Hanging Pillar – An architectural marvel

The highly talked about, but the least understood feature at Lepakshi is the hanging pillar. the main mandap has 70 pillars. One of them is unique.It appears to hang from the top as it does not rest on the floor. One can draw a paper or a piece of cloth under the pillar. The science behind  this architectural feature remains a mystery. A British official tried to study this column but only succeeded in dislodging it from the original, thus dangerously skewing the structure. Wisely, he abandoned any further invasive investigation. 

The hanging column of Lepakshi- an architectural mystery.

The pillar in Belur is also an architectural curiosity. It appears to be supported only on three sides. It is a stand-alone pillar and not part of a mandapam. 

Belur Pillar


Famous Murals of Lepakshi

The murals of the roof of the Lepakshi temple is another remarkable feature of this 700 year old Vijayanagara temple. Some of the scenes are reproduced here.

In Paravati’s dressing room. Note the six attendants have  distinct hairdo and dresses.
Royals and staff offering prayers

Shiva as Bhikshatana murthy, the mendicant

Bhikshatana murthy at Kailasanatha temple, Kanchipuram. – the 7th Century CE Pallava temple .

Bhikshatanar – showing the enchanted rishi patnis and the enraged rishi. 

More in my earlier post: http://stonestories.blogspot.in/2015/08/bhikshatanar-and-annapoorni-at-lepakshi.html

Krishna at it again

Gopi Vastraaharan – Krishna stealing  the clothes of gopis. This pillar is from Sree parthasartathy Temple, Triplicane. For narration and other pictures from  Bhatkal, Karnataka and George Town, Chennai see: http://stonestories.blogspot.in/2011/09/vastraapaharan-krishna-and-gopis.html

At Sree Parthasarathy Temple, Thiruvallikkeni

There is another sculpture on the same theme at Sree Sundararaja Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram. See Bhusavali’s blog 

Hanuman and the Crocodile

The temple of Sree Ranganatha at Srirangam is famous for it sculptures in the various locations. The Venugopalswamy shrine, the Sesharaya Mandapam, the Garuda mandapam, the gopurams all provide examples of the skills of the artisans.

This sculpture on a pillar in a small mandap near the pushkarani shows Hanuman coming out of  crocodile.

The story associated with this goes thus. Hanuman was on the way to bring Sanjivani to restore Lakshmana. Ravana sent a demon Kala Nemi (Ravana’s uncle?) to stop Hanuman at any cost. Kalanemi assumed the guise of a sage and persuaded Hanuman to have a bath in a pond near the hill. On entering the water, Hanuman was swallowed by a huge crocodile. Hanuman, using his supernatural powers tore out the belly of the crocodile and emerged unscathed. The crocodile happened to be an apsaras who was cursed to take this form. 

There is much better  representation of the same theme in Sesharaya mandapam. You can see that in this blog by Vijaya Kumar. 

More Narasimha

One more Narsimha on a pillar at Sreerangam Temple.

See other Narasimhars:

Virupanna’s bleeding eyes

The Lepakshi temple was built by the brothers Virupanna and Veeranna who were officers in the court of Achyutaraya. After the death of Achyutaraya, his son-in-law assumed the throne  as the former had no sons. Some courtiers spread a rumour that Virupanna embezzled the court funds to build the temple. The king ordered Viurupanna to be blinded. Virupanna stung by the accusation and sentence prempted and gouged out his eyes and flung them on the wall of the temple. Even today one can see two spots with a blood like stain on the walls withstanding centuries of wind and rain. According to our guide, the British government in the last century did a chemical analysis and confirmed that the stains were indeed from human blood! The Kalyana mandap which was under construction at that stage remained unfinished after this incident. 

Bhikshatanar and Annapoorni at Lepakshi and Nanguneri

Bhikshatana murthy and Annapoorni

At Lepakshi one of the most exquisite carvings on pillar is the depiction of the Bhiskatana scene.

Lord shiva disguised as  bhikshatanar approaches Parvati and seeks alms. Parvati, rushes from her bath to offer the ‘mendicant’ some rice. To test her devotion, the Lord dislodges her attire. The steadfast Parvati, is unaffected and continues with her task. The Lord was highly impressed and Parvati came to be known as Annapoorneswari.

It is interesting to note that it is the mendicant Bhikshatanamurthy, also known as Kankala murthy, who wears the sandals. Are there any other aspects of the Gods which are depicted with a footwear? 

I located another tiny image depicting the same episode  from the roof beam of Nanguneri temple near Thirunelveli .

Bhikshaatana scene in Nanguneri temple roof panel

There is another version of the story of Bhishatanar.A group of leading sages were performing great yagna and other austerities. While doing this, they become very arrogant and egoistic. To teach them a lesson, Shiva appeared as an attractive naked mendicant. The wives of the sages while giving him alms, became enchanted and started following him. The sages realised what was happening and apologized to the Lord. The Nanguneri panel probably depicts this versions as there are more than one woman. 

I found this newly sculpted pillar with Bhikshatnar at Mahabalipuram school of craft.