Thursday, November 18, 2010

Visit to Lepakshi

Our journeyA one-day trip to Lepakshi (meaning “rise-o-bird” in Telugu) has always been on our agenda. The trip finally materialized after two failed plans. All of us were excited, did our bit of research on the internet, and set out with lots of food, and fully equipped with our cameras.
Lepakshi is a small village in Anantpur District in Andhra Pradesh. It is located on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway (NH 7), is about 140 km from Bangalore, and 15 km east of Hindupur.
It is famous for its Vijayanagar style of architecture, and has a very interesting history. There are three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabhadra, the most famous one being the Veerabhadra temple.
We left Bangalore at 8 AM. The weather was not very hot, and was just right to make our journey a pleasant one. We reached Chickballapur at around 9 AM, and starting looking out for Kamat Restaurant. At this point, the road divides into two – one leading to Chickballapur village and the other is the highway. We asked a guy on the road for information on Kamat hotel. He didn’t know, but said that we should take the road on the left, for “nashta” (breakfast).
We took the local’s advice and went inside Chickballapur. We passed a place called Muddenahalli, which is about 7 km from Chickballapur. This is famous for two reasons – Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s school, and the birthplace of Sir M.Visveshwaraiah (one of India’s most accomplished engineers). We went about 10 km from the highway, and then realized that there was no Kamat restaurant, and ultimately joined the highway.
We finally spotted Kamat at a place where there was a board saying ‘Ananthpur: 150 km’. The restaurant is located inside a compound housing a Bharath Petroleum station. Like any other Kamat joint, this one was neat, had tasty food, and is probably the only decent food joint on the way to Lepakshi. Bypassing Chickballapur would have definitely saved our time, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Sai devotee :-).
We continued on the highway and reached Konikonda check post. This is an important landmark where we have to take a left turn to go to Lepakshi, and straight, to go to Puttaparthi. We crossed a statue of a painted stork (good landmark to confirm you are on track), and finally reached Lepakshi after a three hour drive. We were welcomed by a huge Nandi (“Basavanna”) statue. It is made out of a single granite stone, is 15 feet tall, and is the largest in the world. This happens to be the symbol of Andhra Pradesh Tourism.
We went a few kilometers further and took a left turn to reach the main temple. Taking the straight road would lead to Hindupur.
History of Lepakshi

The Veerabhadra temple is known for its beautiful architecture. The story goes that the temple was built around 1500 A.D. by Virupanna Nayak, the chieftain under the Vijayanagar king Achyutharaya. When the king got to know that the treasury funds were used without his knowledge, he ordered that Virupanna should be blinded (this was the customary punishment for theft of the royal treasury). Virupanna being a loyal servant, plucked his eyes himself, and threw them on the walls of the temple. Two dark stains can still be seen on the walls of the temple.

Another interesting reference is the story of Jatayu. It is said that Jatayu, the mythical bird, was injured and was dying at this place while fighting with Ravana, in order to save Sita. Lord Rama came to this spot and called out to the bird “Le-pakshi” meaning “rise O bird”. It is said that Jatayu attained Moksha here (there are other places that also claim to be the location where Jatayu attained Moksha).
The TempleThe main deity is Lord Veerabhadra, the fierce form of Lord Shiva. There are two Sannidhis on either side – one for Lord Shiva and the other for Lord Vishnu. It is said that Sage Agasthya established these sannidhis opposite to each other, to indicate that there is no difference between them. The other sannidhis include Parvathi Devi, Ramalinga, Hanumantheshwara and Durga.
Architectural HighlightsThe exterior part of the temple has several beautiful sculptures of mythical characters from the Puranas, like Ananthasayana, Dattathreya, Chathurmukha Brahma, Tumburu, Narada and Rambha. The paintings on the ceiling have interesting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Some of the highlights on the exterior part of the temple are:
Naga Linga’, a huge 7 headed snake guarding the Lingam. There is a stone carving of the Sapthakanyas beside this.
The story of ‘Kalahasthi’ is carved on one of the rocks – an elephant spraying water on a lingam, Bhaktha Kannappa offering his eyes to Lord Shiva, and a spider weaving a web around the Lingam as a protection.
Kalyana Mantapam’ which is supposed to have been the venue for Shiva-Parvathi’s wedding. The pillars around this have interesting carvings of many sages and gods.
One of the rocks has an interesting sculpture of a rounded Lord Ganesha and his vahana.
Two important features which we missed seeing are ‘Sita’s padam’ and ‘palette’.

Back to Bangalore
We left the temple complex at about 2 PM and a short distance down we pulled off the road into a tamarind grove for late lunch. On the way back to Bangalore we took a short detour towards Nandi hills to visit Sultanpet (near Nandi gram). We turned right off the highway towards Nandi hills and then asked locals for directions to Sultanpet. After a short drive off the highway the roads meets a T junction. Nandi hills is towards the left and Sultanpet is towards the right (back towards Chickballapur).
This is a small nondescript village near Nandi hills that is certainly off the beaten path. The road leading to the village is only one car wide and we would have missed the potter’s area if we hadn’t stopped frequently to ask locals.
This was the highlight of the trip for Amma. She had read about the place online and wanted to visit. We watched a demo of how pots are made, bought a few pots, and then made our way back towards Bangalore.

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