Veerabhadra Swamy Temple – Lepakshi is culturally and archaeologically significant as it is the location of shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Virabhadra which were built during the Vijayanagara Empire period (1336–1646). The temples are the location of mural paintings of the Vijayanagara kings Kannada inscriptions.
It was built in 1530 AD and was also mentioned by Virupanna Nayaka and Viranna, both brothers who were Governors under the Vijayanagar Empire during the reign of King Achyutaraya, at Penukonda. According to Skanda Purana, the temple is one of the Divya Kshetras, an important pilgrimage site of Lord Shiva.
The main temple is laid out in three parts, these are –
- The assembly hall as the Mukha Mantapa, Natya mantapa or Ranga mantapa;
- Arda mantapa or Antarala, and
- The garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple, as an edifice, is encircled by two enclosures. The outermost walled enclosure has three gates, the northern gate is used regularly. The inner east gate is the entry to the assembly hall, which is a large-sized open hall designed with a large space in its central part.
It is at the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum and has a profusion of sculptures and paintings over every inch of space on the columns and ceiling. The images on the pillars and walls are of divine beings, saints, guardians, musicians, dancers, and 14 avatars of Shiva. Figurines of the goddesses Ganga and Yamuna flank the entrance to the sanctum.
In the columns in the northeastern part of the hall, there are images of Natesha flanked by Brahma and a drummer. In an adjoining column, there are figurines of nymphs in dancing postures, flanked by a drummer and cymbalist. The column at the southwest part of the hall has an image of Parvathi, Shiva’s consort, flanked by female attendants.
There are also carvings of divinities such as Bhringi with three legs and Bhikshatana carved in a dancing posture; this is in the northwestern part of the hall. The ceiling of the hall is fully covered with mural paintings depicting the scenes from the epics, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas.
The paintings in each bay on the ceiling of the main mandapa, the Antaralaya, and other shrines, depict the grandeur of Vijayanagara pictorial art. They are painted over an initial plaster layer of lime mortar.
The fresco in the ceiling of ardha mantapa, which is said to be Asia’s largest, has frescoes of the 14 avatars of Lord Shiva as:
- Yoga Dakshinamurti,
- Chandes Anugraha Murthy,
The presiding deity deified in the sanctum sanctorum is a nearly life-size image of Veerabhadra, fully armed and decorated with skulls. There is a cave chamber in the sanctum where sage Agasthya is said to have lived when he installed the image of the Linga here.
There is a separate chamber with Shiva and his consort Parvathi carved on a boulder. In another shrine chamber, there is an image of Lord Vishnu.
The hanging pillar is yet another attraction in the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple. There is a gap between the base of the pillar and the ground through which cloth and paper can be passed, indicating the pillar is not supported by the ground.
A huge granite Nandi is carved out of a single block of stone that faces the statue of the serpent in the precincts of the temple in Lepakshi.
Timings to visit Veerabhadra Swamy Temple
5 AM to 12:30 PM | 4 PM to 8:30 PM
How to Reach Veerabhadra Swamy Temple – Lepakshi
By Air: Bangalore Airport – 98.1 km
By Train: Anantapur Railway Station – 123 km, Bangalore Cantt Railway Station – 119 km, Madanapalle – 123 km
By Road: Anantapur – 120 km, Hindupur – 13.9 km, Bangalore – 122 km
Virabhadra Swamy Temple, Temple Road, Anantapur, Lepakshi – 515331, Andhra Pradesh, India.