The ancient Kopeshwar temple at Khidrapur in Kolhapur District is dedicated to Lord Shiva and sits on the bank of River Krishna. It is also known as the Mahadev Temple and is divided into four sections. These include Swargamandapam, Sabhamandapam, Antaral Kaksha and Garbha Griha.
The Kopeshwar temple is also known for its carved sculptures placed in its halls, old pillars, and carvings of various gods, goddess and dancing girls. It has 108 stone carved pillars in the interior and 95 elephant carvings on its exterior. These pillars are arranged in such a way that it holds the entire structure of the temple. The 95 elephants on the outer side of the temple have been dressed in different forms with different gestures and none of the pillars are similar to each other.
The pillars are intricately carved with figures of Gods,Godesses, Man, Women, Flowers and other creatures. The Kopeshwar temple was built by the Shilahar King Gandaraditya, Vijayaditya and Bhoj-II in the 11th century.
It is said that, the name might have originated from the ancient name of the town, which was “Koppam”. The town witnessed two major battles. The first one took place in 1058 CE between Chalukya king Ahavamalla and Chola king Rajendra. The Chola king Rajadhiraja was killed during the battle, and coronation of second king, Rajendra Chola took place right on the battlefield.
The second battle took place between Shilahara king Bhoj-II and Devagiri Yadav king Singhan-II, during which king Bhoj-II was captured by Yadavas and was kept captive on the fort of Panhala. This event is recorded in the 1213 CE inscription near the south entrance of the temple. This battle brought rule of Kolhapur branch of Shilaharas to end
But a legend also states that Sati, the beloved wife of Lord Shiva went to her father’s place to attend the Yagnya along with Nandi. Her father Daksha Parajapati insulted her & used bad words for Lord Shiva. Humiliated by this Sati jumped in the Yagnya fire and ended her life. Lord Shiva got very angry when he heard this news & he created Virbhadra the demon from his hairs & asked him to destroy Prajapati’s yagnya. Lord Shiva was very angry at the death of his beloved wife Sati , so the name derived is ‘Kopeshwar Mahadev’. Due to his anger the whole world was at the verge of destruction. To pacify Lord Shiva from anger Lord Vishnu came there & stopped Lord Shiva from destroying the world, so the name ‘ Dhopeshwar ‘ was given to the idol of Lord Vishnu.
Kopeshwar is an unique Shiva temple where the devotees get to see first Lord Vishnu as Dhopeshwar in ling form and this Shiva temple does not have a Nandi. Swarga Mandap of the temple is in the round shape. The circular ceiling in the middle is open to the sky. The second part of the temple is its Sabha Mandap which is in a rectangular shape. The pillars of Sabha Mandap are all in rectangular shape having intricate carvings depicting stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana. The Sabha Mandap has four doors. Each of the doors is attached to Swarga Mandap and Sanctum Sanctorum and the remaining two which are main doors. At the side of this door, there are inscriptions on a stone written in Sanskrit which suggests that the temple was renovated sometime during 1214-15 AD. The third and fourth parts of the temple are Antaral and Sanctum Sanctorum.
Unfortunately, the sculptures are destroyed by islamic invaders in the later centuries. It is said that Aurangzeb’s daughter came across the temple and she was so enchanted that she refused to leave the temple complex. The emperor came personally to fetch her and she asked him to destroy the beauty of the temple so that the temple remained unharmed.