It is a common practice among Indians to hardly notice the greatness in our own backyard but anything foreign seems to have an instant positive appeal in our minds. Last week, my trip to Lepakshi with some very close friends struck all of us in awe & wonder about the grandeur of the village and the quality of lifestyle our ancestors must have practiced few centuries back. It’s astounding to know such an advanced civilization flourished and in due course slowly faded away from the very land we are living in. While we hardly know much about them, what is unfortunate is that many of us question and ridicule their practices to this very date even with the presence of abundance of physical proofs. This trip had several highlights and wanted to point out a few through this post
Archaeological & Engineering Marvels
1) Monolithic Nandi – A 4.5m high and 8.23m tall structure, biggest in India, looks resplendent, decked with necklaces of beads, bells and traditional earrings.If one stands on the right of Nandi, a little towards the rear end, one can view the enormous Seven-hooded Shiva Lingam of the famous Lepakshi. Usage of Symbology is very evident from the clear carving of the double headed eagle symbol, Gandaberunda, on the Nandi’s neck. This is the official emblem of the Karnataka government. This is found in Briharideshwara and Rameswaram temples as well. It was used as an emblem by the Chalukyas , Hoyasalas, Wodeyars in India and outside India in the Byzantine Empire, Roman Empire and the Ayuthya kingdom of Thailand.
2) Veerabadhra Temple – The Chief architects of this temple Virupunna, his brother Viranna and their sons laid the foundation of this entire temple on top of a Tortoise shaped hill, hence all the main structures are not located on a flat surface. For the construction of 3 major gopurams (decorated entrances), the 1000’s of columns, magnificent statues all around the temple, the engineers have used blocks of rocks that were cut from the same mountain and transported them to various parts of the temple. A very interesting fact to note is that the entire compound wall built around the temple does not use any binding materials like cement, probably they employ a locking technique between the layers of rocks which is yet to discovered. Many of these structures be it the 1000 petal lotus on the ceiling, statues of Ramba, Brungeshwara (3 legged guru of Ramba), Shiva, Parvathi, Bhrama, Rishis in the still stand testimony to the engineering marvels and artistic splendors of this temple . In spite of the forces of nature and Mughal invasions very little damage has been done to the temple.
3) Hanging Pillar – The main Mandapam has nearly 70 pillars present in them, while each pillar has unique design and its own story to tell, the most unique of them was the Hanging Pillar which comes down from the ceiling but does not have any contact to the ground. In 1902 British engineers in an attempt to investigate this “HANGING PILLAR” used iron rods to lift them. This created a catastrophic chain of events where all the 70 pillars shifted their positions while some of them even developed cracks. So hence imagine our ancestors have developed a system where this 70th HANGING PILLAR balances the ENTIRE MANDAPAM, still think we can build such techniques now ?
1) Organic Paintings – For all those who have marveled with the wondrous “Sistine Chapel by Renaissance painters”, the ceilings of the mandapam are decorated by beautiful paintings of scenes where Parvati’s alankar where maidens are helping her get ready, paintings of the Chief architects, painting of Lord Veerabadhra will just blow your mind. Mind you, the colors used are all organic in nature, ie.made out of vegetable and fruits extract. There were tiny holes on the floor where the vegetables were ground.
2) Vaastu mandapam – A raised platform next to the main mandapam shows the divine celebrations of Shiva-Parvati tying the knot. This event is witnessed by Ashta Dikbalagars, the protectors of the world. As per Vaastu, we know how every direction and corners are meant for specific elements like water, fire etc. This mandapam depicts this shastra where one can see, Lord Agni standing in the Southeast, Yama in the South, Kubera and so on and so forth. All appear on their vahanas, like Indira on elephant, Vayu on deer, Yama on bull etc. This mandapam has huge statues of all the devas, munivars like Vashisht, Vishwamitra, Brahma, all gathered to witness the heavenly union of Parvati and Shiva.
3) 3 headed Cow / 2 gymnasts inter coined , Curtain Designs / Lepakshi Saree prints which has been copied from all pillars and ceilings shows us the sense of artistic imagination that was present in the early 15th century in our ancestors
Culturally Lepakshi is known as the place where Sita stepped on the ground creating a SITA PADAM when Raavan abducted her. Jatayu, the vulture, fought fiercely to protect her and Raavan had cut his wings off thus he fell on the ground. Sita prayed for his soul to survive even when she was flown away in the Pushpak Vimana. Heavens opened up and it rained, the padam filled with water and Jatayu could quench his thirst to survive till Lord Ram came hurrying up to him. Lord Rama after finding jatayu, uttered the word lepakshi (In telugu లేపాక్షి meaning arise bird) which enabled him to get #Moksham.
Such is the marvel that even today, this padam will have water at some portion somehow. It is always wet with water coming from a small hole where nobody knows the source.
Bliss of Secularism
1) The Garbhagraham (Main sanctum) consists of 5 major Lingas (Ram Lingna, Hanuman Linga, Agatsiyar Linga, Veerabadhra Linga, Swayambu Ling – Natural Linga), Veerabadhra Swamy & Lord Vishnu. For all those Vaishnavites and Shaivites who feel there is very little in common between them and to all those eminent historians who said #Hinduism was never united this is a true slap on their faces
2) Muslims entering the temple even the sanctum to watch the idols was a divine sight, Truly #India is secular in its own way or maybe its the pure Spirituality of the place which makes us look at such a sight
Believe it or not, Lepakshi is one of the many such places in India which will give you a unique pride in being a Hindu & Indian in several ways.