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.
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.
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.
- Notice 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.
- 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.
- Another 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.