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This Festive season, let Lepakshi be on your travel list in Andhra

Famous for its age-old shrines, Lepakshi is steeped in mythological grandeur. According to the Valmiki Ramayana, it is believed that this was the place where Ram had met the dying Jatayu and had helped him achieve salvation by uttering the words ‘Le Pakshi’ or “Rise, oh bird!” in Telugu. This is how the place got its name. The larger-than- life sculptures and exquisite friezes here are a rich repository of stories from Hindu mythology.
 
Lepakshi has several shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Papanatheswar, Raghunath, Ram and other deities. Whether it is the smaller carvings on the pillars of the Veerabhadra Temple or the monolithic Nandi, said to be the largest in the world, the finesse and skill of the artisans of the Vijayanagara dynasty are evident in sculptures throughout the town.
 
Things you can do
 
Veerabhadra Temple: The main attraction here is the Veerabhadra Temple, dedicated to Veerabhadra, a fearsome form of Shiva. Mythology suggests that Daksha insulted his daughter Sati and her husband Shiva at a grand sacrifice. Unable to bear the humiliation, Sati immolated herself. To avenge her death, Shiva took on the form of the wrathful Veerabhadra. 
The temple complex is located on a low-lying hill. The temple is enclosed by two walls and can be divided into three sections – the Natya Mandapa (dance pavilion); the Ardha Mandapa (foyer) and the sanctum; and the Kalyana Mandapa (wedding hall).
 
The ceilings of the Natya and Ardha Mandapa are bedecked with imposing murals which depict scenes from the epics like the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. The most impressive among all these murals is the one which depicts the wedding of Shiva and his consort, Parvati. 
 
The central portion of the roof has a mural of Veerabhadra, flanked by the temple’s builders, Virupanna and Viranna. Measuring 23ft×13ft, it is probably the largest mural in Asia.  A popular myth that surrounds the Kalyana mandapa talks about how Virupanna was accused of misusing the state treasury for building the mandapa. To avoid being punished, Virupanna plucked out his eyes and crushed them against the walls of the mandapa. Two red spots on the western walls of the wedding hall can be seen to this day.
 
The beauty of the hanging pillar

 
One of the major highlights of the temple is the Hanging Pillar, which seems like the 70 other pillars in the vicinity, but does not actually rest on the ground.  Do keep an eye out for the footprints of Sita while exploring the temple complex.
 
The temple stands as a great reminder of the cultural and architectural heritage of the Vijayanagara empire. The stone idols of musicians, saints and deities have been skilfully carved. Also of special note here is the famous snake sculpture on the Nagalinga. Legend has is that the snake was carved out of a single stone while the sculptors were waiting for lunch. You can also visit the temples of Papanatheswara, Raghunatha, Srirama, and Durga located on the nearby hillock known as Kurma Saila, or the tortoise-shaped hill.
 
Go shopping

Lepakshi is famous for its traditional crafts. You must shop for Banjara embroidery items, brass artefacts, Kalamkari paintings and Cherial scroll paintings, cotton and jute floor mats,  Kids would love the Kondapalli toys made from softwood.

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