Lepakshi is a small town in the Anantpur district, housing the famous Veerabhadra temple. It is ideal for a day’s outing from Bangalore.
We started from Bangalore around 7 am and took the following routes: Marathahalli, Whitefield, Hoskote, Devanahalli, Chikaballapur, and Hindupur.
There wasn’t much traffic since it was a Sunday morning, and within an hour, we reached NH 4 of Hoskote. After that, there were perfect highways with smooth roads, vineyards, plot sellers, cornfields, and paddy fields. A perfect sight to behold!
We stopped for breakfast at Kamat on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway and then Reached Hindupur by 10.30 am. From there, we took a deviation and proceeded for another half an hour or so.
The highway is a treat to ride on with long smooth stretches of road. The bikers race down the road. One way was close to 145 km.
That is how I reached Lepakshi from Bangalore. This time, I am keener on writing about the temple than the travel.
Lepakshi History & Meaning
The Veerabhadra Swamy temple is located on a small hillock which is in the shape of a turtle! There are very few steps to climb. The history starts from here—
This is the place where Jatayu’s wings were chopped off by Ravana while abducting Sita. Rama found the bird dying and cried out, “le pakshi le pakshi (get up bird),” hence the name.
We hired a guide, and it proved out to be useful. Virupanna constructed the Veerabhadra Swamy temple in the Vijayanagar architectural style.
Here is the tour of the temple.
The temple is embellished with long corridors with pillars running all around. These served as guest houses. If you take a close look at the roof near the pillars, you would see gaps running horizontally in the ceiling. The first row served as curtain rods, and the second row was used to hang luggage, it seems.
The guest room was ready in a minute. To your right, you can see inscriptions in Kannada and Sanskrit. You would also see an inscription of Virupanna taking the blessings of God’s feet.
As in any Hindu temple, the first prayer is offered to Lord Ganesha, and here too, you can see a huge idol of Him. Next, by the side, we can see the story of Sri KaalaHasthi carved out in the rock. Further down is the model of Saptha Kanikas.
Story of Lepakshi Temple:
You would see the first Shiv Linga brightly polished under the seven-headed serpent. This is the iconic image of Lepakshi.
The story says it goes this way—
There is a kitchen right opposite the Shiv Linga. Once, when the workers arrived, the lady had not yet completed the cooking. So she asks them to wait. She went in to finish cooking, and when she came out, the monolithic stone had been carved into a seven-headed serpent, coiled around guarding the Shiva Lingam.
All this while she was cooking! Probably, they would have carved the entire temple in a month or so.
It is so divine, calm, and peaceful. One could sit there and watch Him.
At the back of this Shiv Linga is the unfinished Kalyana Mantapa. It has only the pillars erected with beautiful carvings on it.
It is believed that there was once a misunderstanding between the King and Virupanna. The King found his treasury empty and blamed Virupanna for spending everything on the temple.
In ancient days when someone is found the culprit, they would be blinded. Virupanna blinded himself by plucking his eyes out and throwing them on the walls. The bloodstains are still there. There have been several attempts to remove the stain during renovations, but it does not go at all.
The Kalyana Mantapa depicts the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. This can be seen in one of the pillars. The wedding is witnessed by Ashta Dikbalagars, the protectors of the world. You can identify them by the figure on the pillar and the corresponding vehicle used below them.
Like Indira on the elephant, Vayu on deer, and so on, on the pillars, you can see one sculpture depicting different postures. E.g., there is a three-headed cow; when two of the heads are closed, it looks like the cow is grazing, walking, or feeding. There are also two monkeys; when seen from different angles, you can make out that there are four monkeys performing acrobats.
Below the Kalyana Mantapa is the Rudrathandava Shiv Linga, the second one. Along the side is a passage that leads to Sita Amman Padam.
When Ravan was taking Sita away, her footprints are seen here. I am not sure if the footprint at the Lepakshi temple is that of Sita Devi or that of Ravan, but it sure is huge.
We were also told that one foot is here and the other feet are 45 km away, on another hill nearby! It is always wet with water coming from a small hole! Yes, nobody knows the source of it.
Then there is the Durga Amman Peetam, but now an idol of Hanuman is placed there.
You could see huge plates carved out, which are used by the workers to eat. Ten different side dishes every day!
You can see a hanging pillar here.
Just before you enter the sanctum sanctorum, there is the dancing hall. The dancing hall has approximately 100 pillars, and they are all balanced by this hanging pillar! You can see the gap between the pillar and the floor.
Once the Britishers tried moving the pillar and one another pillar developed a crack. The dancing hall has Ramba dancing sculpted on a pillar with Brinji (three-legged) dance master teaching her.
There is a perfect-looking man and woman sculpted too! You can also see Shiva marrying Parvati depicted again with a relevant story. I missed clicking its picture!
So Parvathi, after self-immolating herself in the yagna conducted by Daksha, was born again inside the earth. She prayed to Shiva to marry Her. Shiva came in the form of a poor man and asked for alms.
While she was filling the pot on His head, the naughty Shiva pulled down Her skirt. But Parvathi knew how to treat someone who had come asking for alms. So she did not stop giving him food. Shiva gets pleased and shows His true avatar. It is one of the best sculptures.
The sanctum sanctorum has the statue of Veerabhadra. The moment you enter, to the left, you would see Shiva, and right on the opposite side is Vishnu’s shrine.
In this temple, Shiva and Vishnu are the same. That is the third Shiva! Next is a small dark cave where sage Agastya had meditated. Next is the shrine of Parvathy. Then comes the Rama Lingam, the fourth one. Lord Rama installed this, and He worshipped it. Next is Hanumantha Lingam, the fifth one, established by Lord Hanuma. Then there is the shrine of Bhadrakaali, the consort of Veerbhadran. The statue of Mahishashura Mardini is also there. In the center is the shrine of Veerabhadra.
PHOTOGRAPHY NOT ALLOWED INSIDE
Lepakshi Basavana: Monolithic Nandi of Lepakshi
That is pretty much about Lepakshi.
Not to forget that the Lepakshi Basavana is the biggest monolithic Nandi in India. It is on the way to the temple. Nandi is facing the Veerabhadra temple, and it is said that we can see the temple from there. Probably in the earlier days, everything would have been within the temple complex.
We had lunch at Lepakshi town itself. Then we went shopping in Lepakshi, hunting for handloom sarees and Lepakshi handicrafts. The Lepakshi Kalamkari designs are very famous. These are the ones drawn with a pen on cotton sarees. The inspiration for the design comes from the Lepakshi temple pillars themselves.
Most of the shops were closed on Sunday. I am not sure if the place is worth hunting down for sarees. Until you know some genuine shops or references, it is advisable not to.
|Lepakshi pillar designs found on sarees|
The drive back was smooth again, and we reached by 6 pm.
Few things to note—
This is a Pancha Linga Shetram (five Shiva Lingam). It is a fully functional temple. Photography is not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum. Do respect the sanctity of the place and God.
Do not do anything that violates the norms of the temple. Dress appropriately. Also, you cannot wear footwear.
Enjoy Travelling 🙂
I was so happy to read your detailed description, right from the journey to the temple details to shopping!!
Thanks Sir for building up the enthusiasm for us to visit Lepakshi!
Have a great trip to Lepakshi 🙂
I am extremely impressed along with your writing abilities, Thanks for this great share.