“Le Pakshi” (rise bird … in Telugu) says Lord Ram accompanied by Hanuman to the injured lying bird ‘Jatayu’ who valiantly tried his best to stop the demon king of Srilanka Ravana from abducting Lord Ram’s wife Sita. Hence the name ‘Lepakshi’ to this town, that’s a piece of mythology of how this hillock town got it’s name from epic Ramayana.
It’s also believed that Agasthya rishi installed a Shiva Linga here too. It’s also believed that this hill also has a single foot-print of Sita, the other being in Penukonda a few kms away and from these single footprints, there is a perennial source of a trickle of spring water even to this day!
Lepakshi is a small village-town of about 10,000 people in the Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh – 15 kms from Hindupur & 120 kms from Bangalore. Beautiful toll roads from Bangalore heading towards Hyderabad takes you to this place. Head passing Mekhri Circle towards International airport (BIAL), stick to the left lanes, pass the Nandi hill crossing, Bagepalli & head past 95 kms from Bangalore (you pay toll twice) and at a ‘RTO Check Post’ take left and traverse 14 kms on a decent narrow road to a welcoming sight of a huge bull on the right, the country’s biggest Mount of Lord Shiva – Nandi! A monolithic 27×15 feet single stone sculpture welcomes you to Lepakshi!
Remember to fill gasoline at Karnataka – Andhra Pradesh is a few rupees more & the petrol bunks are situated slightly out of town. There are two a.t.m’s and Lepakshi’s only decent place for eating & staying is the APTDC tourism hotel -Harita! Vegetarian food only, no alcohol anywhere. No Bars No non-vegetarian hotels. Nearest town of comfort is Hindupur – 15 kms away!
Between the years 1530 & 40, precisely 1538 took place a beautiful edifice on the tortoise shaped hillock (kurma saila) of Lepakshi by the Vijayanagar Governor of this place Virupana Nayaka & his brother Viranna. Those days the ruling king of the Vijayanagar kingdom was Achutaya. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva in the ferocious Veerabhadra form. The temple complex has two enclosures… The dance hall consists of 70 pillars which forms the divine veranda entrance to the temple. Here you see one pillar not resting on the ground. The floating pillar as it is called is a major attraction. People pass cloth, newspaper, sticks, twigs etc to test the same. It is believed passing objects below this stone brings you luck. In 1902 Hamilton a ruling British Lord wanted to break open this pillar to understand the architectural building concepts of ancient India. However when doing so, he saw the recupcusion on the other 69 pillars, roof and structure of the complex. Luckily wise thoughts ruled in stopping his exercise, a small damage can be seen today in the alignment of thebpillar. Architecturally – the vastu shastra balances the other 69 pillars in holding the majestic sculpted roof. Carvings, sculpture, frescos – the largest in asia are a delightful display staring at you from the roof. Bass relief sculpted pillars of lifetime figurines of Gods, Goddess, Nymphs, Saints, Musicians, Dancers, etc adorn every square feet of the dance hall veranda. The sanctum santorum is adorned by God Goddess! Photography is not allowed here.
In the outer courtyard, one can see other Hindu Gods, glorified. The mamoth Ganesh & Shiva Linga along with a hooded serpent is a beautiful sculpture admired by everybody. One can see the serpent Shiva Linga from the huge Nandi statute, the one at the entrance of this town. The only incomplete structure is the marriage hall with no roof but with beautiful pillars of life size sculptures from epics. Adjacent is the lotus mantap with 36 pillars, these pillars have amazing creeper designs, 144 in number. Today these creeper design form the basic border design of women’s sarees & dresses in south India. Corridors, mantaps, archways, temple towers entrall you. The temple complex comes to a different aura during sunrise & sunsets. The temple is open from sunrise to sunset.
The tragedy of this beautiful structure is that Virupana Nayaka finished all the money from the treasury, this coming to the knowledge of king Achutaya and seeing his treasury empty plus hearing tales tell tale stories of how the wealth was misappropriated. The king ordered Virupana Nayaka’s eyes to be gorged. Hearing this – Virupana gorged his own eyes and threw it on the temple complex walls. Even to this day, the two red blood stain spots in colour can been seen.
Lepakshi is worth a day visit from Bangalore. Driving would be advisable. Its a safe 2 – 2:30 mins drive from Bangalore. Start early, reach safely. The place is well connected by trains & buses. A word of caution driving on the highway roads… there are a lot of traffic cops manning sections for speed.
Safe driving please!
-Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography