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The Lepakshi Virabhadra Temple

Lepakshi temple, one which is famous for its rich fine arts and architectural beauty, is situated in Ananthapur district 120 kms away from the district headquarters and 12 kms from Hindupur. The carvings on stone at Lepakshi Temple are of such mesmeric quality that one is left wondering at the mind boggling talent of the sculptors. The temple of Lepakshi is indescribable. The Lepakshi temple situated in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, is also known as Veerabhadra temple. The architecture of the temple reflects the Vijayanagar style and is located 480 km from Hyderabad. The architectural beauty of the temple is unparalleled with fine carving arts. A 10 day long festival is celebrated in the month of February. On this occasion a car festival is conducted, which is attended by huge number of people. The Lepakshi temple can be divided into three sections - the 'Mukha Mandapa', (or the 'Nitya Mandapa' or 'Ranga Mandapa'), the 'Artha Mandapa' and 'Garbha Griha', and the 'Kalyana Mandapa'.

The Gopuras & the Roofless pillars

The Virabhadra Temple stands in the middle of two concentric enclosures built on three levels. It is entered through a gopura on the the north side. The larger exterior wall, has a narrow verandah attached to it which served as resting places for pilgrims who came from afar. The outer walls and adjacent hall is called Nithya Mandapa or Mukha Mantapa. Inside the Nithya Mandapa, is another small complex, called the Artha Mandapa where the main sanctum sanctorum or and other subsidiary shrines are located.

The temple's plan is irregular because of circumstances under which it was built. Its three main parts are the Virabhadra shrine with its ardhamandapa, the mukha-mandapa, and the kalyanamandapa. All the three scintillate with painting and sculpture. The kalyan mandap is an auxiliary structure and is unfinished. In the main part of the temple , where the Virabhadra shrine stands, there are eight shrines in all. On one of the sixteen heavy pillars here each carrying life-size sculptors of divinities, there is an image of Goddess Mahishamardhani, which is the main object of worship today. On the ceiling is a huge and celebrated painting of Lord Virabhadra. The mukhamandapa, an oblong structure 24 m by 7 m, is borne on seventy brilliantly sculptured columns. There are sixty more in the outer rows. Two of them hardly rest on the ground, they are virtually hanging pillars. There are paintings all over the ceiling. The other mandapa of note, the kalyana, has thirty-eight sculptured monolithic columns. They carry a veritable gallery of divine figures. The western part, the "hall of creepers", as it is called, is made up of forty-two pillars. These carry designs of flower and stalk and also geometrical designs. Three huge boulders in the second prakara carry striking sculpture .One is the lord Ganesha. It is 2.3 m high, and it stands on on a pedestal 1.40 m high. Linga under a seven hooden cobra, a monolithic sculpture 5.5 m high. There is a spilt in the centre of the base. About 200m, north east of the temple stands India's second largest monolith, the celebrated Lepakshi Nandi It is 8.25 m long and 4.6 m high. Though massive, it is a real work of art, of sounds proportions and absolutely realistic.

The venerated Snake

Nandi the Bull

The Floating Pillar

The entire Lepakshi temple most originally have been painted.The survivals are on the ceilings of the mukhamandapa, the ardhamandapa, and the sancta. There are eight rectangular painted panels on the ceiling of the mukhamandapa. In the centre is a square. Its four sides have been made in to one panel. On both sides there are each on either side, extending north to south. The longest panel in the mandapa, about 18 m from east to west, is very narrow, only 2m wide. Here is painted the story of king Manunidhi Chola. A panel at the eastern end tells the story of Draupadi's marriage with the Pandavas. In the next panel no story is told.It depicts Sri Krishna as a Baby, recalling the famous prayer in Kulasekhara's splended hymn,the "Mukundamala".In another scene Lord Virabhadra is conferring grace on the builders of the temple, Virupanna and Viranna. They are stately figures wearing conical caps. The next panel depicts the marriage of Lord Siva with Goddess Parvathi.The Dikpalakas, or the Guardians of the Directions, are also shown. In the panel around the square at the center is told the story of how Arjuna obtained a celestial weapon from Lord Siva to use in the impending battle with the Kauravas.

This is the story the Lepakshi painter depicts in a number of scenes. He evokes life in dense forest. The animals are in sympathy with the changing moods, as he has observed them . He is an acute observer. In this panel there are a few scenes unrelated to the story. Asia's largest painting is on the ceiling of the sanctum; it is set in a huge rectangular panel about 7.6 m by by 4.3 mm. Around the main figure of Lord Virabhadra there are panels. The main painting is "mostly in gray, with strong, evenly flowing black lines all over". Its technique is different from that of the others in the temple. "The drawing is strong, the colour subdued, and it acquires the appearance of a gigantic figure floating in and dominating the whole sky.
There are many more paintings on the ceilings here. Some are of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi. In the Raghunatha shrine, the ceiling contains murals of seven of Lord Vishnu's incarnations, the Matsya, the Kurma, the Varaha, the Parsurama and the Rama. Two panels nearby are left bare. This fact, like the unfinished kalyana mandapa, indicates that the temple could not be completed
Lepakshi - Shiva