‘Banavasi’ is identical to the present ‘Shimoga’ district in Karnataka. It was an ancient site proved by Ptolemy’s “Geography” of second century B.C. The “Mahavamsa” the Ceylonese chronicles tell us that Ashoka sent his emissaries to Vanavasi or Vaijayanti. Kadambas made Banavasi or Vaijayanti their capital city.
The Mahavalis and the Pallavas in the East and the Gangas in South Karnataka surrounded Banavasi. The Kadambas were successful in ousting the Mahavalis and ruled from the third to the sixth century A.D.
They controlled the whole of Western Karnataka including Haiga and Tuluval regions. Banavasi was situated on the bank of river Varada.
The origin of the Kadambas can be traced only from legends of which “Kaveri Puranam” is most important which gives a detailed account. According to another view, the Kadambas claimed to have migrated from North India but seems to be an indigenous dynasty of Kuntala (North Kanara District).
The name “Kadamba” is derived from the Kadamba tree. Which grew in abundance in the lands of Kadambas and was also cultivated by them?
According to “Kaveri Puranam”, Chandravarma was the progenitor of Kadamba race. The other Kings of dynasty mentioned in the“Puranant” are Madhukesvra Mallinatha, Chandravarma, Purandara and Mayurasarma. Mayurasarma was the first historical figure of this dynasty.
The “Talagunda Inscription of Kakusthavarma” considers Mayurasarma as the founder of this dynasty. This inscription gives a detailed account of about the origin of the Kadambas of Banavasi. It is said that Mayurasarma a learned Brahmana went with his preceptor Virasarma to the Pallava capital Kanchi or Kanchipuram for study.
They were insulted by a Pallava official. Burning for revenge, he took to military profession, defeated the frontier-guards of the Pallavas, and conquered some territories. Ultimately he came to terms with the Pallava and in return for loyal services, obtained a feudal principality on the Western coast.
There may be some truth in this and Mayurasarma probably ruled in the third quarter of the fourth century A.D. It is not unlikely that the political confusion caused by Samudragupta’s invasion enabled him to set up an independent kingdom with its capital at Banavasi.