Lepakshi, in Anantapur district of Andhra, is worth a day trip from Bangalore. A border town closer to Bangalore, is an iconographic delight and a marvel indeed! Pack a picnic lunch, as there are no quality places around to eat. Leave early morning, have a scrumptious breakfast at Nandi Upachar. Take plenty of water. The picnic lunch can be enjoyed after your temple visit – drive towards Lepakshi village. And as always please don’t litter. Bring back all the waste!
Built by the Kings of Vijayanagara, the temple structure resembles the Hampi architecture closely. While driving in, the imposing Nandi on your right is a delight to behold with all his jewelry and regal pose. Before all the encroachments and illegal occupation of spaces, the famed Lingam under the Seshanaga could actually be spotted from the Nandi!
Fabled to be named after Jatayu who was slayed by Ravana while he was abducting Sita, Le- Pakshi, meaning “rise – O bird”, uttered by Rama, when in search of Sita, got the place its name. This is a temple that is worth visiting and one can spend the whole day there – especially if iconography is of interest to you!
We reached the Veerabhadra Swamy temple post lunch on a working day and were lucky enough to have the temple to ourselves – err, almost, if you don’t count the monkeys! We engaged the only available guide to tell us something about the temple. Most of these guides re-tell urban legends, stories passed down from seniors or some distorted form of history, archeology and ancient tales – yet we always engage one as it is a way to contribute to their earnings.
One such story is about Bhringi – the dance teacher of the celestial dancers and of Shiva himself! The guide says he has 3 legs so that when he is tired one leg will rest and the other two will dance. Bhringi, a sage (rishi) in the bygone era, was a great devotee of Shiva. While all the rishis paid equal attention & worshiped both Shiva and Parvati, Bhringi refused to acknowledge Parvati as the female energy and dedicated himself solely to Shiva.
The story goes that Bhringi once arrived at Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva, and expressed his desire to go around Shiva. As he was going around, Shiva’s consort, Shakti, said, “You cannot just go around him. You have to go around me too. We are two halves of the same truth.”
Bhringi, however, was so focused on Shiva that he had no desire to go around Shakti. Seeing this, Shakti sat on Shiva’s lap making it difficult for Bhringi to go around Shiva alone. This form of Shakti on Shiva’s lap can be seen in the Bhoganandeeshwara temple, at Nandi Hills, Bangalore.
Bhringi, determined to go around Shiva took the form of a Bhringi (Black Bee) and tried to slip in between the two.
Amused by this, Shiva made Shakti one half of his body – the famous Ardhanareeshvara form of Shiva, that included Shakti as his equal half. But Bhringi was adamant! He still wanted to go only around Shiva. So, he took the form of a rat, some say a bee, and tried to gnaw his way between the two.
This annoyed the Goddess so much that she said, “May Bhringi lose all parts of the body that come from the mother.” In Tantra, the Indian school of Alchemy, it is believed that the tough and rigid parts of the body such as nerves and bones come from the father while the soft and fluid parts of the body such as flesh and blood come from the mother. Instantly, Bhringi lost all flesh and blood and he became a bag of bones. He collapsed on the floor, unable to get up!
Bhringi realized his folly and realized that both Shiva and Shakti make up the whole.
“Shakti illamal Shivan illai ; Shivan illamal Shakti illai.”
One cannot exist without the other. Without either there is neither.
When this realization dawned on him, Bhringi was profuse in his apology to Shakti. While she was partly appeased by the apology, she was determined that the world should never forget this lesson on Shakti & Shiva being equal halves, Bhringi was denied flesh and blood forever. However, Shiva took pity on him considering he was such a staunch bhakta, and without touching the core of the curse, blessed him with a third leg to enable him to stand upright. Thus, he was blessed with a third leg, so that his legs served as a tripod that prevented him from collapsing! This fine sculpture can be seen at one of the main pillars at Lepakshi.
SPHEEHA Guest Writer
Devika is a proud Bangalorean and Indian. She dons several hats - Facilitator, Speaker, Coach, L&OD/HR Expert, Handloom Enthusiast, among others. She loves to travel, is a fairly good photographer and is passionate about all things handmade. She is the founder of Ithy-ADee, a handloom store to promote Indian weaves and handmade artisanal products. She loves coffee, hibiscus flowers and has over 30 varieties growing in her garden.