This post is about a place steeped in history and unknown to many people though it is so close to Bangalore. I am talking about a quaint little town called Lepakshi just across the Andhra border. We started the year 2009 with a visit to this place. We were very excited as the place held a lot of promise in terms of its architectural beauty which meant a lot of photography options for Nagesh :)
We left home at around 11 AM and reached Chikkaballapur by 12.30 PM. Had lunch at a place called Hotel Sai Palace or something similar to that.. I would recommend people not to go here as the food was so-so. Instead you can go to Hotel Shanthi Sagar which is on the highway (map below). Chikkaballapur is really that barren when it comes to eating options. On the two occasions that we have traveled through Chikkaballapur, the other being the trip to Rangasthala and Muddenahalli,we have not found any other worthwhile place. Me thinks its a good business opportunity for some enterprising soul :)
After lunch we continued the drive and reached the Andhra border around 2 PM. Sadly there are no boards which indicate the presence of Lepakshi. Andhra tourism clearly has to learn a lot from Karnataka tourism :) Its very easy to miss the left turn from the highway to this place. Once you cross the state border, go past the petrol pump on the left and you can see an APTDC restaurant/hotel. After this you can see a lot of lorries parked on the left side of the highway. There is a narrow road here and you need to take a left turn and proceed for another 10-12 kms to reach Lepakshi. This road eventually leads to Hindupur. You can see a statue of painted storks midway along this narrow road. A left turn here will lead you to the Veerapuram bird sanctuary. Keep going straight and you will reach Lepakshi.
The giant monolithic Nandi statue carved out of a single granite rock on the right side of the road was a welcome sight at the entrance of Lepakshi. Nandi aka the sacred bull is considered as the vehicle of Lord Shiva. Some of the largest Nandis in India can be found in Lepakshi, Chamundi Hills in Mysore, Bull temple in Bangalore and Brihadeshwara temple in Thanjavur.
To the left of the Nandi was a hill with a lot of boulders and the ruins of what must have been a watch tower during the reign of the Vijayanagara Empire.
The Temple and Architecture
We then proceeded to the Veerabhadra temple which is a classic example of the Vijayanagara style of architecture. We decided to take a guided tour of the temple as it has so much to offer. I would definitely advise anybody who goes there to hire a guide as the information that they know will make you appreciate the place more. This temple was commissioned by Vijayanagara rulers. The temple has a huge courtyard. The sheer architectural beauty of this temple is awe-inspiring. I would let the photographs do the further talking :)
There is a huge statue of the Lord Naga. I am not sure if this can be found in any other temple. Our guide informed us that this statue was carved in a single day when the sculptor had some free time on his hands as his food had not arrived! We were awestruck at what had apparently been accomplished in a lunch break :)
The Kalayana Mantapa
There is an unfinished Kalyana Mantapa within the temple premises which is of mythological importance. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi are supposed to have been married at this place. When this Mantapa was being constructed, the chieftain Virupakshanna who was responsible for obtaining the funding from the king was accused of misappropriating the funds by his enemies.On coming to know of this, he blinded himself at this place in disgust at the accusation. Today we can see a smear of red on one of the walls near the Mantapa which is supposed to be his blood. It is said that the place got its name due to this incident as Lepakshi i.e.,Lepa-Akshi means village of the blinded eye.
On the floor in the temple courtyard there are huge palette shaped carvings in stone which were used as plates for having food by the sculptors. Similar patterns can be found in the Chennakesava temple at Somanathapura near Mysore.
The walls of the courtyard are dotted with beautiful paintings which have been ravaged with the passage of time.
The Pillar which is Not Grounded
Another amazing feature of this temple is a free standing pillar with support only at the roof. Our guide demonstrated that a fine piece of cloth can be placed below the pillar.
Lepakshi definitely has its own charm and has stood a witness to the glorious past of the Vijanayagara empire withstanding the ravages of time. We spent some time at the temple after thanking our guide for the myriad of information that he provided us without which we could not have appreciated the beauty of this place. We then started on our way back at around 4.30 PM with heavy hearts as it was getting late. I would definitely want to go back here.
Last but not the least.. Am happy that I have finally managed to write about this lovely place. All excited about my next trip which is to Hampi next week!!! This has been on my wishlist ever since I heard about it first as a kid.