Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh

Bijoy Venugopal
Yahoo! India News

Lepakshi is a small village near Hindupur in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh and home to a 16th century temple dedicated to Virabhadra, one of the aides of Lord Shiva. Don’t be surprised to find yourself alone here, as this wondrous ancient temple often escapes the attention of tourists.
The word Pakshi refers to a bird, specifically the vulture Jatayu (in the Hindu epic Ramayana) whose wings were hacked off by the demon-king Ravana as he was abducting Sita and taking her to his island kingdom of Lanka. Legend has it Ravana was soaring across the sky in his flying chariot, the Pushpaka Vimana, when Jatayu, who was faithful to Lord Rama, obstructed his path and attempted to rescue Sita. Ravana brandished his sword and cut off the bird’s wings, upon which it crashed to the ground at what is believed to be the very spot at which the temple now stands. Lord Rama came across the bleeding bird here and commanded it to rise, saying, “Le Pakshi!”

The temple, which breathes legends, is renowned for a gigantic monolithic statue of the divine bull Nandi, Lord Shiva’s steed. Opposite is an imposing sculpture of a nine-headed naga linga -- a Shiva linga shielded by a celestial snake. An unfinished marriage hall -- said to be for Shiva and Parvati -- is also here.

Whether you go to Lepakshi as a tourist or a pilgrim, you will return with an experience to cherish.
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