We are on the road again. 😀
My favorite co-pax and me. The little brother and big sister. This is a trip we did long back but what better day to write about it than Raksha Bandhan.
So, I had relocated back to Bhopal from Bangalore and it was time to vacate my apartment and get all my stuff back home. And as usual the little brother has one solution to the, how do we go question. “Let’s drive”, he says. So drive it is! We started very early on a Friday morning, to beat the morning traffic and cover as much distance as we can. At 4:00 AM! That is the little brother’s favorite time to start a trip! Says an early start is the best start. And as co-pax I get to see some beautiful sunrises, which normally I don’t get to see at all.
We cruise through the highways, stopping for the essential breakfast, lunch and evening coffee before stopping over at Anantpur for dinner and the night rest. We covered around 1230 kilometres in the day and are around 215 kilometres from Bangalore. Anantpur isn’t too touristy and and does not has too many awesome stay options. We found a hotel that was actually a residential building converted into a hotel, so we found that our room was like a bedroom with attached bathroom! A 2BHK apartment were 2 rooms in this hotel 😀 But it was decent enough for a night. We ordered some Indian-Chinese food and settled in. Though the hotel did not have a kitchen, they made arrangements to get it delivered from a nearby restaurant. The only landmarks worth a picture in this town would be the clock tower and the ISKON temple. We visited neither because we drove in at around 8 PM and will be driving out early tomorrow morning, too.
So while having our dinner, brother dearest disclosed about the detour we will be taking before heading out to Bangalore. He said it is an interesting place. A place we have often seen pictures of on Facebook. So this place includes a Shiva Linga with a large hooded serpent and a pillar that is hanging. So considering that anything architectural, historical and mysterious interests me, I could not wait to reach this awesome place which apparently had all three. Lepakshi awaits.
The next morning, we started from Anantpur around 7 AM and plotted the travel route on google maps from Anantpur to Lepakshi. 123 Kilometres on NH 44 and a few by-lanes. How Lepakshi came to be called that has an interesting story in the Ramayana. Folklore has it that Lord Rama in his search for Lady Sita, had met the dying bird Jatayu here. He helped him attain moksha by saying the words, Le Pakshi, which in Telugu means rise bird. And we now have a village called Lepakshi!
After reaching Lepakshi, we decide to first get something for the rumbling tummy. There is a APTDC (Andhra Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation) restaurant which also provides parking. We ordered some breakfast and waited for some hot south Indian delicacies to be served before we do some ancient Indian exploring. This restaurant is a good place to explore dosa with dry spicy fillings. India has multiple varieties of dosa’s which are native to different parts of the country. It is good to explore the local food in its original flavour, when you can.
After breakfast, we are off to explore the architectural wonder town of the erstwhile Vijayanagara empire called Lepakshi. We start with the one closest to the parking – One of the largest monolithic Nandi statues in India – Lepakshi Nandi. It is 4.5 metres high and 8.23 metres long, and as monolithic suggests craved out of a single stone. It is ornately designed with stone bells and trinkets around its neck.
Standing in front of the huge stone structure, one realises how even statues made by ancient humans can make us feel so insignificant. What’s all the pride and ego for, silly human?
Following Shaivism traditions of architecture, there ought to be a Shiva Lingam in front of Nandi. An Ox in sitting position (Nandi) is seen looking at a shiva lingam in most of the Shiva temples across India, where is Lepakshi Nandi’s Shiva?
We leave Nandi behind following his eyes, in search of his Shiva. Some 200 metres from Lepakshi Nandi we find the Veerabhadra Temple.
The temple screams Vijayanagarian architecture with carvings and paintings on almost every exposed surface of the temple. With ornately carved pillars and corridors featuring among the most talked about structures in the temple, Veerabhadra Temple is a sight to behold. If you are a lover of architecture, this temple has much to offer and you will find the the irresistible need to spend a lot of time here, exploring.
The walls and the ceilings, especially, are covered in murals and are a mesmerising sight. These paintings mostly depict events from thee Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas and also some life events from the Vijayanagara empire. The painting on the ceiling of the ante chamber is said to be Asia’s largest fresco at 23 by 13 feet.
Exploring the temple, next we found the subject of one of the many pictures that keep coming up on FB. The massive serpent hooded Shiva Linga – the Nagalingam. If you trace a line from the Lepakshi Nandi’s eyes, you will end up on this Nagalingam. We have found Lepakshi Nandi’s Shiva! The Nagalingam is a sight you will be awestruck with. It is huge and mysterious. A jet black granite shiva lingam, sheltered by a 12 footed serpent with 7 hoods on a elevated platform, is a sight you want to watch with a cloudy sky, for full impact.
Legend says that the Naga of the Nagalinga was carved out of a single stone by sculptors while they waited for their mothers to prepare lunch. So in Lepakshi, a monolithic Nandi looks at a shiva lingam that is protected by a monolithic hooded serpent.
We explored the sculptures and murals a bit more before finding the mysterious and the subject of many a pictures on FB. The most famous architectural wonder in Lepakshi – the Hanging Pillar. Out of the 70 pillars in Veerabhadra temple, 1 pillar in front of the sanctum sanctorum does not touch the ground! There is a folklore which says that the pillar was dislodged from its original position by a British engineer who tried to move it in an endeavour to unearth the secret of its support but was unsuccessful. Curiously, the Archaeological Survey of India has proven that this pillar was not a construction mistake, but was built intentionally to prove the brilliance of the builders of the time.
The gap between the pillar and ground isn’t much, but enough to pass a sheet or paper or a thin dupatta through it. Or to see the other side if you bend down enough to capture the other side (like I did :D), so that you look like you are nearly lying down on the floor and onlookers may throw a stare or two at you for doing the Sashtang Pranam pose away from the presiding deity of Veerabhadra in the sanctum sanctorum.
After being awestruck with the architectural wonder of the hanging pillar, the numerous other pillars in the chamber, the figurines on them hacked by invaders who came after the Vijayanagar rulers faded into history, the still so lively murals on the ceilings, we exited the temple complex and walked back to the parking, passing the mammoth Lepakshi Nandi once again.
With some pictures on the phone and many memories we bid adieu to another place and many told and untold tales of ancient Indian history.
Now to another place…another story…