Lepakshi. The name is intriguing. Then, there is the visual attraction. A sculpture of a multi-headed snake, with its hood up, offering shade to a Shiv ling. You see a lot of reasons to visit this village in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. But, I got to see more than what I had bargained for.
The village is off the highway from Bengaluru to Hyderabad. Once you leave Bengaluru, you need to drive just over 100 kilometres before you take a left at Kodikonda. The junction is prominent, and there is an arch. There is little chance of missing the turn.
The road from the junction for about 10 kilometres is simply amazing. Wide and smooth with agriculture fields on both sides. Beautiful stretch. Lepakshi village is about 15 kilometres from the junction.
The entrance to the temple, which is what draws tourists and pilgrims, is in the middle of the village. It is a letdown. An ordinary arch marks the point of entry to the path leading to the temple. It looks like any other arch. The reason you feel letdown is a little distance away, once you pass the arch.
The temple is a few feet above ground level. It was built on a hillock. The walls of the temple are impressive. They are more like the walls of a fort. Thick and imposing.
The area beyond the wall, outside the temple premises, is adorned by a garden. Must offer a great visual for birds.
Once inside, you find yourself in the outer courtyard of the temple. The border of the courtyard is an unending corridor of stone. The pillars supporting the corridor have beautiful carvings.
A dark alley is the way further inside. Climbing a few steps in the alley will take you to the inner courtyard, which too is surrounded by a corridor of stone. If you take a walk around the inner courtyard, you can see the contours of the hillock.
The temple is built of stone and the presiding deity is Veerabhadra. The highlight is the mural of Veerabhadra on the ceiling. You will find more murals if you look up. I could not see them closely, for obvious reasons. But I could definitely see that our art students will never run out of work if Indians, the government and philanthropists get down to restoring and maintaining these murals, and those in other temples across India.
I was eager to see the multi-headed snake that actually drew me to this temple. It was in the rear of the temple, facing the corridor. This definitely is a piece of work. But, the location left me wondering if there is a back story to this location.
I thought this snake would be the showpiece of this temple. Instead, it is placed behind the temple, in a non-descript part of the inner courtyard. I wish I could understand the reasoning. That is why you need to hire a guide. They know everything about historical monuments, especially details like the one I sought about the location of the snake sculpture.
About 500 metres away is a huge stone statue of Nandi, the bull. It is in a separate enclosure, within walking distance of the temple. It has its own parking lot.
In between the temple and the Nandi statue is the best place to stop for some refreshments: a resort of the Andhra Pradesh government. The restaurant inside offers a limited number of snacks, but that should not be a deterrent. Mainly because you have very few alternatives. You can step into one of the shops in the village, though. But, if a clean toilet is a deciding factor, I recommend the resort.
I feel the temple deserves something better than the arch, which marks the turn to the path leading to the monument.
Overall, I liked the place and the journey. Less than a 3-hour drive from Bengaluru. Would be hard to visit during summer, though.
If the weather is good, you can leave early from Bengaluru to Nandi Hills, watch the sun rise, and then head to Lepakshi. You can have breakfast at the AP tourism department’s resort before heading to the temple.