Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi, Karnataka

Banavasi would have been forgotten but for the beautiful Madhukeswara Temple existing there from 3rd century. Yes, a temple almost 18 centuries old! The oldest monuments that I have seen in India prior to this were the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, which belong to 8th century. The temple complex is well maintained and a delight to all history buffs and architecture lovers.

Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi

Visit to Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi

Madhukeswara Temple of Banavasi, Uttara Kannada was dedicated to Lord Madhava, a form of Lord Vishnu. Today Lord Shiva in linga form is worshiped here. This temple was built during Kadamba period between 345 to 525 AD.  Construction was carried out during the period of Mayura Varma, the first king of Kadambas. I could not trace out the exact date of construction of the temple. Successive empires and dynasties like Western Chalukyas, Sonda Kings have added their own bit in terms of reconstruction, modifications to this temple. There are inscriptions of these modifications as proof.

That day we were really lucky to reach just before the closing time of the temple. We were among the last batch that offered prayers in the temple in the forenoon session. After the temple doors closed a young pujari guided us around the complex explaining its history and significance.

adhukeswar Banavasi

What to See in Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi

  • Madhukeswara Temple is east facing, has a square garbhagriha and a circumambulatory passage all around it.
  • Main idol here is of Madhukeswara linga on a decorated yonipitha. The linga is honey (madhu) colored, hence the name. No photography is allowed only in this part of the temple.
  • There are 2 sub shrines housing Mahishamardhini and Ganesha. Right in front there is a hall with massive pillars (not in height but in cross section). These are square pillars, very typical of Chalukya period.
  • We then came out to navaranga, a mini hall which houses an ornate Nandi image. This Nandi is 7 ft tall and made from one single stone. The priest told us the sculpting feat behind the turned face of the Nandi, with one eye he sees the Shivalinga and with another the Parvati temple.
  • nandi-banavasiNotice the sculptures of Adimadhava and Kartikeya. Entrances on 3 sides are indications of work by Kalyana Chalukya period.
  • Shikhara has beautiful stucco figures of Nandi in four corners, 10 incarnation of Vishnu, 12 forms of Aditya, Dikpalakas, the guardian deities, and also Nagabandhas. Roof of Navaranga is flat at center and slopes along periphery.
  • sculpted-works-on-the-walls-banavasi-temple
  • Dhvajasthamba is in the front of the temple. Sub shrines in the complex are: Dhundiraja, Ganapati, Chintamani Narasimha, these are contributions from Sonda Kings.
  • The most important must see in Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi is the highly ornate stone cot. It was kept in a room with grilled doors and we were able to take pics only through the grills. A majestic cot, if I have to describe it in one word. Every inch of it is covered with intricate floral designs and animal statues. This stone cot was a gift of a Sode chief, Raghu Nayaka to the temple.
  • cot-madhukeswara-templeAnother must see here is the inscribed Naga sculpture carved on a thin rectangular slab. It has 5 hooded coiled serpent as the central figure. Inscription is in Brahmi characters of 2nd century and Prakrit language along the side borders. The inscription reads that the naga is a gift along with a tank and vihara by Sivaskanda Nagasri, daughter of Haritiputera Chutukulananda. It is kept in the navaranga of the temple.


Little Bit about Banavasi

Banavasi of Uttara Kannada district is the oldest town of Karnataka. It was the capital of Kadamba Empire in 345AD. Madhukeswara Temple is a part of the remains of this ancient kingdom. Since olden times life in this quaint little town revolved around the temple. Very few parts are left of Banavasi Fort. Excavations carried out here during the later part of 20th century yielded some coins and potteries belonging to Satavahana period. Other temples around in Banavasi are: Adikadambeswara, Adimadhukeshwara, Allamaprabhu and more.


How to reach Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi

Banavasi is connected by bus to Sirsi (22 km). The nearest railway station is Karwar (144 km). You can make a day trip to Banavasi from Shimoga (123kms) or Jog Falls (51kms).

Travel Tips to Madhukeswara Temple

  • Dress modestly when you visit the temple.
  • Temple Timings: Open from 6AM to 12PM and then from 4PM to 8PM.
  • Search out a guide to explain the temple history and sculptures. There are ever willing.
  • Ideal time to visit is during Kadambotsava, a cultural festival celebrated for continuous two days in the month of December. Musical bands and folk dancers participate in this grand festival.
  • Another major festival celebrated here is Mahashivratri during the month of February.


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57 Responses to “Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi, Karnataka

  • Wow the buildings are so old. And all those scupltures are so detailed. It must have taken many years to create all of that!

  • I’m always shocked at how history India has that I am unaware of.

  • India is so rich in history and culture. Visiting India is definitely in my bucket list.

  • So much history!! Many thanks for writing in this way. Monuments should be appreciated more when there is a background told.

  • The architecture and sculptures in the place look very intricate. A feast for history and architecture buffs indeed! Definitely seems like it is a good idea to seek out guides to show you around; I hope that they’re not too pushy? Sadly, that’s the experience I’ve had at some of India’s more famous monuments…I’m hoping that’s not the case in what seems to be a less-touristed spot.

  • Every time I visit your blog, I discover a new historical site. There are so many historic locations within Karnataka.. looks like I should come up with a separate list to cover all these temples. Thanks for helping us discover the forgotten parts of our state..

  • Magnificent art. Stones carved by hands are fascinating. With the then available tools, the precision is just amazing. Great bit of information and lovely pictures. If I happen to plan south on one of my vacations I’ll definitely mark this place!!

    – Pixellicious

  • Very useful tips, thank you! I was in India recently, unfortunately not in this area. Hopefully next time. 🙂

  • Yogi Saraswat
    1 year ago

    Banavasi of Uttara Kannada district is the oldest town of Karnataka. It was the capital of Kadamba Empire in 345AD. Madhukeswara Temple is a part of the remains of this ancient kingdom. Since olden times life in this quaint little town revolved around the temple. Very few parts are left of Banavasi Fort. Very interesting site to visit . The first sight of the temple resembles to Kamakhya temple of Guwahati in some ways.

  • A classic Indian temple. The sculptures are magnificent as always.

  • Unbelievable! So lucky to have been able to see this! It is so old and so amazing. The majestic cot sounds so intriguing. Hope one day I will also have the chance to see this.

  • Those temples are in remarkable condition considering how old they are. Very interesting carvings.

  • This is truly impressive being built in the 3rd century and many of the reliefs and details are still intact – amazing to still see this in complete condition

  • As an art, history and religious monuments lover, I have really enjoyed reading your post. It reminded me how much India has to offer when talking about world heritage.

  • wow, 18 centuries old the Madhukeswara Temple would be amazing to explore. I love looking at the architecture and hieroglyphics. It’s so incredible to me how man could make such beautiful buildings and carvings without modern tools and now that we have the tools we don’t make things as embellished and beautiful anymore. A truly lost art.

  • I love visiting historical places so this is right up my alley. I would love to check out the temple and learn about it. India has so may temples I think I would love to just go on a temple tour.

  • WOW! An 18 centuries old temple! This would be an unforgettable trip. Great tip to search out a guide.

  • How amazing to experience living history that is 18 centuries old! The reliefs are beautiful. I hope to visit one day in person.

  • Wow, these temples look so well preserved! The history of temples in India is just incredible. We are hoping to travel to India again this year and would love to visit. Thanks for sharing!

  • I love to admire the beauty of religious and historical edifices, love the architecture! Thank you for sharing!

  • Wow, Madhukeswara Temple is so gorgeous! And visiting a place that’s been around for so long must be truly fascinating. I’ve only been to a few places that are as (or slightly older than that) and they aren’t as well preserved (mostly due to wars in the region).

  • Chrysoula
    1 year ago

    Such a beautiful temple and so old. You were lucky to arrive in time to see it!

  • blair villanueva
    1 year ago

    I couldn’t help but admire these early works that still stand proudly and passed the test of time. The early people of this place are great architects and engineers, and the modern ones should learn meticulously how to do it 🙂

  • I love exploring these historic temples. There’s something so peaceful about them.

  • I love Indian historical structures and their architecture!Even the smallest temples of olden days have so much work to display. Such a beautiful temple and that Naga statue is pretty unique 🙂

  • It really looks beautiful. So many amazing decorations. It is hard to believe how old some temples really are when seeing all the details built into them. 🙂

  • The carvings and statues look very well preserved. It’s impressive how intricate the carvings are too, particularly since they’re in stone. Such neat temples.

  • Wow! That’s a really old temple Indrani. I love visiting such temples as well and it’s not added to my list 🙂

  • Wow! They have such amazing art in these temples. I loved the Nandi sculpture. Truly magnificent. This must have been an amazing trip!

  • Wow..another gem of a place that I had not heard of. I did a google search for this temple after reading your post. Looks like its almost 2.5 hrs drive from Shivamogga where I have been intending to go. Will visit this temple as well when the trip happens

  • I have never heard of this place till I read your blog. And you say it is 1800 years old? I love how each set of rulers added their additions and improvements to the temple. That Nandi statue must be huge. Hopefully I will get to visit one day.

  • Wow! It looks like a beautiful temple to visit. Thanks for sharing about the history and the place. I think visiting during Kadambotsava would be a great way to witness the temple.

  • What a beautiful temple, it makes me want to book a flight back to India, and i only got back last week! Really helpful that you put the opening times etc, so many people dont and it means some people could be disappointed!

  • Looks like a beautiful temple. Great captures Indrani, even we visited Hassan recently and were impressed by architecture. The carvings of this temple are so intricate and beautiful. We are too tempted to visit this place considering that this a 3rd-century temple.

  • I do hope one day to visit your beautiful country, meanwhile I will continue to enjoy your always interesting blog. Wishing you all the best for 2017, and thanks for your continuing support over the years.

  • Loved the architecture, I can see the highlights of history. Indian temples provide such beautiful art to see and explore.

  • The temples are so cool. It’s amazing the temple are so well preserved being so ancient. I would like to see these in person one day.

  • I love this post – so well rounded with a great experience, tips, pictures and history. It truly sounds like a lovely place to visit.

  • This architecture is absolutely impressive! Going there sounds like an amazing experience 🙂 I would love to see it. I hope I will make it this year!

  • I haven’t heard about Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi earlier. Great to know about a temple from 3rd century and more over that it is well maintained . Thanks for sharing.

  • OMG!! Every time I read a post about India I get more in love! Unfortunately I still don’t know when I will finally go there :S This Madhukeswara Temple Banavasi is stunning, the architecture, the decorations, the statues… lovely!! Your pics are amazing 🙂 Best travel, E

  • Temples that make us proud of our history are so awesome. The pictures capture stories of eons ago. Is there a special prasad there?

  • Such an interesting place full of history. It seems like every item there holds a special story. The cot has so many details and floral ornaments, it is really impressive. There’s a reason why they keep it locked.

  • Oh wow! The carvings look so intricate and statues are amazingly well preserved. It’s amazing just how many temples there are around India!

  • Wow. Being in India. I never knew about it. Thanks for introducing us to such an ancient temple. It is going to be in my to do list.

  • blair villanueva
    1 year ago

    Soo old but goodie! Oh you are so beyond lucky to visit this place. I truly wish that this could be well preserve and free from human vandalism, and God forbid not be destroyed by an earthquake.

  • The Kadamba empire! Heard a lot about this from some friends I met in Belgaum a few years ago, but its still one of those places that is little known. Temples aren’t really on my list on the road, but what do you do when cities are built around them, yes? HA!

  • What a lovely write-up! I’m so happy I stumbled upon this blog post as I plan to visit India this year. Karnataka overall is a beautiful place I’ve heard so I will bookmark your Indian-destination articles and come back for more as I come closer to my departure. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love the architecture of this temple. It’s quite fascinating indeed!

  • They have really elaborate and magnificent sculptors in this temple! The place looks rich in history and it really intrigues me to visit and see it with my own eyes.

  • I can imagine the atmosphere is totally different during one of the festivals in December of February. It would be great to see just how lively it becomes.

  • This kind of architecture is timeless and we have such rich heritage. Thanks for this share.

  • Karnataka has unlimited wealth of history and architecture. So much to do, so much to see. Adding this one to my list too.

  • I love a good temple complex. I would love to go here.

  • Veronica
    1 year ago

    How could you capture those first photos without any people in them? Is this site not very well known or you were just lucky?
    The architecture is absolutely breathtaking!

  • India is such a historical place!! i would love to visit it… Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing with us

  • Really worth to see the place of kadamba dynasty thanks to elaborate this historical ancient place

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