Where history meets art

The fishing festival.

A visit to the ancient temple town of Banavasi is like walking back in time, traversing the pages of history. Draped by the Western Ghats on the banks of the river Varada, Banavasi takes one back to the ninth century, when it was the capital of the Kadambas, the first royal dynasty of Karnataka. One can trace here the genesis of the state’s historical, spiritual and literary repertoire. It has been extolled by Pampa, the renowned Kannada poet of the Kadamba era.

Rambling around, one can discover the rich legacy bequeathed – many Jain icons, Buddhist stupas and century-old Brahmin colonies, with small, tiled row houses facing each other in each lane culminating in a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. But the chief monument of interest at Banavasi is the double-shrined Madhukeshwara temple dedicated to Shiva.

Endogenous tourism project

Its current claim to fame is that it is one of the sites that are part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, sponsored Endogenous Tourism Projects (ETP) initiated in 36 destinations across India. The project has brought together a range of stakeholders, NGOs, village level institutions including panchayats, village tourism committees, self help groups and artisan communities along with the district administration. The UN programme has helped in areas of capacity building, involvement of NGOs, local communities and artisans, and in the promotion of culture and craft-based tourism for sustainable livelihoods and integrated rural development. The programme works closely with Bharatiya Agro Indian Foundation (BAIF), the local NGO which is the implementing agency of endogenous tourism in Banavasi.

The ‘hardware’, the construction of Vanavaasika Village Tourism Complex at Banavasi was funded by the Ministry of Tourism. The finances for this were channelled through the district authorities. Also, self help groups were created, emphasising the participation of women, capacity building and training in visitor handling. It also helped the people of Banavasi to adapt their traditional skills to suit current trends by suggesting new designs and products. This excellent scheme eliminates the middleman and seeks to utilise tourism to bring self-reliance to our villages.
One can savour fascinating experiential encounters with village lifestyles. The Village Tourism Committee has devised itineraries covering lesser known places, waterfalls, bird sanctuaries, historical and religious places, artisans’ villages, farm and plantations covering a 75-km radius in and around Banavasi.

Nothing can equal the pleasure of cycling around the picturesque countryside past paddy fields, areca and banana plantations, ponds filled water lilies and experiences of watching liquid jaggery making by the traditional method using buffaloes.
Watching kerebete, (annual mass fish hunting) and bullock race undoubtedly make for an effective tourism bait. In Banavasi, the main attraction is of course the temple.
For nature enthusiasts, treks are organised to Yana and birdwatching trips to Attiveri bird sanctuary.

Banavasi also resonates with skills of  the Gudigar community. You can witness Gudigar craftsmen sculpting exquisite pieces in sandalwood and stone.
The highlight of the trip is the visit to Jayant Sadashiva Dikshit, an octogenarian who regales visitors with his amazing collection of 150 coins of different countries, playing cards of ganjifa art bequeathed to him by his father and other paraphernalia.  His interests range from carving, Ayurveda, to floating in water. You will be enthralled watching him solve sudoku with the aid of Sanskrit slokas.

With sprawling pineapple and banana  plantations, the landscape of Banavasi is alluring. The abundance in local produce of pineapple led to a promotion, which saw a whole festival being developed around the pineapple theme. Women’s self help groups congregate during the weekend pineapple mela to churn up delectable dishes using pineapple as the main ingredient. They have even brought out a book on pineapple recipes.

A trip to Banavasi is not complete without stopping by Savithiriamma’s Khanavali, a small eatery serving authentic, traditional North Karnataka fare. What makes the home made food special is that it is served with dollops of love and affection.
There are varieties of rice, jowar and corn rotties as well as rice served with a variety of sweet, sour, pungent and spice curries and sauces made of lentils, chillies and tamarind. Accompanying the meal is a wide range of fresh powders and chutneys.
 
Getting to Banavasi


Nearest airport: Hubli-100km
Nearest railhead: Haveri-70km
Road: Sirsi-(23km),  the  nearest town is connected to Bangalore

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