Instead of sleeping snugly in a hungover state on a cold cloudy Sunday morning, I'm glad I made it to Lepakshi temple with few of my Canon-Photo-Marathon friends. After picking Ravi and Prashanth at Vijayanagar, Manasvi at Malleshwaram and Sangeetha at Hebbal, we were crusing smoothly on Bangalore-Hyderbad highway. Manasvi who is gifted with a natural GPS system, was our navigator. She knew both the place and route very well, as a result of which we got to take smoother and shorter routes. It took us nearly 3 hours to reach Lepakshi with one tea-&-pakoda break somewhere on the way. I just loved every moment of the drive, the weather was as though it was made for long drive - the most pleasing temperature, fresh chilly breeze, kiss of rain every now and then, mild sun shine once a while, dark clouds embracing the mountains and lush greenery along the road.
Lepakshi is a small village about 110km from Bangalore and is located in state of Andhra Pradesh, close to city of Hindupur. Though the map above shows the route via Hindupur, we took a different one via Chikkaballapur. Lepakshi is known for magnificent Vijayanagar style Veerabhadra temple. The inner sanctum of the temple contains the statue of Veerabhadra, Navagraha and other deities which are regularly worshipped. The pillars and walls are finely carved with sublime figurines of Ugra Narasimha (angry lions) and Shilabalike (lady dancers).
The courtyard in the front has innumerable stone pillars with intricate carvings of various Hindu elements - lions, monkeys, elephants, flowers and Gods with considerable finesse. The walls of the temple has a beautiful stone murals depicting the story of Ramayana. The ceilings in the courtyard contain colourful murals, painted with natural colours which now are dilapidated greatly by time and nature. There is a painting of Lord Krishna on banyan leaf, the speciality of this painting is that no matter where you see the painting from Lord Krishna seems to be looking at you. I was told that the paintings were directly done on underneth of the ceiling. I kept pondering how dexterous those painters should have been, for I felt it was difficult even to photograph from below, let alone painting. Also there is hanging pillar beneath which a thin piece of paper or cloth could be passed.
There is an elevated platform contating stray pillars with carvings of Goddesses, which is supposed to be an unfinished Kalyana Mantapa (wedding hall). A legend has that Lord Shiva married Parvathi at this Kalyana Mantapa. Behind the temple there is a gigantic statue of Lord Ganesha and alongside is a monolithic Naga linga (multiheaded serpant) which I missed out and saw it only when we reached the Nandi. Also there is a lengthy courtyard along the fence wall on the backside of the temple. The courtyard again houses parallel stone pillars with carvings along it's entire length. Also in the premises there is Rama paada (footstep of Lord Rama), where there is always water, something like a natural spring.
We were lucky that we had diffused sunlight for sometime during the evening, which greatly helped us to photograph. By the time we finished photographing, it was nearly 16:30 and it started raining. Thankfully it stopped by the time we reached Nandi (bull) which overlooks the temple from half a kilometer distance. It's a majestic and monolithic Nandi statue scaling a height of 15 feet. Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has maintained beautiful garden and lawn surrounding the statue. The Naga linga behind the Veerabhadra temple could be seen from here.
For photographers, definitely it's a must visit place. The carvings, the pillars, the murals, the walls, the towers, the statues, the intricate artwork leave to the imagination the endless vista of possibilities. It brought back memoirs of Hampi to me. Thanks to Manasvi, Ravi, Sangeetha and Prashanth for organizing and inviting me for the trip.
Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, AP, Hindupur, India, Lepakshi, Temple, Vijayanagar