Located in the western ghats of Northern Karnataka lies a sleepy hill town, that has successfully managed to stay in a bygone time, as the world around it developed at a breakneck speed. Named Banavasi, this town is believed to be the first capital of Karnataka, ruled by the Kadamba Dynasty in 4th century AD. Deep in the rain forests of Western Ghats, on the banks of River Varadha, Banavasi has ancient temples and is blessed by cascading waterfalls and lush green fields during monsoons.
Banawasi and Chandragutti were on our list today. Banawasi, situated on the banks of Varada river is an old capital of Karnataka during the time of Kadamba dynasty. The age old monuments here have been preserved well. The sculptures in the Uma Madhukeshwara temple took us to the time when simple tools and extra-ordinary skills created marvels.
Pampa wrote, “It is a virtue to be born in Banavasi as a human being. If not as a human being then at least one should be born as a bee or a cuckoo in the garden of Banavasi”. Located in the central Western Ghats it is full of surprises for the unhurried traveler – ponds carpeted with lotuses and lilies, neatly laid plantations of banana and areca nut and the mist gliding over the town holding hands with the wind. Walking is the ideal way to explore this town; however during the monsoon season befriend an umbrella to avoid being drenched.
Situated in the rainforests of the Western Ghats, with the Varada River flowing in and around it, is nestled Karnataka's oldest town - Banavasi. Though this town primarily belonged to the first indigenous Kannada Kingdom of the Kadambas, before that it was also an important element of the Satvahnas, Chutus and the Badami Chalukyas. And even being included in traveler's itineraries is a part of Banavasi's history, having been visited by Xuanzang, the Chinese Traveler in the 7th century BC!
Though now a place that lives around the MadhuKeshwara Temple, nature and culture still abound in this place, all waiting to be explored.
This morning, we cover some distance by the shuttle until we reach the rural countryside to resume our cycling journey through it. Riding through the countryside is the best way to experience the unhurried village way of living - farmers at the fields, livestock lazing through grassy patches, small streams and neat village huts in clusters. Banavasi, an ancient temple town, is also tailor-made to be explored on cycle. Recognized as the first capital of ancient Karnataka, which flourished in the fourth to the sixth centuries, it features in Hindu mythology across many eras. Riding through this typical Malnad village with its tiled heritage houses, spacious courtyards and paddy fields, it offers many spots and perspectives that would have otherwise been unavailable. Stopping for a few moments to relax by the banks of the Varada River or taking a walk to the Madhukeshwara Temple, built in 9th century, is the highlight of the village. A celebrated architectural marvel, with ornate sculptures and the calming simplicity of its sanctum sanctorum. It is said that visiting this temple is equivalent to visiting all of Hinduism's main temples.