Banavasi village is a temple town located near the border of Uttara Kannada, (North Kanara ) district (Karwar) and Shimoga district southern Indian state of Karnataka. It is one of India’s oldest towns, after Varanasi. The main attraction of Banavasi is the 2000 year old Madhukeshvara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The local festival of Kadambotsava festival also attracts lots of artistes from South India.
Banavasi was the capital city of the Kadamba dynasty, one of the famous empires that ruled South India, during the 4th Century AD to 6th century AD. It is believed that Mayur Sharma, a brahmin studying in Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) was against the Pallavas there and migrated to Banvasi. He later became a warrior and the first king of the Kadambas. Recently the Archeology department discovered an old coin here wih inscriptions in Kannada language (local language of Karnataka) supposed to be minted in the 5th Century AD. Karnataka’s supreme poet, Pampa (also called as ‘Adi Kavi’ or ‘first poet’) is believed to have penned his poems in Banavasi.
Tourist attractions and things to do in Banavasi Village
Banavasi is a very charming and laidback place, where you can visit many old structures and learn about how they were built and the history behind them. Located near the Shivamogga district, Banavasi is a natural tourist magnet and is populated entirely by pilgrims and tourists during the winter season.
Madhukeshwara temple : The renowned Madhukeshwara temple is the prime attraction of Banavasi. The entire life of the town revolves around this temple. Built in stone around the 4th century, it was renovated with additional structures by later dynasties. The presiding deity of Madhukeshwara (Lord Shiva) is a honey colored linga installed during the period of the first king of Kadambas. It also has a seven foot Nandi idol made of a single stone. the temple provides a real treat to the admirers of architecture, apart from the devout. Striking features include the seven-foot huge Nandi idol made of a single stone, splendid monolithic stone works like the stone couch and the Triloka Mantapa depicting heaven, earth and the nether world, amongst others.
Gudhapura Lake : Then there is the lake called the Gudhapura Lake which adds to the beauty of the village. Distinctive agricultural practices, indigenous system of medicine and traditional dwellings are the main attractions of Banavasi Village. Its a good weather here round the year but September to January are the best months.
There are many Jain icons and temples in and around Banavasi that can be explored- Asthana Mantapa and Triloka Mantapa in Sirsi. However, rambling through the ruins of the Buddhist stupas and ancient settlements can be an enriching experience.
Art and Craft
There is a community called Gudigar community of Banavasi who are ace craftsmen. Carving, sculpting, painting and moulding are their fields of work. They are excellent workers in sandalwood work and teakwood carving. In the months of November, December and January the annual Banawasi Kalamela is held. In this fair of local craftsmanship one can see and experience the work and warmth of these caraftmans. If you happen to visit the Vaijayanti, see Varnaloka – the art gallery by Shreepad Purohit – which is worth a visit.
Banavasi Village Festivals
Kadambotsava festival : Held every year in December, the Karnataka culture and tourism department organises an arts and culture festival in Banavasi called Kadambotsava. During this event, artists from different places in South India showcase thier music, dance and art forms. Karnataka’s ethnic dance, Yakshagana (found in Mangalore and coastal Karnataka) is also performed here.Yakshagana is similar to Kathakali in that the artists wear exquisite costumes and make up and enact scenes from the epics of Indian history.
The Lakshadweepotsava festival – During this festival, earthen and metal lamps are lit all over homes in the town. It is held during the month of November and December (sometimes coinciding with the Indian festival of light – Deepavali)
Car Festival : Car festival is the biggest festival celebrated in the Indian state of Karnataka. It falls in the month of March every year. People pray to God to get peace and prosperity. It is an attraction for thousands of people outside and within the state. The merry making of the festival includes grand feast among the villagers. They adorn themselves with the new dresses, women wear heavy jewelry and men wear traditional dresses. It is one such festival in karnataka which unites the people irrespective of their caste and religion.
Mahashivratri : Another major festival celebrated in the Banawasi village is Mahashivratri. People from all around the world gather at Madhukeshwara temple to celebrate this grand festival. Mahashivratri fallson the sixth night of the dark Phalgun (Feburay or March) every year. It is the same night when Lord Shiva performed Tandava. People keep fast on this day and offer prayers, milk, sweets and flowers to the idol of the Lord Shiva. It is also believed that on this day Shivaji and Parvati tied knot.
Banavasi Kalamela : showcases the art forms of the region. Gudigars, an ethnic group from North Karnataka, are master craftsmen with wood and metal. The Kalamela (carnival of art) showcases thier inctricate works on sandalwood, pottery and metal. You can also pick up souvenirs from here.
Varnaloka : is an art gallery which also display paintings and crafts native to this region. You also get costumes and props used in the Yakshagana dance form here.
Where to Stay in Banavasi Village
There are two home stays currently operational. Please contact the Village Tourism Committee for tariffs and bookings. Tourists can also stay at the newly built Village Tourism Complex. There are several double rooms available with attached bathrooms as well as a dormitory. The complex is set around a square courtyard at the edge of Banavasi; river Varadha flows on one side and the Pampa Vana is on the other side.