Lepakshi Sri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple
Lepakshi is a small village situated fourteen(14) KMs to the east of Hindupur,Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. The place can be reached by bus from Hindupur. It is famous for its temple of Veerabhadra and the mural paintings of the Vijayanagara period. There is a popular legend about this temple which runs as follows:
|outside wall of the temple|
During the 16th century Lepakshi was great centre of trade as well as pilgrimage with fine architecture blended with bold, greaceful sculptures and exquisite paintings. Legend dates the Lepakshi town back to the days of the Ramayana. It is said that Lord Rama found the mythical bird Jatayu lying wounded here, its wings were cut off by Ravana when he abducted Sita. According to locals, after Ravana had cut the wing of the bird, Lord Rama said "le pakshi"(rise bird) and the bird rose. Hence, this sacred place was named as Lepakshi. Local lore has it that sage Agasthya installed the idol of Papanaseswara at the site. However, the temple as it exists today is of more recent origin. The temple at Lepakshi is not a merely a Siva temple but has a temple complex. The peculiarity of this temple complex is th at it has idols of both Siva and Vishnu. The panchayatana advocated by Adi Shankara is probably implemented here in a slightly different from.
Lepakshi temple is said to have been built by two brothers, Virupanna and Veeranna. The temple was constructed during the reign of Achyuta Devaraya, who ruled the vijayanagara empire from 1530 A.D to 1542 A.D Virupanna was favoured by Achyutaraya.
During his routine visits he happend to see Papanaseswaralaya on Kurmasaila,which was at that time an insignificant structure. He decided to build a temple there and for the purpose engaged famous architects, sculptors and paintors.
For the construction he used funds from the imperial treasury. Virupanna's enemies reported to the emperor that the treasury funds were being embezzled and the treasure was in danger of being exhausted. In those days it was customary to pluck the eyes of the keeper of the royal treasury if he was found guilty of theft or embezzlement. The king ordered that Virupanna should be blinded. Virupanna, being a loyal servant carried out on the spot with his own hands, this order, and to this day, two dark stains are shown on the west wall of the southern entrance of the inner enclosure, which are said to be the marks made by his eyes which he himself threw at the wall. The builder of the temple did not survive long after this and hence the kalyanamandapa was left unfinished.
There are no inscriptions recording the date of construction of the temple. Until recently it has been held that ht eearliest inscription found in this temple is dated in S.1455(1533 A.D.) But recently an inscription was discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India in the temple referring to certain repairs by the Saluva king Narasimha to the shrine. It may be presumed that a small temple existed here in the 14th century. It may be inferred that the work of enlarging the temple and beautifying it with painting was begun by Virupanna by about 1530 A.D. particularly because he was a subordinate officer of Achyutaraya at that time.
Lepakshi must have been a great centre of trade and pilgrimage during the Vijayanagara period. Achyutaraya fought many wars during his reign. These wars might have drained the royal treasury of all its accumulated wealth which in its turn left the Kalyanamandapa unfinished. It is also not unlikely that the hillock at Lepakshi was considered sacred even before the temple was built at the place. Granite which is the chief building material in the Lepakshi temple was availale in abundance at Lepakshi.
The temple is situated on a low lying hill called the Kurmasaila to the south of the village and faces the north. There is a short flight of steps from the foot of the hill to the temple. The temple has two enclosures built in cyclopean masonry. There are three entrances to the first enclosure, one in the north, the second in the east and the third in the west. The entrances in the east and west are now closed. the entrance in the north is surmounted by a gopura. …
The northern entrance is the main entrance to the temple. It has a mandapa before it in two sections, one on each side of the passage, covering the adhistana of the gopura. Each section has a pillar in the front with Cola corbels. There is a mandapa similar to the above mentioned one in the rear side of the gopura. The brick superstructure of the gopura is in a dilapidated condition and there is only one tala containing the kuta, panjara and sala series.
The eastern entrance:
The eastern entrance is through a dvara inside a mandapa. There is a mandapa before it in two sections, in front of the western entrance section has a pillar with Cola corbels. There is a mandapa in two sections in the inner side of the entrance similar to the above mentioned one. The roof is fallen.
There is a pillared corridor on the four sides along the inner side of the prakara walls of the outer enclosure. The pillars are of a single type, i.e., pillar with one pillaret projecting having the Vijayanagara corbels.
There is a mandapa facing the west in the south-east corner of the second enclosure. The Mandapa is in two sections with a wall containing an entrance, dividing the two, the front section of the mandapa contains four pillars which are decorated with vertical scroll decoration and have the roll corbels. the verticals on either side of the entrance have at the base a dvarapalaka image. The lintel contains the figure of Gajalakshmi. In the back section of the mandapa there are four pillars with Vijayanagara corbels.
Very near the above mentioned mandapa is a big boulder against the east face of which is a richly carved granite base. A flight of steps in the east leads to the base. On the base is a huge serpent with three coils and seven hoods cutout of the rock and in the centre of the third coil is a panavatta and above it a granite linga. The linga is protected by the seven hoods of the serpent. (picture seven hood linga) The base is split and the local legend says that the lingam base and all was cut out by a workman of the temple during the rest hour while his mother was getting his meal ready. On arriving with his meal his mother expressed her not unnatural surprise and admiration; whereupon the stone base immediately fell as under due to the evil influence of the unlucky words of praise. On the north face of the boulder is a huge sculpture of Ganapati seated
The mandapa is situated in the south-west corner of the second or inner enclosure. It is an open structure, built on a high base which rises to five and a half feet (5½) on the northern side. It contains thirty eight pillars (38) which are of the following types:
a) Pillar with one pillaret projecting
b) Pillar with two pillarets projecting and
c) Pillar with a big deity image carved on a projection of the shaft.
The marriage of Siva and Parvathi has been carved on one of the pillars of this mandapa. Many sages, gods, Dhanvantari and the eight Dikpalakas(8) are shown adorning the pillars as important guests. This mandapa was left unfinished.
The western part of the Kalyanamandapa made up of forty two pillars(42) is called the LATAMANDAPA or HALL OF CREEPERS. To the west of the Kalyanamandapa is a mark on the rock which is said to be the foot print of the goddess Durga.
The Unjal Mandapa:
This is situated near the Kalyanamandapa to its east. The adhishtana of this mandapa contains from bottom upwards-upana, patta, padma, broad gala with figures of elephants and cornice containing simhalalata gables. There are four tall pillars having Cola corbels in the four corners of the mandapa supporting the roof. There is a round sikhara above the roof of the mandapa.
The main Shrine:
The main shrine of Virabhadra is situated in the center of the second enclosure, faces the north and consists of the grabhagriha and antarala surrounded by a pradakshina, mukha mandapa, a pillared corridor outside the mukhamandapa and the natyamandapa. At right angles to the mukhamandapa is the shrine of Vishnu facing the east.
There is a shrine dedicated to shiva under the name of Papavinasesvara facing the Vishnu shrine. To the south of the papavinasesvara shrine is the Sayanagara and to its south is the parvathi shrine both facing the west. In the western wing of the pradakshina surrounding the garbhagriha and antarala of the Virabhadra shrine are three shrines known respectively as the Ramalinga shrine, Bhadrakali shrine and Hanumalinga shrine all facing the east. In the north east corner of the mukhamandapa there is a vedi with the Navagrahas.
The natyamandapa is the finest part of the temple. It is situated immediately behind the north gopura of the second enclosure and measures eighty one feet east-west and forty two feet(42) north-south. It is supported on seventy(70) excellently sculptured pillars, the twelve(12) pillars in the centre forming a court. The columns of the central group bear almost life size representations of the musicians and dancers carvged with much spirit and freedom. The figure of Bhiksatanamurti, Brahma playing the drum, Tumbura thrumming the strings of vina, Nandikesvara playing the hudduka, a devince danseuse Ramba dancing, Bhringi, Chandra and a prominent figure of Nataraja are amongst the noteworthy sculptures adorning the pillars that beautify the central part of this natyamandapa. Other pillars in this mandapa are of the following types -
(a) pillar with one pillaret projecting
(b) pillar with two pillarets projecting
(c) pillar with three pillarets projecting and
(d) pillar with Vyala bracket with rider.
All these pillars have Vijayanagara corbels. The ceiling of the court formed by the twelve (12)central piers has a big lotus with several petals inside a square with the bud hanging in the centre. By far the most remarkable feature of this Natyamandapa is the numerous mural paintings of scenes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the puranas with which the ceiling is covered. On some pillars we find figures of women in charming postures.
Behind the Natyamandapa and attached to it by a narrow transverse corridor, and at a higher level is the main part of the temple. A flight of steps from the Natyamandapa leads to the pillared corridor. On the northern side, the corridor contains two rows of seven pillars. The big boulder on the eastern side cuts the east wing of the corridor into two sections. The section to the north of the boulder contains two rows of four pillars and the section to the south contains a row of four pillars(4). The southern wing of the corridor contains a row of fifteen pillars(15). Thecornice which runs on all sides of the corridor has a concave upper portion and a convex lower portion.
The entrance of the Mukhamandapa is in the north. In the interior, the Mukhamandapa contains twenty two pillars(22), which are of the following types -(a) pillar with one pillaret projecting, (b) pillar with Vyala bracket, (c) pillar with two Vyala brackets at right angles to one another and (d) pillar with a big sculpture carved on a projection o the shaft. All the pillars have the Vijayanagara corbels. There are some remarkable sculptures on the pillars of this mukhamandapa. Each sculpture is about four feet (4) in height and is in high relief. On a pillar in the north-west corner are the figures of Durga on one side and Kalarimurti on the other side. An imposing figure of Gajasuramurti(Plate21) is found on a pillar in the south-east corner. A pillar in the north-east corner shows fine figures locally known as Padmini Jati Stree(plate22) and a Panchala purusha. Designed as a caryatid, the Padmini Jati Stree stands gracefully on a makara, holding the vine of creeper.
The Mukhamandapa contains four pillars in the centre with vijayanagara corbes. The ceiling of the mukhamandapa contains paintings of the dasavataras. There is a dvarapalaka on either side of the entrance of the antarala.
The adhistana of the garbhagriha and the antarala of the Virabhadra shrine contains from bottom upwards upana, broad patta, padma, patta, broad patta, gala, tripatta, gala, patta and alingapattika. The walls of the garbhagriha and antarala are plain. The vimana contains two talas with the kuta, panjara, sala, panjara, and kuta series. Above the second tala is a step with nandis in the foru corners. The sikhara is round and belongs to the Vesara order. The garbhagriha houses an imposing image of virabhadra.
The Parvathi Shrine:
This is situated to the south of the Sayanagara, contains only the garbhagriha and faces the east. The walls are plain and the roof is flat. The sanctum houses a standing image of Parvathi.
The Ramalinga Shrine:
The shrine is situated at the south western corner of the pradakshina which surrounds the garbhagriha and antarala of the Virabhadra shrine. The entrance of this shrine is in the south-west corner of the pradakshina wall. The shrine faces the east and has only the garbhagriha with a linga on a panavatta.
The nandi, situated a few furlongs from the temple, is considered to be one of the biggest in India. Massiveness in size, however, ha not been secured at the expenseof artistic beauty. The bull is depictedin the characteristic pose of Nandi. It is noticeable, however, that the head is held aloft at a higher angle than is usual. Consequently, the xpression of submission which is typical of nandi lying befre Siva, is conspicuous by its absence here. From the stand point of the proper prroportion in the formation of the various limbs and the excellent finish secured in the workmanship.The Lepakshi Nandi is a good piece of art of the Vijayanagara period. Like the big Nagalingam, this monolith is said to have been casually carved by a party of workmen in an off hour while waiting for their meals. it is a remarkable piece of work, being about fifteen feet high, some twenty seven in length and finished with great care.
The hanging pillar in Lepakshi
The hanging pillar is one of the 70 pillars – is hanging well almost on its edge .There is a story about it – a British engineer who wanted to know how the temple was supported by the pillars tried to displace one of it, and it caused the movement of as many as 10 pillars around to maintain the balance. The temple as well as the pillars in the temple was designed to withstand even earthquakes.
There is another story about the pillars - the pillars was originally hanging, but the Britishers thought it may falldown and tried to pull it down. But they could succeed only partially on one side, which caused the roof to bend to that side. This is inded an archtectural marvel.
One can move the towel from one end to another on the floor below the pillar.
Lepakshi Temple Dharshan Timings;
Sunday to Saturday 06:00AM to 06:00PM
Lepakshi Sri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple video
How to reach
Lepakshi Sri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple?
Lepakshi is 480 km from Hyderabad, the state capital.
It is 120 km from Bangalore. On the way to Hyderabad from Bangalore, you have to take a de-tour of about 16kms on the left to reach Lepakshi.
* By Rail:
The Hindupur station is the closest railway station which connects trains from different parts of the country.
* By Air:
Hyderabad Begumpet Airport,
Bangalore which is a couple of hundred kilometers away.