May 9, 2016

Lepakshi- A Testimony to Vijayanagara Architecture

The sun rose slowly and splashed a deep orange hue over the horizon as we left Bangalore and its cluttered traffic behind. The Royal Enfields thumped their way across the barren brown vast lands of Karnataka- Andhra border into Rayalseema on a fairly cold morning to Lepakshi. It is known for its 16th century Veerabhadra temple built on a hillock during the Vijayanagara empire. Lepakshi is believed to be the location where Ravana and Jadayu had a tussle in Ramayana.

Shortly after the border at Bagepalli, we detoured onto the village road. The green surrounding was a delight from the brown landscape on the highway. The road snaked its way past tiny villages, smiling onlookers and small shops before being welcomed by the huge monolithic Nandi (bull) sculpture just before the temple. The place was crowded with visitors, pilgrims and locals.

Climbing the steps, we entered the massive entry door, and beautifully lined pillar with chiselled sculptures which runs all along the outer courtyard welcomed us. We ambled along gazing at the wonderful art work to the assembly hall or natya mantap. A huge dance hall during the golden times, what remains now are numerous pillars, many of which are free standing ones. Every pillar has a figurine or a mythological character chiseled on it. From one wonderful creation to another, we walked further along the pathway to the huge carving of Ganapathy and then to the massive hooded naga with a shivlinga beneath it. The naga structure is absolutely a marvelous creation carved out of a single rock.

Natya mantapa or assembly hall

Further ahead lies the ante chamber or the ardha mantapa. A relief from the scorching sun, this mantapa undoubtedly holds the best of the creations at Veerabhadra temple. Numerous pillars with exquisite chisel work adorn this mantapa. Every pillar here has large magnificent sculptures of dancers, musicians, mythological characters, saints and figurines. There are pillars where scenes from mythology are portrayed through the carvings. The ceiling of this mantapa has huge frescoes depicting 14 avatars of Shiva. Though most of it has faded, the detailing is still visible. These frescoes are considered to be the largest in Asia and is a wonderful testimony of Vijayanagara pictorial art work. The biggest attraction here is the hanging pillar, a free standing pillar which does not touch the base floor and happily hangs from the top. Many tourists were seen sliding their towels beneath the pillar to test the same. Though the story behind this is fairly unknown, the technicalities taken into consideration even during those times does need an applause. The ardha mantapa faces the inner sanctum where the presiding  idol Veerabadra sits in full grandeur.

Ardha mantapa

The hanging pillar

View of inner sanctum from ardha mantapa
We walked down from the ante chamber to circumnavigate the inner sanctum and get back onto the outer courtyard with more pillared walkways by the side. There is no dearth of pillars with sculptures at Veerabhadra temple as they are present all over the temple premises. This temple at Lepakshi is soaked in architecture and it is an absolute delight to gaze at the magnificent creations and go back in history. Had a short pit stop by the huge monolithic Nandi structure (the largest nandi structure in India) before riding through the meandering village road back to the highway.

Outer courtyard
Nandi structure

Getting there: Lepakshi is 125 Kms from Bangalore. Drive on NH-7, cross the Karnataka- Andhra border and a take a left at Kodikonda after Bagepalli. There are regular buses from Hindupur to Lepakshi. Closest railway station is at Hindupur.

Food and Accommodation:Though there are small eateries in Lepakshi, Chikballarpur and Hindupur has better options.


  1. Nice captures. Lepakshi is on my ever growing list.

  2. I can never tire of going to this place, it is so well maintained. Great captures!

  3. Nice place. Well captured photographs.

  4. Great account of the Lepakshi trip with wonderful captures.

  5. What an iconic place... each image tells a story ...

  6. Such an easy drive from the city, alle? (Oh, it was a ride, huh?! So easy ride. :))
    Those pillars are so, so, so amazing!!

    Good pictures and good post, Nomad. :)

    1. Yes yes, Ride! :) Marvelous chisel work on display. Thanks, Nambiare.

  7. Wow terrific story...
    Could never make it to Lepakshi despite living in Bangalore...

    1. Glad you liked it. Do visit next time you are around.

  8. what a lovely architect and writeup is also readable...

  9. Truly magnificent architecture.



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