Lepakshi: A treasure trove of stupendous sculptures

Lepakshi: A treasure trove of  stupendous sculptures

A couple of months ago, I visited a place I had heard of from many people, over several decades. They had all recommended a visit to Lepakshi, technically in Andhra Pradesh but situated at a place that is a two-hours drive from Bengaluru. It is close to the Bengaluru airport.

I went expecting to see an ancient temple. It turned out to be an ancient temple but left me gobsmacked with its abundance of art. Dedicated to Shri Veerabhadra, the Lepakshi temple has striking sculptures all carved out of rock. While much has been written about the temple, its hanging pillar and many other features that make it a must-visit place, there were two factors that struck me about it. One, that many of its sculptures are still intact (though several are broken too) and preserved well enough for us today to see them as they were – the eyes and the nose are not mutilated. This is a wonderful surprise because in many places, figures are so damaged that we are left to imagine what they might have been like. Second, quite a few of the sculptures reminded me immediately of the motifs that are painted on kalamkari fabric. It led me to think of how handpainted fabrics are created and painted with motifs inspired by what must have been around in those ages gone by. Some of the motifs include the bird, elephant and flowers.

Here are pictures of motifs from the Lepakshi temple’s interiors. Please note that the captions are according to what I thought of the sculptures.

The Annapakshi
The Ganpati carved in rock
The horses
The painted panel on the ceiling.
The pillars behind the temple.
The room and pillars behind the temple.
A human atop an animal
The Shiva temple
Two women pounding.

The ugranarasimha

By Renuka Phadnis, Associate Professor, College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Dayananda Sagar University, Bengaluru

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