Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 16


Mahalaksmi at Kolapura

May 21, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Today we travel to another of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Maharashtra state. As described in the summary of Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9, the Lord visited Kolapura-tirtha:

    Madhya lila 9 Summary

    "At the village of Udupi He saw the Gopala Deity installed by Sri Madhvacarya. He then defeated the Tattvavadis in sastric conversation. The Lord next visited Phalgu-tirtha, Tritakupa, Pancapsara, Surparaka and Kolapura. At Sri Rangapuri the Lord received news of Sankararanya's disappearance. He then went to the banks of the Krsnavenva River, where He collected from among the Vaisnava brahmanas a book written by Bilvamangala, Krsna-karnamrta."

Later in Madhya lila we find quite a bit of detail about Sri Caitanya's visit in Kolapura:

    Madhya 9.281

    kolapure lakshmi dekhi' dekhena kshira-bhagavati
    langa-ganesa dekhi' dekhena cora-parvati

    kolapure -- at Kolapura; lakshmi -- the goddess of fortune; dekhi' -- seeing; dekhena -- He visited; kshira-bhagavati -- the temple of Kshira-bhagavati; langa-ganesa -- the deity Langa-ganesa; dekhi' -- seeing; dekhena -- He sees; cora-parvati -- the goddess Parvati, who is known as a thief.

    "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then visited the town of Kolapura, where He saw the goddess of fortune in the temple of Kshira-bhagavati and saw Langa-ganesa in another temple, known as Cora-parvati.

    Kolapura is a town in the Maharashtra province, formerly known as Bombay Pradesh. Formerly Kolapura was a native state, and it is bordered on the north by the district of Santara, on the east and south by the district of Belagama, and on the west by the district of Ratnagiri. In Kolapura there is a river named Urna. From the Bombay Gazette it is understood that there were about 250 temples there, out of which six are very famous. These are (1) Ambabai, or Mahalakshmi Mandira, (2) Vithoba Mandira, (3) Temblai Mandira, (4) Mahakali Mandira, (5) Phiranga-i, or Pratyangira Mandira, and (6) Yallamma Mandira."

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada provides details on this tirtha that leave no doubt as to its location. In this case, what is perhaps less obvious is the reference to the Lord's visit to the temple of Kshira-bhagavati.

Temple of Kshira-Bhagavati (Mahalaksmi Temple), Kolapur

In Chaitanya's Pilgrimages and Teachings by Jadunath Sarkar (Calcutta 1913), a narrative of the Lord's travels that is also drawn on Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 9, the author mentions that at Kolhapur, the Lord "beheld Lakshmi and Kshir Bhagavati", indicating the presence of two separate deities there.

Mahalaksmi is the patron goddess of the entire city of Kolhapur. She is known as Karaveera Nivasini Mahalakshmi, or Ambabai, and her temple is known as either the Mahalaksmi or Ambabai Temple. The current temple structure, built in the 18th century, was preceded by an ancient temple of Devi which some date to as early as 700 A.D. Laksmi Devi is the presiding Deity, and she is flanked by Durga Ma (Mahakali) and Saraswati Devi. Upstairs in the temple is a Shiva-linga and Sri Yantra.

Madhya 9.281 states that Lord Caitanya "saw the goddess of fortune in the temple of Kshira-bhagavati", and by all indications, the present day Mahalaksmi Temple is one and the same tirtha. The mention of Kshir Bhagavati is a reference to Durga, in her form as Kshir Bhagavati.

In a manuscript entitled the Annals of the J. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (1933), we find a survey of the ancient places of worship of the Goddess Dadhimati, a name for Durga that is referenced in both the Markandeya Purana and the Devi-Mahatmya. The name 'Dadhimati' refers to Durga's being immersed in dadhi (curds) and worshipped accordingly.

The Annals of the Jbhandarkar states:

    "Among the places mentioned where the Devi was worshipped is Karavira, or Kola, which refers to Kolhapur, where Mahalaksmi resides. Karavira was Suratha's capital, which was destroyed by mlecchas who were dwelling in the forest."
    (Volume XIV, Parts I-II)

The records indicate that the original, and primary temple of Dadhimati Mata is located in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan. One of the 52 Shaktipiths, it was built in the 4th century (Gupta period) and is one of the oldest surviving temples in northern India. An archeological survey of the temple was conducted by Professor Bhandarkar, who authored the 'Annals' report mentioned above.

Shakti Devi
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Dadhimati Devi is said to be the sister of the great sage Dadhichi. She was born as a result of the churning of the sky, and is an avatar of Goddess Laksmi. The Dadhimati temple at Nagaur has the oldest known depictions of the Devi Mahamatya. The Mahalaksmi Temple in Kolapur, which Lord Caitanya visited, is believed to be the second oldest and most important Dadhimati temple in India. The reference to the Lord's seeing Kshir Bhagavati undoubtedly refers to Dadhimati Devi -- kshir refers to condensed milk, and dadhi to curd.

So the statement made by Jadunath Sarkar in his Chaitanya's Pilgrimages and Teachings seems to be in accord with Madhya 9.281, wherein the reference to Kshira-bhagavati's temple, where the Lord saw Laksmidevi, is so named because Dadhimati also resides there, and Dadhi's original temple significantly predates the Kolapur temple. That it is known today as the Mahalaksmi Temple is no doubt a sign of the prevalent mood of local worshippers.

The Puranas list 108 sites where Shakti is manifested, and among these is Karveer, the area known today as Kolapur. This is one of the four Shaktipeethas of Maharashtra. The other three are Tuljapur, where Bhavani resides, Mahur, the abode of Mahamaya, and Renukaand Saptshringi, the abode of Jagadamba.

The Karavira Mahatmya states that Lord Vishnu resides in the form of Mahalaksmi at Kolhapur. It is said that Mahalakshmi destroyed a demon here at Karavira, and that the spot of his death became the tirtha where her shrine was constructed.

The temple sits on the bank of the Panchganga River, and there various bathing ghats stretching along the bank. Although parts of the temple are of more or less antiquity, epigraphic references place the Mahalaksmi Deity's installation here in the 7th century A.D. The Deity of Mahalakshmi is carved in black stone, 3 feet in height.

A major portion of the temple construction was done in the 10th century. At one point the temple had fallen to ruin, or worship became defunct, and the Deity was temporarily housed elsewhere. Full worship in the temple was restored in 1715, under rule of the Marathas.

At the website of Mahalaksmi's Temple there are many nice pictures of the Deities.

In an August 2009 segment of our series on the places of Lord Brahma's worship, we visited a temple of Durga Ma known as Mookambika, where Lord Brahma is also worshipped. In that article, some details were provided on the differences between Mahalaksmi's Shakti form in Kolapura, and her Vaishnavi form in Kolpuri, as Ambika.

Temple of Kshira-Bhagavati

Laksmidevi's Presence in Kolapura

In the Introduction to his Krishna Samhita, HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur offers clarification on the debate as to when the Srimad Bhagavatam was written. We find there an interesting reference to Laksmi Devi's arrival in Kolapura, which happens to serve as an important marker on the timeline for dating the Bhagavatam:

    "Shrimad Bhagavatam has no birth because it is eternal, without beginning or end. Nevertheless it is extremely desirable to ascertain when, where, and by whom this literature was manifested according to modern opinion. Modern scholars have concluded that Vyasadeva wrote Shrimad Bhagavatam on the bank of the Sarasvati River under the instructions of Narada Muni, the knower of the truth. Being dissatisfied after writing the scriptures, Vyasadeva presented the Shrimad Bhagavatam after visualizing the Absolute Truth through samadhi. He presented Shrimad Bhagavatam for the benefit of third-class people, who are unable to understand the deep meaning of a subject. Those great personalities who wrote the scriptures were all known as Vyasas, and they were all respected by people in general. In this regard, the title Vyasa indicates all Vyasas, beginning from Vedavyasa up to the Vyasa who wrote Shrimad Bhagavatam. When he was unable to ascertain the Absolute Truth after studying all the scriptures, then Vyasadeva, who is expert in the spiritual science, withdrew his mind and speech from those literatures, realized the Truth through samadhi, and then wrote the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The modern scholars also say that Shrimad Bhagavatam appeared in Dravida-desha (South India) about 1,000 years ago. The living entity has a natural inclination for being attached to his native place. Therefore even great personalities have this inclination to some extent. Due to the glorification found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam of Dravida-desha, which is not very ancient, it appears that Vyasadeva was a native of that place. If the glories of Dravida-desha were mentioned in other scriptures, then we would have no right to give this conclusion. Our conclusion is further confirmed by the mention of a very recent holy place in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It is stated in the Venkata-mahatmya, which is popular in the South, that Venkata-tirtha was established when Lakshmidevi went to Kolapura from Chola. Kolapura is situated to the south of Satara. The Chalukya kings defeated the Cholas in the eight century and established a large kingdom in that province. Therefore Lakshmi went to Kolapura and Venkata was established at that time. For this reason, they do not hesitate to accept that Shrimad Bhagavatam was written in the ninth century.

    Shathakopa, Yamunacarya, and Ramanujacarya vigorously preached Vaishnavism in the tenth century. They were also from Dravida-desha. They all highly respected Shrimad Bhagavatam, so we cannot accept that Shrimad Bhagavatam was written after the ninth century. Furthermore, when Shridhara Svami wrote his commentary on the Shrimad Bhagavatam in the eleventh century, there were already a few commentaries like Hanumad-bhashya available. So there is no need to further consider this matter. I have not found a means of determining the family name of the author of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Whoever he may be, we are grateful, and with awe and reverence we accept that great personality, Vyasadeva, as the spiritual master of the swanlike people."

    (Footnotes omitted)

Caitanya-caritamrta - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust


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