpted out in stone.
Khidrapur is a small town which is located on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, which is around 60 km from the well known town of Kolhapur. The temple is said to be nearly about 1000 years old and is believed to be built sometime during the 11th and 12th centuries.
The structure is built in the Shilahara style of architecture, which sits tall on the banks of the river Krishna. It is considered to be one of the rare temples, where both Shiva and Vishnu are worshipped together in the Lingam. And unlike other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva which have a Nandi, here one cannot find a Nandi. The temple is said to be built by three generations of kings between 1109 AD and 1178 AD.
Best Time To Visit Koppeshwara
The months from June to February are considered to be the best time to visit the place, as the weather remains cool. Although the place can be visited anytime during the year, most visitors prefer to visit this temple during this period.
PC: Sneha Jog
It is said that Daksha who did not like his daughter Sati getting married to Shiva, conducted a Yagna without inviting the couple. Sati left to her father's home even after Shiva tried to stop her and asked Nandi to accompany her.
Daksha, who was furious on seeing his daughter, insulted her in the presence of the guests. Unable to bear with the insults and to stop the Yagna, Sati jumped into the Yagna and immolated herself. When Shiva got to know about this, he was angered by the act and severed Daksha's head.
Lord Vishnu pacified Shiva and asked him to restore Daksha's head, which was replaced with the head of a goat. The angered Shiva was brought to this place and Lord Vishnu pacified him, hence the temple got the name and came to be known as Kopeshwara.
PC: Sneha Jog
This legend also stands as a proof of how Vishnu is worshipped along with Shiva here, and also why Nandi is not seen, as he had accompanied Sati Devi to her parent's home.
The temple stands tall and strong in all its glory atop of 95 carved elephants along with 108 pillars and hundreds of sculptures, which take inspiration from Mahabharata, Ramayana, the 12 astrological signs, flowers, trees, birds, human figures and much more.
The temple has four parts, which are all interconnected. The first structure one would come across here is the Swarga Mandap. This Mandap has a very unique architecture, which is round in shape and is constructed in such a way with the support of 48 pillars that it is simply stunning to watch this.
Each pillar has its own set of unique designs and these pillars are placed in three circular formations. Each pillar is carved in different shapes such as round, square, hexagon and octagon. The Mandap has a circular ceiling at the centre, which is open to the sky and has a radius of 13 ft.
The next structure is the Sabha Mandap or the assembly which is followed by the Antaral Kaksha and the Garbhagriha. The Sabha Mandap has many pillars which have carvings depicting the various mythological stories from the Ramayana, Panchatantra, etc. Apart from these, the pillars also have sculptures which show the various gods and goddesses along with their incarnations.
One can not only find sculptures of the Hindu deities on these pillars but also of Buddha and saints from other faiths. These sculptures show that the structure is a secular one and is open to everyone and respects all faiths.
PC: Deepak Patil
The saddening fact is that most of the sculptures here are either severely damaged or destroyed by the Islamic invaders in the past centuries. As per legends, Aurangazeb's daughter had come across the temple, and was spellbound by the beauty of the structure that she refused to leave the temple complex.
The emperor himself is said to have come personally to take her back, and she is said to have left the place only after Aurangzeb promised to her that he would not damage the structure.
At a later point of time, Khuder Khan invaded the temple and disfigured many carvings, but there is no exact proof of how the temple lost many of its beautiful sculptures.