It’s a standing joke amongst travellers, that it’s possible, in a few hours, to be in UK! That’s not the United Kingdom, but the district of Uttara Kanndada, which holds a variety of attractions for those interested in exploring Karnataka’s treasures.

A good place to base oneself here, is

Banavasi

which is the oldest settled town in the state of Karnataka; Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller, who was in India between 630 and 644 A.D, mentions the town of Konkanapura, as it was then called.

Banavasi is about 400 km from Bangalore, and is best reached by road, as it is at least 70 km from the nearest railway station (Haveri). The transport can then be used for local trips as well, and offers a lot of flexibility to the traveller. Indeed, there are so many locations tempting one to visit, that such flexibility is definitely required. It’s most cost-effective to travel in a small group, in a van such as a Tempo Traveller. The diesel-driven vans may not be as eco-friendly as the petrol ones, but they are definitely more cost-effective, and their higher suspension is a plus on bad roads and during adverse,rainy weather conditions.

Banavasi lies deep within the

Western Ghats ,

which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site…one of the places on earth with the greatest biodiversity, or variety of living species. Apart from this, of course, is the historic aspect of the town and its surrounding areas. The town is surrounded on three sides by the Varada river; the name means, “Giver of boons”. An inscription in Aihole describes Banavasi as “Jala durga” or “water fort”…so perhaps the fourth side was also bounded by the river in the days when it was bigger than it is today.

The famous Kannada poet,

Pampa

a follower of Jainism,(who was given the honorific appellation, Mahakavi, or Great Poet. wrote that he wished to be born as a cuckoo or a bee in the land of Banavasi. This is part of the folklore of Banavasi.

The city (held to be almost as ancient as Varanasi) was built by the

Kadamba dynasty , but has undergone additions and changes during the rule of other dynasties such as the Shatavahanas, the Chalukyas and the rulers of Sonda.

Dr. Jyotsna Kamat’s archaeological blog page

speaks of Banavasi’s population as 4,267 in 2005!

There are many historic temples both in Banavasi itself, and in the nearby towns. The most renowned, of course, is the Madhukeshwara temple, which has a famous five-hooded Naga sculpture, with a Prakrit inscription, dating back to the 2nd century A.D. There are also many Jain and Buddhist relics, evocative of the fact that the town was home to many creeds.

Other temples, near the town of Gudavi, which will figure largely in the itinerary of visitors, are the Kedareswara temple, the Bherundeswara temple (which is just a Sthamba) the Tripurantakeswara temple. In Talagunda, there is the Pranaveswara temple (very small and austere). Each temple is well worth the time taken to visit; one can feel the unhurried pace of time,and soak in the ambience of the centuries.

There is a lot for the lover of wildlife, as well. The area winds through many forests, some quite pristine, others “tamed” and frequented by tourists. Going to Uttara Kannada during, or just after, the monsoons is a special treat, as the mountainous area abounds with waterfalls, of which the most noted are the Jog, the Unchalli and the Magod falls.

There is lush vegetation…and an incredible variety of flora and fauna. The

Gudavi Bird Sanctuary

is very well-known, listing 217 species of birds. It makes for a pleasant walk, too.

Accommodation in Banavasi would consist of many homestays, but the

Village Tourism Complex also called the Vanavasika Tourist Home

can be strongly recommended. The rooms are comfortable, though service is a little slow; one can ask for food to be prepared, but it would be better to eat at one of the many “khanavalis” that are scattered around, as one goes through the region. The home stays are also clean, though less comfortable. For example, the Kantapally Home Stay, where the lunch is delicious, is run by a lady called Vinutha. It’s part the farm,and estate. One can see various herbs, and farming activities, under the guidance of the lady herself. There is a very homey feel to these places. The homestays are very eco-friendly, and it’s up to the visitors not to leave plastic or trash behind. Meals are usually served on plantain leaves, and traditional cooking vessels are used, even when the kitchen has been modernized.

The Uttara Kannada cuisine has a taste all its own. Thatte iddli, paddu, and other delicacies are cooked with fresh ingredients. Rotis made of rice, jowar and corn as well as rice, are served with a variety of sweet, sour, pungent and spicy curries and sauces. Accompanying the meal is a wide range of fresh powders and chutneys made of lentils, chillies, tamarind, and oil cake. Pineapples are a prime crop of the region, and many pineapple recipes, including the pineapple “gojju” can be tasted.
“Badane kayi gojju”, a dish made brinjal and “shenga” , a freshly ground peanut powder, are two very popular items.

The annual arts and culture festival in Banavasi, Kadambotsava, is held in December/January.

Village Tourist Complex:

For Booking accommodation at Vanavasika tourist home
+91-08384-264560 (Tourist Home)
+91-9886641496 (Mobile)
Contact person: Mr.Brahmakumar
OR
+91-8105545777 (Mobile)
Contact person: Mr.B.C.Kiran
The weather in Banavasi can range from 37 deg C (max) during the summer months to a mild 25 deg C (max) in the winter months. The monsoon can be very heavy indeed. Check
here
for the weather.

If you have a Facebook account, and wish to see photos of the Banavasi area
click here
for a visit made in August 2011.