Lepakshi Experience: Lepakshi... The temple from 16th (or maybe 14th century) century that is rich in archaeology, history and myth. Legend has it that the mythical bird Jatayu (from Ramayana) fell here, wounded by Ravana. Rama called upon Jayatu saying 'Le Pakshi'(rise bird)... And Jatayu rose. Since then this place is called LePakshi.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: Not really a place to shop or do sight seeing exept seeing the temple.
Activities & things to do: See and just get amazed by this marvelous piece of temple. Its filled with sculptures, ceiling paintings and huge pillars.
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: We reached there in our car becasue we live in Bangalore and its quite near from Bangalore. However, bus and auto rickshaw service is available on NH7 and Lepakshi road junction.
Lepakshi Experience: Its a small quiet town, tucked away near NH7
Its a half day trip
The only attraction is the Shiva temple and Asia's biggest Nandi statue.
The temple is beautiful and has beautiful carvings with fascinating stories attached to it. Its a photographer's delight if one is interested in ancient works.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: eatery is difficult to find, better if you carry food along.
only place to see is the temple.
Lepakshi is famous for Lepakshi print saree, one has to do a little searching for it
Activities & things to do: none
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: its easily spotted on NH7 on the Devanahalli - Hyderabad route from Bangalore. if traveling from Bangalore decent eatery is Kamat after Chickaballapur
Lepakshi Experience: Once again the restless traveller in us saw us leave for Lepakshi at 6am. I had been there over 25 years ago, but Ranga had not and we decided to visit this temple on Sankranti.
Lepakshi is a town that is fighting a hard and brave battle against obscurity. Despite being a contemporary of its more famous cousin of the Vijayanagara dynasty, Hampi, Lepakshi lies lonely and forgotten at the border between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A reference is made in the Skandapurana to Lepakshi as one of the hundred and eight important Shaiva Kshetras (pilgrimage centres for worshippers of Shiva) though it is hard to believe today that that this remote town was once a bustling centre for trade and pilgrimage.
Lepakshi today is like any other small dusty village lying 122 kms away from Bangalore. The town as such does not have any other attractions for tourists, but the temple, with its rich heritage makes it more than worth the trouble of visiting.
You have to take the Bangalore Hyderabad Highway: Bangalore - Yelahanka - Devanahalli - Chikkaballapur - Bagepalli - Lepakshi. You turn off NH7, exactly 6kms after the Bagepalli toll booth into a narrow road (supposedly a state highway - really??) leading to the temple. There are no signs, but you can ask for the Hindupur - Anantpur road. About 3 kms down this road is a sculpture of 2 storks, stick to the right road and continue on. It is 15kms from the main road to the temple. Just near the car park are shops, similar to those found outside temples everywhere, selling everything from puja items like flowers and coconuts and incense sticks to polyester saris and plastic buckets!
The presiding deity here is Veerabhadra Swamy, an irate form taken by Lord Shiva. According to our guide’s version, when Parvati died during Daksha yagna, Shiva struck with grief and rage threw a clump of his hair on to the earth and the spot where it fell now houses the temple and the statue of the lord( along with the udbhava murthy). And the statue of Parvati too wears a correspondingly sad and angry look. Indeed the entire temple abounds with legends about Shiva and Parvati and their royal wedding and separation later.
What is in a name? Plenty, it seems….
There are also ample stories floating in the air inside the temple walls about the other divine couple Rama and Sita, and in fact, one of them relates to the suggested origin of the name Lepakshi. It is believed that when Ravana kidnapped Sita, the brave bird Jatayu fought against the evil king and died in the battle on this spot. As it lay wounded, its wings cut off by Ravana, Lord Rama said with compassion, “le pakshi” (rise, o bird!) – and so, Lepakshi. Look out for the imprint of the giant footprint just outside the kalyanamantapa, believed to have been left by Sita herself!
The other and equally gory story about the name points to the brothers Veeranna and Virupanna, under King Achutaraya of the Vijayanagara dynasty. The latter who was treasurer of Penukonda province (today’s Anantpur) spared no expense to have the temple built the way he wished as a tribute to the Lord, as his mute son regained his speech after playing near the Udbhava moorthy of Shiva which was on this hillock, leading to suspicions from the king about embezzlement of money. In grief and in anticipation of royal punishment, Virupanna plucked out his own eyes and threw them against the wall, where the muted blood stains from centuries ago are believed to be visible even today. (By the way, the Government had these stains tested and has confirmed that they are indeed blood stains which refuse to be erased despite sevral tries! – Spooky, huh?!) And thus, lepa-akshi (blinded eyes).
For all the blood that seems to have been spilled within these walls, the temple today is a forlorn edifice amidst the brown and dry landscape of rural Andhra Pradesh. The only sign that all perhaps did not go well is that the temple is incomplete in many places, especially the kalyanamantapa that was being built when Virupanna died.
The Vijayanagara architecture style
The temple at Lepakshi has several characteristics that are unique to the Vijayanagara style of architecture – the most striking being giant monoliths; in Lepakshi the Nagalinga and the Nandi are both the largest such statues (other monoliths from the period being the Ganesha temples at Hampi and the Gomateshwara statue at Karkala).
You enter the temple at the Mukhyamantapa (main hall) directly into the natyamantapa (dancing hall) that is at the centre of the building and leads into the Garbagruha or the sanctum. This hall has pillars depicting divine musicians, Parvati dancing, Brahma on the cymbals and Surya on the nadaswaram and finally, Nataraja himself, leg raised in the classical nartana position. Walking along the side of the temple on the outer prahara, you then come to the giant statue of the seven-headed cobra Nagalinga and further down, Ganesha etched into the wall.
This walk leads to the other important structure within the building, also an essential element of Vijayanagara architecture, the open-air Kalyanamantapa (wedding hall). This Kalyanamantapa has been depicted as the site of the celestial wedding between Shiva and Parvati, and each of the pillars is a celebration of this – drummers and musicians adding to the atmosphere and lesser gods and goddesses blessing the couple. Close by stands the Latamantapa, with its 42 pillars, each carved with intricate motifs of birds and flowers, used to this day as designs on sari borders, and the reason why AP handicrafts chose this name.
At the Natyamantapa look up to find the most fascinating feature of the temple, the murals that adorn the ceiling. Although a lot of it has now been eroded by the harshness of time and neglect, the vibrant colors of natural vegetable and flower dyes still catch the eye of the visitor. Each of them depicts a story from mythology.
Half a kilometer from the temple, just by the road stands the statue of Nandi carved from red granite. It is 15 feet tall and 27 feet long. Yet for all its imposing size, the carving is intricate, especially the bells around the neck bearing the royal insignia of the Vijayanagara dynasty. And just like with Hampi, each stone, each pillar and wall has a story to tell, if only you have the time and patience to listen carefully. The temple here is built on a tortoise shaped hillock – kurmashaila; between all the straight lines and sharp angles of the walls and pillars, there is a smooth rounded rock (the back of the tortoise) in the outer prahara.
I believe there were 7 praharas but the temple land has now shrunk from 60 acres to about 2 acres thanks to human habitation and general care a damn attitude of all concerned. To the villagers it is just another temple, heritage - what's that? As I leave the temple, after collecting the hot Pongal prasadam subsequent to a long and well conducted Puja to the Lord and Devi Durga, I say a small prayer for this slow tortoise to finally win the race. For, what will make the authorities sit up and take notice of the decay facing this glorious temple town?
We left at 10.45am for our return home and reached back by 12.30pm.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: No other Sight Seeing / Shopping is there. No restaurants too.
Activities & things to do: Enjoy the centuries old temple with the stones silently narrating interesting stories
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: Take NH7 from Bangalore, 6kms after Bagepalli Checkpost, turn left (no signage), drive for 15kms and you reach the temple
Lepakshi Experience: Tucked inside a small village, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, ideal one day get-away for people interested in heritage stuff and temple architecture.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: Carry your own food, no proper restaurants...except for a couple of dhabas on the highway.
Activities & things to do: Its a single temple, part of it not completed. It would take about 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours to go through the entire temple and understand the importance of various parts of it...like the incomplete Kalyana Mantapa and what the paintings on the ceilings denote. After the temple tour, there is a small garden/lawn where you can have your lunch (packed from home) rest for some time and head back to Bangalore.
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: The roads are good through most of the journey. There is this left turn opposite a Mosque and a checkpost (No proper checkpost sign) to go towards Lepakshi. Need to be careful as to not miss this turn, better to ask a couple of locals after Bagepalli village for guidance. It gets very hot during summers and may be difficult to walk barefoot around the temple. You may wear socks to protect your feet and carry hats/sunglasses too. However, you need to remove the hat,socks etc inside the temple where pooja is performed.
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