KOLHAPUR, on the banks of the River Panchaganga 225km south of Pune, is thought to have been an important centre of the Tantric cult associated with Shakti worship since ancient times. The town probably grew around the sacred site of the present-day Mahalakshmi temple, still central to the life of the city, although there are said to be up to 250 other shrines in the area. With a population of almost 600,000, Kolhapur has become a major industrial centre, but has retained enough Maharashtran character to make it worthy of a stopover.

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