Friday, September 20, 2013

Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple

And other Vijayanagar style architectural marvels at Lepakshi, in Anantapur district , Andhra Pradesh

Photo by: Pradeep Hegde.


The legendary Lepakshi is famous for its 430 years old Veerabhadra Swamy temple complex with beautiful Vijayanagar styled sculptures, 100-pillared dance hall, beautiful and intricate carvings, paintings on the ceilings, the hanging pillar that barely touches the ground, the monolithic Nagalinga, the monolithic Nandi, the unfinished wedding hall, Lepakshi saree designs and more. As the legend goes, this is the place where injured Jatayu, the bird fell while Ravana kidnapped Sita.

15 feet high monolithic Nandi at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
15 feet high monolithic Nandi at Lepakshi
Photo by: Pradeep Hegde.




Jump to: Place Details | Architecture | History and Legacy |
| Our Wonderful Visit to Lepakshi

| Location Map | Get Directions | Getting There | Transportation, Food & Accommodations | Weather

Nearby Places of Attraction | Notes and Details |
| Comments and Reviews

Just about 120 kilometers from Bangalore, Lepakshi is a nice place for a weekend getaway. It is one of the places worth visiting near Bangalore.

The main temple at Lepakshi, the Veerabhadra Swamy temple is functional, and pujas and other sacred rituals are practiced every day. Inside, there are shrines of Veerabhadra swamy, Shiva, Vishnu, Durga and other Hindu gods.


Lepkashi is a small village in Anantapur district, in Andhra Pradesh. It lies near the Andhra-Karnataka border. Built on a low, rocky hill called “Kurma sailam” (meaning tortoise hill in telugu), Lepakshi is of historical and archaeological significance, dating around 1583 AD and was built by the brothers, Virupanna and Veeranna, who were initially in the service of the Vijayangar kings. The temple complex seems to be almost completely built on a single rock on the hill.

Architecture:




The entire temple and the structures within are of typical Vijayanagar style of architecture, with intricately and beautifully carved granite sculptures and structures, with “shikharas”, meaning peaks (some of them shaped like a dome) made of brick adorning the top of these structures. These brick domes are now restored by concrete, but the restoration seems incomplete in some places as the damaged images without hands or heads remain as it is, even after restoration. However, as it now has concrete, the bricks will fare better in rough weather. On visiting Lepakshi, one will surely remember the great ruins at Hampi, in Karnataka, if one has seen it before. (At the ruins of Hampi, one can still see the deteriorating reddish brick domes on the top.)

History & Legacy


Inspite of the beautiful architecture, something might seem amiss in Lepakshi. This is because the work there never got completed. It has a gory history which goes like this.

Virupanna, the royal treasurer, who planned and executed the construction, was accused of drawing funds without the king’s permission from the state treasury to build the shrines. When the king came to know of this, he ordered that Virupanna must be blinded for his felony. On knowing this, Virupanna inflicted the punishment upon himself by removing his own eyes. The two reddish spots on the western wall of the inner enclosure are told to be the blood stains from his bleeding eyes when he threw them against the wall after plucking them. The work at the temple came to a standstill after this. The unfinished “Kalyana Mandapa”, or marriage hall behind the main temple in the complex, and other unfinished structures here and there stand still even today, reminding us of that fateful day.

Virupanna did not survive for long, and the village is called "Lepa-akshi" or, "Lepakshi", i.e., a village of the blinded eye.

But that’s not all. As the legend goes, the temple at Lepaksi was built on the spot where Jatayu fell after being injured by Ravana during the kidnapping of Sita.

As another legend goes, Lord Rama exclaimed, "Le, Pakshi", meaning, "Rise, Bird", in Telugu, seeing the fallen Jatayu, and hence leading to the name of the place.

Our wonderful trip to Lepakshi
We started off on a rainy weekend morning from Bangalore. Thanks to Nataraj, for finding out this marvelous place which was unknown to me. For our luck, the rain subsided as we neared Chickballapur, and there wasn’t any trace of rain, but only some dark clouds hovering above across the border, in Andhra Pradesh (which made some of the pictures we took look mediocre :-( ).

Okay, enough boring you with the weather report. Getting to the point, Lepakshi is a perfect weekend getaway from Bangalore, or a perfect day trip if you happen to be in Bangalore. If you are a road trip enthusiast, it is the perfect one, even for the bikers. In fact, we came across some bikers on that day!


A huge monolithic Nandi - 15 feet high and 27 feet wide, which is carved out of a single rock, welcomed us as we entered Lepakshi from the NH7 (renumberd as NH44) [1] side (Nandi is Lord Shiva’s bull.) The huge Nandi is about 200 meters from the main temple.


Get Directions to Lepakshi from your place:

Main Doorway to Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple Complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Main entrance of wooden doors to Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple Complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
Main Doorway to Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple Complex

Lepakshi is a small village, but it has a Vijayanagar styled architectural marvel, the Veerabhadra Swamy temple complex.

The temple, situated on the "Kurma Sailam" (meaning tortoise hill), a low rocky hill, does not seem that special from the outside, but you will begin appreciating once you enter in through its wooden doors; the main doorway of the temple complex is fully surrounded by high walls. Apart from this main doorway, there is only one other entrance at right side of the main temple.

Once inside, you see the huge entrance or a ~ 12 to 14 feet height entrance to the main temple, wonderfully carved out of stone. Beautiful carvings and designs adorn this doorway.

Main Entrance to Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Fine scuptures and designs on the Main entrance to Veerabhadra Swamy Temple at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
Main Entrance to Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple, inside the complex

But as soon as you get there, you begin getting the feeling that something is amiss somewhere, something seems incomplete. Yes it is. That is because parts of this temple complex and some structures within never got completed. There is a stone pedestal which possibly was supposed to hold a small Nandi, as usually a Nandi will be placed opposite to a Shiva temple, with the Nandi facing towards it; and a small ornate lone pillar which must have been planned to support some roof or covering to the pedestal, right opposite to the main temple entrance.

As mentioned in the History & Legacy section above, the architect met with a gory fate, and as the story goes, the construction was stopped as it is. The pillars of the unfinished wedding hall behind the temple still lie out in the open air with no ceiling.

100 pillared Ranga Mandapa or Dance Hall, with Intricately sculpted pillars inside the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India 100 pillared Ranga Mandapa or Dance Hall, with Intricately sculpted pillars inside the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
100 pillared Ranga Mandapa or Dance Hall, with Intricately sculpted pillars inside the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India 100 pillared Ranga Mandapa or Dance Hall, with Intricately sculpted pillars inside the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
100 pillared "Ranga Mandapa" or "Dance Hall", with Intricately sculpted pillars inside the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple

Even though many structures within the complex lie incomplete, Lepakshi will surely amaze you. The main temple, of Veerabhadra Swamy is the most complete and beautiful building in the complex. As you enter inside the Veerabhadra Swamy temple, you will be mesmerized by the intricately carved pillars with dancers, musicians with various musical instruments in the main “mukha mandapa” (also called 'Nitya Mandapa' or 'Ranga Mandapa'), which is famed as the 100-pillared dance hall.










The ceiling has typical Vijayanagar styled carvings. Also, the ceiling has fine mural paintings of the Vijayanagar kings, and also there is a 24 by 14 feet painting of Veerabhadra on the ceiling before the main sanctum. Have a look at the pictures below.

The paintings aren't in a very good condition and are in a gradually deteriorating condition, apparently due to the weather over the centuries, and seeping water. They deserve to be better preserved.

Inside, there is a hall consisting the “garbha grihas”, or main shrines of the temple. In the main shrine, there exists a life size granite sculpture of Veerabhadra, the fiery form of Lord Shiva. Photography isn’t allowed inside this main hall, we were told, but you can snap elsewhere, in the dance hall, and elsewhere in the temple complex. The main temple is still functional, and pujas and rituals keep going on. It is hence important to preserve silence and keeping decency within the temple complex.


We spent a lot of time at this hall in front of the shrine, amazed by the beautifully carved pillars. Then, there is a pillar that barely rests on the ground. It seems to be hanging entirely from the roof! You can try passing a sheet of paper underneath it. The exact reason for this pillar is unknown, but it is truly a sign of ingenuity of the people who thought of it and built it.


Then, we took a walk around, came behind the main temple, where there is a monolithic Naga linga, approximately 12 feet in height.


There is a small structure opposite to this, featuring some fine designs on the pillars. These are said to be some of the famed Saree border designs of Lepakshi. You can find many such designs on pillars and sculptures in the temple complex. There are said to be hundreds of such designs totally on pillars in Lepakshi, which are used on the saree borders.



The rock behind it features some carvings on it, and a monolithic reddish Ganapathi sculpture beside it.


In the above picture, note that the pillars on both sides, supporting the roof for the Ganapathi idol are not symmetric. The left one is designed more intricately in comparison to the right one which seems to be almost plain. Also, the top designs of the pillars are different. It is uncommon to make such incoherent structures, especially, when most of the structures and carvings in the complex are so beautiful and complex. This is obviously one of the several incomplete structures in Lepakshi.

Behind these, you will find the unfinished marriage hall. There are many beautifully carved granite pillars standing. Even though it is unfinished, it won’t fail in amazing you of the fine craftsmanship of the sculptors.






There itself, a mandapa with a roof at one side, features those pillars with designs which are said to be used in saree borders and other fabrics.


You can find a huge structure with a typical Vijayanagar styled peak or dome on top of it with a stone featuring Hanuman, right behind the unfinished marriage hall.




Also behind this, there lies a somewhat unfinished structure, with empty pedestals inside, which may have been supposed to hold idols of some deities.

Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
Structures behind the unfinished marriage hall (left)
Empty pedestals inside this structure (right)

Finely carved roof edges at Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Finely carved roof edges at Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Finely carved roof edges at Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India
Finely carved roof edges at some structures behind the unfinished marriage hall


These are not all. There are more pictures!
»» See all Lepakshi Pictures on our Flickr stream
Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India Veerabhadra Swamy Temple complex at Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, India

On the way back, we had a good meal for a reasonable price at a Andhra State tourism board run restaurant just in the Kodikonda junction where we took a left for Lepakshi from the National Highway.

To conclude, it was a pleasant trip, and it just made our day passing away the boring weekend blues.


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Getting there:
Just ~120Kms away makes Lepakshi an excellent outing from Bangalore city. There are two ways to get there. You get two options once you get to Yelahanka.

One – (107 Kms in NH7, 16 kms of state road), 123 Kilometers
Keep going in NH7 (renumberd as NH44) [1] , and then take a left at Kodikonda junction, Just after crossing over into Andhra.
NH has tolls. You get two tolls. One at Devanahalli airport road junction, the second at Andhra border. Plus point – Good roads! – This is the one we took.

Two – SH9 (State Highway 9 of Karnataka), 120 Kilometers
Left at Yelahanka, 104 Kms in SH9, and then take a right at Hindupur, 14 kms more to Lepakshi.
Plus point – NO Tolls! Current road condition is unknown to us.

Transportation, Food & Accomodations:
There aren’t any good places for food within Lepakshi, nor any accomodations. Hindupur is the nearest town with good hotels. The best option is, if you are visiting Bangalore, then better plan for a day trip from there itself. You can leave early morning, and then return back by evening.

Going by a hired vehicle, such as a taxi, if you don’t own one, is a good option as you will save a lot of time, instead of waiting for buses. However, as you have to cross into another state if you are coming from Karnataka, you may have to pay a fee at the border checkposts. White board registrations will not be charged, whereas, the yellow board taxi registrations will be charged.

Alternatively, you can use the APSRTC , KSRTC buses or the Railways from Bangalore to Hindupur. From Hindupur, APSRTC buses are available to Lepakshi (We don’t know their frequency. You have to check that to adjust your timings and convenience).

Also, one can have a good meal at the NH7 junction, at the Andhra State tourism board run restaurant.


Location Map of Lepakshi:

Veerabhadra Swamy Temple Complex, and 15 foot high monolithic Nandi
View Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh 515331 in a larger map

Driving Directions to Lepakshi from Bangalore:
Route Options - 1 and 2
View Driving directions to Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh from Bangalore, Karnataka Option 1 and 2 in a larger map




You can use the below the directions finder to get best directions from the location of your choice.


Get Directions to Lepakshi from your place:



Best times to visit: In winter, September to February, before the summer heat bakes you. If it isn't raining, you can visit in July or August, as we did.

Weather:
YoWindow.com Forecast by yr.no


Note:
There is no entry fee or ticket to enter the temple, as it is functional as any other normal temple, with pujas and regular sacred rituals going on. However, if you park the vehicle in the parking lot in front of the temple; you will have to pay for a parking ticket of Rs. 10. As of now, you’re not charged anything for photography. You can photograph anywhere inside the temple complex, except inside the main hall consisting of the “garbha grihas” or the idols and shrines of the deities.

Please Note: The temple is still functional, and pujas and sacred rituals keep going on. It is hence important to preserve silence and keep decency within the temple complex. There isn’t any footwear stand as of now. If you arrived there in a hired or your own vehicle, better keep it inside. Footwear is not allowed inside the temple complex.

These structures are standing since centuries and have survived various kinds of weather and calamities. They are our National monuments and historically significant places of India. Be respectful and do not litter here and there, or disfigure them.

Nearby Attractions:
Nearby places of attraction worth visiting

There are some other places of interest along NH7 (renumberd as NH44)(Bangalore-Hyderabad highway) which you can cover en route to Lepakshi. These places are also located in the above directions map for your convenience.
  • The historical Devanahalli Fort on the side of NH7 (renumberd as NH44), at Devanalhalli, in Karnataka (near the Bangalore International Airport (now renamed Kempe Gowda Intrernational Airport). The fort was originally built in 1501 by Mallabairegowda, and he birthplace of Tipu Sultan, also known as Tiger of Mysore, located near to the fort. There is a small town inside the walls of the fort, which has many temples. The Venugopalaswamy temple, near the main entrance at NH7 is one of the oldest.
  • Nandi Hills (Anglicised form of Nandidurg), an ancient hill fortress, in Chikkaballapur district, Karnataka. It is ~10 kms from Chickballapur town, and easily accessible from NH7.
  • Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple in Nandi Village (just a couple of kilometers inside from NH7), near Nandi Hills, in Karnataka.
  • Lepakshi is near to Penukonda fort (~52 Kms if gone via NH7, ~45 Kms if gone via Hindupur), another Vijayanagar empire remnant in Andhra Pradesh.



Jump to: Place Details | Architecture | History and Legacy |
| Our Wonderful Visit to Lepakshi

| Location Map | Get Directions | Getting There | Transportation, Food & Accommodations | Weather

Nearby Places of Attraction | Notes and Details |
| Comments and Reviews

References:
[1] National Highway 7 (India). (2013, September 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 14, 2013

Related External Links:
[1] Lepakshi Temple – Andhra Pradesh Tourism website
[2] The hanging pillar and other wonders of Lepakshi – The Hindu
[3] Lepakshi – Anantpur.com
[4] Weekend Travelogue: Bangalore - Lepakshi - Bangalore - on team-bhp.com
[5] 7 Wonders of India: Lepakshi Temple - a video on Youtube
[6] Lepakshi – The Town of Veerabhadra - Indian History and Architecture





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