In the village Lepakshi, the place where Sri Virabhadra Temple was built was known as ‘kurma sailam’. This is a Sanskrit word which means ‘tortoise (shaped) hill’. Though it was called a hill, the naturally formed granite rocky formation is not a hill in the strict meaning of the word. It is, in fact, a formation which looked like a small hill, an elevation about twenty five to thirty feet above the ground level.
One noticeable thing in the construction of Sri Virabhadra Temple on this rocky formation is that the tortoise shape of the rock was neither damaged nor de-shaped. The temple was constructed duly taking care of the rocky elevations, obstructions it created and maintaining the natural formation mostly in tact at all stages and levels.
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (11)
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (12)
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (13)
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (14)
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (15)
The great Satavahanas exited from the scene of history of South India during the first half of 3rd Century AD, Thereafter, Pallava, Chalukya, Chola, Kakatiya and Vijayanagara dynasties ruled parts and occassionally most part of South India. They partonised all arts and amongst them most importantly temple building. Temple was imagined in a very grand scale and constructed accordingly. Great temple complexes in Kanchi, Tanjore and Gangikonda Cholapuram stand as testimony to temple building in grand scale. Sculptors of Vijayanagara period inherited and borrowed all the fine qualities of their predecessor styles.
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (BW)-6
The space between the outer wall (about 25ft in height) and the inner wall (appxly of the same height) and the space within the confines of the pillared verandah attached to the inner-side of the outerwall of Sri Virabhadra temple, Lepakshi, may appear to have been there without any meaning to the present day visitor to this temple. Most of the time they look silent and empty! The temple, however, when conceived was done in a grand scale and the planning, as I understand it, was done in such a way that the visitor shoulg get sufficient time and space to prepare himself and tune himself quite leasurely to face the God in the main temple, with the mindset that is required for praying before God!
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (BW)-7
The long strech of space between the outer and inner walls of this temple, which now looks empty, was infact intended to be the purifier and a silent preparer of men and women who would, from there, go on to face God in the main temple, which is only a step away!
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (BW)-8
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (BW)-9
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra temple (BW)-10
Ever since my first visit to Lepakshi a few months ago, I have been thinking of visiting this place again, not once but several times. The reason for this, of course, is a predictable one, the famous Sri Virabhadra swamy vari temple, located here in this small village (now may be called a small town) with the name Lepakshi… a very fine name indeed…since very few villages or places have been bestowed with such a fine name!
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhara Temple front view
The word ‘lepakshi’ is a combination of two words ‘lepa’ and ‘akshi’ and as I understand them… ‘lepa’ means ‘painted’ or ‘decorated with colorful paint’ and ‘akshi’ means ‘a woman with (such) eyes’… and the word ‘lepakshi’ in its entirety means ‘a woman with beautifully painted and decorated eyes’! This, of course, is one version. Another version, which is more relevant and meaningful to Sri Virabhadra swamy vari temple located here is ‘a (place or a structure) which has the eyes as its paint’! This second version has its roots in the popular belief that an officer named ‘Virupanna’ who was in the employ of the king Achyutaraya of Vijayanagara dysasty (16th century AD) had (due to some unfortunate turn of events into such a painful ending) pluckked his eyes with his own hands and threw them onto the wall of this temple…the marks of which, you may like to believe or not, are still there, on one of the walls of this temple!!
This is my second visit to Lepakshi. Sri Virabharda Swamy temple situated here being one of the most precious things our ancestors have given us and it being a sort of museum like thing, a model to a ‘period art’ in the history of this part of the land known as South India, I wanted to explore and present the greatness of this temple, theme wise. For this visit I have thought of the theme as SPACES… and more importantly I wanted to capture the images only in Black and White, the medium which I somehow thought suitable to picturise ancient structures, especially temples, and the sacred spaces they covered.
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra Temple (1)
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra Temple : ‘Dhvaja stambham’
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra Temple (3)
Lepakshi – Sri Virabhadra Temple (4)