Kolhapur in Maharashtra is the perfect place to get intimate with the flamboyant culture of India. Only a few hours from Pune and Goa, the city boasts of an intensely fascinating temple complex – Mahalaxmi Temple. It is one of Maharastra’s most important and vibrant places of worship, and is dedicated to Amba Bai. It attracts a sea of people every year because it isn’t caste or religion specific; it embraces non-Hindu visitors as well. The most vibrant festival is the snake-worshipping Naag Panchami, something that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
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For a gastronomic delight, trying the famed, spicy Kolhapuri cuisine, especially chicken and mutton dishes are a must. Eat at Dehaati, the city’s Kolhapuri thali specialist.
Kolhapur is perhaps the only city in India known for its Kushti wrestlers. For an authentic experience, head to Motibag Thalim and you can watch young athletes train in an earthen pit, locally called the akhara. You are free to watch them as long as you want, provided you don’t mind the sight of sweaty, semi-naked men and the stench emanating from the washrooms.
Then there’s Shree Chhatrapati Shahu Museum, located about 2.5 km north of the train station.
Designed by a Britisher for the Kolhapur kings in 1884, it is also known as the New Palace. The black-polished stone beauty houses countless trophies from the kings’ jungle safaris, including walking sticks carved from leopard vertebrae and ashtrays made of tiger skulls and rhino feet. The most interesting is the highly ornate Durbar Hall, where the rulers held court sessions. The weapons in the armoury and the dozens of portraits of the portly maharajas dotting the palace, being the rich history and culture to the fore.