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Banavasi- 'Kadambothsav'

There is a tiny town on the border of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts called Banavasi. NeJuicy colourful pineapple of Banavasistled deep in the forests of Western Ghats, this temple town resides on the Varadha river. In its fertile soil grows rice, sugarcane, arecanut, spices and the famous Banavasi Pineapple. But why does this quaint, little known town come into the limelight once every year?

Though Banavasi means 'nestled in the forest', it has a history rivalled by no other town in the entire state. Ptolemy, the ancient Greek geographer, wrote about a place called 'Bansi' in South India. Banavasi is the place where Pampa, the first poet of Kannada, wrote his epic poems. This was the capital of the Kadambas, the first kingdom of ancient Karnataka. This is where the temple architecture of the Chalukyas and the Hoysalas got its basic elements. This was the ancient place of learning to which scholars flocked from other states like Goa and Maharashtra.The large Madhukeshwara temple complex has both Shaiva and Vaishnava deities

But there is very little here that reminds us of its glorious past. In fact, the only reminder of the Kadamba era is the famous Madhukeshwara Temple around which the town has grown. Built in stone nearly 1500 years ago, this temple is one of the earliest evidence of architectural splendour of the Kadamba era. This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was modified with additional structures by later dynasties. This unique feature of the temple illustrates how the architectural styles evolved from the 9th Century to present times.

Intricate carving on the pillars of nritya mantapaThe innermost sanctum sanctorum is built in a very plain style with minimal carving on the door and the lintel. The Sankalpa mantapa in front reveals the influence of the Chalukyan style. There is a seven foot huge Nandi idol made of a single stone. The Nritya mantapa or the dancing hall was added during the Hoysala period and has exquisite carving on the pillars and the ceiling. This is the spot where the legendary Shantala challenged the famed musician Allama Prabhu. She went on to become the wife of king Vishnuvardhana and inspired the renowned dancing sculptures of Belur and Halebid.

The presiding deity of Madhukeshwara is a honey coloured lingam dedicated during the period of Mayura Varma, the first king of Kadambas. Legend has it that he was originally Mayura Sharma, a Brahmin studying in Kanchipuram. Humiliated by the Pallava princes, he vowed revenge. He took up the study of warfare or Kshathriya Vidya and became a warrior king who established the Kadamba dynasty in 345.A.D.

Early morning prayersNow, centuries later, Banavasi is returning to its former glory as a cultural capital. Every December, folk dancers, classical musicians, drama troupes, Yakshagana artistes assemble for 'Kadambothsav', a huge cultural festival bringing together artistes and performers from all over south India. This big event, organized by the state government, is attended by dignitaries and eminent literary personalities.

Vibrant and rhythmic dance of dollu drummersBanavasi has always been a centre of culture, mainly the Yakshagana art form. Local artisans are now commercially selling the renowned Yakshagana masks here. So, whether you are an art and culture connoisseur or an antiquity buff, be in Banavasi this year end to relish the sweet pineapple and watch the best assembly of folk dancers!

Traveller's Info:
Distance: 374 kms from Bangalore
Nearest Rail head: Shimoga-112kms away
Nearest Towns: Sirsi 18kms away
Accommodation: No lodging available (Better stay in Sirsi or Jog)
Best time to visit: December- Kadambothsav and February- Mahashivarathri

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