Anantapur: Andhra Pradesh may soon have its first UNESCO heritage site – the Lepakshi temple. The 16th century-old Veerabhadra Swamy temple and the monolith bull in Lepakshi, Anantapur district, have been added to UNESCO's tentative list of world heritage sites in India for 2022. This is one among the two entries from the Telugu states, including the Qutb Shahi monuments in and around Hyderabad.
Ever since Ramappa temple in Telangana was identified as a UNESCO world heritage site, the Andhra Pradesh tourism development has been trying to add Lepakshi to the UNESCO list. The famous Veerabhadra temple is one of the oldest temples in India, built by the brothers Viranna and Virupanna. The temple is known for its notable Vijayanagar architectural style and its sculptures. A huge Nandi made from a single granite stone is one of the major attractions. The Lepakshi Nandi, locally famous as Lepakshi Basavanna, is a monolithic bull in a sitting posture, lying about 250 meters from the temple.
Committee to survey
"A committee will be constituted to prepare documentation of the temple to submit to UNESCO, and the final list will be announced in June. The UNESCO team will visit and direct guidelines to be followed by the historic sites," said an official from the Archaeology Survey of India. The Andhra Pradesh government is keen on getting world heritage status with the UNESCO tag in 2022. If selected, Lepakshi will be the first World Heritage Site from Andhra Pradesh.
Lepakshi temple was built in 1530 AD by Virupanna Nayaka and Viranna, brothers who were Governors under the Vijayanagar empire during King Achutaraya's rule at Penukonda, who were native to Karnataka. The temple consists of only Kannada inscriptions. According to the Skanda Purana, the temple is said to be one of the important pilgrimage sites of Lord Shiva. A massive carving of a seven-headed serpent shielding the Shivalinga is one of the major attractions. The 'hanging pillar' is yet another attraction. There's a gap between the pillar's base and the ground as the pillar is slightly dislodged and touches the ground only on one side. Many devotees who visit the temple try passing a paper or cloth through the gap.
7 monuments/sites proposed
According to the Archaeology department, Amaravati, the process to identify monuments and sites in AP as UNESCO World Heritage Sites began in September 2021. Seven historical monuments and sites were proposed – Amravati Maha Stupa in Guntur district, the Guntupalli Buddhist caves in West Godavari district, the Chandragiri Fort in Chittoor district, Gandikota in Kadapa, Nagarjuna Konda, Lepakshi in Anantapur district, and Salihundam in Srikakulam district.