We decided to go to a tourist spot that was not far from Bengaluru. Our research zeroed in on a small town which enables one to return the same day. Lepakshi is located in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the oldest temples in India and there are a lot of mythological stories and wonders about this temple.
Since Lepakshi is a temple full of wonders, I couldn’t stop myself from finding out why it was named “Lepakshi”. “Le” means to get up or rise and “Pakshi” means bird. But which bird were they talking about and who told the bird to rise or get up still remained a mystery to me. I could have researched it, but then I decided to hold my horses. The next day, we left for Lepakshi and arrived within an hour and a half.
As soon as we entered Lepakshi, we spotted a huge statue of Jatayu on a rock to our left. According to Hindu mythology, when Sita was abducted by the demon king Ravana, Jatayu went to save her but had his wing clipped by Ravana and fell to the ground. When Lord Rama saw him in such a condition, he was said to have told, “Le, Pakshi!” which means “Get up, Bird!'', and thus the name. We were all surprised when we found that and couldn’t stop thinking about it. But we didn’t know that there was much more to come our way.
Monolithic Nandi statue Credits: www.revolvingcompass.com
To our right was a Nandi statue carved out of monolithic granite, 4.5 m high and 8.23m long. Not to forget the fact that it faces the Shivalinga which is built inside the temple. Speaking of the temple, it highlights the beautiful Vijayanagara architectural styles just like the temples in the UNESCO heritage site Hampi, Karnataka.
The Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi was built by Viranna and Virupanna, who were governors in the Vijayanagara empire, using the fresco technique. The paintings made on the ceiling of the temple are breathtaking and have a lot of messages to convey. Most of the paintings are breathtaking and portray the life of Lord Krishna.
When we entered the temple, these paintings caught our attention immediately and we were looking at every minute detail on the ceiling. I noticed a painting of Lord Krishna. As I was moving, to my astonishment, the pair of eyes in the painting seemed to follow me. It felt as if Lord Krishna was looking directly at me. Later we found out that the eyes are painted in such a way that in whichever angle you look at that particular painting, one feels as though Lord Krishna is looking at you.
We had a well informed guide and thus our journey began. He started off with what was called the “hanging pillar”. This pillar is very famous since it does not rest on the ground and hangs mid-air. It has been around since the 16th century and legend says that during the British era, a British engineer tried to move it and figure out the architecture behind this wonder.
When he tried moving the pillar, it led to a slight tremor in the temple, since the logic behind pillars is that - you move one, you move all. However, this hanging pillar never led to any trouble to the structural integrity of the temple and maintained its balance. The guide even told us that if you try passing a piece of cloth underneath, it will come out unhindered.
The Shivalinga Credits: revolvingcompass.com
Next, he took us to a courtyard which was located at the rear of the temple where there was a huge Shivalinga with seven snakes coiled around it, and this has a story too. There was a sculptor and his mother in Lepakshi. The sculptor was hungry, so his mother said that she would prepare the food and get it for him. Until then, he didn’t have anything to do, so he decided to build the massive Shivalinga out of one boulder.
As the mother got the food, she was surprised and amazed at the speed and skill of the sculptor that it cast an evil eye on him, leading to a crack that made it look as if it was split in the middle.
After crossing the Shivalinga, there was a Kalyana mandapa or marriage hall, which was incomplete. When I asked him why it was incomplete, the guide told us that it was supposed to be the place where Shiva and Parvati’s marriage was going to be held. The construction began when the accountant of the then King invested the kingdom’s money in the construction of this mandapa.
There are supposed to be 3 mandapas, however, the 3rd one remains incomplete to this day. The person building the mandapa hadn’t taken the King’s permission to do so, and when the King found out, he was infuriated. That is when he decided to punish him by blinding him. He couldn’t believe he was being punished for such a good deed, but then he decided that he would carry out the punishment himself.
He gouged out his own eyes and smashed them on the wall in front of him. Even today, there are red blotches present on the wall.
Not to forget, every pillar present in that mandapa had something carved on them. There are carvings ranging from dancing ladies, Hindu gods, and goddesses, to the marriage scenes of all the deities. It was so beautifully carved and designed that we couldn’t take our eyes off them. I have always liked and appreciated pillar carvings. Such a tough yet marvelous way to make people aware of their culture, mythology, and much more.
Sita's footprint Credits: pinterest.com
Finally, the thing that shocked me the most was Sita’s footprint in the temple. Now there are two reasons behind this footprint. One goes like this - when Sita was abducted by Ravana and was being taken to Lanka, they stopped at Lepakshi to rest. That is when the footprint was ingrained on the rock. And the other one is - when Jatayu lay wounded on the ground, Sita stepped on the ground, leaving an indent. The sole reason was to provide water for Jatayu to keep him alive until Lord Rama came and found him.
Some believe that the water which comes from underneath washes the footprint. The guide told us that this could be considered a way of reverence to Sita by washing her footprint. The source of water still remains unknown. Another myth, another mystery!
The priests in the temple are so hospitable and ask which language you prefer for the pooja to be performed. They also share a lot of insight into the history of the temple.
If you ever decide to go on a short trip to a place that is not too far from Bengaluru, and at the same time are also interested in mythology, then Lepakshi is the go-to place.
*Pictures were taken during the visit to Lepakshi*