One of our friends recently purchased a car and took us for a long drive to Lepakshi, a historic village in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh on Karnataka Formation Day (1st November). Approximately 120 km from Bangalore, Lepakshi makes an interesting place to visit in weekends because of its many legends.
Lepakshi has a cultural and archaeological significance as it has shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Veerabhadra which were built during the Vijayanagara kings’ period.
We started our excursion at 9 am after having a sumptuous breakfast at our friend’s house and reached the first spot by 11 am. The roads leading to the village were narrow but well maintained.
Jatayu Theme Park
Our first stop was the Jatayu Theme Park. Legend says that in the epic Ramayana, when Jatayu saw Ravana abducting Sita, he tried to rescue Sita from Ravana. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but he fell on the rocks in Lepakshi, after his wings were chopped off by Ravana. Ramarkal Mettu is the place where the last rites were performed.
It is believed that Ram upon finding the injured Jatayu have compassionately asked him to rise, which translates to “Le Pakshi” in Telugu, hence the name for the village.
The main attraction of this theme park is a huge Jatayu bird statue, made in the impression of ready to fly away from the top of the rock. A small manicured garden is created around the sculpted rocks. To give more information on the theme park, an information center is also built in the premises.
A large foot print impression is there on one of the rocks in the theme park. I believe this is man-made and crafted to look the same as the Goddess Sita’s right foot print in the Lepakshi temple.
Veerabhadra Swamy temple
Next we went to explore the Veerabhadra Swamy temple. At a short distance from the Jatayu theme park, is the Veerabhadra Swamy temple, which is a treat to the photography enthusiasts. You can see the temple site from the top of the Jatayu theme park.
Much of the temple is built on a low, rocky hill called “Kurma Sailam” — which translates to tortoise hill in Telugu, after the shape of the hill.
As soon as you enter the temple premises, you will be amazed by the Vijayanagara styled sculptures and wall paintings such as Shivapurana murals (tales of Shiva), which have faded with time.
Different temple building traditions in South and Central India came together in the Vijayanagara architecture style. This amalgamation inspired architectural innovation in Hindu temples’ construction.
The main temple is dedicated to the God Veerabhadra, a fearsome form of Lord Shiva and many small temples are present within the premises. He was created by the wrath of Shiva and destroyed the Yagna (sacrificial fire) of Daksha, after Daksha’s daughter and Shiva’s consort Sati self-immolated in the sacrificial fire.
Walking through the temple, you will find the famous hanging pillar which is a tribute to the engineering genius of ancient and medieval India’s temple builders. All the pillars are balanced in such a way that you can pass a sheet of paper under that pillar, thus giving the pillar an appearance of floating over the ground.
However, it is slightly slanted than the other pillars — it is said that during the British era, a British engineer tried to dislodge the pillar in an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the secret of its support.
Once you step out in the courtyard of the temple, you will find a Shivaling with seven headed snake and a mammoth Ganesha — hewn in stone and leaning against a rock. Its popularly believed that the seven headed snake is guarding the Shivaling and this is recognized by many as the largest Shivaling in India.
After a while, we sat down in the splendid Natya Mandapam or dance hall with its superbly sculpted pillars. The Kalyana Mandapam is another hall, known for its artistic beauty.
A story revolves around this incomplete Kalyana Madapam, which says that the king’s treasurer, spent royal treasury in building this mandapam in absence of king. When king got to know about the depletion in the treasure, angered by this, he ordered immediate termination of the construction. The king ordered his treasurer to be blinded.
After crossing the Kalyana Mandapam, you will reach a spot where a right foot print is seen on the ground. Interestingly, this foot print is believed to be of Goddess Sita and is always wet.
The source of the water is unknown but many people believe that the water washes the foot print as a sign of respect for the Goddess. Nobody knows how the foot print came to be here but believes that when Sita was abducted by Ravana, they stopped here to rest.
Nandi Bull statue
Before we went for our lunch, we stopped by the majestic Nandi bull carved out of a monolithic rock in the vicinity of the Lepakshi temple. It is 15 feet tall and 27 feet in length and beautifully carved.
It faces the direction of the seven headed snake with the Shivaling. Nandi is the gate- guardian deity of Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva and its believed that if you whisper your wishes in the ears of a Nandi bull, it comes true.
Read More: A Road Trip to Masinagudi – A Much Needed Respite From City Life
We finished our lunch at the Lepakshi Haritha Hotel which was providing a decent buffet of Andhra meals. They even have provisions for lodging. You can spot this hotel right in front of the Nandi bull status where most of the passerby’s park their vehicles.
Even though there are many places to visit nearby, we spent most of our time in Lepakshi which is a great spot to spend your weekend. If you have lot of time on your hands, you can visit some of the below places as well, but this will require you to leave early and plan meticulously.
Places to see nearby
1. Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram, Puttaparthi
Puttaparthi is approximately 63 km from Lepakshi. The main attraction of this city, the holy abode of Sathya Sai Baba is known as ‘Prashanti Nilayam’, literally translates into ‘the abode of peace’.
The ashram has been pulling visitors since ages, through out the year, serving as a symbol of one of the most unique and renowned religious organizations in the world, making the town a significant spiritual center. Apart from this, you can visit Chaitanya Jyoti Musuem and Sri Sathya Sai Space Theater.
2. Kadiri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple
Kadri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple is approximately 81 km away from the Lepakshi temple. This temple is located in Kadiri town in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. The temple is dedicated to Lord Narasimha, a creature with the head of lion and the body of a man and is one of the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu.
Lord Narasimha in this temple is swayambhu emerging from the roots of Khadri tree (Indian mulberry). The specialty of this temple is that after the daily Abhishekam is performed, the idol of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha oozes sweat continuously even after repeatedly wiping off sweat by the temple priests.
3. Penukonda Fort
At a distance of 65 km from Lepakshi temple and 142 km from Bangalore, Penukonda Fort is a medieval fort situated at Penukonda in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Penukonda was once served as the 2nd capital of Vijayanagar Kingdom after the fall of Hampi and was earlier called as Ghanagiri.
Built on a gigantic hill, the reminiscence of the huge and imposing fort offers a spectacular view of the town below. Penukonda has several temples but most of the them are currently in ruined state.
So, there you go. If you like knowing about different folklore and legends associated with a place, then you should definitely pay Lepakshi a visit soon.
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