A road trip to Lepakshi from Bangalore

The 'Natya Mantapa' or the Dancing Hall consists of seventy beautifully carved pillars of which, twelve pillars situated at the center form the dancing hall. The twelve pillars carry carvings including that of the legendary Dancing Queen Ramhba and the audience watching her dance. The audience include Lord Dattatreya, Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Surya, Tumbara, Riteshwara, Brahma, Nataraja, Chandra and other scholars, some of whom are seen holding musical instruments.The ceiling comprises of a hundred petaled lotus carved out of twelve stones, also called as Shathapatra Kamala in Kannada, meaning hundred petaled lotus). On one of the Pillars, we find the sculpture of the Dancing Guru Brungeshwara, having three legs in the form of hoofs and eyes of a horse with plaited hair, and danced on a par with Rambha. The others pillars of the hall carry miniature carvings of various figurines, floral patterns, and designs.
The Natya Mantapa
Pillars with carvings of the Audience at Dance
Other Side of the Audience

Dancing Queen Rambha





Goddess Parvati
Dancing Guru Brungeshwara

Other Pillars of the Mantapa
Right behind the carving of Bringeshwara is a carving that describes the story of Bhikshatana, in which Lord Eshwara appears in the form of a man, disguised as a beggar, in order to test Goddess Parvati's devotion.  Shiva appears as a in human form as a beggar in front of Parvati's house and calls out 'Bhavathi Bhikshandehi'  for seeking alms. Parvati, who hears the call while bathing, immediately wraps a cloth around her waist and brings rice to partly fill the begging bowl of Lord Shiva. While she goes in to bring milk and ghee, Shiva fills the bowl full with rice. Without losing concentration, and with great devotion, Parvati starts to pour in the milk and ghee. Goddess Parvati is therefore also known as Annapoorneshwari. Lord Shiva, whose main intention was to test her degree of devotion, tries to distract her by making the wrapped cloth slip down her waist (This can be seen clearly in the picture below on the right side). Parvati fails to notice this and continues her offering, proving that she is a staunch devotee. Shiva being impressed by her devotion and commitment, appears in his true from as seen in the picture below.

Shiva in Real Form, As a Beggar and Goddess Parvati
Goddess Parvati Completely  Lost in Devotion
  To the north east corner of the Natya Mantapa stands tall an 8 feet Pillar, known as the Gravity Pillar. It is also called as the Antarikhsha Sthamba or Moola Sthamba.in Kannada. It is said that during the British rule, in 1902, an Engineer named Lord Hamilton visited the tempe for inspection purposes, at the time of which he pushed the pillar with an iron rod. The outcome was that apart from the gravity pillar being displaced by a small amount, all the other pillars were also displaced by a short distance, after which, they feared to touch the pillars further. Hence the name Moola Sthamba or the Main Pillar. The pillar is in contact with the ground for a small portion only, whiile the rest is about half an inch above ground.
Moola Sthamba
Closer Look at the Gravity Pillar
As we enter the second prakara, we see a huge sculpture of a Seven Headed Serpent coiled in three layers, at the center of which is seated an idol of Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva Linga. The story behind this sculpture is as follows. The kitchen situated right opposite to the serpent sculpture belonged to the sculptors, who prepared their lunch there. One day, it so happened that when the sculptors came to the kitchen for having lunch, it was told by the mother of the main sculptor that it would take some more time in order to make the lunch ready. Now, knowing that it would take time and not wanting to waste any time, the sculptors decided to sculpt on the huge rock lying in font of their kitchen, and the result of this was the Seven Headed Serpent. It is believed that, when their mother walked out of the kitchen and saw this piece of beautiful work, she was shocked and surprised at what they had ended up doing  in such a short span of time. She cast her eyes ( ('Dhrishti' in Kannada)) on the sculpture and the effect was to such an extent that the sculpture cracked at three places.
The Seven Headed Serpent

Complete View of  Serpent and the Adjacent Rock
On the rock adjacent to the carving of Lord Ganapthi can be seen carvings of a Spider (Jedara Hula in Kannada), Bedara Kannappa, a Snake and an Elephant, all f whom are seen worshiping the Shiva linga. It is therefore believed that Shri Kalahastii existed long before Lepakshi was built.
Carvings of Spider, Bedara Kannappa, Elephant & Snake
After entering the second prakara, wee see an idol of Ganesha carved on a rock which is about six feet tall.It is a custom that before worshiping Lord Veerabadhraswamy, the devotees have to take the darshana of Lord Ganapathi. Hence, this place is visited before worshiping Veerabadhraswamy.
Lord Ganapathi - Vigneshwara
About 200m away and in line and opposite to the Seven Headed Serpent that houses a Shiva Linga is a big and beautiful idol of Nandi, the guardian of Lord Shiva. The idol is about 27 feet in length and 15 feet high. The body of Nandi  is decorated with carvings of bells and anklets.

Nandi - Front View
Read the previous posts here and here

The Hoysala Temple - Mavuthanahalli, Hassan

          'Mavuthanahalli' is a small village in the Arsikere Taluk of Hassan District. We had no much information about the existence of any old temples in this village, except for the presence of a small Hoysala Temple. Therefore, our hunt for this temple began without any expectations. After getting the required information about its location from the temple priest of Haranahalli, we moved as directed and stopped by at a small village to confirm the route. Thankfully, we were on the right track. We were hungry and on a look out for a place to eat. Finding a small hotel in this village serving piping hot Idlis and Bondas, we halted to have breakfast. Surprisingly, the tasty and fulfilling meal for two came at just Rs.30. After this super-breakfast, we moved towards our destination. On reaching Mavuthanahalli, while we inquired about the Shiva temple from the locals, the villagers excitingly and curiously enough wished to know if we were from from the govt. and would help them  improve the temple.  Sadly, we had to answer them that we had come only to visit this lesser known temple. We moved towards the temple only to find a lovely little temple in dilapidated condition. 
Mahalingeshwara Temple
The temple here is the 'Mahalingeshwara Temple' dedicated to Lord Shiva. The exterior of the temple is in a dilapidated condition, with most of its external features either ruined or displaced, while the carvings on the outer walls seem to have completely vanished (except two), giving a very blank look from the outside. The two beautiful carvings that have survived, lets us imagine how beautiful this temple looked when it was intact. As we stepped inside, we realized that the villagers had taken keen interest in preserving our heritage. The temple interiors very well maintained by the people of the village. We had the company of  two very young and energetic girls of the neighboring houses, who kept interest in knowing the history behind his temple and told us everything they knew. 
Ruined Exteriors of the Temple
Rear View of the Temple
The temple is of Trikuta type having three cells, with Lord Shiva placed in the form of a Linga in the main cell. His guardian Nandi is situated right in front of him. The ceilings are skillfully and delicately carved.The pillars and door frames are simple compared to the other typical  Hoysala style temples.
Main Shrine of Lord Shiva
Shiva Linga
Nandi
Central Ceiling
Simple and Plain Pillar
The left cell houses an idol of Lord Hari-Hara, along with their respective vehicles Garuda and Nandi,  present at the base of the idol. Guarding them are the dwarapalakas at the door. The lintel of the door frame has a carving of Hari-Hara with their Consorts. The right cell houses a beautiful idol of Lord Narasimha and the lintel has a carving of Narasimha on it. The temple has several beautifully carved images, some of which include Lord Ganesha, Shanmukha, Naga, and Sapthamatrikas. 
Lord Hari-Hara in the Left Cell
Hari-Hara with their Consorts
Idol of Ugra Narasimha in the Right  Cell
Lintel of Lord Narasimha
Ceiling Panel 1
Ceiling Panel 2
Mahishasuramardhini
Lord Shanmukha
The Only Two Exterior Wall Carvings
Lord Surya
Sapthamatrikas


A date with Pre Historic time

One afternoon while traveling, we reached a spot which looked quite mysterious. We stopped by to peep in and have a look around. The first thing that caught our attention was a single stone standing about three feet tall. Here on, walking a little further, we found a stone circle, made of irregular stones. On spotting these two, our excitement doubled, as we waited further to see what more was in store! By now, we were almost sure that this indeed is the place where we could look for Menhirs. We were sure about this as we had read before, their presence in that particular place and its surroundings. Inspecting the surroundings, we found a Dolmenoid Cist, after which it became a confirmed site for spotting the Menhirs. Knowing that we were close to spotting them, we began wandering with curiosity this vast expanse of scattered stones, small hillocks and boulders.
Inviting Menhir
Dolmeniod cist
Dolmen
Displaced Cap Stone 
   We sighted a few Stone Circles, Cairn Circles and a Dolmeniod Cist. A local shepherd revealed to us that there were more than  a hundred such structures (Pandavara Gudi or Dolmenoid Cist), most of which were removed from place and the stones being used for various purposes. One of the striking features of the  Dolmenoid Cist is the huge undressed cap stone slab placed horizontally on four comparatively thin vertically standing stone slabs,  with one or more port holes. The cap stones we observed were really huge and its thickness varied from about one to two feet, and the vertical standing stones were only about three to four inches thick. We always wonder how  people, 3000 plus years ago, played with stones so easily without any help from the so called technology. We found numerous Dolmens without the cap stone, which then resembled the crude swastika (a Hindu religious symbol and Nazi emblem), while some places were scattered with only cap stones. 
Stone circle with Dolmen in the center 
Stone Circle
Cairn Circle
   Further upon interaction, he revealed finding pottery pieces under these cists and not finding any treasure. Later, he called upon two teenagers for guiding and showing us some intact Cists and Menhirs. They were more than happy to show us around. On our way, we met an elderly person, probably in his 80's, who told us that when he was boy, two Britishers  had visited this site for surveying, which went on for almost two years. Since then, only a few Government officials visited here occasionally. He showed us the biggest Cist of this area, and asked us to return tomorrow so he could clear all the over grown vegetation and we could see it clearly.  A little further, we found a slab stone with port hole.
Inside a Dolmen
Dolmen and Shepherd 
Look at the Port Hole 
  Finally we reached our destination, the Menhirs that stood tall amidst the dry vegetation. There were four Menhirs all around. Menhirs are monolithic undressed stones planted vertically into the ground, which can vary in height and structure size from small  to gigantic. Some researchers believe these to be associated with burials while a few relate them to the Solstice. Though we can get close to the reason behind placing or constructing these structures, the truth remains hidden. At a few sites in India, Menhirs with engravings, also called as Petroglyphs have been found. While we  wondered about these intriguing structures, time passed by and we had to call off our visit since it was getting dark, leaving the rest  to our imagination. We felt that there may be many hidden secrets behind these mysterious structures, that are yet to be explored and discovered.
Menhirs


This place is located about 60 km from Bangalore.

Other Prehistoric Sites visited :
1 Chandravalli Gardens, Chitradurga  
2 Stone circles of Varlakonda
3 Cave Paintings of Anegundi 
4 Rock Carvings of Usgalimal, Goa
5 Pandava Caves of Rivona .

References:
1 "Kuvalahala" - A book about Places of  Interest in Kolar
2 The Megalithic Culture in South India - By B.K.Gururaja Rao
3 Wiki