In the history of Karnataka, Banavasi holds a special place for so many reasons; right from the mention of Adikavi Pampa to the rule of Kadambas. Banavasi is the oldest town in Karnataka and is said to be the ancient capital of Kadambas, the first native empire of Kannada speaking lineage. To say a few things about Kadambas, they were the early Kannada rulers who ruled South India for at least two centuries, established themselves in 345 AD. This place is also known as the temple town of Karnataka and one of the major attractions here is the Madhukeshwara temple. An age-old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is largely popular for its historical and architectural significance. Come, let’s know more about the famous Banavasi Madhukeshwara temple on today’s read.
Banavasi Madhukeshwara Temple (Built in the 9th Century)
Madhukeshwara temple is located in Banavasi, on the borders of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built during the reign of the Kadamba Dynasty.
The temple you see today is a result of a number of modifications that have happened during the times of Chalukyas and Hoysalas, ruled after Kadambas.
Being one of the oldest temples of Karnataka, it was first built by Mayura Sharma of Kadambas, which then took rejuvenations under different dynasties.
When it comes to the temple architecture, it has a simple structure with minimal decorative. It is during the time of Chalukyas, a Sankalpa mantap was added to the temple. Later on, during the rule of Hoysalas, Nritya Mantap was built which has a peculiar Chalukyan style of craving on pillars and ceilings.
The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva. Here, one can see Linga in the color of Honey and hence the name Madhukeshwara; Madhu meaning Honey in Kannada.
The east facing temple has shrines of Mahisasuramardhini, Ganesha, Nandi statue, and an ornamented shikara. The other temples found in the complex are dedicated to Parvati, Veerbhadreshwara, Narasimha, and Basavalingeshwara.
One thing which is highly appreciated in the temple is its architecture. The premise is full of sculptures taking different forms of deities placed in smaller temples of the courtyard. You can also Naga sculpture with an inscription in Brahmi and Prakrit.
As you enter the temple, you will be welcomed by two Sthambhas. Moving on, the Garba mantapa has of minimal carving but the Sankalpa and Nritya manatapas are full of art and style. The ornamental pillars have a trademark concave and convex carvings giving an evidence of Hoysala’s touch to it.
Another interesting thing to note here is the architecture of the Nandi statue placed in Nritya Manatpa. It is about 7 feet huge and it is positioned in a way that it looks Shiva with the left eye and Parvathi with the right one.
If you want to see the amazing stone works then you have the Stone cot and Triloka Manatapa, made during the rule of Sondes.
The stone cot you see here has a resemblance with that of one in Hampi virupaksha temple. It is a pure work of hard granite which looks exactly like a wooden carving.
On the other hand, you have Triloka Manatpa which speaks about Hoysala’s hold on the craft. It depicts Pathala Loka (water), Sesha Loka (earth), and Kailasha Shikara (Heaven) in its craving. In the middle of Manatapa, a stone sketch of Shiva and Parvathi sitting on the throne can be witnessed.
In the temple premise, one can see a gigantic Panchaloha Bell (made of five metals) donated by a 5th Century Maharastra Queen. The specialty of this bell is that it reverberates the divine “Ohm” sound close to a minute or less.
The temple is also known for the popular lore of Natyarani Shantala challenging Allama Prabhu. The story goes like Allama defeats Shantala in a music-dance competition. Later on, Shantala marries King Vishnuvardhana and inspires the dancing sculptures of Belur and Halebidu.
So, this was about the historic Madhukeshwara temple of Banavasi. This age-old town known as the first capital of Karnataka is evident to state’s rich history and heritage. Words really fall short to express the beauty of Banavasi. So, to put in Pampa’s words;
“It is a virtue to be born in Banavasi as a human being. If not as a human being, then one should be born at least as a bee or a cuckoo in the garden of Banavasi.”
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