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The Fascinating Secrets of the Hanging Pillar Temple in India

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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 home to a huge pillar mysteriously suspended in mid-air. Learn about this mystery and more.

Veerabhadra Temple is home to a huge pillar mysteriously suspended in mid-air. Learn about this mystery and more.

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, British engineer Hamilton 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.

The Lepakshi Temple is full of unsolved mysteries...

The Lepakshi Temple is full of unsolved mysteries...

A Temple of Full of Unsolved Mysteries

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.

Who were these giants who were 20 to 25 feet tall? Did such giants actually exist? Nobody knows for certain.

Who were these giants who were 20 to 25 feet tall? Did such giants actually exist? Nobody knows for certain.

Did the Ancient Sculptors Know Something We Don’t?

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.

This enormous structure of Nandi the bull  is 27 feet long and 15 feet high and is the biggest monolithic bull in the world.

This enormous structure of Nandi the bull is 27 feet long and 15 feet high and is the biggest monolithic bull in the world.

Travel Details

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.
What are the red blotches on the walls of the unfinished marriage hall within the temple?

What are the red blotches on the walls of the unfinished marriage hall within the temple?

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 at 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.

Sources

© 2021 Ravi Rajan

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 17, 2021:

Thanks Vidya for your comments

VIDYA D SAGAR on May 17, 2021:

A fascinating article Ravi. I did not know about this temple. The ingenuity and intelligence of the ancients cannot be matched. Great work. Thanks for sharing.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 17, 2021:

Thanks Devika

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 17, 2021:

Hi this is a different part of the world and I wish I could visit. The temple sounds a mystery.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 16, 2021:

Ravi, its okay.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 16, 2021:

Thanks Miebakagh for your comments

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 16, 2021:

Very fascinating indeed, as India, is full of ancient mysteries.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 16, 2021:

Thanks Linda for your comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 16, 2021:

This would be a fascinating place to visit. I’d love to know the explanation for the hanging pillar. I’m going to be thinking about your article for a long time!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 16, 2021:

Thanks Brenda. You must surely visit this temple whenever you are in India to truly appreciate its splendor .

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 15, 2021:

Ravi

I find this article most interesting.

It is amazing that you can fit something underneath...and the story about the blind man's son is so sad.

I wonder if that is truly why the work was never finished.

It looks like something that would peak my curiosity.

Thanks for sharing it with us.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 15, 2021:

ravirajan01, you're welcome any how.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 15, 2021:

Thanks Misbah for your comments

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on May 15, 2021:

It was an interesting and informative article about Lepakshi Temple. I enjoyed learning about this temple. Thanks for sharing

Beautiful and Peace

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 15, 2021:

Thanks Chitrangada for your kind comments

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 15, 2021:

So good of you to have written an article about this unique and ancient temple of India.

I have had the privilege to visit this, long time ago. It’s amazing, to say the least, and there are so many other architectural wonders in India, as we all know.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful information with the readers.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 15, 2021:

Thanks Flourish for your comments

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 15, 2021:

Very compelling and something I wish I could see for myself. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure it out.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 15, 2021:

Thanks Liz for your kind comments

Liz Westwood from UK on May 15, 2021:

This is a fascinating and very descriptive article. You combine your writing and illustrations to good effect.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 15, 2021:

Thanks Miebakagh for your kind comments

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 15, 2021:

India like ancient Egypt or China is one of the most advanced civiliizations of the world. Thanks for a fascinating read.

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