After abducting goddess Sita, when demon Ravana was on his way to his kingdom Lanka, Jatayu bird put a firm resistance. But, Ravana slashed off it’s wings and the bird tumbled to ground during their altercation. Later, when Rama in search of Sita, heard the bird wailing Rama Rama, Rama said le(get up) pakshi(bird) and Jatayu attained salvation. This is the Mythological basis to the name of this small temple town Lepakshi.

Virupanna, the noble man and a minister in Vijayanagara empire, responsible for building the temple at Lepakshi, was connived by his contemporaries and the king issued a summon for him to gouge his eyes off. Fearing the king, Virupanna gouged off both his eyes and bashed them against the temple walls. There are two carmine marks on one of the temple walls where Virupanna supposedly bashed his eyes. The ASI reportedly has confirmed the vermilion marks as blood and not paint. Hence the name Lepa(without) akshi(eyes).

Lepakshi symbol

Like every other historical temple in India, the one is Lepakshi is not just a structure, but a story carved in stone, asserting the technical prowess and artistic sophistication of ancient India. It’s architecture is reminiscent of the Vijayanagara period, but a unique aspect of this temple are the murals on the temple ceilings. Even though other temples in India have paintings on their ceilings I have never seen any that were as extensive as the ones in Lepakshi. These murals are now dilapidated and if care is not taken, the next generation will be devoid of this.

Murals on temple ceiling

As you approach Lepakshi from Bangalore side you will be welcomed by the biggest monolithic Nandi in India, which is at a small distance from the temple complex. The temple has two sections, one containing the other and the entrance door of these two sections are not in sync i.e you cannot get a glimpse of the deity directly from outside. The reason being, presiding deity is the ferocious God, Veerabhadra. The temple was carved out of a hillock without using any stones from outside. The pillars outside the inner sanctum show the dancing Rambha, with each surrounding pillar depicting a musician with an instrument. Also Rambha has a prompter, who is carved in such a way that it appears as if he is surreptitiously guiding her.

Dancing Rambha

Her prompter

On the ceiling there is a fresco of Krishna, who seems to gaze upon you irrespective of where you look at him from. Also, there is a hanging pillar which today has been damaged. The damage was done by an inquisitive British officer, who tried to test it and in the process damaged it due to which, today it rests on the ground on one of it’s sides.

Hanging pillar

Behind the sanctum lies the unfinished portion of the temple depicting the marriage of Shiva and Parvati with all the eight dikpalakas occupying their respective positions being the spectators of this divine union. On the base of the pillars on which the dikpalakas have been carved, their respective animal carriers are also present. This portion of the temple was left in a half finished state following the eye incident of Virupanna.

Unfinished portion

Carving depicting the perfect male and female proportions. Even though female one is pretty common in other temples this is the first time I am seeing the male counterpart.

The anecdotes written above are one of the few interesting ones I found worth mentioning. Hire a guide and he will bombard your with mind numbing Lepakshi trivia. Lepakshi is a very short ride out of Bangalore and is a good half a day get away for any one curious of India’s rich culture, history and mythology.

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