A small village, Khidrapur, about 22 Kms from Narsoba Wadi is the home to Kopeshwar temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and sits on the bank of River Krishna.
The temple is about 1700 years old and is known as the Khajuraho of Maharashtra
In the interiors of Maharashtra (65 kms from Kolhapur) adjacent to Karnataka border lies an ancient architectural treasure not much known to the world outside and yet to feature on the regular tourist map. Only the ardent followers of Indian architecture & archaeology make an attempt to visit it and come back mesmerized with its craftsmanship – the exquisitely carved figures of Indian gods, goddesses, dancers, musicians, elephants etc. all around the temple in several layers leave you wonder struck.
The temple’s shikhar has a distinctive style and unique features not seen in other Shiva temples.. The sanctum (sanctorum) has two lingas and the temple does not have a Nandi.
The first Linga represents Vishnu as ‘Dhopeshwar’ and the second Linga represents Shiva as ‘Kopeshwar’ !!!
According to legend, it is believed that Daksha, who did not like the decision of his youngest daughter Sati marrying Lord Shiva, conducted a Yagna to which he did not invite the couple. On knowing this, Sati visited her father’s house on Shiva’s Nandi to confront her father. She insulted Sati in front of all the guests present at the Yagna. She was not able to bear any further insults and jumped in the fire of Yagna and immolated herself. When Lord Shiva came to know about the incident, he was infuriated. He punished Daksha by severing his head. Lord Vishnu soothed Shiva where he restored Daksha’s head but with a goat’s head. The furious Lord Shiva was brought to this temple by Lord Vishnu to quell his anger . Which explains how the temple got its unusual name as Kopeshwar (wrathful god). Hence Shiva is depicted as Kopeshwar and Vishnu as Dhopeshwar.
The reason why no Nandi can be seen is because Sati had gone to her father’s place riding on Nandi. So Nandi was not with Shiva at that time !!! There is a separate temple built for Nandi nearby.
The highlight of the temple is the Swargmandap that has 48 pillars and not two pillars are alike and the ceiling of the swargmandap is open to the sky. The reason ascribed for it is that the mandap was used for performing yagnas & havans so the smoke of the havan could escape through the open ceiling without discomforting those present inside !!
This temple is an architectural marvel – seems as if you are reading a poetry in stone .
There are amazing carved sculptures placed in the temple halls, old pillars, and carvings of various gods, goddess and apsaras.
It has 108 stone carved pillars in the interior arranged in such a way that they hold the entire structure of the temple and none of the pillars are similar to each other.
On the outer side of the temple there are 95 elephant carvings in different forms with different gestures. There are elephants all around the temple at the lower level and the gods are seen riding them. It seems as if the weight of the entire temple is being carried by these elephants.
The interiors are decorated with figurines of Gods, Godesses, Yaksha, Gandharva, Apsara, Surasundari, animals, motifs etc carved on the walls, on the kirtimukha of the pillars. Some even depict stories from epics like Ramayana & Mahabharata and also from Panchatantra.
The exterior mandovara (temple walls) is decorated with the narathara (human-freize) depicting carved sculptures of surasundaris (celestial maidens)Gods, Goddesses (Shiva,Parvati,Durga,Bramha,Vishnu etc), ascetics and animals like the Vyaals (mythical/extinct beasts), Gaja (elephants)etc
An astronomical aspect of this temple is that should not be missed. The Swarga Mandapa, open to the sky, is constructed so that on exactly at midnight of the tripuri poornima, the moon position comes precisely at the center of the mandapa. This event does not happen on any other day of the year.
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