Lepakshi: A Legacy of Vijayanagara Art

Major Attractions: Hanging Pillar, Monolithic Nandi and Monolithic Nagalingam.

Best time to visit: October – April (avoid peak summer and monsoon)

How to reach Lepakshi: Going by bus is cheapest most convenient. You can take the Anantapur bus from the APSRTC bus stand at Majestic Bus Station of Bangalore and get down at Lepkashi Check Post. From here there are many local buses which go towards Hindupur, board one of them and it will drop you in front of the temple gate. The first journey takes around 2 hrs 15 mins (will cost Rs.115) and the second one 20 mins (will cost Rs.10).

Lepakshi is a quaint little place about 120 km from Bangalore in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. According to the legends the mythical bird Jatayu fought with Ravana while he was abducting Sita and died here just after informing Lord Ram about the incident. The word ” Le Pakshi” means “Rise bird” in Telugu which Sri Ram compassionately uttered at that time.

I started from Bangalore at 10 AM and reached Lepakshi temple at 12:50 PM. I got down in front of the monolithic Nandi bull (mount of Lord Shiva) which is the 2nd largest monolithic statue in India. Its beautifully carved from a single granite stone and is 15 feet high with a length of 20 feet.  The perfectly proportioned body, finely carved ornaments, and smooth contours add to its grandeur and make it a popular photo-op with visitors. The Nandi faces the Nagalingam inside the temple premises.

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Monolithic Nandi Bull
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Intricate carvings on pillars

After 15 mins, I went to the Veerbhadra Temple which is around 1 mile from the Nandi. There is no entry fee for the temple. The Veerbhadra Swamy Temple was built in the 16th century temple by brothers Virupanna and Viranna Nayaka. The temple is built in typical Vijayanagara style of architecture and is a testament of the expert craftsmanship of the sculpture artists of the time. You enter into the temple through the Mukhamantapa which leads to the Natyamantapa and finally the sanctum sanctorum where Veerbhadra Swamy idol is present. On the left, there are the Navagrahas and as you circumambulate the temple you can see shrines of Dakshinamurthi, Tripurasurasamhara, Goddess Bhadrakali, etc. The interior of the temple has many pillars with intricate carvings. These ornate pillars are adorned with various incarnations of Vishnu and Shiva. Natyamantapa has pillars depicting divine musicians, Lord Brahma on the cymbals, Surya on the nadaswaram and Lord Natraj dancing. Some Vishnu incarnations like the Varaha avatar, Parshuram avatar, Krishna avatar and Vamana avatar have also been beautifully carved on the pillars.

The most interesting of all is the Hanging pillar. This pillar does not rest on the ground completely which can be verified by passing a handkerchief or newspaper underneath it.

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The Hanging Pillar (LEFT) and its unsupported base (RIGHT)

The ceiling of the Natyamantapa is adorned by colourful murals each depicting a tale from the mythology. The 24 X 14 feet ceiling fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling before the main sanctum is the largest in India of any single figure. These impressive murals have been painted with vibrant colours made of natural vegetables and flower dyes. Although most of them have eroded or are peeling off, these paintings are still strikingly beautiful. The government should provide expert attention to preserve them and prevent their further damage.

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Mural paintings on the ceiling

Behind the main temple, there is a black granite Shivalinga resting on a colossal seven headed serpent with three coils. Legend says it was built by workers as they were waiting for the lunch just to kill time. It is believed to be the largest Nagalingam and is a major attraction of Lepakshi temple.

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Monolithic Nagalingam

Just behind the Nagalingam, there is a huge statue of Lord Ganesha etched into a large stone.

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On walking forward there is an open air Kalyanimantapa (wedding hall) which is depicted as the site of the celestial wedding of Shiva and Parvati. The pillars of this hall have carvings of the performers and guests who came to the wedding to bestow their blessings on the divine couple.

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Next to it stands the Latamantapa, which has 42 pillars, each carved with intricate motifs of birds and flowers. Each pillar is known to depict a creeper in its flowering season. Each pillar in this section is different from the rest.

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Sita Footprint

After it, there is a slab which has Lord Hanuman engraved in it. Just in front of that, there is a gigantic footprint which is believed to be of Sita Mata.

It took me around 1.5 hours to explore the temple after which I had lunch and returned to Bangalore. There is a hotel run by the AP tourism department in front of the Nandi. This is only one place where you can get proper food. Even rooms are available here.

Please visit this gem of our culture if you have not been there yet. Do share your experiences in the comments section. Keep traveling, Keep loving ❤

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