When Ravana slashed Jatayu with his sword to prevent him from saving Sitaji, the brave bird fell at a place in the present-day village of Mandal in Andhra Pradesh. When Lord Ram reached that spot and saw the wounded bird, he uttered the words ‘le’ and ‘pakshi’, which together mean ‘Rise Bird’. This is how the small town was named ‘Lepakshi’.
In today’s time, this place is most known for the Veerabhadra temple built on its land — even more so, for the hanging pillar inside the temple.
The 16th century stone temple constructed in Vijaynagar style contains about 70 pillars, of which there is one that doesn’t completely rest on the ground — hence the name ‘hanging’. The pillar is believed to be an architectural marvel of ancient India. Tourists are amazed to see objects like papers, cloth etc. being passed through the bottom of the miraculous pillar.
At present, this pillar is believed to be dislodged from its original position because of the unsuccessful attempts of a British engineer to move it pre-independence.
The temple dates back to 1583. According to one legend, it was built by brothers, Virupanna and Veeranna, who were initially in the service of Vijaynagar kings. However, according to the Puranas, the Veerabhadra temple was built by Sage Agastya. It has idols of Lord Ganesh, Nandi bull, Veerabhadra, Lord Shiv, Bhadrakali, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi.
The statue of Nandi is the other great attraction besides the hanging pillar. It is located more than a kilometre before the construction of the main temple. At 27ft in length and 15ft in height, it is a colossal structure, reputedly India’s biggest monolithic (built from one single piece of stone) statue of the bull.
Entering the temple, one is greeted by a giant statue of Lord Ganesha. While close to it is a shivling with Sheshnaag coiled around it. The temple’s main deity is Veerabhadra, who was created by Lord Shiv in a fit of rage after the Daksha Yagna and the immolation of Goddess Sati. The temple is adorned with the various different forms of Lord Shiv. The Dakshinmurthi and Ardhnareshwar forms can also be seen here.
Besides all this, the temple in Lepakshi also has some beautiful mural paintings of the Vijaynagar kings. Other splendid works of art during that period are also visible across the temple.
- The Lepakshi temple is an hour’s drive from the famed pilgrim town of Puttaparthi, where the nearest decent accommodation is available.
- The climate is hot for most days of the year and early mornings are the best time to visit.
- If one has time, the nearby Dharmavaram, a well-known silk weaving centre, and Hindupur and surrounding villages where cotton is woven, are excellent tourist destinations.
- During the month of February a 10-day-long celebration including the car festival is conducted in the temple.