Banavasi – A little known small town in Karnataka, India. Not many are aware of the fact that this small town was capital of Karnataka once upon a time under Kadamba dynasty. It is an oldest known town in Karnataka it is said.
It is in midst of lush green rain forest area. ” Development” is showing its sign with gradual deforestation though.
Well, what now remains is a beautiful temple in the township. There are not much left to indicate that it was “capital” of erstwhile kingdom. The town is any normal small town of India.
Hence now for a tourist, Banavasi means the temple only. However the place certainly deserves its glorious history to be mentioned.
It is said this small town finds a mention in Hu en Tsang’s write up. Huen Tsang visited India between 630 – 644 CE.
Even Greek geographer Ptolemy has mentioned this place in his book.
This place is said have been existing since pre Mahabharata times. It was then called Vanavasika.
Even great emperor Ashoka is said to have sent his emissaries to Banavasi to spread the Dharma.
History tells us that this place has taken different names during different times – like – Vanavasika, Jayanti, Vaijayanti, Kanakapura.
Mayurasharma was the first king of Kadamba Dynasty , who is said to have built the temple. Subsequent kings from Chalukya and Hoysala dynasties continued to add and build the temple further.
Main deity is Shiva. He is called “Madhukeshwara“. The Shiva linga has the colour of honey hence the name “Madhukeshwara“. Madhu means Honey in Sanskrit and few other languages.
There are other deities – Parvati (Shiva’s wife) Narasimha (one of the incarnations of Vishnu) and many other demigods.
As it is customary to have a statue of Bull in front Shiva, here is also a 7 feet tall monolith bull or “Nandi“.
There is another intricately carved Mantapa , supposedly by donated by a king.
The one must not miss the “Stone cot”, another monolith, it is said. It is really beautiful.
The temple has a large “Mantapa” (Hall) supported by beautifully carved pillars.
The place must have been a well developed, flourishing busy capital during its yesteryears, though now reduced to a small town.
No doubt tenth century famous Kannada poet, Adi Kavi Pampa said some 1100 years ago :It is a virtue to be born in Banavasi as a human being. If not as a human being, then at least one should be born as a bee or a cuckoo in the garden of Banavasi.
How to reach:
By road from Sirsi or Sagara. Banavasi is 25 km from Sirsi and 52 km from Sagara. Sirsi is 398 km and Sagara is 372 km from Bangalore. Nearest train station is Sagara. Nearest airport is Hubbali, which is 103 km from Banavasi.
Where to stay :
Not so good places here to stay. There is one Tourist complex and some Home Stay facility on query. Best place to stay is Sirsi or Sagara.
Best time to visit
Any time of the year.
Temple timing :
0600 hrs to 1230 hrs and 1700 hrs to 2030hrs.
No entry fee.