Temple Tales From Lepakshi

There it was – the hanging pillar – our main reason of visiting this ancient temple that dates back to the 16th century. We stood there for a while along with other bystanders watching someone slide a scarf, someone else a paper underneath the pillar to ascertain that it didn’t touch the ground. It was mind-boggling to imagine the kind of design that enables this wafer-thin gap between the pillar’s bottom and the stone floor. And, to think that our modern era of hi-tech technological advancement is unable to unravel the mystery of this architectural riddle.

This pillar is just another testimony to the engineering genius of ancient India. It is said that the pillar is slightly dislodged from its original position. This is attributed to the British Era when a British engineer made an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the secret of the pillar’s support.

Pic 1: The mysterious Hanging Pillar at Lepakshi. Notice the thin gap between the pillar’s bottom and the surface of the stone floor.

We were at Lepakshi Temple, located in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Also known as Veerabhadraswamy temple, this Vijayanagar style temple is just about 120 Km. away from Bangalore. Hence, it’s a favourite destination for daytrips from Bangalore. I was always intrigued by the mysterious hanging pillar of Lepakshi but with my preference for places of nature superseding I hadn’t landed up here before. Lepakshi, however, turned out to be so much more than just the hanging pillar.

Pic 2: At the center are pillars in the Assembly Hall of the main temple, just outside the sanctum sanctorum. Among these stand the Hanging Pillar. Left and Right are close-ups of the ornate sculptures on two pillars.

Dedicated to Veerabhadra, a fierce form of Lord Shiva, Veerabhadraswamy temple was our first stop at Lepakshi. As we stepped into the temple, the first thing we noticed was that it felt extraordinarily cool. It’s always hot in this part of the country and this day was no different. The design of the temple certainly has something to do with it. Apart from Veerabhadra, the sanctum sanctorum has idols of Bhadrakali, Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Parvati.

The brilliant  mural paintings in the temple represent some of the finest artwork of the Vijayanagar dynasty. The fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling before the main sanctum sanctorum is supposedly the largest in India. The strikingly contrasting colours of black, brown, orange, green, white, black, and shades of ochre-gold are simply astounding. (Unfortunately, I realised that I have no pictures, possibly was lost admiring the artwork.)

Pic 3: Just outside the main temple. The main temple is the pillared structure on the right.
Pic 4: A Shiva Lingam just outside the main temple complex.

Having seen the hanging pillar and the sanctum sanctorum, we moved around exploring other parts of the temple. The temple houses 70 pillars, each uniquely engraved with gods, goddesses, mythical animals, dancers, saints, and the like. The place was quite crowded with a lot of tourists on that day. It was early January, 2021 – a time when we had happily forgotten that we were in the middle of a pandemic. Not many people wore masks and there was no social distancing at all. The marvelous architecture kept us engaged and we had little time to worry about the pandemic. We remained masked though, taking them off only when clicking pictures.

Pic 5: The incomplete Kalyana Mantapam or Marriage Hall
Pic 6: A close look at the sculpture of one of the pillars at Kalyana Mantapam.

Moving on to the temple’s outer enclosure, we were now in the Kalyana Mantapam or the marriage hall, meant for the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. There were intricately carved pillars, each representing a God or Goddess supposedly attending the marriage ceremony.

This was an incomplete structure with no roof and has a gruesome story associated with it. The temple was constructed by two brothers, Viranna and Virupanna. While the king was away, Viranna used up the royal treasury to fund the increased cost of construction. On his return, the King was furious and ordered that Viranna’s eyes be gouged out. Upset with the King’s sentence, Viranna gouged his own eyes and rubbed it on the temple wall. The two red blotches on the western wall of the temple is said to be blood marks of Viranna’s eyes.

Pic 7: The unique monolithic Ganesha. Spot the snake coiled around it’s rounded belly.

A little away from the marriage hall is the monolithic Ganesha, a unique one at that with a snake coiled around it’s belly.

Next, we found ourselves standing before the impressively massive Nagalinga with seven hoods and three coils that shelters a black granite Shivalingam. It is believed that the Nagalinga was carved from a single block of stone while the sculptors were waiting for their mother to cook lunch for them.

Pic 8: The astounding gigantic seven hooded Nagalinga. The associated belief that it was carved out by the sculptors while their mother prepared lunch makes it even more fascinating.

We walked around the temple courtyard, admiring the archaeological and artistic splendour. The courtyard was characterised by pillared hallways and several tiny chambers. We found an empty spot and sat there for a while. We should have hired a guide we thought, as we watched others enjoying a guided tour. My sister thought Google could be our guide for now.

Pic 9: The temple courtyard characterised by ornate pillars and small chambers.
Pic 10: The sisters managed to request someone to click a picture for them – precious memories!

As she googled, we learnt several fascinating tales of the temple, including the legends of the incomplete Marriage Hall and the Nagalinga. She also read about Sita’s footprint, which we discovered on our way out. It’s the impression of a huge foot on the stone floor that has a perennial flow of water. Apparently, the source of the water or where it drains out to is unknown.

Pic 11: An enormous foot impression, which is believed to be of Sita Mata.

After spending close to two hours at Lepakshi Temple complex, we stepped out and headed towards the Jatyayu Park. Read more in my next post.

Pic 12: The sublime flowering Frangipani tree on the way out. It reminded me of a similar tree that had captured our imagination at Virupaksha Temple, Hampi.

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

31 thoughts on “Temple Tales From Lepakshi”

    1. Yes indeed, there was a distinct gap and the pillar did not touch the floor. 🙂
      Thank you, Ashok for reading. 🙂
      [I have been addressing you by your first name. Hope that is okay. :)]

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, I also prefer people calling me by name. If you don’t know your date of birth, how old you think you are and that’s your actual age – had read this somewhere and it sticks with me always. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have a photo of the roof for this particular pillar. However, I do have a picture that displays the pillars in this hall showing the roof. All the pillars are connected to the roof in the same way, including the Hanging Pillar. A part of that photo can be seen Pic 2, the picture in the middle.
      Haven’t you visited Lepakshi?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I went there for the first time and thought why did I not come here before! It’s a day trip so good idea to take friends who visit Bangalore. I will keep that mind.
      Thanks for reading this, Sugan. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Absolutely! I don’t like Nandi Hills anymore. Especially after they put up the guard rails. Though they had to do it for the sake of safety but it robs the place of its natural beauty.

          BTW, did you read my previous post about the lovely temple near Nandi Hills.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. When I look at these temples dating back to 9-13th century made from hard stones probably granite, I feel it speaks volumes about the workmanship of that period. These temples represent the perfection achieved by those dynasties. I love that Frangipani tree, so beautiful. Happy to see you explore places around Bangalore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very intersting temple this one, and there is so much folklore surrounding the sculptures in the temple. The Sita Mata footstep and the perennial waterflow is very interesting, is this near the shiva lingam? I think I missed this.
    The hanging pillar is of course the crowning point of the temple. We couldn’t get a very close look at there was so much crowd, and fear of the virus.
    That frangipani tree is very nice, we had a long rest below it as it was a hot day and we were really tired by the time we reached here.
    And the nagalingam folklore, their mother must have been a very very slow cook indeed 😂

    Like

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