Out of sheer curiosity and to meet my objective of going out of Bangalore at least once a month, I planned a trip to Puttaparthi and Lepakshi with a friend of mine. Puttaparthi is about 160 km’s from Bangalore. So it was a perfect place for a day trip. This time of the year being summers, we left early in the morning. And thought of having breakfast on the way. But to our surprise, none of the roadside Dhabas were open till 9:45 AM and by then we had reached. The interesting thing about these Dhabas is that they all call themselves ‘Punjabi Dhaba’, which is dually written in Gurmukhi script. But when you stop by and ask for a menu, it is typically the local stuff like Idli, Dosa etc. The road was not excellent, but it was not bad also.
Weekend Roadtrip to Puttaparthi & Lepakshi Temple
By the time we reached Puttaparthi i.e. around 10:00 AM, we were very hungry. After a bit of struggle to park the car, we went to the only decent looking place to have breakfast. Though there were a lot of Nepali restaurants around, but none of them seemed inviting enough. Now, most of the guide books do not talk much about this place. Except that this is the place where Sathya Sai Baba lives. So we tried asking people about the things that we can see around.
We went to the temple, where there is a huge hall with very ornate roof and place where apparently Baba gives ‘darshan’ to people twice a day for 15 minutes each. Apparently, you have to stand in a row for it for few hours. Anyway, the objective with which we had gone was to see how these ‘Spiritual Gurus’ manage to create a complete ecosystem around them. Which is self-sustaining and mostly everything is done through voluntary action and contribution. The surroundings in Puttaparthi were not as appealing. It was like a normal small town on the outside.
Institutions & Museum
But it did have some huge educational institutes, including a medical college, all of which are run by Sai Baba and his devotees. Another important place that we were told that can be seen is a museum which is called ‘Chaitanya Jyoti’. The architecture of the building was very oriental with lots of red and gold color used. And typical structures that you find in Southeast Asia. The museum predictable was about the life and times of Sai Baba, with lots of his videos and multimedia stuff. He is depicted as one of the Avatars and hence called ‘Bhagwaan’. The guide will tell you how he is better than all the earlier Avatars. The whole concept is very similar to what I saw a few days back in ‘AksharDham’ in Gandhinagar. But this was on a much smaller scale.
The question that comes to mind after a visit to such places is, these people usually say that they are not affiliated with any religion. And draw all the good concepts from all religions. But at the same time are they not trying to establish a religion of their own a la ‘Gautam Buddha’.
We were done with Puttaparthi by 12:30 and there was nothing left to be seen. At least we could not gather that from people there, except the Darshan part. Which we were not too keen on. Then I surfed through my Lonely Planet to see if there is anything close which can be visited. There was this small place called ‘Lepakshi’ which had a famous Veerbhadra temple. And a Nandi statue at the beginning of the town. My closest association with the word ‘Lepakshi’ was that all the Andhra Pradesh Emporiums are called ‘Lepakshi’. I was told this is the place where the art on black metal originated. I was hopeful of finding some artifacts there. But ‘Lepakshi’ was a small village and the temple and the Nandi bull were the highlights of the place.
The temple was no doubt beautiful. The intricate carvings always make me think, what a flourishing economy it would be when these temples were built. When people could engage themselves so deeply into the finer aspects of life. For the first time, I saw a Nag coiled around a huge Shiva Linga and all this in the open, and not beneath a roof. There were several other forms of Shiva inside the temple. But this one was intriguing. No wonder all the foreigners were climbing on top of it and getting their photographs clicked. I am sure if there were any staunch Hindus present there, they might have felt this as an insult to Shiva and objected.
The temple had typical temple architecture with pillared corridors around the temple. The whole structure on square pillars all of which were carved and said stories of the time when it would have been built. I can go and live there for some time, as there was something that I felt connected to. And something that said that I may come back here sometime.
After spending some time in Lepakshi, we started back for Bangalore and were in Bangalore by 4:00 PM. And again we were hungry and not many options appeared on the way for lunch too.
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