Karnataka's oldest town: Banavasi Desham - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Karnataka's oldest town: Banavasi Desham

Banavasi is a small town near Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district. Modern tourists who drive towards Dandeli or Gokarna via Shivamogga district often miss Banavasi. It is worth a visit due to multiple reasons.

History of Banavasi: Banavasi is Karnataka’s oldest town, operational way back in 345 AD (about 1700 years ago). Banavasi was home to popular ancient poet, Pampa, referred to as Aadikavi. Pampa is known to have said "ಆರಂಕುಶವಿಟ್ಟೊಡಂ ನೆನೆವುದೆನ್ನ ಮನಂ ಬನವಾಸಿ ದೇಶವಂ “ (English: even if I am chained, my mind will think of Banavasi). Banavasi was the capital city of Kadamba kings back in 15th century.

Modern day Banavasi is not promoted as a tourist destination unlike Hambi, Beluru or Halebeedu. Banavasi looks like any other tier 4 city from the outside, without drawing attention to its historical glory. A large arch near the main road is the only welcome sign.

As you enter the town, the main street leads you to Uma Maheshwara temple. This temple is located on the banks of Varada river. During my visit temple was closed citing Govt instructions w.r.t covid, while I saw some staff entering from backside and some tourists arguing with staff to be let inside. A tourist information center was also closed. A few shopkeepers however had kept their shops open awaiting some customers. It was sad to see their face.

Revisited Banavasi this month (October 2023) and I would enter the temple. Banavasi temple is small but beautiful, with intricate pillars,carving on the wall and dozens of different mini temples with their own idols. There are 2 main temples and several smaller temples.

No guides are available but few priests guide the visitors about the historic importance of the temple and its specialities. One of the things to note is the temple bell, which is said to keep resonating for a full one minute after one strike.

Unlike other temples, this temple is well guarded with tall boundary walls. Almost nothing is visible unless you enter the campus.

Outside the main temple entrance were couple of chariots, being prepared for the annual festival.

You can walk down the steps and explore Varada river. Being peak summer water was very minimal. I saw a display near the temple highlighting more attractions. 

It listed Unchalli Falls (56 kms), Pergola, Salumarada Thimmakka Tree Park, Shilpavana Rock Garden (30 kms Sirsi), Butterfly Garden  Banavasi, Bheemana Gudda, Sahasralinga (40 kms, Sirsi), Bakkal Botanical Garden Hulekal (41 kms), Manjuguni temple (50 kms) as attractions near Banavasi. Most of these are 40-50 kms away.  Chandragutti and Gudavi were missed in above. Even Jog falls, Honnemaradu were not too far.

Few spots said to be in Banavasi were impossible to locate. There were no signage, no maps and none of them were visible on Google maps. Mostly it represents Govt’s plan and probably not fully ready. Locals also didn’t have much idea about these- Govt has recently started creating Salumarada Timmakka Treepark.  I have seen one in Manipal and another in Mangaluru. I believe something similar will come up in Banavasi as well. Google maps showed a  Pampa park, but when I went there it was just a forest area, without any specific developments of a park.
Parking fee for cars is 25 Rupees. Few shops outside sell good tender coconut, pineapple and other stuff to visitors.

We proceeded to Chandragutti after Banavasi


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