Glorious Banavasi

Banavasi has the credit of being the first capital of Kannada kingdom, writes Rajiv Ajjibal

Madhukeshwar temple. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR

Banavasi is one of the major tourist centres of Karnataka. Situated on the banks of River Varada, one of the tributaries of River Krishna, it is a pilgrim centre as well as a historical place.

Banavasi was also known as Vanavasi, Banavase, Vaijayanti and Jayantipura in the olden days. The ancient Madhukeshwar Temple with its honey-toned lingam has made this place a holy place. There is also the Madhumati (Parvati) temple adjacent to Madhukeshwar Temple. One can view a huge 8-feet tall Nandi idol in front of the Madhukeshwar lingam. Even the architecture of the kalyana matapa (locally called triloka mantap and astana mantap (known as kallu mancha or stone cot) are worth seeing.

An inscription on the mantap mentions that it was donated by Swadi King Raghunath Nayak in the year 1628 AD. It is believed that the main deity Madhukeshwar was patronised by Kadamba, Vijaynagar, Satavahana, Sudhapur (Swadi) Rastrakuta, Ganga and the Chalukya rulers during their tenure. The temple underwent renovations
from time to time by rulers of various dynasties. Historians have documented that the structure of the temple, built mostly in 11th century AD, was in Kadambanagara style.

Swadi ruler Ramachandra Nayak donated a ratha (temple car) made of red sanders (rakta chandana) in the year 1608 AD. It is one of the tallest temple cars in the state.

Stone pillars in Madhukeshwar Temple
Stone pillars in Madhukeshwar Temple

A stroll around Banavasi offers tourists a good view of Adimadhukeswar, Agasthya Tirtha, Pampa Vana, and Shri Guru Prabhu (Allamaprabhu) Temple.

Banavasi has the credit of being the first capital of Kannada kingdom, ruled by Kadambas from the 4th century AD to 7th century AD. Every year in the month of December, a Kadambotsava is held here to commemorate the glorious rule of the Kadamba dynasty. 

On the occasion, Pampa Award, installed in the name of noted Kannada poet Adikavi Pampa, is conferred on a Kannada literary stalwart. Pampa, who lived in 10th century AD, was one of the commanders of a Chalukya king and on his visit to Banavasi, he was dazzled by the beauty of it. He took to poetry and authored Vikramarjunavijaya, also known as Pampa Bharata.

Banavasi was also popular as a Buddhist and Jain centre. Prabhu Deva Temple, affiliated to Allamaprabhu, a Veerashaiva spiritual leader, finds a mention in Prabhulinga Leele written by Chamarasa Kavi.

Gudnapur Lake, Sirsi
Gudnapur Lake, Sirsi

A visit to Gudnapur en route to Banavasi is a must. The small village, 18 km from Sirsi, was the summer palace of Kadamba rulers and it is here that Vasantotsava was held in spring.

The stamba shasana (pillar inscription) mentions the genealogy of the Kadamba rulers in Sanskrit. A view of Guddatataka tank (locally called Gudnapur kere), spread across an area of about 165 acres, is breathtaking. Kadamba king Ravivarma constructed this tank for the benefit of farmers in the year 500 AD. An old temple called Bangareshwar Temple situated in the midst of water is a must-see. The temple was renovated recently. 


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