On a weekend, my family planned to go for a day trip from Bengaluru. Since my dad wanted to visit Lepakshi since long, that was our destination for the weekend. There are several other small and major historical landmarks in a 50-100kms radius from Lepakshi; hence we had an initial plan to cover a few other places during our return as well. A super awesome NH7 from Bengaluru took us till Bagepalli, from where, Lepakshi was a small deviation away…
The belief is that, Jataayu- The vulture King (mentioned in the Ramayana) fell here when he was shot by Ravana’s arrow. Later, Rama is said to have commanded the bird to rise- Le Pakshi, and hence the name of that town. But not just its name, this entire place turned out to be a storehouse of history. Be it from mythology or the recent past history of the Vijayanagar Empire, every stone at Lepakshi had a tale to tell… We walked carefully reading every story that unfolded at every step
Although, I might advice you to take a personal guide while at Lepakshi who will be able to better put up all the stories and facts to you, here I would like to enlist a few noteworthy stories and art representations from Lepakshi.
- The main shrine of this architectural complex is the Virbhadra temple. The human figurines/ sculptures in its main hall are believed to be made up to the specifications to measure the beauty of a perfect man and a perfect woman.
2. The idol of Nagalingesvara– Carved out of a natural boulder to the west of the shrine, is a seven-hooded Naga sheltering a black-polished lingam cradled in its ribbed coils. A saptamatrika panel is placed below to the right. History tells us that the sculptor had come home for lunch one day. His mother said she would be back soon with food for him. She was surprised with her son’s work when she returned and exclaimed “Oh my son..!! You have carved such a big and a beautiful statue in such a short interval.” Even before she completed, a big crack developed across the linga. This makes it un-worthy of any Pooja/ offerings at the temple.
3. The hanging pillar– Among the several ornate pillars that decorate the temple corridor, this one takes a special mention as an architectural marvel. The pillar doesn’t rest completely on the ground and hence a sheet of paper can be easily passed through the gap beneath it. The roofs of these corridors are also adorned with several ancient painting, however they are largely lost due to apathy. Another noticeable feature on these pillars are the certain designs engravings specific to this temple. These designs are said to be the inspiration for the traditional Lepakshi prints found on Sarees around this area.
4. Kalyana mantapa-This incomplete structure has been depicted as the site of the celestial wedding of Shiva and Parvati. Each pillar here is supposed to be installed in celebration of this event. Hence, one can notice that there are depictions of drummers and musicians, gods and goddesses among others engraved in these pillars. A similar place is believed to exist in Kailash and it was therefore pronounced that a place more beautiful shouldn’t exist on the earth. And hence, this Kalyana mantapa was left unfinished.
5. History says, the place could have got its name referring to the two brothers- Veeranna and Virupanna, under King Achutaraya of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Virupanna got this temple built as a tribute to the Lord as his mute son regained his speech while he was playing near the Udbhava Moorthy of Shiva on this hillock. It is said that Virupanna spared no expense while having this temple constructed. However, since he was the treasurer of Penukonda province (today’s Anantapur), the money he was splurging lead to suspicions from the king about embezzlement of money. It is said that, Virupanna plucked out his own eyes and threw them against the wall in grief and in anticipation of royal punishment. And thus, lepa-akshi (blinded eyes). Till date one can find those blood stains on that wall. The locals say that it has even test have proven that the blood stains are indeed real..!!
6. The Natya Mantapa– This is an arena where the celestial dances are believed to have been performed. Besdie it, one can see a large footprint embedded on the ground and beleived to be the footprint of Sita. It is so large that is hard to imagine what it could have been or imagined to be when it was made.
7. The statue of Basava or the Nandi is the largest monolithic Nandi in India. It is built facing the Naga Linga within the temple complex. However, this is half a kilometer away from the main temple.
Jataayu is believed to have died at another place which is located at about 2 kms from the complex.This is quite sad that a place of such importance is not maintained or highlighted anywhere in the map. It didn’t have any walkable road to the exact spot. But, by this time we had already spent more than half a day at Lepakshi which we hadn’t anticipated. It was also very hot and dry and we were feeling all exhausted. Hence, decided to save all the other places for another day and returned to Bengaluru.
Conclusion: A wonderful place to visit if you are a history and art buff and looking for a place located at just about 120kms from Bangalore..!!