A divine morning at Banashankari, Karnataka

At the break of dawn we reached Banashankari. Ursa Major was still visible in the Northern sky. Pin drop silence of the area seemed like uncanny. Our driver parked the car in a field. After getting down from the car, suddenly we heard a melodious voice. Concentrating on the voice, I realized somebody was singing the raga Ahir Bhairav (a morning raga). We stopped. Ahir Bhairav is one of my favorite raga. We were astonished by the way the vocalist was singing –  especially when he was applying his voice on “Komal Rishabh” (second node in Hindustani Classical Music). The ambience and the voice of the vocalist took me to ancient India.

Reflection of Banashankari Temple on Harida Tirtha

Let me first tell where we (me and my friend Mr. Amitabha Gupta) were. We were at Banashankari – a village in Bagalakot district of Karnataka (A state located in the South-Western part of India). Located at a distance of 50 kilometer from the famous tourist spot Badami, Banashankari can be easily accessed by Bus or car.

Nestled in Tilakaranya Forest, Banashankari is known for the eponymous temple. Banashankari Temple is a highly revered shrine of Deccan. According to Purana, Banashankari is believed to be the sixth incarnation of Goddess Durga – The Warrior Goddess and also the divine consort of Lord Shiva. Etymologically the name “Banashankari” has been derived from ‘’Bana’ (Van) means ‘forest’ and ‘Shankari’ meaning ‘the lover of Lord Shiva’. The mention of “Banashankari” can be found in the ancient scripture – “Skanda Purana” where the Goddess slaughtered a demon named Durgamasura.

Based on the epigraphic inscription, historians have dated the original temple to 603 AD by the Kalyani Chalukya King Jagadekamalla I. But the present refurbished temple was built in 1750. However, according to local folklore, the temple was there from the prehistoric era.

We started when the vocalist completed his performance. First we saw a giant chariot. The body of the chariot is made of wood and the wheels are built of stone. Lovely images of deity are depicted on the body. The use of the chariot was told by the priest of the temple when we met him. Keeping the chariot aside, we moved forward.

Chariot of Banashankari

The front area of the Banashankari Temple holds a large pond named Harida Tirtha and is surrounded by stone mantapas from three sides. We decided to walk the circumlocutory path through the Mantapa. 

Banashankari Temple and Harida Tirtha

We continued our walk through the Mantapa. The lovely reflection of the temple on the water of Skanda Purana was worth experiencing. 

Banashankari Temple

We reached in front of the temple. Kalyani Chalukhyas built the temple of their tutelary deity in Dravidian Style. The main structure has a portico (mantapa), entrance porch (ardha mantapa) and a sanctum topped by a tower (Vimana). The image of the goddess Banashankari is deified inside the main sanctum. The goddess (sitting on a lioness) has eight arms holding trishul, damaru, kapaalpatra, ghanta, Vedic Scripture, Khadga-Kheta and head of demons. All of the arms are used in war during the Purana.

Close view of Banasankari Temple

Since it was the early morning, devotees were busy with housekeeping work. We met the priest. He suggested us to visit Banashankari Jatre, usually organised during Badashtami – 8th day of “Pousha Masa” (9th month of Indian calendar, usually starts from 16th December). During the fair, the temple and entire village is decorated by various leaves and flowers. Thus the fair is called  “Palleda Habba” (Vegetable Festival). The temple goddess is paraded around the city in a chariot (we saw earlier). Women vendors from nearby villages selling rotti and mosaru (roti and curds), accompanied by badanekai palle (brinjal bhaji), kaal bhaji, etc. are almost always near the temple. Cultural programmes (music, drama and circus) are held to entertain the largely rural community. Not only Kanada Classical music but also Kanada flocks are also performed in the venue. The festival creates a cultural bonding between people of different communities.

We came out and went to the new temple. The new temple was constructed in Vijayanagar Architecture. Amitabha went inside but I did not. While waiting outside I heard the singer singing a Kanada Bhajan. The village was so beautiful, the morning was so divine. It has been almost 15 months since I visited Banashankari but still I feel goosebumps when I remember that morning.

Note:

  1. There is no hotel in Banashankari. Staying in Badami is the only option. In fact, the nearest rail station is Badami.
  2. Follow the instruction if you visit during the Banashankari Jatre.
  3. We did not find any restaurant. Local food joints or street food might be the only option.

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