Kopeshwar Temple – Khidrapur

What it cannot make up for in size and scale, the Khidrapur temple makes up in grandeur and ornateness. This temple is dedicated to the wrathful form of Lord Shiva, known as Kopeshwar. Of the Shiva temples, this one is unique, in that the Nandi is absent. We don’t know why.

Khidrapur - Kopeshwar Temple
Khidrapur – Kopeshwar Temple


Long time ago, there lived a chief of Gods called Daksha. He was married to Prasuti, the daughter of Manu, who bore him sixteen daughters. Satī was the youngest of them all, and had her heart set on Shiva.

Daksha and Shiva did not see eye-to-eye. There was, to say the least, a general animosity; more on Daksha’s side. When Satī was of marriageable age, Daksha held a Swayamvar, where he invited all, except Shiva. Satī had made up her mind about who she would choose, but not seeing Shiva in the assembly, flung the garland in the air and asked of Shiva to accept it. Shiva appeared there, middle of the assembly – garland around his neck. Daksha had no choice, but to grudgingly accept; Satī and Shiva were married.

Much later, Daksha held an ashwamedh (horse sacrifice) – again, all Gods were invited to partake of the offerings of the sacrifice; except Shiva. When Satī heard of this she was furious and after an argument with Shiva proceeded to the sacrifice, uninvited. Some insults ensued, and Satī released an inward consuming fire and died at Daksha’s feet. (some versions say Satī self-immolated in the sacrificial fire)

Khidrapur - Kopeshwar Temple
Khidrapur – Kopeshwar Temple

Shiva soon got to know of this and was consumed with rage. In that state he tore a lock of his hair and flung it to earth, which gave rise to the frightful form of Virbhadrā, who wrecked havoc at the sacrifice. Daksha was beheaded, among other ‘divine’ casualties. Brahmā and Vishṇu had to intervene to stop the carnage. Shiva bestowed a goat’s head to Daksha and made good, all injuries caused. Thus, all was well; all those present bowed to the Trinity, and departed.

Khidrapur - Kopeshwar Temple
Khidrapur – Kopeshwar Temple


Construction of this temple was started by the Śilāhāra King, Gandarāditya I, (the youngest of five sons of Mārasimha) around 1126 CE (Some sources put the date at 1028 CE). For more information of dynasties of Maharashtra, see The Dynasties of Maharashtra

The Śilāhāras were originally feudatories of the Rāśtrakuta empire, and ruled in North Konkan, from around 800 CE. By 900 CE, there were three branches of the dynasty; apart from the original North Konkan branch, they now also ruled South Konkan and South Maharashtra (Kolhapur). Gandarāditya I (r. 1108 – 1138), of the Kolhapur branch, started the construction of the Khidrapur temple. Gandarāditya was a prolific temple-builder and is credited for building four temples in the region and providing grants for a few more, including Jain and Buddhist temples. Gandarāditya was succeeded by Vijayāditya and Bhōja II, after which this dynasty came to an end at the hands of the Seuna Yādavs.

Khidrapur - Kopeshwar Temple
Khidrapur – Kopeshwar Temple


Construction of the temple continued for over seventy years during the reign of his successors, Vijayāditya and Bhōja II. The structure was still incomplete when the Yādav king Singhana annexed the Śilāhāra kingdom, and remains such, to this day. Singhana also possibly contributed to the construction of the temple, according to some inscriptions in the temple.

Temple Architecture

Plan - Khidrapur Temple
Plan – Khidrapur Temple (Click to Enlarge)

The temple consists of the garbha-grha (sanctum), the antarāla (antechamber), the gūḍha-maṇḍapa (enclosed hall) and the raṅga-maṇḍapa, constructed in a row. Usually, there is a dvāra-maṇḍapa in front of such a gūḍha-maṇḍapa but here its place is taken  by a detached large octagonal maṇḍapa (called sabhā-maṇḍapa or ranga-maṇḍapa), as in the case of the Sun Temple at Modhera. Inside, are twelve pillars in a circle which open to the sky, because the ceiling was never constructed. It is believed by the local people that a pious man who stands on the slab below that opening, goes to heaven. Hence, it is also called the swarga-maṇḍapa.

The garbha-grha, the antarāla and the gūḍha-maṇḍapa are star-shaped on the outside Their walls are decorated with various images from top to bottom The lowest part of the jaṅghā (pillars) are adorned with beautiful figures of elephants (Gajapeetha), with various Gods such as Indrā, Brahmā and Vishṇu riding them. There are 92 such elephants, 46 on each side. (Adapted from CII Vol. 4)

Khidrapur - Kopeshwar Temple
Khidrapur – Kopeshwar Temple


The construction methodology followed is the dry mortar bedding technique. (ASI, Mumbai Circle)

Here’s another extract (with minor edits for consistency and readability) from the The Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency (Vol. XXIV – Kolhapur) about Khidrapur:

Khidrapur, lies on the Krishnā river about twelve miles south-east of Shirol. The chief interest of the village is the temple of Kopeshwar which lies in the centre of the village and is 10½’ x 65’ x 52½’ high, to the top of the dome. The walls are made of black stone richly carved and the dome is covered with stucco. To the main building are attached two richly carved sculptured mandaps or vestibules. In the vestibule are two concentric squares; the outer with twenty and the inner with twelve pillars, richly carved. In front of the temple is round roofless structure called the Swarga Mandapa or Heavenly Hall, on the plan of what would be a twenty-rayed star, only that the spaces for four of the rays are occupied by four entrances. On the outside on a low screen wall stand thirty-six short pillars, while inside is a circle of twelve columns. Further from the temple is the nagārkhāna or drum-chamber. The outer walls of the temple are broken at oblique angles as in the Nilang Hemādpanti temple.

By the south door of the temple is a Devgiri Yādav inscription of Sinhadev in Devnāgari dated Shak 1135 (A.D. 1213) granting the village of Khandaleshwar in Miraj for the worship of Kopeshwar.


Khidrapur is about 65kms south-east of Kolhapur and well laid out on Google Maps.



  1. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum. Vol. 6 Inscriptions of the Śilāhāras
  2. Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency Vol. 24 – Kolhapur
  3. ASI Mumbai Circle. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://www.asimumbaicircle.com/m_kolhapur.html
  4. Gupta, S. P., & Asthana, S. P. (2009). Elements of Indian Art: Including Temple Architecture, Iconography & Iconometry. New Delhi: Indraprastha Museum of Art and Archaeology.
  5. Nivedita, S., & Coomaraswamy, A. K. (n.d.). Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists.
  6. Shilahara Dynasty. (2017, March 26). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shilahara
  7. Virabhadra. (2017, March 28). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virabhadra

Ancient Places: Benares

Extract from “The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India” by Nundo Lal Dey, Luzac & Co., London, 1927.

Bārāṇasī: Benares situated at the junction of the rivers Barṇâ and Asi, from which the name of the town has been derived (Vâmana P., ch. III). It was formerly situated at the confluence of the Ganges and the Gumti (Mbh., Anuśâsana ch. 30). It was the capital of Kâśi (Râmâyaṇa Uttara, ch. 48). At the time of Buddha, the kingdom of Kâśi formed a part of the kingdom of Kośala.

According to James Prinsep, Benares or Kâśi was founded by Kâśa or Kâśirâja, a descendant of the Pururavas, king of Pratishṭhâna. Kâśirâja’s grandson was Dhanvantari; Dhanvantari’s grandson was Divodâsa, in whose reign Buddhism superseded Śiva-worship at Benares, though it appears that the Buddhist religion was again superseded by Saivism after a short period. In 1027, Benares became part of Gauḍa, then governed by Mahîpâla, and Buddhism was again introduced in his reign or in the reign of his successors Sthirapâla and Vasantapâla. Benares was wrested from the Pâla kings by Chandra Deva (1072—1096) and annexed to the kingdom of Kanauj. Towards the close of the twelfth century, Benares was conquered by Muhammad Ghuri who defeated Jaya Chand of Kanauj (James Prinsep’s Benares Illustrated, Introduction, p. 8; Vâyu P., Uttara, ch. 80).

In the seventh century it was visited by the celebrated Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsiang. He has thus described the city and its presiding god Viśveśvara, one of the twelve Great Liṅgas of Mahâdeva:

“In the capital there are twenty Deva temples, the towers and halls of which are of sculptured stone and carved wood. The foliage of trees combines to shade (the sites), whilst pure streams of water encircle them. The statue of Deva Maheśvara, made of teou-shih (brass), is somewhat less than 100 feet high. Its appearance is grave and majestic, and appears as though really living.”

The Padma P. (Uttara, ch. 67) mentions the names of Viśveśvara, Bindumâdhava, Maṇikarṇikâ, and Jñânavâpî in Kâśi (Benares). The present Viśveśvara, which is a mere Liṅga, dates its existence since the original image of the god, described by Hiuen Tsiang, was destroyed by the iconoclast Aurangzebe and thrown into the Jñânavâpî, a well situated behind the present temple. There can be no doubt that Benares was again converted into a Buddhist city by the Pâla Râjâs of Bengal, and Śiva-worship was not restored till its annexation in the eleventh century by the kings of Kanauj, who were staunch believers in the Pauranic creed. The shrines of Âdi-Viśveśvara, Veṇimâdhava, and the Bakarya-kuṇda were built on the sites of Buddhist temples with materials taken from those temples.

The temple of Âdi-Keśava is one of the oldest temples in Benares: it is mentioned in the Prabodha-Chandrodaya Nâṭaka (Act IV) written by Krishṇa Miśhra in the eleventh century A.D. The names of Mahâdeva Tilabhâṇḍeśvara and Daśâśvamedheśvara are also mentioned in the Śiva Puraṇa (Pt. 1, ch. 39). The Maṇikarṇikâ is the most sacred of all cremation ghats in India, and it is associated with the closing scenes of the life of Raja Hariśchandra of Ayodhyâ, who became slave to a Chaṇḍâla for paying off his promised debt (Kshemeśvara’s Chaṇḍ-kauśika; Mârkaṇḍeya P. ch VIII).

The old fort of Benares which was used by the Pâla Râjâs of Bengal and the Rathore kings of Kanauj, was situated above the Râj-ghâṭ at the confluence of the Barṇâ and the Ganges (Bholanath Chunder’s Travels of a Hindoo, vol. I). Benares is one of the Pîṭhas where Satî’s left hand is said to have fallen, and is now represented by the goddess Annapûrṇâ, but the Tantrachūḍāmaṇi mentions the name of the goddess as Viśâlâkshî.

There were two Brahmanical Universities in ancient India, one at Benares and the other at Takshaśilâ (Taxila) in the Punjab. For the observatory at Benares and the names of the instruments with sketches, see Hooker’s Himalayan Journals, Vol. 1, p. 67).

By James Prinsep (British Library [1]) [Public domain], <a href=

Benares is said to be the birth-place of Kaśyapa Buddha, but Fa Hian says that he was born at Too-wei, which has been identified by General Cunningham with Tadwa of Tandwa (Legge’s Fa Hian, ch xxi; Arch. S. Rep., XI), nine miles to the west of Śrâvasti. Kaśyapa died at Gurupâda hill. But according to Aṭṭhakathâ of Buddhaghosha, Kaśyapa (Kassapa) was born in Benares and died at Mrigadâva or modern Sarnâth (JASB., 1838, p. 796.) In the Yuvañjaya-Jâtaka (Jâtakas IV, 75), the ancient names of Benares are said to have been Surandhana, Sudarśana, Brahmavarddhana, Pushpavatî, and Ramya.


Featured image, courtesy Harini Calamur. Reproduced with Permission.