Ramayan is undoubtedly is the epic which has deep imprints in the life values not only in our life, but also in the culture and the historical backgrounds of our Sanatana Dharma. Almost in every artistic and heritage backgrounds, we found the roots connected to Ramayan and especially the journey of Shri Ram wherein every place he and his devotees have lived in and set foot on became the personifications of pure devotion and famous for their connection with Ramayan. One such place is the temple of Lepakshi, which is named after the noble bird Jatayu, for his unconditional love and sacrifice for Shri Ram.
Lepakshi is a sacred site right from the time of Ramayan. It was at this very place that the great Jatayu fell down after his fight with Ravan in the process of rescuing Mata Sita. Shri Ram and Lakshman searching for Mata Sita came to this place and found Jatayu waiting for them with his last breath. Seeing Jatayu, Shri Ram had said “Le – Get up, Pakshi – Bird, since then this place came to be known as Lepakshi. Not only for the sacredness of Jatayu, but also for the pure devotion of Virupanna, is the builder of the temple Lepakshi famous for.
Named after the deity Veerabhadra, the Lepakshi Veerabhadra Temple was built in the 16th century by Virupanna. Virupanna was a treasurer in the court of Achyuta Deva Raya, the younger brother of Krishna Deva Raya, the illustrious king of the Vijayanagar Empire. Virupanna was an ardent devotee of Virabhadra. Achyuta Deva Raya entrusted the task of the whole temple construction to Virupanna. With the wholesome efforts of Virupanna, the temple started to take a beautiful shape. However, there were some courtiers who were jealous of Virupanna’s fame. They approached the king and lied to him that Virupanna was misusing the treasury for his own purposes.
The King instead of probing into truth orders to bound Virupanna in chains and gets him. To prove his innocence, he pulled out his eyes and hit them to the walls of the temple. All were shocked by this gesture and when the king came to know about this, he repented his decision and gave back Virupanna his post and status in the society. But, the Kalyan Mantap walls where Virupanna remains unfinished till date. One can see two black spots even today on the walls, as the marks of the truthful devotee’s eyes. In Sanskrit, Lepakshi also means torn eyes, and hence too, this temple became famous as the Lepakshi temple.
The temple is a huge structure with a big complex. The largest monolith of Asia (carved out of a single stone) Nandi is also present here. There is a huge Nagalingam too in the temple premises which is believed to be carved in a single day. The Nagalingam is encircled by the coils of a five headed snake which crowns the Shivling. There is a tale that the mother of the sculptor was proud of her son who sculpted the huge shape in a day. As pride is not a quality liked by Bhagwan Shiv, a huge crack appeared in the middle of the sculpture breaking her pride. One can see the crack even today on the sculpture. With all such wonderful tales and stories associated with it and the connection of Ramayan, the Lepakshi temple stands as one of the magnificent temples since generations of time.