Andhra Pradesh

Lepakshi

Recently the In-laws and nephew, Gana, were at our place for the kiddo’s summer holidays. Since we didn’t want to go around to any of the malls (again), we decided to do out of Bangalore for a day trip. This would ensure that everyone got to see something new, and not make it very strenuous for the nephew and In-laws.

After a lot of deliberation, we finally zeroed on Lepakshi. However, the place didnt warrant an entire day, so we decided to combine it with Nandi Hills, timed so that we could catch the sunset. While most sites advised to catch the sunrise, considering we had a small kid in tow, we changed our plan.

Another consideration was that there are no restaurants at Lepakshi. As advised by various travel sites and blogs, we decided to leave a little late, after packing a hearty, and easily transportable lunch for everyone.

A bit about Lepakshi:

Lepakshi is a small village in Anantpur District of Andhra Pradesh. It is about 120kms from Bangalore. It is famous for its 16th century temple of Lord Veerabhadra, Siva and Vishnu. The temple of Lord Veerabhadra is built on a hill called Kurmasailam, meaning tortoise hill in Telugu after the shape of the hill.

There are a couple of stories regarding to the origin of the name “Lepakshi”. One of them traces the name to The Ramayana. It is said to refer to the place where the bird Jatayu fell. Jatayu had been injured after a fight with Ravana while he was abducting Sita. When Rama found him lying on the ground, he cried out in distress “le pakshi!” (rise, bird!)

Another, slight gruesome story is that the treasurer of the Vijayanagar empire, Virupanna, built the temple in the emperor’s absence. On his return, the furious emperor ordered Virupanna’s eye to be put out. On hearing the order, Virupanna himself took out his eyes, and hence the name ” Lepa Akshi”.

The Trip:

We finally left at 9am, and by the time we left the city it was almost 10 am. The route we took was the Outer Ring Road joining into NH7 Bangalore-Hyderabad highway.

Once we crossed Chikballapur, we came across Kamat Upachar. we stopped here for refreshing coffee and steaming hot puris. it also helped to give everyone including Gana break from sitting in the vehicle.

Once we got back on road, we kept a look out for the point when we stepped out of Karnataka and entered Andhra. I remembered from a previous trip, that Lepakshi was right inside the Andhra Pradesh border. Soon, we crossed the toll gate at Bagepalli, and almost immediately after saw the turnoff for Lepakshi.

The village is located 10km down the road. initially the road was ok, but further down it deteriorated and became narrow. The scenery though made up for it!

The first thing that we see on entering Lepakshi is a huge monolithic Nandi, called Basavanna here. The idol is a massive 15ft high and 27ft in length. The sheer beauty of the sculpture keeps one riveted. A truly beautiful idol.

Basavanna Idol

Basavanna Idol

profile view

profile view

We then made our way to the main temple which was located around 200mtrs from the Nandi idol. The first few steps were pretty steep. It wasn’t really a problem for the younger people, but may be a concern for older citizens.  we left our shoes outside and made our way into the temple.

The entrance to the main temple was pretty narrow. But on entering the temple, we were awestruck. The sculptures on the pillars and ceiling were done in granite, and were a visual feast. The sculptures were mainly of Gods, mythological creatures and scenes from The Ramayana, as well as intricate designs on each of the pillars.

intricate work on pillars

intricate work on pillars

scenes from mythology

scenes from mythology

Once we finished darshan of Lord Veerbhadra, we stepped out to the courtyard and moved to the back of the temple. Here we found a beautiful idol of Lord Nagalingeshwara (Lord Shiva in Linga form with a 7-headed serpent providing shade). The Basavanna idol that we saw at the beginning is directed towards this idol. The Nagalingeshwara too is made of a single stone.

Lord Nagalingeshwar

Lord Nagalingeshwar

With the temple gopuram

With the temple gopuram

Alongside the idol are carvings of SriKalaHasti worshipping Lord Shiva. Further on, there is also a huge idol of Lord Ganesh. It is difficult to image the creativity as well as effort that went into making all of these idols from a single rock.

SriKalaHasti worshipping Shivalinga

SriKalaHasti worshipping Shivalinga

Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha

Further down from the Ganesh idol, we can see the  Kalyana Mandapa, the marriage hall. Most of the pillars are broken, though this does nothing to take away the beauty of the place.

Kalyana Mandapa

Kalyana Mandapa

 

It was already lunch time, and Gana was getting cranky. So we went through another doorway behind the Ganesha Idol that took us outside the immediate temple courtyard, but kept us within the premises. We sat here and had a lovely lunch of pulihora, rice and curds. What I did have to do constantly was shoo away dogs that lived in the compound. But I must say, they were pretty well-behaved for strays. At no point were they aggressive towards us, even when I went close to them to push them away. They kept their distance, though it was uncomfortable for us to eat with them close by. We gave them the leftovers of our food, which they all enjoyed.

Refreshed after our break, we slowly covered the rest of the temple.  After the Kalyana Mandapa, we saw a large idol of Sri Anjaneya Swamy. Later we doubled back here to see a large footprint, presumably of Sita Devi to make water flow from the ground and keep Jatayu alive till Rama came. Some people also claim it to be that of Lord Anjaneya Swamy, while other claim it to be carved by the artisans…

Lord Anjaneya Swamy

Lord Anjaneya Swamy

diya plates carved into stone

diya plates carved into stone

Sita Padam

Sita Padam

Also here are some large carvings made on the stone, mainly to light diyas around the idol.

Further down are a couple of lovely trees. On first glance, one of the trees was a raavi (peepal) tree, but on further inspection we found that a bilva tree, auspicious to Lord Shiva had emerged from within the raavi tree. At this point Gana pointed out a section of the emerging tree that looked like Lord Ganesha! It was a lovely view, and not something that we’d noticed ourselves!

Raavi leaves on the outer tree, and bilva leave higher up

Raavi leaves on the outer tree, and bilva leave higher up

Lord Ganesha, as pointed out by Gana

Lord Ganesha, emerging from tree trunk

Happy with these thoughts, we made our way back to the main temple mandapa, to take additional photographs and also to have a look at the Hanging Pillar. The Hanging Pillar is a unique structure that does not rest completely on the floor. however, it is slightly dislodged from its location as a British engineer tried to move it to discover its secret.

Hanging pillar on the right. Can make out that it's not touching the floor

Hanging pillar on the right. Can make out that it’s not touching the floor

paper pushed under the Hanging Pillar

paper pushed under the Hanging Pillar

Pulling the paper out

Pulling the paper out

Other Beautiful aspects of this mandapa that we’d hadn’t focussed on earlier were:

  • Bhringi:
    • This was an interesting story. Bhringi was an ancient sage, also the Dance master of the Gods, who worshipped only Shiva. However, this worship was to the exclusion of Shiva’s Consort, Parvati Devi. Parvati noticed this, and when Bhringi wanted to circumambulate Shiva, she sat to Shiva’s lap to force Bhringi to worship her too. However, Bhringi turned into a snake, and tried to move in between the two of them. Shiva then took on the form of Ardhanareshwara, half-himself and half-Parvati, to show Bhringi that Parvati and he were two parts of the same whole, and should be worshipped equally. However, Bhringi took the form of a beetle (or bee) and worshipped only Shiva. At this, Parvati got angry and cursed him to lose his flesh and blood. Bhringi became so weak, he couldn’t stand. When he understood his folly and sought forgiveness, Shiva granted him a 3rd leg with which he could stand. He is depicted as such with 3 legs in many paintings of Shiva.

    Bhringi

    Bhringi

  • Annapurna Devi:

    Annapurna Devi giving alms to Shiva

    Annapurna Devi giving alms to Shiva

  • paintings on the ceiling with scenes from Daksha Yagna, marriage of Partvati and Shiva, and the court of the Vijayanagar Emperor
Scene from Daksha Yagna painted on the ceiling

Scene from Daksha Yagna painted on the ceiling

 

Finally we moved out of the temple. Here at the entrance we found a couple of small sculptures that we hadn’t noticed earlier. One of (presumably) Anjaneya Swamy worshipping Shivaling.  This was right below the idol of Ganesh at the entrance.

Lord Anjaneya worshipping Shivalinga

Lord Anjaneya worshipping Shivalinga

Secondly was an odd image of a 3-headed bull. None of us understood the significance of it. But there it was.

3-headed bull

3-headed bull

We finally bid adieu to Lepakshi and made our way back to Bangalore, and Nandi Hills.

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Lepakshi | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mantralaya & Hampi – Day II – Part 3

Mantralaya – Hampi (2 days) – June 2012 – Day II

After lunch we set off towards the famed Vitthala Temple. Since it was post-lunch we were all feeling a little drowsy. That, of course, went off when we reached the temple complex. To preserve the existing structures, you need to take an battery-operated cab ride. We had fun on this ride, as we piled up on the last seat facing the back of the cab! 🙂

The sky was over-cast, and light drizzle of rain peppered our trip to the temple complex. But the sight on an ancient market destroyed by invaders made our moods a bit mellow. A living city, destroyed in one stroke.

Ancient market ruins lining the street

Temple entrance with market to the side

The temple complex was constructed under the regime of King Krishnadevaraya II, and is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, the Krishna aspect/avatar of Lord Vishnu. It consists of a large central temple dedicated to Lord Vitthala, a Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall), utsav Mantapa (festival hall), a Narasimha Mantapa where a pillar has the sculpture of Lord Narasimha, and the most beautiful structure of all: an ornate stone chariot built on the lines of a horse chariot.

The main temple is mostly destroyed, and what remains is the sabha mantapa or congregation hall. This has survived quite well, but it is cordoned off. This was especially sad. The reason given was that it needs to be preserved for future generations. SOmeone asked the security guard there, is it had ever been open, and if people had spoiled it.  The answer was no, it had never been open to public. But what if people flocked to see it? They might spoil what remains.

View of Vitthala Temple from front

View of the temple from the side.

The pillars of this hall were made from single granite block, and were shaped into slender multiple pillars joined as one. A musical instrument if sculpted at the base of the pillar, and when struck, the pillar would give the sound corresponding to the sculpted instrument. But this is part of the section cordoned off, so we didn’t get a chance to see it.

Musical pillars. See the man playing pipe instrument at the base.

But we did get to see other beauties such as this one (pics below). The single image doesn’t make sense. But cover one side, and the other becomes and elephant. Cover the elephant, and you have a bull with its head raised!

The place where the stone is most rubbed is where the image is! 🙂

The elephant!

and the bull!

Another was a monkey puzzle. A single corner was sculpted in such a manner that you could see 4 different images. They are: a monkey jumping, money feeding her baby, monkey lifting her baby, frog jumping down, and a cobra protecting a lingam. Amazing stuff! One can only imaging a sculptor making this to show off his riddle-making skills to the public!

Finally we come back to the front of the temple, to the Stone Chariot. In earlier times, horses were sculpted to show drawing the chariot. But since they were destroyed, elephants taken from another sculpture were placed here. The chariot is a shire to Lord Garuda, the celestial vessel of Lord Vishnu. This chariot could be moved from place to place at the time of processions, as the wheels are movable. But they have spoilt with time, and now the chariot has been locked into place to prevent further damage.

The Stone Chariot

After a lovely photo session with the chariot, we made our way back to the battery-operated cabs.

Finally we made our way to the Hampi museum. this was a bit of a damp squib, as there was no electricity at the time, and the museum had no generators/back-ups/inverters in place to light up the place. The only thing we could enjoy was a huge life-like mural (?) of the ruins of Hampi.

From here, we went back to our hotel. Since we’d already check out in the morning, the hotel gave us 4-5 rooms where we could freshen up before the trip back to Bangalore. Before that we decided to see the Tungabhadra Dam. After a long walk up, we could enjoy the (mostly empty) dam, and a lovely sunset view.

The Tungabhadra River and Dam

On the way down, we went across to the gardens since it was famed to have a musical fountain on par with the Mysore Brindavan Garden fountains. The tickets cost Rs. 10 per person, and we slowly walked across to the musical fountain.

The musical fountain

The show was supposed to start at 7pm, but it actually started about 7.10, and featured Hindi, Telugu and Kannada songs. It finally ended with a patriotic sound-track. While it is similar to the Mysore fountains, it would be unfair to say this one is on par. One can just call it similar, and leave it at that! 🙂

We finally made our way back to the hotel, and after a nice rest on the rooms provided, we had our dinner and set off for Bangalore.

This ended a very beautiful trip, filled with wonderful memories!

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Hampi, Karnataka, Mantralayam | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mantralaya & Hampi – Day II – Part 2

Mantralaya – Hampi (2 days) – June 2012 – Day II

The next stop was the Zenana complex, or the women’s complex. It was a bit surprising initially to hear an essentially mohammedan name given to a complex belonging to Hindu rulers. But the main feature of this complex are Indo-Islamic in nature. Hence the name reflects this aspect.

On the way to the complex the Mohammedan Watch Tower, Mint, and Mosque were pointed out. It was a bit dicey to claim we actually saw it.  It was pointed out through the windows of a moving bus after all! 🙂

The first feature pointed out at the Zenana enclosure were the surrounding wall. The outstanding feature of the walls was that no mortar or limestone was used. It is literally a dry wall. The stones were selected to be of a certain size and weight, and placed in particular positions over each other with no gaps. Net result: walls that have lasted through centuries of neglect and destruction.

Dry wall section. note the sharp corners!

To enter one must buy tickets at the entry point. These tickets are valid right up to the Vitthala Temple. S one mustn’t throw them once bought, at least till the end of day! 🙂 The tickets are only Rs. 10 per person. One thing about the ticket is that it features images from other World Heritage Sites in India, giving their names and locations on the reverse of the ticket. Must say, it’s a decent attempt to drive tourism!

One entering, you can see a small museum on your far left along the wall. This was originally thought to the be the treasury, but now houses artifacts.  Nearby you can see a large platform. This plinth is all that is remaining today of the Queen’s palace. From the size it is evident that it would have been a huge, grand structure. The only possible reason for the the base to be saved, was that the base was made in stone, but the building itself was made of wood. On the opposite side of the walking lane is a wide tank, and  another palace base, though smaller, is placed within it. This was the palace of the younger queen.

The plinth of the Queen’s Palace

Base of younger Queen’s palace

Nearby was the famous Lotus Mahal, which was used for entertainment. A fine example of using natural resources to make life more pleasant. There was a moat all around this building to ensure that the water sent cool air into the building. Also there were pipes and passageways (now destroyed through neglect) to carry water to the upper floor and ensure an air-conditioning-like effect. The beauty lies in the fact that all this was constructed in our ancient past!

Lotus Mahal

Further on are the elephant stables. It’s a huge structure, and though a common need in those times, it’s a major attraction as we probably don’t see anything like it in use nowadays! What interested me was a nearby building. These were the rooms for the mahoots and other workers at the elephant stables. But the structure was build unusually high, compared to the other palaces on the grounds. Also the front on the building had a narrow platform along the length. This was to help the mahoots to climb onto the elephants directly, without having to use ladders!

Elephant Stables

On coming out, we found yet another vendor of yummy lemon soda. After guzzling down this cooler, we went back to our bus, and headed to the Hazara Rama Temple.

This was the temple meant for royal use. The placement of this structure in close to the ceremonial complex. So the idea was that the king/emperor would worship at the temple at then proceed to perform his duties for the day. The temple got its name for the sheer number of images of Lord Rama depicted within the temple complex. The temple is constructed with a light-colored stone, light granite I think. But in the interior of the temple, black Cuddupah stones are used for pillars in the mandapa. These were possibly brought over from present-day Andhra, as this type of stone is unavailable in this region. It certainly forms a beautiful contrast to the light stone all around.

The panels featuring Ramayana

The Kamba Ramayana on the walls

The mandapa of the main temple

The main feature of the temple is the story of the Ramayan depicted in 3 tiers all around the temple, and the story of Luv-Kush around the Devi’s shrine. Also along the inner wall to the right, the Kamba Ramayan is written in Tamil (?). The idea was that Lord Rama was the ideal king, and every leader should try to emulate him. But a king doesn’t have the time to read the story everyday. So the images were a way for the king to read the whole story everyday, without actually reading it, and is reminded of his goal (of becoming like Rama) everyday.

From here we walked across to the palace complex. We entered through the side entrance, close to the Hazara Rama temple. Here, everyone climbed up a large platform. Unfortunately, while climbing, my ma-in-law injured her leg. So we sat out the explanations, right upto the dining hall. What we saw on the way there was an underground room. The construction was quite interesting, but I’d missed the explanations.

View of the outlaying buildings and underground tanks within the palace complex

At the ‘dining hall’, large aqueducts lined the sides. Near these were large stone plates. These even had notches to separate out the curries and sweets from the rice (hopefully). After the meals were done, water from the aqueduct was used to wash the ‘plates’ making life really comfortable for the servants, given the sheer number of people who would have had meals here.

The Dinner Plates

The next stop was the step-well. This construction was done in Rajasthani style, and un-heard of in South India. A truly beautiful structure. Since we had gone during summer, the well was dry, letting us see the well in its entirety. The step-well was fed through a huge stone aqueduct. When the aqueduct was excavated, people found that one edge was pointing downwards. On digging where the duct lowered, this step-well was found.

Step-well

Aqueduct

Aqueduct angled towards step-well

2 important things stand out regarding this tank. One is the symmetry of the design. It can be viewed as a V or an inverted-V. It is perfectly balanced in this aspect. Secondly, each of the stones bears a mason’s mark or symbol, which means the well was pre-fabricated! And we thought pre-fabrication was a new concept!

The next stop was the Mahanavami Dibba. This was essentially an elevated platform for the king during ceremonial occasions, particularly during the navaratri celebrations of Dassera. hence the name Mahanavami Dibba.

None of us had the energy to climb up all the steps, esp me on an empty stomach! 😉 So we took all the requisite photo from down itself.

We came out of the complex from the main entrance. Outside are 2 huge stone doors lying on their side. in fact I’d ignored them until our guide brought them to our notice!

Next stop was the Queen’s Bath. Here I was running out of energy so I didn’t go in, just relied on the hubby’s review! 🙂

Queen’s Bath

Next stop was lunch at the Hotel Mayura Bhaveshwari. Lunch was a buffet affair. We were also given sealed 1/2ltr water bottles with the meal. Quite nice, and a simple fare.

From here we made our way to the famed Vitthala Temple.

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Hampi, Karnataka, Mantralayam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment