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Lepakshi, 35 km south of Penukonda is a historical and archaeological village. According to legend, Lepakshi’s name refers to the bird Jatayu, which was wounded while trying to rescue Sita, Lord Rama's wife from the demon Ravana. Lord Rama commanded the bird to rise: 'Le Pakshi,' which in Telugu means 'Get up, bird'.
Situated in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh, the village boasts many heritage sites and temples. Among them, Virabhadra Temple is particularly noteworthy for its artistic achievements of Vijayanagar architecture, sculpture and paintings.
The temple was built during the reign of Achyuta Deva Raya (1530-1542) of Vijayanagara Kingdom. The temple built by two brothers, Viranna and Virupanna who were the governors of Penukonda in the middle of the 16th century.
The Lepakshi Temple rising a granite hillock called Kurmasaila (Hill of the Tortoise) stands in the middle of a two concentric irregular enclosures. Near to this temple there is a Nandi Monolith, which is believed to be the largest figurine of the deity. This statue is decorated with garlands and bells.
The temple is surrounded by a large compound entered through gateways on three sides i.e; from the east with large gopuras to the north and west. The northern gateway is the most often used by visitors.
A monolithic 18 ft-tall Nagalinga- the largest of its kind in India- and a 7 ft Ganesha in the second interior court are the two striking sculptures. The temple has three small shrines of Papaneswara, Raghunatha and Virabhadra (the main shrine). All have a common Ardha Mandapa. The Mukha Mandapa and the Natya Mandapa come next.
The temple interior boasts of imposing sculptures in half-relief on each of its granite pillars. These depict dancers, drummers and divine musicians -- such as Brahma and a drummer in north east, Parvati between female attendants, drummer between Bhringi and Bhikshshtanamurti, Rambha depicted in dance, Shiva in Tananda tandava. In the intermediary hall, once can see a long line of geese with lotus stalks in their beaks. No detail has been spared even i n the central hall between the three shrines, adorned with flawless carvings of Gajantaka, Ganapati dancing, Durga and a hermaphrodite.
Artistically, the Lepakshi temple is most celebrated for its paintings. The ceiling of he hall is entirely covered with paintings which are the best among the Vijayanagara style of pictorial art. The birds, beasts and foliage depicted in its paintings. A colossal painting of Virabhadra is almost hidden in the central hall. One can see scenes from the Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayan Epics, Portraits of Shiva and Parvati accompanied by male and female courtiers, boar hunt of Shivan, Arjuna's encounter with Shiva etc.
The other most striking thing in Lepakshi Temple are the frescoes on the roof of inner courtyard with fresh black line work, brown and green colours.