The small village of Lepakshi in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh is a paragon of excellent art and architecture. Once the quintessence of the ostentatious opulence of the empire of Vijayanagara, Lepakshi is an epitome of magnificence and brilliance. The shrines and temples in the village celebrating the might of Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabhadra, are an exhibition of timeless art, with illustrious frescoes and murals.
Although the village was founded as late as 1538 AD by Maharaja Aliya Rama Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire, it has an interesting association with the Ramayana, and legend says was blessed by the presence of Lord Rama himself. The lore goes that when Lord Rama, met the dying bird Jatayu here, he helped him attain Moksha by saying the words “Le Pakshi”, which in Telugu means “rise bird”. Hence, the village got its name Lepakshi!
The most astonishing architectural marvel of Lepakshi is the Hanging Pillar of Veerabhadra Temple. The pillar does not rest on the ground completely but hangs in the air, with enough space between its base and the ground to pass a sheet of paper or a small twig through it- fully to emerge on the other side! Out of the 70 pillars at the stone temple, which was built in 1583 AD, in the Vijayanagar style of architecture by brothers Virupanna and Veeranna, this particular pillar stands out as a triumphant masterpiece of architecture. The Archaeological Survey of India has proven that this pillar was not constructed as a mistake, but was built intentionally to prove the brilliance of the builders of the time.
The pillar was dislodged from its original position by a British engineer who tried to move it in an endeavour to unearth the secret of its support but was sadly unsuccessful. According to legend, Virupanna one of the financiers of the temple was the royal treasurer of the King and was accused by the court nobles of drawing funds from the state treasury to build the temple but without the King’s permission. The nobles poisoned the King that he was funding the grandiose temple to outshine his majesty. Outraged, the King ordered for Virupanna to be blinded. But disturbed by the false accusation and determined to prove his honesty, Virupanna forestalled the punishment by dashing his eyes out and throwing them at the temple wall! And the eerie part- the marks left by his bleeding eyes are still present on the wall