Lepakshi – Mural Art & Architectural Wonder!

After the rock climbing exercise (literally) at Gandikota, next day, we left early morning for Lepakshi, after checking out from Haritha Resort. Lepakshi was almost 5 hours away from Gandikota, with good as well as bad roads, intermittently. We had breakfast on the way, reaching Lepakshi in the afternoon. We could see the huge Garuda Sculpture over a small hillock. It had stairs to climb right to the top. We skipped it, due to extreme heat, thanks to Sun. We first decided to have lunch, so that we can explore Veerabhadra Temple later at relaxed pace. There was a very fine restaurant in the Hindupuram Town, which was some 12 kms from Lepakshi. After lunch, we came back to Veerabhadra Temple.

Few days back, prior to this trip, I had attended the online Lecture organised by Sthapathya Kala Parishad, where eminent Historian gave information on history of Lepakshi & its beautiful Murals and Sculpture. With that information in had, I started exploring it again remembering my earlier visit to this magnificent temple.

Veerabhadra Temple and a huge Monolithic Nandi are main monuments of the Lepakshi Town. Le Pakshi here meant ”Rise Bird” in Telugu. This architecturally amazing temple was built by two Brothers, Virupanna and Viranna in the 16th Century. They were Chieftians ruling under the reign of King Achyutaraya, during the Vijayanagara Period. As per the Historians, Virupanna had a blind Son, who had his eyes restored by touching the stone sculpture of Veerabhadra at the same place. Virupanna on realising this magical power, decided to built a temple honouring the deity.

Veerabhadra is the ferocious form of Lord Shiva. Virupanna started diverting the funds, that were supposed to be sent to King, to build the Temple. The King came to know about same and asked the Soldiers to arrest and blind him as punishment. Instead of letting the soldiers do the same to him, he gouged his own eyes out and threw them on the wall. Well, it is mentioned that, he later committed suicide and the temple remained incomplete. Initially, there were two temples in the Complex, Veerabhadra & Papanasheshwara. Raghunatha temple was added later. There is also an Anjaneya Temple. Also, the dynasties that ruled later kept on adding and extended it to the outer Prakara Area. Now, there are many Mantapas i.e. Natya (Ranga) Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa, Latha Mantapa, Homa, Panchalinga, Naga Mantapa, Somwara Mantapa & Pakashala (Kitchen).

There is also another mystery of Hanging(Akasham) pillar, which I had mentioned in my earlier blog of visit to Lepakshi. Well, even that was debunked by the Historians, claiming that the pillar rests at one corner and it has just shifted a bit. It is not actually hanging. But it is interesting to note that, guides use this theory to attract people and people do get fascinated by this, just like we were in earlier visit.

After the Mahadwara Gopuram at the North Side, there is a Golden Dwajasthambha, instead of going inside, I followed the outer Prakara on the left side. The inner Pillars on the Prakara are sculpted with Animals & Birds, mostly related to nature, outer Pillar has lion at the base and slender Pillar on top of it. There are inscriptions on the rocks which are protected by the railings. These inscriptions mention the history of the temple as well as name of the town as Lepaksha or Lepakshi. There is south gate to the second Prakara which leads to the huge boulder with carvings of Bhakta Kanappa (Sri Kala Hasti story), Ganesha with Mantapa & Naga Linga.

There is also a incomplete Kalyana Mantapa & Balipeetha. This connect to the central hall or Natya Mantapa of the temple from right side. I first went around the Boulder to see the Naga Linga and come back to the first prakara through same gate. Going round the corner, there is Hanuman Mantapa, Somwara Mantapa at the West Gate, which again leads to the inner Second Prakara. Somwara Mantapa as the name suggest, place was used by the Chieftians for Local Justice on Mondays.

I moved ahead to the Somwar Mantapa, there is a old tree of Plumeria Alba, I circled the whole prakara coming back to the Dhwajasthambha. Beyond this, there is main entrance to the Temple. The door is intricately carved, with Ganga & Yamuna carved on both sides with makara torana going overhead.

There is also Ganesha and Purushamriga worshipping the Shivling on the right side and cow with three heads is carved on the left side.

The door is followed by a Natya or Ranga Mantapa. Natya Mandapa is one of the beautiful Mantapa. The Roof has precious Fresco Paintings depicting Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shivapuran.

There is a Panel depicting even Virupanna & Viranna alongwith family members with folded hands worshipping their deity, called as Virupanna’s Retinue. Another Panel showing Manu Needhi Cholan story which happened in Thiruvarur. Story goes as, a calf was crushed under the horse cart driven by the Prince. Cow, the mother of the calf, went to the King for Justice. King on learning about the turn of events, consulted his Gurus and decided to punish his son in similar way. So that, he would also go through the pain or suffering of the Cow, losing her calf. Prince was made to lie in front of the horse cart and was crushed as punishment. Upon seeing this event, both Shiva and Parvati riding over Nandi appearred before the King. They revive the Calf and the Prince as a boon for being the righteous King. This narration is beautifully depicted in the Panel.

There is another famous Panel showing Shiva Kalyana (Marriage) or Girija (Parvati) Kalyana. Parvati is shown in green, seating on raised Platform with long plait, six Maidens attending to her.

Parvati is seated facing two ladies, both holding Tamburas. Next Panel shows Shiva and Parvati takes the central stage, standing facing each other holding hands. I have taken videos of these Panel.

There is Brahma as Priest officiating the Marriage, then Shiva as Kalyanasundara followed by Ashtadikhpalas.. There is also a Draupadi Swayamwara Panel, depicting Drupad worshipping Kaal Bhairava, Drupad with his daughter Draupadi in his lap, Arjuna shooting Matsya yantra and finally marriage of Arjuna with Draupadi.

There is Kiratarjun Panel, where Arjuna goes to forest to do penance to get Pashupata from Lord Shiva. showing Dharmaraja with his three brothers Bhima, Nakula & Sahadeva seated in Court and Arjun taking their leave for his journey to get weapon from Lord Shiva. Arjuna in deep penance, demon appears in form of Boar. Shiva & Parvati appear in form of Hunter and Huntress. Both Hunter & Arjuna shot their arrow and duel broke over claim of the hunt. Arjuna on realizing Hunter is none other than Shiva bows down in front of Hunter. Shiva grants him the Weapon.

The other murals are of king Muchukunda – legendary Cholan King, Shiva and Parvati playing Board game, Shiva as Dakshinamurthi, Nataraja, Coronation of Rama etc.

You really need to stretch your neck few times to view the Murals. I hope these are preserved for few more centuries to come. After admiring the Murals, the sculptures on the pillars grabbed my attention. Being a Natya (Dance) Mantapa, all the god and goddess are shown with musical instruments. There is Brahma playing the Mrudanga, Rambha (Main Apsara or Nymph) in dancing posture, Bhikshatana with Annapurnadevi, Tumburu, Natraja, Sadashiva, Ganga, three legged Sage Bhringi and many other Ganas and Apsaras.

I went inside the Garbha Griha (Sanctum sanctorum). Photogrpahy is not allowed inside. There is idol of Veerbhadra Swamy inside. I went to the left side after coming out of Grabha Griha to see the Ganesha Mantapa, Sri Kala Hasthi carved on the Boulder, which I missed earlier.

There is also an incomplete Kalyana Mandapa along with Balipeetha. I guess, If it has been completed, it would have surpassed the grandeur of the Natya Mantapa. There is a beautifully decorated Rishabha Avtaar Murti and other Gods and Goddesses are carved on the Pillar.

It is directly connected on the west side to the Natya Mandapa. Due to extreme heat and time constraint, we bid adieu to this architecturally marvelous place, I think, this place will keep pulling me back again in future.

We came back to the Monolithic Nandi Statue called Basavanna. As per the historians, the Nandi was built as a remembrance for the centuries to come, for two Brothers, Virupanna and Viranna Nandi.

We left the area by 3 pm. We had to reach Gooty by 9.30 PM. Hence, decided to visit Penukonda Fort on the way. With whatever little information I had gathered from net, I had planned for Penukonda, hoping for it to be a land fort. Unfortunately, on reaching there, realised, one has to trek 2 hours to climb the Fort.

I was disappointed, while going back to the main Road we saw Gagan Mahal at the base of Penukonda Fort. Caretaker was kind enough to show us around, because he was actually closing it, since we arrived there at 5.30 pm. After the short tour, he guided us to a nearby monument called Thimmarusu Bandikhana. We visited that and came back to the main Highway.

We stopped at Anantapur (much developed) for evening tea and Snacks at Tea Kahaani Restaurant. The Restaurant was good with Pizza, fries and Tea. Since, we were travelling for whole day, we needed to refresh ourselves. There is a nice Hotel on the way, 20 minutes prior to the Railway station on the highway. We got the opportunity there. We reached Gooty on time, boarded the train and came back to Mumbai, next day! Thus, was the end of the Belum Caves Yaganti Cave Temple TadipatriGandikota & Lepakshi Trip!

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