Lepakshi is a small village, which lies
15-km east of Hindupur in Anantapur
District of Andhra Pradesh. It is the most
important place in the district from the historical and archaeological
point of view. A trip to Lepakshi is revitalising for those who believe in
heritage sites, for those who marvel at the art of our ancestors, and
those willing to get away from the routine multiple-destination tourist
routes. The place is renowned as the repository of the best mural
paintings of the Vijayanagar Kings.
The Temple Shrines
Lepakshi consists of three shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Virabhadra. On one of the hillocks near the place is known as 'Kurma Saila' (tortoised shaped hill), are located the temples of 'Papanatheswara', 'Raghunatha', 'Srirama', 'Veerabhadra' and Durga, of which the Veerabharadra temple is the most important.
Veerabhadra temple is a notable example of the Vijayanagar style of architecture. A reference is made in the 'Skandapurana' to Lepakshi as one of the hundred and eight importanrt 'Shaiva Kshetras' (shrines). Though the temple of Veerabhadra is claimed to have been constructed by 'Saint Agastya' himself, it was developed into the present exquisite shrine by 'Virupanna', the treasurer of the Vijayanagar Kings.
He conceived the idea as he found the image of Veerabhadra. He executed the plan in the absence of the king and used the treasure when he was away at Vijayanagar. When the construction was almost finished and it was being supervised the king returned and found the treasure empty. The king ordered, as a punishment to this heinous crime, that be should be blinded.
The treasurer being a loyal person carried out the punishment spot with his own hands. Even today one can see two dark stains upon the wall near the 'Kalyana Mandapa', which are said to be the marks made by his eyes, which he himself dashed against the wall. The builder did not survive for a long time and the village is called "Lepa-akshi Lepakshi", i.e., "a village of the blinded eye".
The temple is divided into three parts - the 'Mukha Mandapa', (also called 'Nitya Mandapa' or 'Ranga Mandapa'), the 'Artha Mandapa' and 'Garbha Griha', and the 'Kalyana Mandapa', with 38 carved monolithic pillars in grey sandstone is unfinished. These three form a triangle with a common mandapam.
The Temple Enclosure
As per local legend Lord Shiva and Parvati were married on the spot where the Kalyana Mandapa stands. The temple is surrounded on all sides by an outer enclosure. A second inner enclosure contains the main portion of the temple. Its finest parts are the 'Natya' (Dancing) and 'Ardha' (worship) mandapas.
The former is decorated with superbly sculptured pillars on, which are carved life-size representations of musicians and dancers in various poses displaying spirit and vigour. The kalyanamantapam is a standing monument to the exuberance of Vijayanagar art but it is left unfinished.
The shrines of Papanatheswara, Pamaeswaraswami, and Gopalaswami are all located in the temple. To the south of the main shrine does a great 'Naga' hood the huge 'Naga Lingam' with its base split. An interesting legend associated with it. The room opposite the Nagalinga was a kitchen. An old woman was busy preparing a meal for her children who were sculptors. While waiting for the meal, they carved out the huge Nagalinga from a boulder. On seeing the beautiful work, the mother extolled her children and blessed them. Ever since the Nagalinga stands where it is.
Two hundered yards east of the temple is a colossal Nandi reputed to be the largest of its kind in the country. It is carved out of the monolithic rock, twenty feet in height and thirty in length.
Ensamples Of The Vijayanagar Sculptural Style
The best specimens of the Vijayanagar style of sculpture and mural paintings are found in the Natya and Kalyana Mandapams (dance and wedding halls). These sculptures depict puranic episodes like those of 'Ananthasayana', 'Dattatreya', 'Chaturmukha Bramha', 'Tumburu', 'Narada' and 'Rambha'. The musical instruments, the costumes, the gestures and ornaments have been sculptured with incredible skill.
The walls of the sanctum of the Veerabhadra temple, the ceilings of Rangamantapa and that part of 'Mukhamandapa' touching the shrine of Shiva are full of murals. In the Ardhamantapa, there are a number of panels depicting mythological themes like rising from Linga (the phallic emblem representing Shiva) to save 'Markandeya, Dakshinamurthy' seated on hillock surrounded by sages, Shiva reposed in his 'anugraha' (pose of bestowal) and so on.
The Mukhamandapa has also a number of murals potraying 'Kiratarjuniya', and lord Krishna as 'Vatapatrasayi' (literally resting on a banyan leaf). An excellent painting of the story of the legendary king Manuchola draws the eye of even the most casual onlooker. The 'Ardha Mandapa' is particularly noted for its paintings of the different manifestations of Shiva.
The temple authority conducts a festival during the month of February ('Asvayujamasam') which is 10 day long celebration including the car festival. Lepakshi is packed with pilgrims from all over the country during this festival.
airport is the nearest one at a distance of 100-km.
Rail: The nearest railhead to Lepakshi is Hindupur at a distance of 16-km between the Hyderabad - Bangalore railway line.
Road: Regular buses and taxis run from Hindupur and Ananthapur.
Hindupur Tourism Complex with 8 Cottages
and a restaurant offers excellent accommodation. State Tourism Department
maintains a rest house called 'Abhya Griha' at Lepakshi, and A.P.Tourism's
motel at Hindupur.
Travellers' Bungalow, Hindupur
PWD Travellers' Bungalow, Demakepalli, 5-km from Lepakshi.