Banavasi – the oldest town of Karnataka
After visiting Marikamba temple, we proceeded towards Banavasi. Amongst all the places that we planned for this trip, Banavasi had been our most favorite. This had a special mention in our minds because of its historic importance. We had studied in our early years of school that Banavasi is the oldest town in Karnataka and was the capital of Kadambas who were the first royal dynasty of Karnataka. They were the first dynasty to use Kannada as their administrative language. This is why the Kadamba period marks the starting point of the history of Karnataka.
Banavasi is around 23 km from Sirsi and the road was not in very good condition but was very scenic. As it was a rainy season, we could spot lush greenery almost everywhere. The moment we entered Banavasi, we noticed that the town did not have old world charm anymore. It was like any other town of modern days which is a good thing, in a way. However, what took us back to the ancient era was the popular Madhukeshwara Temple which was standing elegantly at the center of Banavasi.
- Timings: 6 AM to 12 noon and 4 PM to 8 PM
Madhukeshwara temple is believed to be built in the 3rd century during the reign of Mayura Sharma (Mayura Varma), the first king of Kadamba dynasty. Isn’t it exciting to visit a temple which is 1800 years old? The temple has seen many architectural changes over the years. The major influence that can be seen are of Chalukyas and Hoysalas. Lord Shiva is worshiped here in the form of a honey-colored Linga, hence the name of the temple. In Kannada, Madhu means “honey”.
There are two stone elephants at the entrance which are exquisite. As soon as you enter the temple complex, you will notice the beautiful temple and surroundings in a neatly maintained condition. The main shrine has a pillared hall which has minimal carvings and was built during Chalukya period. Next to it is the Nritya Mantapa where you can see the attractive Hoysala style of pillars.
One of the main attractions of this temple is the amazingly constructed monolithic Nandi which is about 7 feet huge. The local guides tell that the slightly turned face of Nandi is such that, with one eye he sees the Shivalinga and with another the Parvathi temple.
Near the main sanctum, do not miss to see the Trailokya Mandapa. This is the proof of epitome of excellent craftsmanship. This skillfully carved Mandapa has Shiva and Parvathi sitting on the throne in the middle. This Mandapa was donated by the Sonda chief, Sadasivarajendra.
Another amazing piece of work you can find in this temple is the stone cot which is kept outside the main shrine. It is kept in a locked room and we can see the cot only through the grills, so we could not take a proper photo of it. During your visit to Banavasi, do not miss to see this beautiful creation. The cot has extraordinary carvings and the intricacy of it will mesmerize you. It is not made of the usual soft stone but hard granite which makes it even more special. This cot was also donated by Sonda chief Raghunatha Nayaka.
Apart from these, there are many other beautiful sculptures and small shrines inside the temple complex which will make you fall in love with the temple.
Adikavi Pampa, the first poet of Kannada, wrote his epic poems in Banavasi. He was so fascinated by the people and place of Banavasi that he wrote a poem with the meaning “It is a virtue to be born in Banavasi as a human being. If not as a human being, then one should be born at least as a bee or a cuckoo in the garden of Banavasi”. The calm and serene temple complex, picturesque malenadu roads, and the incredible art with absolute perfection made us feel totally worth visiting Banavasi.
The popular cultural festival “Kadambotsava” is celebrated in Banavasi in the month of December and attracts a huge gathering. Another important festival celebrated here is Mahashivaratri in the month of February.
- Route Travelled: Marikamba Temple > Banavasi
- Photos: Album