Traditional temple

This magnificent Shiva temple in Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh could be India’s next UNESCO site

Dr. Alka Pande, an art historian and museum curator, says the profusion of carvings and references to the Ramayana and Mahabharata abound in the hallways of the temple.

“And even a majestic seven-headed sculpture of the divine serpent guarding the lingam is of great significance,” she says.

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The presiding deity of Shiva, she adds, is also a fine example of fine Indian craftsmanship – it is life-size and full of armory and a skill group. In the central corridors, various avatars of Shiva are engraved cheek by cheek.

As Dr. Pande sees it, a UNESCO label would positively etch the temple in the national consciousness. “As a country, we are very regional. Few people even know of the existence of this temple and so are many such examples across the country. As Indians, documentation is not our forte. But I’m glad the temple is finally being recognized for the sheer wonder that it is.

The Temple City of Lepakshi

The city of Lepakshi offers many pleasures even beyond the beauty of the Veerabhadra temple. Getting to Lepakshi is also convenient. Just 120 km from Bengaluru, it is only a three hour drive from Kempegowda International Airport. The nearest railway station is Hindupur which is connected to major Indian cities.

“The city of Lepakshi is also famous for its beautiful style of Kalamkari textile manufacturing,” says Kanisetti. “Interestingly, the design features used by Kalamkari craftsmen are also found in the temple.”

The art involves the use of vegetable-dyed fabric block paint and this form of paint has also recently been registered for a Geographical Indication (GI) label under handicrafts. Apart from Kalamkari handicrafts, Lepakshi is also famous for its traditional puppet show and wooden toys inspired by those from the 13th century.

From chepa pulusu (fish curry made with tamarind), pickle gongura ambadi (from sorrel leaves), rich gutti vankaya koora (stuffed eggplant sauce) to a basic uppindi (rava upma) – sample of rustic culinary dishes at any hole-in-the-wall restaurants around Lepakshi.