Set on the banks of River Varada, Banavasi is an ancient temple town located in Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka. The town shares its borders with the Shimoga district, which lies in the Malnad region of the Western Ghats. Located between the coordinates 14°32'03?N and 75°01'04?E, this town lies in the forests of Western Ghats.
According to a famous European historian, Kittle, the town has derived its name from two words 'Bana', which means forest and 'Vasi', which means spring. Flourished around the Madhukeshwara Temple of 9th century, Banavasi is one of the oldest towns in Karnataka. The town has been referred to as Vanavasaka in the epic Mahabharata, which conveys that the town existed since 4000 BC. During the reign of Kadamba Dynasty from 4th to 6th century, the destination served as the first capital of ancient Karnataka.
Before the Kadamba dynasty, Banavasi was under the reign of different dynasties, including Pallavas, Chutu and Shathavahanas dynasty. From mid 6th century to 8th century, the town was under the rule of Chalukyas. After Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas ruled over the region from 757 to 973 AD. Over the course of time, the region was ruled by several dynasties like Chalukyas of Kalyani, Kalachuriyas, Yadavas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara kings, Sonda kings, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. After the death of Tipu Sultan, the town was conquered by the Britishers, who ruled the region till independence.
The town was known by different names in different eras like in 1st century the Greek geographer Ptomlemy, mentioned the town as Banousi. During the reign of Kadambas in the early 4th century, the town was known as Jayanthipura or Vaijayanthipura. There are several inscriptions found which mention Banavasi by different names like Nandanavana (1100 AD), Kanakavathi (1552 AD) and Jaladurga.
Believed to be the cultural epicentre of the state of Karnataka, the town is known for its Madhukeshwara temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Madhukeshwara temple, is one of the biggest temples built in the 9th century. Another major attraction in the town is the cultural event, Kadambothsav. This festival is held every year in the month of December, when the town hosts performances like folk dances, art exhibitions, classical music and Yakshagana dramas.
Apart from this, Navaratri, Mahashivaratri and Lakshadeepotsava are some of the main traditional events celebrated here. The nearest airport is in Hubli, located at a distance of 100 km from Banavasi. On the other hand, for tourists travelling from different parts of the world can board flights to Dabolim Airport, which is an international airport. This airport is located in Goa and is at a distance of 245 km from Banavasi.
Trains are also available for travellers, which are served by the nearest railhead, Haveri Railway Station, located at a distance of 70 km from the destination. In addition, buses also operate from Bangalore to Banavasi. The best time to visit the destination is during winter season, which extends from the month of November to February.