Sunday, September 11, 2016

INDIA: The Hanging Pillar of Lepakshi

   For most of the world the word miracle brings to the mind images of marvelous phenomena occurring with supernatural intervention and involving mystical mysteries, but in India, it is just another daily trend, with miracles- historical, geographical, archaeological, supernatural or natural, happening around everywhere! 
  Almost every monument from history, almost every piece of natural beauty in India is a miracle to behold.
   One such spectacle of Indian history to ponder over is the hanging pillar at the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi, a small village in Andhra Pradesh, miraculously hidden from the searching but ignorant eyes of travelers.

   The hanging pillar in Lepakshi is a medieval architectural wonder to witness. This small village you were most likely to neglect has so much hidden in its treasure chest, you will shocked and amazed!

Traveler’s Digest- Rise Bird!

   The small village of Lepakshi in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh is a paragon of excellent art and architecture. Once the quintessence of the ostentatious opulence of the empire of Vijayanagara, Lepakshi is an epitome of magnificence and brilliance.
   The shrines and temples in the village celebrating the might of Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabhadra, are an exhibition of timeless art, with illustrious frescoes and murals.

   Although the village was founded as late as 1538 AD by Maharaja Aliya Rama Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire, it has an interesting association with the Ramayana, and legend says was blessed by the presence of Lord Rama himself. The lore goes that when Lord Rama, met the dying bird Jatayu here, he helped him attain Moksha by saying the words “Le Pakshi”, which in Telugu means “rise bird”. Hence, the village got its name Lepakshi!

   The most famous temple in the village is the temple of Veerabhadra, famed for its hanging towers. The temple is situated on a tortoise shaped hillock, named Kurma Saila, which is the Telugu phrase for its distinct shape.

   The Eccentricity Factor – The miraculous hanging pillar

   The most astonishing architectural marvel of Lepakshi is the Hanging Pillar of Veerabhadra Temple. The pillar does not rest on the ground completely but hangs in the air, with enough space between its base and the ground to pass a sheet of paper or a small twig through it- fully to emerge on the other side! Out of the 70 pillars at the stone temple, which was built in 1583 AD, in the Vijayanagar style of architecture by brothers Virupanna and Veeranna, this particular pillar stands out as a triumphant masterpiece of architecture. The Archaeological Survey of India has proven that this pillar was not constructed as a mistake, but was built intentionally to prove the brilliance of the builders of the time.

The Legend

   The pillar was dislodged from its original position by a British engineer who tried to move it in an endeavor to unearth the secret of its support but was sadly unsuccessful. According to legend, Virupanna one of the financiers of the temple was the royal treasurer of the King and was accused by the court nobles of drawing funds from the state treasury to build the temple but without the King’s permission. The nobles poisoned the King that he was funding the grandiose temple to outshine his majesty. 
   Outraged, the King ordered for Virupanna to be blinded. But disturbed by the false accusation and determined to prove his honesty, Virupanna forestalled the punishment by dashing his eyes out and throwing them at the temple wall! And the eerie part- the marks left by his bleeding eyes are still present on the wall!

The Colossal Monolithic Bull!

   Another architectural marvel of Lepakshi is the colossal statue of Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull. About a mile before the main temple, the statue is India’s second largest monolith after Gomateshwara, standing tall at 27 feet by 15 feet and carved out of a single stone. The structure is famous for its mammoth size and flawlessly proportioned body, and the finely carved ornaments around its neck and in its ears.

   Inside the temple, a gargantuan statue of Ganesha is yet another spectacle. And if this was not enough to quench the thirst of art history lovers, the largest Nagalinga in India draws one’s attention, with its enormous Naga with three coils and seven hoods forming a canopy over a black granite Shivalingam.

   The frescos at the Lepakshi temple are some of the finest specimens of art history in India. The 24 by 14 feet mural of Veerabhadra on the wall of the main sanctum is the largest fresco in India! The fresco depicting scenes from the wedding ceremony of Lord Shiva and Parvati, popularly known as the Shiva-Parvati Kalyanam is also something to look out for.

What to Explore in Lepakshi

   The Vijayanagar Empire once had a flourishing industry of silk weaving, a tradition which is still well preserved. Dharmavaram, a town near Lepakshi is a well-known silk weaving center, while Hindupur is famous for south cotton. Both these places make for excellent shopping destinations, while Puttaparthi, a pilgrim town near the village is perfect for a spiritual afternoon.


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