Of pillars of chiselled art, murals and legends

Lepakshi

Every now and then, I have what I call ‘travel cravings.’ Sometimes I crave the seas; sometimes, the mountains; and sometimes, forests. I recently had this strong desire to see some art-on-stone (that’s not something that happens very often). And I couldn’t ignore it. Hubby was game for it so we buckled up the little ones in the back seat and drove to what might be a destination getting popular by the day — Lepakshi.

Lepakshi might be in the state of Andhra Pradesh (or Seemandhra) but it’s just about 120 kilometres away from Bengaluru and so it’s fast becoming a favourite among day trippers in the city (Move over, Mysore and Chikkaballapura (read Nandi Hills) πŸ˜‰ ).

Lepakshi is a small town in AP’s Ananthapura District. For some time now it has been attracting people from India’s Silicon Valley and other parts. The attractions here are a few temples and whole lot of admirable sculpture in granite.

What left me tipsy at the end of the day were the ornate pillars of the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi. Built in the Vijaynagar style of architecture this temple is quite a display of pillars, sculpture and paintings of another era.

The entrance into the second enclosure of the temple. And the pillared HallPillared Hall, Lepakshi
Ranga Mantapa ceiling, Lepakshi
The sculptured ceiling of the Dance Hall
Pillars and murals, Lepakshi
The pillared hall and the murals on the ceiling.
Wedding Hall, Lepakshi
Pillars of the Kalyana Mantapa (wedding hall).

Talking of pillars there’s one that must get a special mention. This is the famous Hanging Pillar. Now if you haven’t read about it or don’t have somebody showing it to you, you would probably pass it off as just another of those sculptured pillars of the Veerabhadra temple. Having heard about it, I thought this one might be the pillar that everybody crowded about. Let me say, I was wrong. First of all, there weren’t a whole lot of visitors and devotees in the temple premises even though it was a Sunday.

After walking around the temple and taking in all its sights-of-stone it stuck me that I had missed the pillar. And I couldn’t leave with out seeing the celebrated column. Spotting a lady who seemed to know her way around the temple, I thought she was the one to approach. She was a local and seemed to know only Telugu. However, she gathered what I was trying to tell her in Kannada and through gestures and in the language she knew she directed me to it. As I was taking a good look at it, she came by, spread a towel on the floor and moved it toward the foot of the pillar. It easily slid through and went through a good part of what was supposed to the be bottom of the pillar. That was testimony to the fact that the pillar wasn’t for the most part attached to the floor of the pillared hall in which it stands.

Hanging Pillar - 1, Lepakshi
The Hanging Pillar
bottom of hanging pillar, Lepakshi
The bottom of the Hanging Pillar
Proof - Hanging pillar, Lepakshi
A towel being slid below the pillar; that’s proof that this pillar is not attached to the floor.

Lepakshi has a connection with the great Indian epic Ramayana, and even owes its name to it. It is believed that after abducting Sita from the forest, Ravana and Sita came this way on the way to Lanka.

Later Lord Rama, while looking for his wife, is said to have came this way too. They say it was here on these rocks that the exiled king encountered a wounded and dying Jatayu. Rama supposedly uttered the words ‘Le pakshi,’ (meaning ‘get up, bird’) to the badly injured Vulture who tried to fight Ravana. And that is the story behind ‘Lepakshi’

Durga Padam, Lepakshi
Durga Padam or Sita’s Foot.
Sita is said to have set foot here on the way to Lanka. And this is the mark of that.
Ganesha, Lepakshi
This Ganesh (elephant headed god) is another attraction at this temple.
Nagalinga, Lepakshi
The Naga Linga.
They say that the naga (the snake) was carved while the sculptors waited for their mother to make lunch.
kitchen, Lepakshi
The kitchen where the sculptors’ food was said to have been prepared.
Viroopanna's eyes
The eyes of Viroopanna.
The story: The builder Virupanna and the ruler are said to have had a misunderstanding on the temple funds or something like that, on which the King ordered his eyes to be removed. Virupanna on hearing this decided to do the job himself. He is believed to have pulled out his eyes and thrown it against a temple wall. These two marks on the wall are said to be a mark of the blood from his eyes.

 

The Monolithic Nandi at Lepakshi

This Nandi is like the Welcome-to-Lepakshi sign. It’s the first thing you see when you enter this small town. With a height of 4.5 meters and a length of 8.23 metres, it is believed to be the biggest monolithic Nandi.

Nandi, Lepakshi

 

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38 Comments

  1. A beautiful post which leaves one awestruck:)

  2. Fascinating and gorgeous!

  3. Very interesting photos !

  4. My God Dee.. its full of so much history !!
    Now I can easily work as a guide to my husband and watch his astonished face ..specially when I'll tell him about the hanging pillar, the monolithic Nandi, sign of eyes (!! ) and the footprint of Sita… wonderful post dear.
    One of my friends told me about their visit to Lepakshi but what I gathered from them made me dilly-dally this trip there with kids .. but if its via Nandi hills may be we can plan…
    Nice post with great pics.. the ceiling of the dancing hall is awesome along with the ornate pillars

    • It's such an easy drive from Bangalore, Kokila. And the road's great for the most part because you take the highway to H'bad.
      That'll be fun. Go surprise the patidev.;)

      And on your way back, you could go catch the sunset at Nandi Hills. It'll be a perfect day! πŸ™‚

      Maybe you should wait for the temperatures to go down a bit. We went last month it was pretty hot already. I'm sure it's worse now.

      Thank you so much, Kokila. πŸ™‚

  5. Really gorgeous statues and art work! Something to be preserved for generations to come!

    • Those pillars, Anu — awesome! πŸ™‚
      I hope this place has a long, long life. Only the murals are at stake, I guess; most of it is peeling off. I don't know if touching it up will work.

      I hope you guys are doing good. Happy travels.:)

  6. One of those places I planned to visit many times but could never go… Goo to read this post and I had no idea about the hanging pillars…really amazing…

  7. beautiful pictures Dee. I've seen that Naga Linga picture so many times – its so powerful, but I didn't know which temple it was… now I do, and will make it a point to visit it with my husband… we are Shaiviks… and this is going to be a beautiful experience…. thank you so much for sharing.. πŸ™‚

    • If you have Bangalore plans, you could club the two.
      I'm glad it was of use to you. You read the little story behind the making of the naga, right? πŸ™‚ Interesting, huh?
      You're welcome and thank YOU, Archana.

  8. Fascinating post!! Beautiful captures and the narration is riveting!

  9. Beautiful place. Must visit if one visits Andhra.

  10. This looks so beautiful. It is a pity I have seen so little of South India!

  11. Oh, I remember having read about the Hanging Pillar long back, but Lepakshi didn't ring a bell in my head when I started reading your post. What magnificent artwork, especially the monolithic Nandi and the Naga Linga! And the Hanging Pillar – how in the world did our ancestors manage that?! Thanks for this post. πŸ™‚ I'd love to visit this place if I happen to be in Bangalore or thereabouts for some time.

    • The Nandi is beautiful with those ornaments around it's neck and all. Ah! I couldn't stop taking pictures of that sculpture. I'd have pictures of it for a whole new post. πŸ™‚
      They say that pillar has been dislodged a bit after a British engineer tried to figure out how it was done. Thankfully it's still in one piece. πŸ™‚

      You're welcome Ami. And thank YOU. πŸ™‚
      Lemme know if you are coming this side in the next few months, ok.

      Have a fab weekend. <3

  12. Lepakshi no doubt is ethereal, Have you been to Hampi, its full city extension of Lepakshi, A must visit..

    • Nice to see you here, Roohi.

      Not yet, Roohi. I'm sure.
      Hampi is on the wishlist. But it is for later — when it's not so hot. πŸ™‚

      Isn't our city quite uncomfortable now?

  13. Wonderful post, Nambiare! Had been here a few years back. As mentioned, I happily missed the hanging pillar. Got to go again to see that architectural brilliance. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Nomad. Brilliant this place IS.
      Let me know before you go. I'll tell you where exactly that mysterious and fascinating pillar is. πŸ˜‰ Gosh, I almost missed it.

  14. Beautifully penned. A must visit place.Especially the nandi ornaments makes you wonderstuck.

    You can also visit our blog on Lepakshi and leave your valuable comments.

    http://www.srikri.com/2014/11/lepakshi-lovable-architecture-and-mural.html

    • Thank you Sriram. πŸ™‚
      The Nandi was chiselled to perfection. I will have to put up a photo post on just that. I couldn't stop taking pictures of it. πŸ™‚

      Love the pictures in your post!! πŸ™‚

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