Temple Architecture

The temple is situated on a low lying hill called the Kurmasaila to the south of the village and faces the north. There is a short flight of steps from the foot of the hill to the temple. The temple has two enclosures built in cyclopean masonry. There are three entrances to the first enclosure, one in the north, the second in the east and the third in the west. The entrances in the east and west are now closed. the entrance in the north is surmounted by a gopura.

Lepakshi temple kurmasaila

The northern entrance is the main entrance to the temple. It has a mandapa before it in two sections, one on each side of the passage, covering the adhistana of the gopura. Each section has a pillar in the front with Cola corbels. There is a mandapa similar to the above mentioned one in the rear side of the gopura. The brick superstructure of the gopura is in a dilapidated condition and there is only one tala containing the kuta, panjara and sala series.

The eastern entrance: The eastern entrance is through a dvara inside a mandapa. There is a mandapa before it in two sections, in front of the western entrance section has a pillar with Cola corbels. There is a mandapa in two sections in the inner side of the entrance similar to the above mentioned one. The roof is fallen.

There is a pillared corridor on the four sides along the inner side of the prakara walls of the outer enclosure. The pillars are of a single type, i.e., pillar with one pillaret projecting having the Vijayanagara corbels.

A Mandapa: There is a mandapa facing the north in the south-western corner of the outer enclosure. It has three projections towards the south, east and west with pial in each of the projections. The mandapa contains forty pillars(40) which are of the following types:
(a) Pillar with vyala bracket and Vijayanagara corbels and
(b) Pillar with Cola corbels.    The ceiling of the mandapa contains paintings which are badly damaged due to percolation fo water. The inner enclosure is formed by four walls of stone which have fallen here and there. there are two entrances to this enclosure one in the north and the other in the south.


The northern entrance: The northern entrance is the main entrance and is surmounted by a gopura. The adhistana of the gopura is very high and is in two sections. The lower section contains from botton upwards of upana, board patta, gala cut into compartments containing figures of elephants, patta, with scroll decoration, another patta with scroll decoration, padma, gala an ornate moulding decorated with buckled flutes, broad gala containing short pilasters and kumbhapanjaras and cornice decorated with bead garland decoration and simhalalata gables. (Picture)There are figures of men and women in fine dance poses connecting the padma and the moulding with ribbon cuttings(Picture). The second or upper section contains in order patta, padma, patta, tripattagala, projecting patta with scroll decoration, another gala, padma and alingapattika. The front wall is decorated with three pilasters. Pilaster surmounted by panjara and three pilasters. The back wall is decorated with two pilasters, kumbhapanjara pilaster, salakosta pilaster and kumbhapanjara. The superstructure is of brick and contains a single tala with kuta, panjara, sala with three stucco figures, panjara, kuta, panjara and kuta. The verticals of the dvara have a makara at the base and scroll decoration above. Another vertical of dvara has the figure of a woman standing under a creeper at the base and a vertical row of circles containing the figures of dancers and musicians. Before this gopura are the Dhwajastambha and Balipitha. . ,

The southern entrance: The southern entrance has a mandapa with a passage in the centre. IN each section of the mandapa there are four pillars wit Cola corbels.


A Mandapa: There is a mandapa facing the west in the south-east corner of the second enclosure. The Mandapa is in two sections with a wall containing an entrance, dividing the two, the front section of the mandapa contains four pillars which are decorated with vertical scroll decoration and have the roll corbels. the verticals on either side of the entrance have at the base a dvarapalaka image. The lintel contains the figure of Gajalakshmi. In the back section of the mandapa there are four pillars with Vijayanagara corbels.

Very near the above mentioned mandapa is a big boulder against the east face of which is a richly carved granite base. A flight of steps in the east leads to the base. On the base is a huge serpent with three coils and seven hoods cutout of the rock and in the centre of the third coil is a panavatta and above it a granite linga. The linga is protected by the seven hoods of the serpent. (picture seven hood linga) The base is split and the local legend says that the lingam base and all was cut out by a workman of the temple during the rest hour while his mother was getting his meal ready. On arriving with his meal his mother expressed her not unnatural surprise and admiration; whereupon the stone base immediately fell as under due to the evil influence of the unlucky words of praise. On the north face of the boulder is a huge sculpture of Ganapati seated


Kalyanamandapa: The mandapa is situated in the south-west corner of the second or inner enclosure. It is an open structure, built on a high base which rises to five and a half feet (5½) on the northern side. It contains thirty eight pillars (38) which are of the following types:

a) Pillar with one pillaret projecting

b) Pillar with two pillarets projecting and

c) Pillar with a big deity image carved on a projection of the shaft.

The marriage of Siva and Parvathi has been carved on one of the pillars of this mandapa. Many sages, gods, Dhanvantari and the eight Dikpalakas(8) are shown adorning the pillars as important guests. This mandapa was left unfinished.

The western part of the Kalyanamandapa made up of forty two pillars(42) is called the LATAMANDAPA or HALL OF CREEPERS. To the west of the Kalyanamandapa is a mark on the rock which is said to be the foot print of the goddess Durga.


The Unjal Mandapa: This is situated near the Kalyanamandapa to its east. The adhishtana of this mandapa contains from bottom upwards-upana, patta, padma, broad gala with figures of elephants and cornice containing simhalalata gables. There are four tall pillars having Cola corbels in the four corners of the mandapa supporting the roof. There is a round sikhara above the roof of the mandapa.

A small Shrine: There is a small shrine consisting of the garbhagriha and a mandapa before it and oriented to the south in the north west corner of the second enclosure. the mandapa contains four rows (4) of four pillars each with Vijayanagara corbels. The garbhagriha is in a ruined condition.


The Anjaneya Shrine: This shrine is situated a few yards to the south-east of the one described above. It faces the east and consists of the garbhagriha and a small mandapa before it. The walls are plain and the roof is flat. The mandapa contains two rows of three pillars each. There is astanding image of Anjaneya with hands in anjali inside the garbhagriha.

The main Shrine: The main shrine of Virabhadra is situated in the center of the second enclosure, faces the north and consists of the grabhagriha and antarala surrounded by a pradakshina, mukha mandapa, a pillared corridor outside the mukhamandapa and the natyamandapa. At right angles to the mukhamandapa is the shrine of Vishnu facing the east.


There is a shrine dedicated to shiva under the name of Papavinasesvara facing the Vishnu shrine. To the south of the papavinasesvara shrine is the Sayanagara and to its south is the parvathi shrine both facing the west. In the western wing of the pradakshina surrounding the garbhagriha and antarala of the Virabhadra shrine are three shrines known respectively as the Ramalinga shrine, Bhadrakali shrine and Hanumalinga shrine all facing the east. In the north east corner of the mukhamandapa there is a vedi with the Navagrahas.

The Natyamandapa: The natyamandapa is the finest part of the temple. It is situated immediately behind the north gopura of the second enclosure and measures eighty one feet east-west and forty two feet(42) north-south. It is supported on seventy(70) excellently sculptured pillars, the twelve(12) pillars in the centre forming a court. The columns of the central group bear almost life size representations of the musicians and dancers carvged with much spirit and freedom. The figure of Bhiksatanamurti, Brahma playing the drum, Tumbura thrumming the strings of vina, Nandikesvara playing the hudduka, a devince danseuse Ramba dancing, Bhringi, Chandra and a prominent figure of Nataraja are amongst the noteworthy sculptures adorning the pillars that beautify the central part of this natyamandapa. Other pillars in this mandapa are of the following types –


(a) pillar with one pillaret projecting

(b) pillar with two pillarets projecting

(c) pillar with three pillarets projecting and

(d) pillar with Vyala bracket with rider.

All these pillars have Vijayanagara corbels. The ceiling of the court formed by the twelve (12)central piers has a big lotus with several petals inside a square with the bud hanging in the centre. By far the most remarkable feature of this Natyamandapa is the numerous mural paintings of scenes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the puranas with which the ceiling is covered. On some pillars we find figures of women in charming postures.

Behind the Natyamandapa and attached to it by a narrow transverse corridor, and at a higher level is the main part of the temple. A flight of steps from the Natyamandapa leads to the pillared corridor. On the northern side, the corridor contains two rows of seven pillars. The big boulder on the eastern side cuts the east wing of the corridor into two sections. The section to the north of the boulder contains two rows of four pillars and the section to the south contains a row of four pillars(4). The southern wing of the corridor contains a row of fifteen pillars(15). Thecornice which runs on all sides of the corridor has a concave upper portion and a convex lower portion.

The Mukhamandapa: The entrance of the Mukhamandapa is in the north. In the interior, the Mukhamandapa contains twenty two pillars(22), which are of the following types -(a) pillar with one pillaret projecting, (b) pillar with Vyala bracket, (c) pillar with two Vyala brackets at right angles to one another and (d) pillar with a big sculpture carved on a projection o the shaft. All the pillars have the Vijayanagara corbels. There are some remarkable sculptures on the pillars of this mukhamandapa. Each sculpture is about four feet (4) in height and is in high relief. On a pillar in the north-west corner are the figures of Durga on one side and Kalarimurti on the other side. An imposing figure of Gajasuramurti(Plate21) is found on a pillar in the south-east corner. A pillar in the north-east corner shows fine figures locally known as Padmini Jati Stree(plate22) and a Panchala purusha. Designed as a caryatid, the Padmini Jati Stree stands gracefully on a makara, holding the vine of creeper.


The Mukhamandapa contains four pillars in the centre with vijayanagara corbes. The ceiling of the mukhamandapa contains paintings of the dasavataras. There is a dvarapalaka on either side of the entrance of the antarala.

The adhistana of the garbhagriha and the antarala of the Virabhadra shrine contains from bottom upwards upana, broad patta, padma, patta, broad patta, gala, tripatta, gala, patta and alingapattika. The walls of the garbhagriha and antarala are plain. The vimana contains two talas with the kuta, panjara, sala, panjara, and kuta series. Above the second tala is a step with nandis in the foru corners. The sikhara is round and belongs to the Vesara order. The garbhagriha houses an imposing image of virabhadra.

The Vishnu shrine: The Visnu shrine faces the east and its entrance is in the west wall of the mukhamandapa of the Virabhadra shrine. This shrine is referred to as Ranganatha shrine in an inscription discovered at Chautakuntapalli in the Hindupur taluk of the Anantapur District.(21) dated in Saka 1459(A.D.1537) it refers to the gods Papavinasana, Viresa and Ranganatha at Lepakshi. An inscription on the east wall of the second Prakara in the Lepakshi temple mentions the shrines of Virabhadra, Papanasesvara and Rama.(22) The Rama shrine mentioned must be Vishnu shrine. At present the sanctum in this shrine houses a standing image of Visnu with a Devi on either side.

The vishnu shrine contains the garbhagriha, antarala and mukhamandapa. The adhishtana of the garbhagriha and antarala has from bottom upwards – upana, patta, two pattas, tripatta, patta, gala and alingapattika. The walls are plain. The cornice is slightly projecting and contains gables. Above the cornice is a row of makaras. The vimana contains two talas with the series kuta, panjara, sala panjara and kuta in each. There is a steop above the second tala with a lion in each of the four corners. There is a seated figure of Vishnu in each of the four directions in the gala. The sikhara is four sided and contains a simhalalata gable in the centre of each side. Above the sikhara are lotuses and in their centre is the kalasa. This is a dvitala vimana of the nagara order.

The Papavinasesvara shrine: This shrine consists of the garbhagriha and antarala and faces the west. The adhishtana and the walls are plain. The vimana above the garbhagriha has a single tala with the kuta, panjara, sala, panjara and kuta series. There is a phalaka above the tala with a nandi in each of the four corners. The Sihara is round. This is an ekatala vimana of the vesara order. There is a dvarapalaka on either side of the entrance of the antarala. There is a nandi before the antarala. The garbhagriha houses a linga on vedi. On the back wall of the garbhagriha is a sculpture of Siva as Bhiskshatanamurti.


Miniature Shrine: There is a miniature shrine to the right of the entrance of the antarala of the shrine described above. It consists of the garbhagriha whose walls are plain. There is four faced NAgarasikhara on the roof. The shrine houses an image of Ganapathi.

The Sayanagara: This is a dark room to the south of Papavinasesvara shrine. The entrance of the Sayanagara is in the east wall of the mukhamandapa of the Virabhadra shrine. The ceilings of the passage in to the Sayanagara and that of the Sayanagara contain paintings.

The Parvathi Shrine: This is situated to the south of the Sayanagara, contains only the garbhagriha and faces the east. The walls are plain and the roof is flat. The sanctum houses a standing image of Parvathi.

The Ramalinga Shrine: The shrine is situated at the south western corner of the pradakshina which surrounds the garbhagriha and antarala of the Virabhadra shrine. The entrance of this shrine is in the south-west corner of the pradakshina wall. The shrine faces the east and has only the garbhagriha with a linga on a panavatta.

The Badrakali shrine: This shrine is situated immediately to the north of the Ramalinga shrine. The shrine faces the east and contains only the garbhagriha which enshrines an image of Bhadrakali.

The Hanumalinga shrine: This shrine is situated to the north of the Bhadrakali shrine. It faces the east and contains only the garbhagriha whose walls are plain. Above the roof is a four faced Nagara Sikhara. The garbhagriha houses a linga on a panavatta.


The Nandi: The nandi, situated a few furlongs from the temple, is considered to be one of the biggest in India. Massiveness in size, however, ha not been secured at the expenseof artistic beauty. The bull is depictedin the characteristic pose of Nandi. It is noticeable, however, that the head is held aloft at a higher angle than is usual. Consequently, the xpression of submission which is typical of nandi lying befre Siva, is conspicuous by its absence here. From the stand point of the proper prroportion in the formation of the various limbs and the excellent finish secured in the workmanship.The Lepakshi Nandi is a good piece of art of the Vijayanagara period. Like the big Nagalingam, this monolith is said to have been casually carved by a party of workmen in an off hour while waiting for their meals. it is a remarkable piece of work, being about fifteen feet high, some twenty seven in length and finished with great care.