Lepakshi is a small temple village, almost seems out of nowhere. It is not mentioned in glossy tourist brochures, is hard to find on the map and there are no proper places to stay or eat anywhere nearby. And yet, its charming temple from the times of Vijayanagar Empire is surprisingly beautiful and visit worthy.
Overview and Orientation: Lepakshi is no more than a small village with a large temple in its middle, which was built in the sunset years of Vijayanagar Empire. It is close to Bangalore and can be done as a daytrip. It can be visited through the year, though can get a little hot in summer days. There is not much to see in and around Lepakshi other than the temple. If you are there in winter, you can also pay visit to a small village 10km from Lepakshi where a large number of migratory painted storks come for breeding.
Things to See
Lepakshi's temple is the most prominent landmark in the village.
The temple has many oddities that bring out the charm in the structure. Its engineering is not rigid, and it doesn't confirm to strict architectural rules that govern(gopura, mukhyadwara, prangana, inner prangana, garbhagudi,..) our temples. Instead, it seems to have evolved with time by impulsively created structures, and designed on the go. In fact one of the most well known carvings in Lepakshi - a five headed serpent over a linga - is said to have been created when the artists were free and looking to do something to kill time!
There are many such oddities in the temple. Soon after you enter through the main door, you don't see a succession of doors all the way to the sanctum, but a wall that blocks your way! Another door that leads to the interiors is offset to the right. In some sections of the temple, boulders have been left as is, and parts of the temple have remained incomplete.
To get to the history, the temple was built by Virupanna, treasurer of Vijayanagara King Achutharaya. When Virupanna was accused of excesses of spending for the temple, he is said to have plucked out his eyeballs in anguish and thrown them on the walls of the temple. Tour guides show two faded brownish stains on the walls as the bloodstains of Viroopanna.
The temple clearly shows the architectural style from the days of Vijayanagara. The walls and pillars look very similar to those in Hampi's Vithala Temple. The most well known structure in the temple are that of the linga and the serpent, a mural of Ganesha and the main deity - Viroopaksha. Intricate carvings of a series of designs on the pillars and roof rails were borrowed by designers to paint sari borders, now known as 'Lepakshi Design'. A Kalyana Mantapa, which was intended to reproduce the marriage of Shiva and Parvati in stone, remained incomplete with the death of Viroopanna, and has beautiful carvings of the couple, other gods and ashtadikpalakas along the pillars of the mantapa. The other most striking thing in Lepakshi Temple are the frescoes on the roof of inner courtyard, some of which are still in good shape and are a must see.
A kilometer away from the temple is a large statue of Nandi just outside the village, said to be overlooking Viroopaksha in the temple. It is said that the Lepakshi Temple was built in seven layers of walls of which only three inner walls remain, and in those days, Nandi was inside the temple complex. This is said to be the largest Nandi Statue in the country, which in effect probably means the largest in the world.
How to Reach: Lepakshi is approximately 150km from Bangalore located close to Karnataka border in Andhra Pradesh. Drive on NH7 connecting Bangalore with Hyderabad. Just after Karnataka Border, turn left at Kondikonda Village(note: there are no signs). Lepakshi is a 20 minute drive from here. If you are taking public transport you can take a train to Hindupur or catch one of the frequent buses from Bangalore and change to a local bus in Hindupur to take you to Lepakshi.
Food and Accommodation: There is no accommodation available at Lepakshi. It is best done as a day-trip from Bangalore. There are a few small restaurants in the village, but don't expect much.