At Khidrapur, close to Kolhapur, the multi-dimensional temple of Koppeshvara is more than just an aesthetic achievement; it reflects the deeply felt spiritual understanding of the architect and the depth and range of its all-encompassing narrative in stone.
A small town on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, Khidrapur, located approximately 60 kilometers from Kolhapur, is best known for its magnificent Koppeshvara Mandir which dates back nearly a 1,000 years to between the 11th and 12th centuries CE. It is remarkable for its Shilahara style. Legend has it that the temple was built to placate Lord Shiva’s rage after his consort Sati immolated herself, giving the temple the name Koppeshvara. However, inscriptions found carved in the temple appear to mention a village called Koppam, thus logically making Koppeshvara the local deity.
The first striking feature about the temple, situated at the confluence of the rivers Krishnaveni and Kuweni, is its stunning plinth base. Standing on this intricately carved base or ‘adisthana’ are 92 carved elephants, roughly a meter high each. The plinth and the elephants together form the base for the entire temple. These majestic creatures are shown shouldering the burden of the superstructure and also serving as mounts to various gods who are seated on their backs. Each elephant is separated from the next with a carved figure of a ‘surasundari’, each beauty standing on her own plinth. This kind of plinth or ‘jagati’ of a structural temple is rare. Some consider Koppeshvara as a miniature replica of the plinth of the world famous Kailasa at Ellora in Aurangabad district.
This sacred structure consists of a sanctum, an antechamber, almost of the same size as that of the sanctum, a closed hall which has impressive entrances to the south, north and east and a slightly detached octagonal mandapa known locally as swargamandapa as it open out to the sky and seems to let the heavens in.
Inside, the ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum) is square with three unusual smaller chambers, the entrances of which are flanked by female doorkeepers. The ‘shivalinga’ is known as Koppeshvara. The dome of the ceiling is supported by the eight figures on the pilasters and four corner figures. Both the chambers and these figures are the special features of the sanctum. The doorjambs are decorated with scroll and bead design at the foot of which are carved the figures of deities. The ‘gudhamandapa’ (closed hall) can be approached through the eastern main door. This is flanked by pillars, one at each side, and at its foot are ‘vyala’ figures in small niches.
Koppeshvara is worth visiting not only for its aesthetic aspects but also for the well-integrated imagery of its sculptural scheme. The architect has achieved a balance between the southern and the northern side of the structure by pairing two opposite or complementary deities such as Ganesha and Saraswati – both related to learning or Brahma flanked by Savitri and Gayatri and Vishnu with Lakshmi and Bhudevi on two sides of the hall, both facing the east and honouring the main deity Shiva in the centre, i.e. in the sanctum. Further, the selection of two scenes - one from the Ramayana and the other from the Mahabharata - indicate the artist’s depth of knowledge and the symbolic importance of the temple.
Distance from Mumbai: 417 Kms.