Lepakshi

The trip to Lepakshi was a premature baby born out of a boring weekend affair with the city. If you aren't a certified 'Mall Rat' who is fond of shopping, there is nothing much to do in the city on a typical weekend. I already have a huge backlog of books to read and hence a trip to the bookstore wasn't an option either. I had to get out somewhere before another boring Sunday consumes me. I prefer to spend my money on experiences and not things, even at the risk of being called an irresponsible, unstable idiot by people around me. I have in fact learned to smile and walk away without responding from such people, for whom you are just an option.

So searching for a destination I can comfortably cover in a day's time, I zeroed in on Lepakshi. My good friend Subhasish also agreed to join me this time, to find out what I actually do on these trips. He had serious doubts on my real intentions in frequenting these old temples and forts. Lepakshi is a small village situated some 14Kms from Hindupur, in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. It is famous for the temple of Veerabhadra constructed in the 14th Century and the mural paintings of the Vijayanagara period. There are KSRTC buses to Hindupur from Majestic bus station in Bangalore, and there are frequent buses between Hindupur and LePakshi as well.

There are two stories - one mythological and another historical - behind the name 'Lepakshi'.The mythological story dates Lepakshi town back to the days of the Ramayana. It is said that Lord Rama found the mythical bird Jatayu lying wounded here, its wings were cut off by Ravana when he abducted Sita. Lord Rama said 'le pakshi' (rise bird) and the bird rose. Hence, this place was named as Lepakshi. The historic story is about Virupanna, the treasurer of the Vijayanagara king Achutaraya, who was in charge of the temple construction at Lepakshi. Virupanna's enemies reported to the emperor that the treasury funds were being misused by him. In those days, it was customary to pluck the eyes of the keeper of the royal treasury if he was found guilty of theft. Virupanna being a loyal servant, carried out the order with his own hands, and two dark stains are visible on the west wall of the southern entrance of the inner enclosure, which are said to be the marks made by his eyes, which he himself threw at the wall. Thus came the name 'Lepa Akshi' which means plucked eyes.

There are quite a few architectural marvels in the temple complex. The Natyamandapa is the finest part of the temple. It is supported on 70 excellently sculptured pillars, the 12 pillars in the center forming a court. Life size sculptures of dancers and musicians are carved on to all the pillars. One of the pillars is a 'hanging pillar', well almost. Unlike regular pillars which are built bottom up, this one is fixed on the top, but only an edge touches the ground. You can kneel down and slide a sheet of paper or cloth under it to see the gap. The guide told us an interesting story about it - this hanging pillar, one of the 70 there, is the representation of the lead-dancer in a group, who is generally picturized with his/her one leg up. There is also another story of a British engineer, who wanted to know how the temple was supported by the pillars and tried to displace one of it. It is said that the attempt caused the movement of as many as 10 pillars around, to maintain the balance.

The Shivlinga protected by a seven hooded serpent, found outside the Natyamandapa, is another interesting piece of art in the complex. The base of this sculpture has a crack and there are interesting stories about both the 'Shivlinga' and the crack. According to the legend, the sculpture was cut out by a workman of the temple during the rest hour, while his mother was getting his meal ready. On arriving with his meal his mother expressed her surprise and admiration; whereupon the stone base developed a crack, as if under the evil influence of the unlucky words of praise! Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the legend, it is a mighty sculpture to look at. Another beautiful structure 'casually' carved out, again during rest hour is the Nandi, half a kilometer away from the main temple. It is a remarkable piece of work, about 15 feet high, and is one of the biggest Nandis in the country.

There is also a huge footprint mark on one of the rocks, which is said to be the foot print of the goddess Durga. The unfinished Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall) is another treat to watch, which depicts the marriage of Siva and Parvathi, with the sculptures of prominent guests, including the Ashtadikpalakas carved on the pillars. There are quite a few small shrines inside the inner sanctum, dedicated to Hanuman, Parvathi, Bhadrakali etc. The main god Veerabhadra is considered an angry version of Siva and hence you are not supposed to walk right up to him as you enter the temple. So unlike other temples, as soon as you enter you take a right turn, see an idol of Ganesh, then take a left and see the sanctum sanctorum. The mural paintings all along the walls and roofs tell many an interesting stories. The crocodile and the monkey, and the little prince who killed a calf are some of the uncommon characters you see in those stories, in addition to the usual suspects, the Gods and Goddesses!

A visit to Lepakshi is quite an experience if you have an eye for ancient architecture or structural beauty in general. I consider it a day well spent and my friend Subhasish was for once impressed with me. He now has some reason to believe me when I say I am on a trip to some historic spot elsewhere!

More pictures here.

8 comments:

gC said...

Osum.....just love the shivling and the gigantic look of it...

nice work ....

attiDuDe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
attiDuDe said...

Thanks gC.
Glad you liked it :)

Subhasish Ashe said...

It was indeed a memorable day spent with a true friend & a wonderful person on 15th Aug; 2010. Initially, I wasn't sure of visiting to a remote location, but it taught us many things.

NĂºria said...

I am European and went to Lepakshi with my Indian students who told me more mixed legends than accurate explanations. I've found these on your blog! Thanks

attiDuDe said...

@Nuria: Glad you found the post useful :)

shohini roy said...

Very Informative.. Thanku.. Im on my way there wid family.. :)

Poonam said...

On the way to Lepakshi, Hindupur is also famous place among tourists. Mig church grounds, iron market yard and industrial estate are famous places to visit in hindupur.

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