Banavasi is referred to in the Mahabharata epic. According to Mahavamsa, a Buddhist text, Samrat Ashoka had sent missionaries to Banavasi. Historically it was belonged to the Shatvahana Dynasty. Enough evidences are available to support this theory. Stone inscriptions, brick structures and coins have been excavated from Banavasi that belong to this era. The beauty of the city had been depicted by Kannada poets like Pampa. As traveler one will get an opportunity to explore and witness the beauty of Banavasi in Karnataka. Apart from them several foreign visitors have also mentioned Banavasi in their work. In the works of Greek geographer Ptolemy, Huen Tsang, Chinese monk and Alberuni, Arab scholar this place in Karnataka have been mentioned. Legends also say that Kalidasa too visited Banavasi as an ambassador of Gupta kings. His famous work Meghaduta has references of Banavasi.
Banavasi is called "Jaldurga" in the Aihole inscription of Pulakeshi II. This term literally means water fort. The Varada River surrounds the three sides of the city with water. In ancient times the fourth side too was surrounded by water. As a result Banavasi is called by this name. There are several temples that adorn the city. One of them is Madukeshwara temple. This monument was originally built by the Kadambas. It has, however, from then undergone several changes. Another tale about this place involves the slaying of demon Madhu by Lord Vishnu at the behest of Lord Shiva. This tale is mentioned in the Puranas.
The temple reflects a blend of numerous schools of architecture. Currently the temple has a Shiva linga but it is believed that the originally the idol was that of lord Vishnu. Figures of Kesava and Ganesha are also here. These idols date back to the Kadamba Dynasty. Apart from these there are several deities that have been contributed by the rulers from time to time.
One of the famous sculptures here is that of the Naga sculpture with inscription in Prakrit. It belongs to the 2nd century. It was placed here by princess Sivaskanda Nagashri. Madhukeshwara temple has two monuments--mantapa and a stone cot. The Sonda rulers had contributed these exquisite pieces of architecture. If you are interested then you can check out all the 20 temples in Banavasi.
Once a glorious capital in the ancient India today it is a small town in Karnataka. But the religious and historical importance of this place cannot be overlooked. It is one of the many reasons why Banavasi in Karnataka till date remains an important tourist destination.