Lepakshi (Lat.13o,48′ N.;Long.77o,36’E) is a small village situated fourteen(14) KMs to the east of Hindupur, Anantapuramu District of Andhra Pradesh. The place can be reached by bus from Hindupur. It is famous for its temple of Veerabhadra and the mural paintings of the Vijayanagara period. There is a popular legend about this temple which runs as follows:
During the 16th century Lepakshi was great centre of trade as well as pilgrimage with fine architecture blended with bold, greaceful sculptures and exquisite paintings. Legend dates the Lepakshi town back to the days of the Ramayana. It is said that Lord Rama found the mythical bird Jatayu lying wounded here, its wings were cut off by Ravana when he abducted Sita. According to locals, after Ravana had cut the wing of the bird, Lord Rama said “le pakshi”(rise bird) and the bird rose. Hence, this sacred place was named as Lepakshi. Local lore has it that sage Agasthya installed the idol of Papanaseswara at the site. However, the temple as it exists today is of more recent origin. The temple at Lepakshi is not a merely a Siva temple but has a temple complex. The peculiarity of this temple complex is th at it has idols of both Siva and Vishnu. The panchayatana advocated by Adi Shankara is probably implemented here in a slightly different from.
Lepakshi temple is said to have been built by two brothers, Virupanna and Veeranna. The temple was constructed during the reign of Achyuta Devaraya, who ruled the vijayanagara empire from 1530 A.D to 1542 A.D Virupanna was favoured by Achyutaraya.
During his routine visits he happend to see Papanaseswaralaya on Kurmasaila, which was at that time an insignificant structure. He decided to build a temple there and for the purpose engaged famous architects, sculptors and painters.
For the construction he used funds from the imperial treasury. Virupanna’s enemies reported to the emperor that the treasury funds were being embezzled and the treasure was in danger of being exhausted. In those days it was customary to pluck the eyes of the keeper of the royal treasury if he was found guilty of theft or embezzlement. The king ordered that Virupanna should be blinded. Virupanna, being a loyal servant carried out on the spot with his own hands, this order, and to this day, two dark stains are shown on the west wall of the southern entrance of the inner enclosure, which are said to be the marks made by his eyes which he himself threw at the wall. The builder of the temple did not survive long after this and hence the kalyanamandapa was left unfinished.
There are no inscriptions recording the date of construction of the temple. Until recently it has been held that ht eearliest inscription found in this temple is dated in S.1455(1533 A.D.) But recently an inscription was discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India in the temple referring to certain repairs by the Saluva king Narasimha to the shrine. It may be presumed that a small temple existed here in the 14th century. It may be inferred that the work of enlarging the temple and beautifying it with painting was begun by Virupanna by about 1530 A.D. particularly because he was a subordinate officer of Achyutaraya at that time.
Lepakshi must have been a great centre of trade and pilgrimage during the Vijayanagara period. Achyutaraya fought many wars during his reign. These wars might have drained the royal treasury of all its accumulated wealth which in its turn left the Kalyanamandapa unfinished. It is also not unlikely that the hillock at Lepakshi was considered sacred even before the temple was built at the place. Granite which is the chief building material in the Lepakshi temple was availale in abundance at Lepakshi.