Vijayanagara Empire was most renowned for their excellent architectural brilliance. Many South Indian heritage sites were built by various Kings who belonged to the Vijayanagara Empire. One such architectural brilliance is the Lepakshi temple in Andhra Pradesh.
Lepakshi Temple situated in a small town in Anantpur District holds a lot of historical value. The name Lepakshi itself is derived due to an ancient mythological event that took place there. The story goes that, a bird-shaped demigod Jatayu noticed Lordess Sita being abducted by Ravana and ensued in a battle with Ravana to save Sita. Ravana, who had an upper hand in the battle chipped off Jatayu’s wings and the bird fell off. Seeing this Sita cried for help to the bird and called out ‘Le Pakshi’ which means ‘Get Up bird’ in the Telugu language. Thus the place went by the name Lepakshi. Furether the history goes on that the bird got up and continued to fight and finally fell to its death on the Jatayu Rocks in Jatayumangalam in Kollam District in Kerala. A monument of Jatayu is built on the Jatayu rocks and the rocks are being developed as an eco-tourism center.
The Veerabadhra temple of Lepakshi which was built by brothers Viranna and Virupanna is dedicated to the God Veerabhadra. The temple also has deities of Lord Ganesha, Saptha Kannikas. You can also see the entire story of Lord Kala-Hasthi carved out in the rock. The temple is a marvel of sculptures and arts etched on the stone.
What to see around the temple?
The most magnificent part of the temple is definitely the Shiv Linga which sits under a seven-headed serpent which is coiled around the Shivalinga. Legend says that the entire serpent was carved from the monolithic stone in the time taken for cooking. While the workers were waiting for the lunch to be cooked this structure was carved.
There is an unfinished Kalyana Mantapa (Wedding Hall). The chief architect Virupanna had an argument with the king where the king was enraged at Virupanna for spending all the treasury money on the Mantapa without consulting the king. Virupanna immediately blinded himself as a punishment and plucked his eyes out and threw it on the walls. You can still see the blood stain covered walls, even though several attempts have been made over the ages to remove the blood stain.
A huge wet footprint can be seen when you walk further into the temple. It is said that the footprint belongs to Lordess Sita, who had rested here when she was abducted by Ravana. The footprint is always wet, as if the earth is trying to cleanse it as a respect since it belongs to one of the most Divine Entity.
Do not miss to check out the engineering marvel ‘The Hanging Pillar’. There are 70 pillars in this temple, but this pillar is a special one. This pillar does not rest on the ground, unlike the other ones. The localities believe that all your problems will be solved if you can pass a cloth underneath it without touching the ground or the pillar. It may sound absurd, but it is actually possible if you try with concentration.
Other places to visit near Lepakshi temple:
There is a huge monolithic Nandi Statue very close to the Lepakshi temple. The sculpture is now maintained within a beautiful park. The government also has built a bird statue as a monument for the brave Jatayu.
This place holds a lot of history and you can bask in the glory of some genius engineering architecture by the temple builders of the Vijayanagara Empire.