Finally I got to go on a small yet significant trip on 20th June 2010.
The monotony was getting to me, and I was getting restless, as I hadn’t been on a outing for close to 6 months. I can proudly say, my present job is very exciting each day is entirely different from the other, but life isn’t all about work and Raksha wants to play (read: an occasional outing here and there)…. a small trip is something I look forward to…
After a hectic week, I finally got an sms from my travel buddy Cutta asking me if I would be game for a trip to Lepakshi. Lepakshi…. where is that? had no clue! Quite honestly, I would have probably gone to Hell and back just for the heck of it… So yeah! The travel junkie I am, readily agreed without even a thought….
So finally on Saturday did I begin to realise, that my body was giving up on me due to exhaustion…. and dat I desperately needed a break, but having committed for an outing, the last thing I wanted to do was back out and upset my travel buddy (‘cos I have done it numerous time already), so decided to check if we could only do a half-day trip so that I can snooze and recover from exhaustion and regain some energy…. to which he stated, we could come back well within 4 p.m.
So off we set at 5:30 a.m. to a place called Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh. I didn’t even care to find out what it was? Where it is? Etc etc… All I knew is that I wanted to go… and knowing my buddy here, he would have gone through every travelogue possible to have finally zeroed in on this place. So all night, I tossed and turned, anticipating my alarm to flag my newest expedition. Come 5:00 a.m. and the alarm sets off and I jerk with a start. Although, I love to travel, waking up at ungodly hours is not my cup of COFFEE, if you please. So I dragged myself out of my bed and went about bringing the zing back into my day….. or EARLY MORNING. So I clothe myself in tracks and my office-logoed shirt, I set sail on my Activa to destination unknown… to conquer a good 120 kms with the sexy NH-7, awesome breeze and needless to say my collection of favourite songs for company. What else could a woman as for, I say?
So I Vroooooooom my way through non-existenant traffic and go to Hebbal, where my buddy awaits me, and thus we begin our journey. The dark veil of night is slowly unfolded by the morning light, and the first rays of sunlight peeps out of the clouds to wink at me. It’s so mesmerising, don’t you think? To see the various hues of sky… in all its glory through day, night and seasons. I love to peer at the sky, and just gaze away. A chill breeze brings about a shudder, and my sleep deprived brain is slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer lazing on my bed, and the journey that I was looking forward was on. So I wriggle out the remnants of lazy slumber and begin to focus on the road ahead. We stop by at many spots to click what captures our fascination and like a ‘professional photographer’, I pull out my Canon and go click-click-click to my heart’s content…. Thank god, photography has gone digital…. We ride on, soaking in everything that we see, capturing moments in this magical box called camera, to upload it on various sites and to share to the world galore.
As we whoosh past many scenaries, I realise that the road is punctuated with many SOS phones, but I really wonder, if they even work….. or if anyone even uses it. But nonetheless, I believe it to be a commendable job, ‘cos if there were any kind of tragedy that should occur on the highway, one knows how to reach out for help – assuming it works. I ride past barren lands, fields of greenery, mountains, lakes, freeing myself of all the pent-up emotions of months gone-by, of not being able to travel, explore, of plunging myself into work resurfaced and I just let it go, and freed myself of all thought. I rode with an empty clear mind, with no inkling of anything, just listening to music and fresh breeze to clear out my polluted lungs.
As I ride on, the famous song – country roads keep revolving in my mind, and suddenly my mind comes up with its own lyrics:
Tarred roads, take me on……. To Destinations Unknown……
We ride for a good hour and so, the chill breeze satisfies my soul, but that does not fill an empty stomach now, does it? So we miss out on the local delicacy and head to Kamat hotel, adjacent a petrol pump. One cuppa hot Kappie and a much delay Masala Dose later, am refuelled, recharged, energised and rearing to go.
A couple of minutes and many sceneries later, the chillness in the breeze is replaced by a warmer air and the cloudy sky is now clear and the sun glares at me, making his presence felt. It feels so good to be riding on a road which is done up so well sans all the pot-holes and ditches that one encounters in the city, that I forget about the destination and just follow the road with all cares thrown to the wind. A couple 0f mins later, Cutta calls out to me and says that we had to take a diversion off the main road to be able to reach our destination for the day. Well, reluctantly I turn back my bike and make it to the said spot and am apprehensive about the condition of the road which obviously is no longer a high way but a simple village. So we divert our respective bikes on to the village road, and a good 30 feet tarred road welcomes me. I am delighted as well as overwhelmed that the road was not as expected, but a good 10-15 mins later, I begin to realise that the beginning of the road was just to seduce me into thinking that the roads were great, but later on the road is the usual rocky affair that one can expect.
As I travel, Cutta stops at a juncture to ask for directions, and I notice this huge stock-like structure built on a pedestal. The board on the pedestal reads that IBIS LUECOCEPHALUS commonly known as STORK can be seen in Veerapuram, a good 9 kms from the juncture, from December to July. Armed with the information about the directions, we set out to Lepakshi. As we come closer to our destination, we chance upon a huge monolith of Nandi (Basavanna). We stop by to of course know more, and also to capture our latest discovery. We pull over and park our vehicles there and a small kiddo comes towards us. His eyes are full of suspicion sans any inkling of smile. I try to communicate with him, but my knowledge of Telgu is pathetic, instead I try to cajole him with a snap. I click a picture of his capturing his suspicious look, and then show him. The boy is obviously thrilled and his lips broaden to depict a smile, indicating that he is pleasure. My next click is welcomed with a broader smile and a relaxed expression, and our man here has mastered the art of modelling. So we move forward to explore the Nandi from proximity.
Its huge and a board informs us that the Nandi is facing the Linga shaded by a 7-headed Naga in the Veerabhadra temple. A few snaps later, with us in the foreground as proof, we move forward to our actual destination – the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi. Our charmed model also waves his good wishes our way and thus we embark upon our journey.
We pass by a market, where I am tempted to stop by to inspect the goods up on offer. I content myself with trying to capture what’s available and yet ride pass them all towards the temple. We see a large arch, painted in bright colours which would be tough to miss given its ostentatiousness and vibrancy. To ascertain that our assumption is right, we recheck with the locals there and proceed to the main entrance of the temple. We come to the foot of the temple, and park our bikes. Cutta mistakes the parking attendant to be a guide and tries to avoid him, only to later realise his folly.
Like in most temples, I see monkey’s in the vicinity and wonder what is the correlation between temples and monkeys. Needless to say this temple too is dotted with beggars, who seek some alms, but I am no longer partial to their pleas and move towards my final destination. Here too, we see a board displayed educating us about the history of the place.
Now I would like to disconnect from the cloak of an adventurer and relay information that I have collated via some Googling.
Lepakshi is a good 120 kms away from Bangalore towards the Andra Pradesh. It is a small village located in the Anantapur District, in Andhra Pradesh, India.
The Veerabadhra Temple houses 3 shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabadra.
Quoting the board placed outside the temple:
‘This temple complex with its principal shrine dedicated to Virabhadra (Siva) is of the Vijayanagar times and style of architecture. Its construction in 1538 A.D. is attributed to Viruppanna, a noble man and merchant prince of the times. The Natyamandappa (dance hall) supported on 70 pillars carrying the fine sculptures is the center of attraction – the central group having life size forms of dancing Siva, Brahma, Nandi, Tumbura, Rambha and other gods and celestial playing on the drum, vina and other instruments in accompaniment. The unfinished Kalyanmandapa on the side too contains good sculptures of dikpalas and others on the pillars. narrative panels depicting in sculpture the stories siru-tonda and kiratanrjuniya art to ….. on the front and side of the walls. … interesting are the remains of excellent mural paintings on the ceiling of the kalyanmandappa and the inter mandappa. they narate puranic episodes and depict figures of gods and frequently the figures of Viruppanna, the founder of the temple, and his retinue are to be seen in the composition of the panels. As if personally witnessing the episodes narrated, these paintings are far superior in technique and art to others of the same period and illustrate also the forms and design of contemporary apparel and ornament in South India. the numerous inscriptions found here are in Kannada and mostly donatory. there are also a few old massive copper….’
The temple is constructed on a hillock known as Kurma Saila (tortoise shaped hill). The temple has about 3 entrances out of which only 1, the main entrance, is used and the rest are locked. The pillars in the temple portray various figurines and the ceiling is painted with natural colors to narrate the stories such as Ramayan and Mahabharatha.
‘The beautiful sculptures on the prakaram attract the pilgrims’ attention. These include 14 forms of Siva, like Dakshinamurthi, Ardhanareeswara, Tripurantaka etc. The hall of creepers is another excellent work of art, which has provided perennial inspiration to textile designers over the years. About 500m, North-East of the temple stands India’s largest monolithic Nandhi, measuring about 8.25m long and 4,60m high.’
‘The temple is also famous for its Hanging Pillar which was originally hanging but, the britishers thought it may fall down and tried to pull it down. But they could succeed only partially on one side, which caused the roof to bend to that side. This is indeed an engieering marvel. There are other beautiful and skilfully moulded statues, pillars depicting incidents from puranas. A must visit place.’
‘We stepped into the Garbha Griha or Worship Hall. The literal meaning of Garbha is Womb, and the Garbha Griha is located in the heart of the temple. It was pitch dark here, because of a power failure. Sunlight doesn’t filter in so deep inside the temple. It took me seconds to get accustomed to the darkness. The only light was from a lantern fixed to a pillar.
It was an amazing atmosphere, and should I say helps devotees to venerate, being cut off from the outside world because of the lack of light. Lord Vishnu, Lord Papanaseswar (Siva), Veerabhadra, and Durga are all worshiped here in the Veerabhadra Temple at Lepakshi. Veerabhadra, a wrathful manifestation of Shiva, was the patron deity of the Nayak rulers. The pillar of Durga, one of the finest in the sanctum sanctorum, is bedecked with jewellery and finery and is worshipped every day. The light on Durga image from the lantern on the adjacent pillar, added an aura which is indescribable. ….’
Back to our experience
Our return back was less adventurous… it was more a relaxing ride, with no expectation of the unknown. I discard my jacket to do away the afternoon heat and risk a tan. The cool morning breeze is now replaced by a warm wave of air, which we could rather do without, but have little choice considering our option for locomotion was a 2 wheeler and not a car. But the two of us took little notice, for our passion of a 2-wheeler far exceeds a trivial matter such as this, and we proceed further at a more relaxed enjoyable pace, exhausted/deprived/empty of our enthusiasm. The heavy breakfast served us well and food is the last thing on our mind right now, or frankly my mind. Although having said that, I cannot deny the quench of thirst that invades my throat and my parched mouth seeks a cool drink to hydrate. The simple solution would of course be the more South Indian by nature – Tender Coconut, but Gen X – ME would rather go for a chill carbonated drink at this point of time. So I quench my thirst with a cool drink and munch on a gum (my all time childhood favourite) and ride along.
Let me take a moment to explain about this phenomenon called GUM. I have always nurtured a secret passion for chewing gum. Wherein the world would lust for a CHOCOLATE, I would always long for a GUM. The numerous scoldings that I have got from my father preaching the evils of chewing gum always strengthened my conviction. There’s something about the gum, that makes me feel COOL, FREE, BUBBLY… I remember the umpteen times that I have visited a store only to gift myself a tasty chewing gum. I remember those moments of chewing on this elastic-y thing, allow the saliver to delve into my mouth, to chomp on it, make a bubble, feel very good when I am able to blow a big bubble. It used to set me free. Childish, I suppose, but there is something really cool about a chewing gum that sets me free.
Anyways, moving on to the actual topic rather than get sentimental here.
Once I quench my thirst and treat myself to a couple of Center Fresssssssssssssssssssssh! We proceed further, now closer to our city and of course, home. The closer we come to the city, the roads get more populated by maddening traffic honking away their annoyance at being made to wait a couple of minutes to allow others to pass pretty evident. What’s the hurry I wonder, its a Sunday and you got all the time in the world, can’t one allow the other’s to just reach their destinations as well. The most annoying is this guy who moves his vehicle beside me, and has the gall to SIT on the horn even in a signal. I think he has confused himself to be an ambulance or something. I stare at him to make my annoyance very clear. If looks could kill, he would be scuttling between heaven and hell for lack of accommodation. I would like to think that I starred him into silence, and our dear pal resigns to waiting for the signal to turn green.
A few more kilometers, and I reach home. I wish I could say I am rejuvenated, but the fact is that covering a good 200 kms plus does take a toll on you. So a good hot shower beckons me thereafter which I gulp down my lunch with more enthusiasm and am off to snooze a bit to ward of the ruminants of any strain. But nonetheless, the heart is content and the mind is full of adventure and the spirit has just been revived. Probably another road trip is in the offing, another revival in order.
While researching to state actual facts about the temple, I found out about this other place called Penukonda, which is about 25 kms from Lepakshi. Another visit to Lepakshi is merited as I was not armed with the information that I have now researched about, and missed seeing some real wonderful architecture.
Directions to Lepakshi
Drive towards Hebbal and take the NH 7. It being the National Highway, the roads are pretty good and make for a good long drive. Be well informed that there aren’t too many amenities avalable and therefore ensure your well stocked in case of an eventuality. The road is also well punctuated with SOS telephone’s.
Hebbal > Yelahanka > Devahalli > Chikkabalapur > Bagephallo > Andhra Pradesh Checkpost > beyond this point you need to take a left turn to Lepakshi. Unfortunately you do not have any sign boards nor directions. It is advisable that one asks the locals there for the exact turn to be taken.
My learnings from this experience:
- read more about the location in order to understand to know what should one look out for
- In February, the temple conducts a 10 day car-festival. During the festival Lepakshi is packed with pilgrims from all over the country.
- Bird-watchers can be see Storks in Veerapuram, a good 9 kms from the Lepakshi, from December to July.
- The 6 ft. height and 8 mt.length monolithic “Nandi” (the bull) sculpture is said to be the biggest monolithic Nandi in India, is synonymous with ancient Lepakshi.
- Penukonda Fort which is about 25 kms from Lepakshi.
Some Links, that were referred: