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.
The naga lingam is another imposing sculpture iIn the Lepakshi temple. A 7 hooded naga rises over the lingam behind the sanctum sanctorum. . The guide narrated an interesting story about the naga lingam. A young sculptor was hungry and asked his mother who was working in the kitchen just opposite the present lingam, when meals would be ready. She replied that it would take at least another hour. To pass time, the sculptor built this naga lingam in just one hour. The mother, coming out of the kitchen was astonished . Because of her ‘drishti’ the sculpture developed three cracks. Therefore, no formal puja is performed for this lingam.
The lingam is flanked by a panel of Saptha maathas.
Women offering puja to the Saptha mathas – Indrani, Kaumari, Vaishnavi,Maheswari, Brahmi Varahi, & Chamundi
The tip of the naga hood is visible from the nandi several metres away., in the outskirts of the town.