Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.
Veerabhadra Temple Is Unique
There are 70 pillars in this Veerabhadra Temple, and it is a very mysterious place. This Lepakshi temple is an architectural wonder of the 16th-century Vijayanagara empire, one of the most powerful empires of Southern India.
The temple is adorned with magnificent sculptures of gods, goddesses, dancers, and musicians. It also has a gigantic 24 x 14-foot mural of Veerabhadra, the fiery version of the Hindu God Shiva. It is believed to be the largest mural of any god in India.
But the biggest wonder of the temple—a secret that is still unresolved despite extensive analysis by engineers, architects, and archaeologists—is the hanging pillar. This enormous granite pillar dates from ancient times and is an impressive 20 feet tall, but most impressive is that it defies gravity and is hanging in mid-air. There is enough space between the base of the pillar and the ground to pass a cloth or piece of paper underneath it (some brave visitors even put a finger underneath it!).
In 1924, a British engineer tried to move the pillar to find out the ‘secret'. While attempting to do that, 10 more pillars started to move. Alarmed that the entire structure might collapse, he aborted his operation right away.
Later, the archaeological survey of India (ASI) conducted extensive investigations and proved that the pillar was not constructed as a mistake but was built intentionally to prove the brilliance of the builders of the time.
Is levitation the reason for the pillar hanging? Nobody seems to have an answer yet.
The Mythology Behind the Lepakshi Temple
Lepakshi is a small village in the Anantapur district of Southern Andhra Pradesh. Incidentally, even the village has an interesting story associated with it.
As the legends say, the village was the place where the great bird Jatayu fell after being defeated by Ravana in the Hindu epic Ramayana. And when Lord Rama spotted the bird, he said, ‘Le Pakshi’ which means ‘rise, bird’ in the Telugu language. That’s how the village got its name. Lepakshi has been culturally, historically, and archaeologically significant for centuries.
The Veerabhadra temple (or the Lepakshi temple) was built in 1530 by two brothers— Virupanna Nayaka and Viranna—who held high positions during the reign of King Achutaraya, the ruler of the famous Vijayanagara empire in Sothern India.
The temple’s main deity is Veerabhadra, the fiery version of the Hindu god Shiva. The main temple has three sections: the assembly hall, the antechamber, and the inner sanctum.
Each section is richly covered with murals, sculptures, and exquisite paintings that make even the fabulous Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo pale in comparison. These exquisite works of art feature divine beings, worshippers, and avatars of Shiva.
But the real mysteries start when you start walking inside the temple and notice extraordinary anomalies.
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To begin with, just 200 meters from the temple, you will see a gigantic Nandi statue (the bull in Hindu mythology) carved out of a single block of stone. This enormous structure is 27 feet long and 15 feet high and is the biggest monolithic bull in the world.
The carvings on the bull—perfect lines and intricate designs—are so perfect that it does not seem to be possible to have created it without machines. How was it made? Architects are still stumped.
Going a little further, there is an ‘unfinished' marriage hall or ‘Kalayanamandapam’ on the temple premises. The hall was supposed to have been created to celebrate the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. But why was it deliberately left unfinished? The answer lies in two prominent red dots on the western side of the hall.
According to the legend, the builder Virupanna's son was blind. Once he started building the temple, his son's blindness was miraculously cured. But the other courtiers grew jealous and complained to the King that he was using the kingdom's money for his son's cure.
Enraged, the king ordered his men to blind Virupanna. Virupanna carried out his punishment himself. The red blotches on the walls of the unfinished marriage hall represent his eyes, and nobody finished the hall after that incident.
Again, going further, a giant carved foot can be seen on the ground that can only be created with such exactness from actual measurements of a person’s foot. Who were these giants who were 20 to 25 feet tall? Did such giants actually exist? Nobody knows for certain.
But the biggest mystery of all is the famous hanging pillar of Lepakshi Temple—a massive block of granite that does not touch the floor. The ‘floating pillar' as it is called is a miracle that defies the very laws of gravity. Despite extensive analysis by several engineers, architects, and structural experts, nobody has been able to explain it.
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What is the secret behind the astonishing creations of these ancient sculptors? Is it simply human labor or is it brilliant ingenuity that has been lost through the ages? The hanging pillar is a perfect example of a human creation defying the omnipresent gravity of the earth.
Call it superstition, myth, or legend—there is no denial of the fact that the Lepakshi temple is an architectural masterpiece created in an era when people were far more advanced than we are willing to give them credit for.
There are some mysteries that are visible to the naked eye but create a feeling of awe within us when we attempt to interpret them; this temple happens to be one of them—a wonder never meant to be forgotten.
Here are some details to help you plan your visit to the temple. You can also check the website to see when special events or closures are planned.
- Hours: 5:00 am–8:30 pm
- Darshan Waiting Time: 1–3 hours. This may change during festivals and special days.
- Dress Code: Any decent outfit is allowed. People performing puja must wear Dhoti for men and Saree for women. Bermudas, miniskirts, and sleeveless tops are not allowed.
- Best Time to Visit: Throughout the year.
How to Reach Lepakshi Temple
- By Air. The nearest airport is at Bangalore, which is 95 km away. Taxis are easily available from outside the airport.
- By Train. The nearest railway station is Hindupur railway station, which is 14 km away. Direct trains are available from major cities to Hindupur.
- By Road. This temple can be reached by car or buses plying from Chennai, Bangalore, Chidambaram, and Trichy.
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© 2021 Ravi Rajan