Jun 4, 2012

Off the beaten track- Beautiful Banavasi

I have been posting so much on distant places ... forgotten about my very own Karnataka. In our own place we are ignorant of most of the interesting things! Well, I have travelled throughout Karnataka during my pre-blogging days with my parents and a "film" camera. Also, I have trekked with friends Saihadris (Western Ghats), mostly Karnataka and Kerala part ... That was more than a decade ago ... I am trying to explore more and revisit some places to relive some of the past experiences ...

Couple of weeks ago I started my Explore Karnataka hobby with Beautiful Banavasi. In short, Banavasi is one of the oldest towns of Karnataka considered to be as old as Kashi and was the capital of Kadamba dynasty, the first rulers of ancient Karnataka ... rest, you can read Wiki. The town of Banavasi has evolved around the ancient Madhukeshwara Temple. It is one of the Endogeneous Rural Tourism sites of India. This pro-poor project was introduced by Indian Ministry of Tourism with United Nations Developement Programme to enable the local communities to introduce their art and crafts to visitors. In 2006, this project won the World Travel Award - World's Leading Responsble Tourism Scheme. Yey!

I, this time teamed up with my dear sister and lovely niece, started from Hubli, a major commercial city of Karnataka.  We took a KSRTC bus to Sirsi- the nearest town 21KM from Banavasi. KSRTC buses ply between Sirsi and Banavasi every half-an-hour. Right now, the buses run from Sirsi old-bus stand only. The bus drops you at the gates of the Madhukeshwara Temple. For my partners traveling by KSRTC bus itself was an adventure!

The road to Banavasi is through some of the rain forests of Western Ghats with Varada river flowing nearby. There are numerous lakes and ponds where one can enjoy sights of aquatic birds. I saw a flock of black-headed ibis. There are few ponds where the water-lilies rule. It is an amazing sight! 

Per history, the 9th century temple dedicated to Shiva was originally built by Kadambas when they found honey colored Shivalinga on the banks of river Varada, later renovated and new structures were added by the successive dynasties of Chalukya and Hoysala. At the temple, the priest will help you with usual religious rituals and also guide you through the complex for a nominal dakshina (fees).

At the entrance, temple has a seven feet monolith Nandi in the line-of-sight of Lord Shiva. Interesting feature of this bull is ... it is looking at Lord Shiva with left eye and Goddess Parvati (in the adjacent shrine) with the right eye. You should visit the place to believe it! It is really an amazing architecture!

The Nritya Mantapa (dance platform) which is believed to be added by Hoysalas is a circular platform with four massive pillars on the corners. The pillars and ceiling have extensive carving. It seems the legendary dancer Shantala challenged the legendary musician Allama Prabhu in this hall. The pillars have an interesting  special effect!  I mean to say the shining smooth surface of the pillars reflect the shadows upside down. When you move a hand, the shadow of the hand is reflected to have special effect of two hands.

The Sankalpa Mantapa displays Chalukya architecture. The innermost sanctum sanctorun is very plain. The honey colored huge Shivalinga, Madhukeshwara (madhu means honey) is ancient and was installed during the period of Mayura Varma, the first king of Kadamba Dynasty.

The temple has a large courtyard where several other deities can be seen. These are the Ashta Dikpalas (guardians of directions per Hindu tradition). They are Kubera (north), Indra (south), Yama (east), Varuna (west), Ishanya (north-east), Agni (south-east), Vayu (north-west) and Niruti (south-west).

There is an interesting Ganesha shrine in the complex called Ardha Ganesha (half Ganesha). The idol is vertically half! There are two legends ... One, Lord Ganesha is unmarried and to symbolize the bachelorhood he is portrayed without Ardhangi (wife or better-half). Another legend says, Banavasi is an important, beautiful and ancient city as Kashi, present day Varanasi. Ganesha was in a confusion where to live! ... with Kashi Vishwanatha or Banavasi Madhukeshwara ... so he decided to live half in Kashi and half in Banavasi.

Another interesting shrine is Shanta Narasimha (Peaceful Narasimha)Narasimha is always Ugra  (ferocious), a form of Lord Vishnu which he took to kill a demon king Hiranyakashapu. It was very unusual to see this peaceful form of God in Banavasi! There is a stone-cot which is intricately carved out of a single rock! Don't miss it ... it is kept in an enclosure and is difficult to photograph properly. There is also a tiny carving of monkey eating sugarcane!

There is Banavasi Museum right near the temple which was closed. There is an annual cultural festival called Kadambothsava in December organized by Karnataka State Government. There are many other ancient temples in nearby villages. I will post about nearby temples in coming posts.

History and Hindu mythology interest me a lot, and Banavasi provided me with a feast!

Leave a comment to share your experience in similar remote destinations :)

For more places on Off the beaten track click HERE.

If you want pictures please ask me :)

References: The (priest) guide at the temple and internet research before I left for Banavasi.
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. It is so true that we often go visiting many places and forget about our own home turf.
    You really gave a great overview in this post!!!

  2. Nice narration. The temple looks beautiful.


  3. Nice mix of history & legend. Enjoyed the narration.

    1. Thank you Mr. Ramakrishnan. Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  4. had a great time in banavasi

    1. And your chocolate marble cake was yum!! Lets plan for another trip soon :)


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